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Laying Down the Law in Hockey

Hockey brings value to the lives of many Canadians. Whether it’s fostering values, athleticism, or fun, it influences and changes individuals and communities. Interestingly,hockey, that "combination of ballet and murder", to use Al Purdy's words, has also made an appearance in Canadian courts. This section will examine two cases involving hockey and law, demonstrating again that the influence of ‘Canada’s Game’ extends beyond the ice and into the courts.

Marty McSorley

Marty McSorley was an NHL hockey player that played for the Boston Bruins. In the 2000 NHL season, McSorley used his stick to strike Vancouver Canucks Donald Brashear in the head. Brashear dropped to the ice, suffering a grade 3 concussion in the process.

 McSorley received discipline from the NHL and was charged under section 267(a) of the Criminal Code of Canada.

During his trial, counsel for the Crown, Mr. Hicks, articulated just how connected hockey is to our society—and thus—our legal institutions:

“In our submission, that act is precisely why the law, the criminal law, has a place in the hockey rink. It is why the law refuses to sanction those acts as a matter of public policy. It is particularly significant when that act is carried out in the National Hockey League at the highest level of the game in circumstances that are watched by millions of people for whom the game is important, many of whom play that game at a whole variety of levels.” — Regina v. Marty McSorely. Provincial Court of British Columbia. 06 Oct. 2000. CanLII. Web. 20 Feb. 2017.

McSorley was convicted for assault with a weapon at his trial.

Decision of the British Columbia Provincial Court in R. v. McSorley

Hockey and… the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System?

Justice Russell Brown’s decision in the case Canada (Attorney General) v. Igloo Vikski Inc. demonstrates how “far beyond the ice” hockey can influence the Canadian psyche.


Canada (Attorney General) v. Igloo Vikski Inc. was a tariff code case that made its way to the SCC (Supreme Court of Canada). The case disputed the definition of hockey gloves as either gloves or as “articles of plastics.” This debate prompted an interesting opening to Brown’s legal analysis:

In wintertime ice hockey is the delight of everyone. Across the country, countless players of all ages take to ice rinks and frozen ponds daily to shoot pucks at the net. Often the puck is stopped or turned aside by a goaltender blocking it with a blocker or catching it with a catcher. This is notoriously difficult business. The goaltender’s attention must remain fixed on the play, and not on off-ice matters. His or her focus must not drift to thoughts of the crowd, missed shots or taunts from opponents. And, certainly, the goaltender should strain to avoid being distracted by the question before the Court in this appeal — being whether, for customs tariff classification purposes, he or she blocks and catches the puck with a “glove, mitten or mitt”, or with an “article of plastics””— Canada (Attorney General) v. Igloo Vikski Inc. Supreme Court of Canada. 29 Mar. 2016. Judgements of the Supreme Court of Canada by Lexum. Web. 20 Feb. 2017.


In a fun and light-hearted way, Brown J. demonstrates that even in technical legal analysis, hockey underpins and influences the Canadian psyche and subsequently, our law.

Canada (Attorney General) v. Igloo Vikski Inc. (SCC)