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UK hockey player released after punching fan

Former Dallas Stars draft pick Matt Nickerson lost his EIHL job after “engaging with a spectator,” the worst of a host of infractions detailed in the video above.

As you can see from the league’s version of a suspension explanation video, the 33-year-old was initially given a two-part punishment that would have resulted in a 20-game suspension:

  • Six games for abuse of an official.
  • Fourteen games for “engaging with a spectator,” an amusing way of saying “viciously punching a fan.”

Nickerson’s team went a step further, “parting ways” with the player. Here’s the statement from the wonderfully named Smith Recycling Milton Keynes:

Ice Hockey is a family sport and it is unacceptable that at any time supporters are threatened or made to feel unsafe.

As a club we do not condone what happened and Matt has been held accountable for his actions by both the Elite League Department of Player Safety and by the club.

Milton Keynes Lightning takes the safety of their players, opposing players and most importantly the spectators very seriously, and the League need to ensure that all member clubs are compliant in their player and spectator safety procedures.

Even beyond the shocking experience of seeing Nickerson punch a fan, the video above this post’s headline is worth watching because of the way the video’s put together.

Opinion: NHL fans would be at least 10 percent mellower about Department of Player Safety verdicts if they were shared with a soothing English accent. It’s also a bit comforting to see that the NHL isn’t the only hockey league with punishments that might not really fit the crime; you’d think “engaging with a spectator” would get you more than 14 games, although maybe the EIHL assumes that teams will terminate contracts of said players in each incident?

If you’re bored, you could probably entertain yourself by studying the sprawling Wikipedia pages for the EIHL and the Milton Keynes Lightning.

You might get a little sad if you ponder the implications for a journeyman like Nickerson. He was the 99th pick of the 2003 NHL Draft by the Dallas Stars, but didn’t get much more than a few looks in the AHL before really bouncing around pro hockey.

Here’s a photo from his days in the Stars pipeline in 2007:

Dallas Stars 2007 Headshots

(Photo by Getty Images)

Getty Images

(H/T to The Score.)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.