NEW YORK – A New York Rangers fan was banned for life and later arrested after an “abhorrent attack” against a Tampa Bay Lightning fan as the men exited Madison Square Garden after Thursday night’s NHL playoff game.
James Anastasio, 29, of Staten Island, New York, was charged with two counts of assault, two counts of disorderly conduct and two counts of harassment, WABC-TV and CBS Sports reported. His arrest was confirmed by the New York Police Department.
A viral video shot inside one of MSG’s concourses showed Anastasio punching the Lightning fan in the face as spectators exited the arena at about 10:50 p.m. EDT following Tampa Bay’s 3-1 victory in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final. The two-minute clip did not show the events leading up to the incident, which occurred but police said the two men had interacted before the punch was thrown, WTVT reported.
Cellphone video showed the Rangers fan, wearing a No. 10 Artemi Panarin jersey, whirling and hitting the Lightning fan with a left hook to the face, knocking the man to the ground, Sports Illustrated reported.
The 26-year-old Lightning fan dropped his can of Bud Light after his head bounced off the floor, The Washington Post reported. He lay motionless on the ground while other fans tended to him, WABC reported.
The fan eventually regained consciousness and was taken to an area hospital and is in stable condition, ESPN reported.
Anastasio attempted to leave but was stopped by a 37-year-old eyewitness, police said. Anastasio reportedly punched the second fan in the face, WPIX-TV reported. The eyewitness suffered bruising on his face but refused medical attention at the scene, according to the television station.
In a statement, Madison Square Garden officials called the incident an “abhorrent assault,” and said the Rangers fan was banned for life from the arena.
“We are cooperating fully with law enforcement as this is now a criminal matter. The assailant will also be banned from The Garden and all other MSG venues for life,” MSG said. “All guests — no matter what team they support — should feel safe and respected in The Garden. This has and always will be our policy.”
Anastasio did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday, according to the Post. It is unclear whether he has an attorney.
Brandon London, a former NFL player who hosts a digital show in New York, called the video “disgusting.”
“I still don’t understand why fans fight,” London said in a video. “You have zero control over the game! Why are you fighting?”
The Lightning have a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven playoff series. Game 6 is scheduled in Tampa, Florida. If the Rangers win, Game 7 would be held at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday. The winner of the series advances to the Stanley Cup Finals against the Colorado Avalanche, who swept the Edmonton Oilers in four games in the Western Conference final.
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