Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Bell to serve jail time

Newly acquired Toronto Maple Leaf Mark Bell is headed to jail, Sportsnet has learned.

Bell pleaded guilty in a San Jose courtroom Tuesday to charges of drunk driving causing injury and hit and run.

The Leaf forward, picked up in the Vesa Toskala trade with San Jose in June, will be sentenced to six months in a Santa Clara, California, county jail to be served at the end of this upcoming season.
Bell had the worst year of his NHL career in San Jose last season, recording just 11 goals and 21 points in 71 games played, despite arriving amid much fanfare from Chicago.

There's a reason for that.

Bell was acquired in a three-team deal back on July 10, and a few days later he received a three-year contract that paid him $2-million last season. On Sept. 4, 2006, the Sharks forward was driving a rented 2003 Toyota sedan that rear-ended a 1981 Datsun pickup at 1 a.m., leaving the 40-year-old driver of that vehicle with head injuries and lacerations.

Bell had fled the scene of the accident but was located a short distance away, sitting on the curb, and police administered "chemical tests." His blood-alcohol level was reportedly at .15 or more, considerably above the legal limit.

Mark Bell's 27-years-old as of early August and this was an incident that, from reports of those close to him, affected him profoundly. He had originally plead not guilty to the charges.

This is allegedly the third incident of this nature for Bell, however, as he was arrested as a junior player in Ottawa on assault charges (along with teammate Nick Boynton) for beating up a cab driver and subsequently hit with a DUI in Virginia as a 20-year-old playing in the AHL.

There's a history there. And given he's now facing six months in prison following the end of the Leafs' 2007-08 season, there's surely going to be a sideshow surrounding Bell all year, questions regarding what exactly happened and how it will affect his play this season.

Bell's a local boy, a native of nearby St. Paul's, Ontario, and the hometown pressure is often enough to derail even the straightest of shooters. One can only imagine what kind of distraction this type of off-ice situation will create for one of the Leafs' newest additions.

Bell will be the team's fourth highest-paid forward this season.

UPDATE Bill Watters is reporting on Leafs Lunch this afternoon that Bell still has to be sentenced, that he will serve jail time, but the length of that sentence has yet to be determined.

UPDATE A California prosecutor has stated today that Bell will receive a six-month sentence during sentencing in October.

UPDATE It's possible, and quite likely, that Bell will serve less time through some sort of work program. I'm afraid I don't have the details on how this works, but it seems he will only be in the county jail for somewhere in the neighbourhood of four months.

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33 Comments:

At 3:37 AM, August 15, 2007, Blogger Michael said...

And yet.. no jail time for Heatley. Boo-hoo.

 
At 4:40 AM, August 15, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suppose he had legal assistance that took care of this possibility but: will his sentence prevent him from going back and forth between Canada and the US?

 
At 5:37 AM, August 15, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heatley wasn't drunk, though. Just stupid. And the wishes of Snyder's parents played a huge part. If they wanted him in jail, he would be there.

 
At 8:08 AM, August 15, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The judge that let Heatley off so lightly was later gunned down in a court room shooting in Atlanta.

 
At 8:37 AM, August 15, 2007, Blogger Chemmy said...

If the legal battle hanging over his head caused his play to suffer last season then he should just go to jail now.

I was hoping, as a Leafs fan, that Bell would shrug off his struggles last year, but we have some solid depth this year. If Bell is going to have another 11 goal season I'd rather Johnny Pohl or Boyd Devereaux stay with the big club, since one of them will probably be starting this year with the Marlies.

I guess the upside is that at least we can afford to send Bell to the Marlies.

 
At 9:12 AM, August 15, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't you just love how professional athletes seem to always get to serve their time during the off-season? Im getting sick of the preferential treatment.

 
At 9:34 AM, August 15, 2007, Blogger PPP said...

Preferential treatment? He's still going to jail which is more than can be said for so many drunk drivers that actually kill people in this province.

 
At 10:18 AM, August 15, 2007, Blogger saskhab said...

Now that he's admitted guilt, can't the league suspend him? Or the Leafs? He might as well serve his time right now. Playing next year will cause unneccesary damage to the Leafs and the NHL... let Bell handle this one on his own. He deserves it.

MADD better be all over the Leafs and the NHL if Mark Bell plays one minute of hockey this season.

 
At 10:21 AM, August 15, 2007, Blogger Chemmy said...

I agree with saskhab. Let him serve his time starting today. He played poorly last year because of this, I have no reason to believe he'll be a useful player until all of this is behind him.

 
At 10:26 AM, August 15, 2007, Blogger PPP said...

Roger Goodell would have already suspended Bell.

I'd be totally behind a suspension for Bell. You'd think players would learn.

That Berkovich article that Jes linked at the FanHouse was maddening.

 
At 10:43 AM, August 15, 2007, Anonymous Michelle said...

Yeah, I imagine he's going to be real focused come March.....

Leafs brass must be pissed. Apparently he told Ferguson in June that he hoped the whole thing would "work itself out".

 
At 11:02 AM, August 15, 2007, Blogger PPP said...

Really? Where did you read/hear that?

That's interesting. Maybe JFJ was stupid enough to believe him although I wonder if he meant it would work itself out by pleading guilty? Did he plan on getting community service hours?

This is ruining my day.

 
At 11:06 AM, August 15, 2007, Anonymous treved said...

If Bell had been sent to jail during the season, would his salary count against the cap? Or would he be considered "injured"?

 
At 12:18 PM, August 15, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the lessons here is don't drive a 1981 Datsun.

 
At 12:23 PM, August 15, 2007, Anonymous ken said...

Yeah, that's what impressed me too. Someone's still driving an 1981 Datsun? Well, not anymore, I guess.

Still though. Extraordinary. Most '81 Datsuns fell apart in '82.

As for Bell, lock him up now.

 
At 12:43 PM, August 15, 2007, Blogger ninja said...

I love how everyone gets all high and mighty when a story like this breaks.

 
At 12:59 PM, August 15, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's high and mighty about wanting to see a guy who has a record of violent assault and two impaired driving charges go to jail?
The guy has, um, character issues. If this doesn't get Junior Fergie fired, nothing ever will.

 
At 1:08 PM, August 15, 2007, Blogger PPP said...

"If this doesn't get Junior Fergie fired, nothing ever will."

That's what scares me.

 
At 1:11 PM, August 15, 2007, Anonymous Baroque said...

At least no dogs were involved. The NFL still has hockey beat in the animal cruelty department.

Is drinking really more of a problem in hockey than in other sports? I always thought it was sort of a "macho jock" habit in general.

 
At 1:58 PM, August 15, 2007, Anonymous Gerald said...

Don't you just love how professional athletes seem to always get to serve their time during the off-season? Im getting sick of the preferential treatment.

Such treatment is not preferential. It is pretty common for regular people to get accommodations of this nature for their jobs. For regular 9-5 folk, they get to serve their time on the weekend if they have a job and mouths to feed. Bell's job is not a 9-5 deal, but the principle is the same.

 
At 2:28 PM, August 15, 2007, Anonymous Frank said...

One of the key questions here is what due diligence did JFJ do before acquiring Bell. Everyone knew this charge was hanging over Bell's head.

A prudent GM would have hired a local attorney in the areaa - who did a lot of DUI cases, and who knew the record of the prosecutor and sentencing record of the judge involved - to give him a written opinion on the possible outcome of the case.

To simply rely on the word of Bell is totally inadequate. If JFJ didn't do this due diligence he is totally out of his league and should be replaced.

I also understand that if Bell is sentenced to 12 months or more - after serving his sentence he will be refused future entry into the US effectively killing his NHL / AHL career - unless Russia would let him in!

 
At 2:51 PM, August 15, 2007, Blogger Doogie said...

I wonder if a chat with Craig MacTavish might help the guy out some, get him straightened out. I mean, if anyone in the NHL can see through Bell's eyes right now, it's MacT, who's managed to have a successful, productive career as a player and coach despite his DUI-vehicular homicide conviction.

 
At 3:03 PM, August 15, 2007, Blogger Paul said...

Drinking problems aren't limited to hockey. Baseball has a big problem. Many clubs have banned liquor in the clubhouse, and some are moving towards banning beer as well. Lately we've seen:

- Jays pitcher Gustavo Chacin charged with DUI during spring training.
- Cards HOF-bound manager Tony LaRussa charged with DUI during spring training (he was asleep at a traffic light).
- Marlins pitcher Scott Olson charged with DUI, resisting an officer with violence, and fleeing and eluding a police officer.
- Cards pitcher Josh Hancock killed while driving drunk.

And that's just this year. This isn't just hockey's problem.

 
At 4:19 PM, August 15, 2007, Anonymous Anshu said...

Most '81 Datsuns fell apart in '82.

Hey, I drove a '76 Datsun B210 into the late 80's before selling it. Still saw it on the road around town for a few more years after that.

As for Bell, I think a code of conduct policy for the NHL would be a good thing. Hold players, coaches and associated staff to a league-defined standard of behaviour, with consequences.

Every company I've ever worked for has this sort of thing in the employment contract. Its even more important for such high profile businesses like pro sports.

 
At 9:19 PM, August 15, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why does he get to play for the season and then serve his six month sentence? I mean, the average joe convicted of the same offense, wouldn't likely get this deal.

 
At 9:57 PM, August 15, 2007, Anonymous michelle said...

Sorry PPP. If you haven't seen it yet, the quote I was referring to is at http://slam.canoe.ca/Slam/Hockey/NHL/Toronto/2007/08/15/4418518.html.

I misquoted though.... it was "take care if itself".

Has anyone seem Ferguson quoted anywhere?

 
At 8:04 AM, August 16, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The better response for Bell and other players who have issues with substance abuse is to help the player deal with the issue. Perhaps these players should be placed on the long-term disabled list and not traded until they can demonstrate control over their substance demons.

 
At 8:29 AM, August 16, 2007, Blogger PPP said...

Anonymous - Bell isn't getting any preferential treatment. As Gerald, and the prosecutor herself, mentioned people regularly get to serve their sentences in the evenings and on weekends to ensure that they do not lose their 9-5 job.

 
At 9:49 AM, August 16, 2007, Blogger ninja said...

Ferguson released a statement

http://lfpress.ca/newsstand/Sports/Hockey/2007/08/16/4421836-sun.html

 
At 2:04 PM, August 16, 2007, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

I'd rather Johnny Pohl ... stay with the big club

Not to try to hijack the thread, or anything, but I'm curious to know what someone who has seen him play in the NHL thinks of Pohl. Here at the University of Minnesota, he developed into a fantastic player, despite having the foot speed of a tree sloth. He learned how to be in position so that he didn't get burned, though he had to be paired with some speedy wingers. His hands are fabulous. At the NCAA level, his ability to get free was astonishing; he set up camp to the goalie's right, about 10-12 feet from the net, and just pumped in the goals. The entire WCHA knew that he was going to go to that spot, and they still couldn't cover him.

Given how slow Pohl is, I'd be surprised if he ever amounted to much in the NHL. At some point, that's a handicap that no amount of other skills can make up for. I'd love to be proven wrong, though.

 
At 3:55 PM, August 16, 2007, Blogger PPP said...

J. Michael - Pohl certainly isn't a speed demon but among his weaknesses I wouldn't necessarily include footspeed.

Like you mentioned his hockey sense is strong enough to compensate. He has decent enough hands that seem to improve with ice-time (understandable) and he really came into his own when he was moved off of the fourth line after the Peca injury last season.

He's also shown a pretty good defensive awareness. All in all it's another good small move by JFJ. If only he could make a good big move.

 
At 8:57 PM, August 16, 2007, Anonymous ken said...

I love how everyone gets all high and mighty when a story like this breaks.

He was convicted of DUI, and has a previous conviction of assault.

Being "high and mighty" would be getting mad at him for something like if he were caught jacking it in the dressing room, where there's no victim (other than the other players, I guess).

Still, if (God forbid) you or a member of your family is ever injured by a drunk driver, remember to remind yourself not to get high and mighty with him.

 
At 1:02 PM, August 17, 2007, Blogger ninja said...

and he is the only human being to be in such a situation. and the NHL has an epidemic on its hands. and he should be serving time in a maximum security prison for crimes against a Datsun, with no chance for early release, while standing on his head for 40 hours a day, while humming the tune to COPS.

Never did I suggest his actions were not due punishment. Taking a position that DUI/hit and run deserves to be punished isn't the high and mighty I was referring to. Taking that position is common sense.

 

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