Former Dallas Stars draft pick kicked off EIHL team for punching fan

Hockey has changed, man. You used to be able to hop over the glass and beat fans with their own shoes, but nowadays everyone is so sensitive and dramatic.

Case in point: Matt Nickerson of the Milton Keynes Lightning (EIHL) saw his contract terminated this week following an altercation in which he clocked a fan in the face as he exited the ice.

That incident, which occurred earlier this week in a game against the Guildford Flames, saw Nickerson leave the player's bench in an attempt to fight a Flames player on the ice. When he received a match penalty for refusing to obey the officials' orders, the 33-year-old defenseman wound up and delivered a swift backhanded punch to the face of a fan located near the door to the locker room.

In the aftermath of the incident, Nickerson received a 20-game suspension from the league -- six games for abuse of officials and an additional 14 for striking the fan.

However, shortly after the league announced the suspension, the Lightning elected to terminate Nickerson's contract completely. Or, as they say in the United Kingdom, the player was "sacked." (North America needs to adopt that term for when sports personalities get fired. It's way more fun to say!) 

The nastiness isn't exactly out of the norm for Nickerson, who once upon a time was a third-round draft pick of the Dallas Stars in 2003. However, he never played in an NHL game. The pinnacle of his North American career came in the AHL, where he played in 59 games between the Iowa Stars and Springfield Falcons. He recorded zero goals, four assists and 141 penalty minutes. 

That was pretty much the story of Nickerson's career -- a tough guy who's greatest statistical accomplishment came in the PIM section of the scoresheet. His crowning achievement could be the 307 penalty minutes he earned in only 40 games with the EIHL's Fife Flyers in 2013-2014. 

Once upon a time, numbers like that would have a man hailed as a local hero in his city's streets. Now, with hockey moving away from highly violent, minimally skilled enforcers and placing more of a focus on players whose primary talent isn't punching others in the face, it gets you fired. Or sacked.

Pete Blackburn is from Boston, so there's a good chance you don't like him already. He has been a writer at CBS Sports since 2017 and usually aims to take a humorous and light-hearted approach to the often... Full Bio

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