Minnesota North Stars right wing Dino Ciccarelli was sentenced to a day in jail and fined $1,000 yesterday for assaulting Toronto Maple Leafs player Luke Richardson in a game last Jan. 6. It was believed to be the first time a hockey player had been sentenced to a jail term for an on-ice offense.

Toronto Judge Sidney Harris made the ruling, saying at sentencing, "It is time now {that} a message go out from the courts that violence in a hockey game or in any other circumstances is not acceptable in our society."

Ciccarelli said nothing, according to the Associated Press, as he was led from the court in handcuffs. His wife told the news agency that an appeal already had been filed.

Judge Harris admitted that hockey is a physical sport, but said Ciccarelli used excessive force with Richardson, 19, who was wearing a helmet when Ciccarelli, 28, repeatedly hit him over the head with his stick. Richardson was not injured, but Ciccarelli was ejected from the game and later suspended for 10 days by the league.

"Violence is becoming more and more an accepted part of daily life," Harris said, adding that hockey players' status as heroes allows violence to spread "over from the arena onto the street." If the violence continues, Harris said "perpetrators can expect punitive measures, including jail sentences."

NHL President John Ziegler, in a prepared statement, said the league was disappointed in the verdict but, "It has long been our belief that sports are not above the law."

Also in January, Ciccarelli had pleaded guilty to an indecent-exposure charge in Minnesota. In that incident, he was accused of appearing outside his home wearing only a sweatshirt. He was placed on probation for a year and ordered to complete counseling.

He had been enjoying a fine season, with 25 goals at the halfway mark of the season, when the incident with Richardson occurred. Ciccarelli testified during his trial that he had been the victim of attacks by other players in the games preceding the Toronto contest, and that no penalties had been called. Against the Maple Leafs, Ciccarelli said, he swung at Richardson only in self-defense after Richardson cross-checked him, and that he had "definitely no intention" of harming Richardson.

"In recent games," Ciccarelli testified, "I'd taken a lot of crap out there and nothing was called."

Richardson said at the time of the incident: "He swung his stick like a baseball bat right over my head. The impact on the helmet gave me a flash of lights in front of my eyes."

It was not the first time that civil action had been taken in Toronto after a hockey assault. In 1977, Philadelphia's Bob Kelly and Joe Watson were fined a total of $950 for common assault after incidents in which Watson's stick struck a policeman and Kelly's glove hit an usher during brawls.

That same year, Toronto's Dave Williams was acquitted of assault after cutting Pittsburgh's Dennis Owchar with his stick. And in 1975, Detroit's Dan Maloney was acquitted there on charges of assaulting Maple Leafs defenseman Brian Glennie.

Other players have been charged with, and even fined for, assault, but until today, it is believed that no player had ever been given a jail sentence for an on-ice assault.

In 1982, Jimmy Mann of the Winnipeg Jets was fined $500 for breaking the jaw of Pittsburgh's Paul Gardner in two places after Mann left the Winnipeg bench. In 1975, Boston's Dave Forbes was charged with aggravated assault after a fight with Minnesota's Henry Boucha. The nine-day trial ended in a hung jury and the prosecution did not ask for a second trial.

The first time players were taken to court, in 1970, both St. Louis' Wayne Maki and Boston's Ted Green were acquitted of assault charges. Green suffered a fractured skull in a stick-swinging incident during a 1969 preseason game in Ottawa.