VOORHEES, N.J. (AP) -Philadelphia forward Jesse Boulerice was suspended 25 games by the NHL on Friday for striking Vancouver's Ryan Kesler across the face with his stick, the longest single-season ban in league history.
``I expected the worst,'' Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said. ``Is 25 the worst? It's pretty close to what I expected.''
The suspension was handed down by NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell after Friday's hearing in Toronto and announced by Holmgren at practice.
In 1998, Boulerice was suspended for one year by the Ontario Hockey League for violent stick-swinging. He went to the American Hockey League the following season and was ruled ineligible until mid-November.
Boulerice is the second Flyer in two weeks to draw a long suspension - rookie Steve Downie was suspended 20 games for a hit against Ottawa.
Islanders forward Chris Simon was suspended for 25 games in March for his two-handed stick attack to the face of Ryan Hollweg of the New York Rangers.
``I think we're in agreement that there's no place in the game for this anymore,'' Holmgren said. ``I do think it was an isolated incident. Jesse lost his composure, lost his cool. It's something that's not the right thing to do, at any time.''
Boulerice's hit came late in Philadelphia's 8-2 win over Vancouver on Wednesday night. After some pushing and shoving, Boulerice caught an unsuspecting Kesler with his stick, leaving the Canucks forward lying motionless on the ice. He eventually got up and skated to the bench on his own.
``We're by no means condoning what happened,'' Flyers coach John Stevens said after practice. ``He's going to have to stand up and pay the price.''
Downie was suspended 20 games by the NHL last month for leaving his feet to deliver a deliberate and dangerous hit to the head of Ottawa's Dean McAmmond. Holmgren said Downie has served two games of the suspension.
The Flyers (2-1) play their home opener against the New York Islanders on Saturday night. Once known as the Broad Street Bullies, they have quickly established an unwanted identity as a team full of out-of-control goons.
``It's almost implied that's the direction we're going when it couldn't be further from the truth,'' Stevens said.
Boulerice received a match penalty for intent to injure and Kesler called for a 20-game suspension.
``There's nothing good that comes out of an incident like that,'' Stevens said.
The 23-year-old center practiced Thursday and expected to play Friday when the Canucks faced the Oilers in Edmonton. The swelling in Kesler's right lip and jaw had subsided, but he still had some red marks on his face.
Boulerice said after the game he was sorry for the hit.
``I reacted in a bad way, the wrong way,'' he said.
In the OHL, Boulerice was charged with assault to do great bodily harm less than murder. He pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of aggravated assault.
``Whatever happened in Jesse's head triggered something,'' Flyers forward Mike Knuble said, referring to the latest suspension. ``For the most part, players don't want to see players going after each other with sticks in the face. That's not the game we're trying to promote.''

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