Flyers fan charged in beating of Rangers supporter

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 13, 2012 3:29 PM
Flyers fan charged in beating of Rangers supporter

By Dave Warner

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Prosecutors charged a Philadelphia Flyers hockey fan on Friday over the severe beating of a rival New York Rangers fan outside a famous Philadelphia cheesesteak restaurant after a special outdoor hockey game.

The victim, Neal Auricchio, 30, an off-duty police officer and Iraq war veteran from Woodbridge, New Jersey, was wearing a New York Rangers shirt outside Geno's Steaks following the game between two fierce rivals when the brawl began on January 2, Philadelphia police said.

Auricchio was knocked unconscious and needs facial reconstruction surgery, police said.

Dennis Veteri, 32, of Glassboro, New Jersey, was arrested on Thursday and arraigned on Friday on charges of aggravated assault, simple assault, conspiracy and recklessly endangering another person, according to the Philadelphia District Attorney's office.

The fight followed the Winter Classic, an annual outdoor hockey game. This year's game between the Flyers and the Rangers took place at Citizens Bank Park, normally a baseball stadium.

Another Rangers fan was also assaulted but not as badly injured, police said.

"What happened here is that they are targeted because they are the opposing team," Philadelphia Police Captain Laurence Nodiff said.

Bantering among the men over their team affiliations was escalated by the Flyers' fans, he said.

Veteri was freed after posting 10 percent of a $100,000 bail.

Nodiff said investigators were searching for two other men who they have identified as also being involved in the beating.

The brawl recalled a March 31 incident in Los Angeles where Los Angeles Dodgers fans beat a San Francisco Giants supporter after the Opening Day game between those two baseball rivals, putting him in a coma for months. Two men charged in that case await trial.

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Daniel Trotta)