USA Hockey Alienating Hockey Down South with Increased Fighting Rules
By: Joey Battaino
By now we have all heard about the rule changes that USA Hockey implemented during their Annual Congress last week in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The council recommended and passed stricter fighting rules for Tier I and Tier II players, including a 10-minute misconduct to accompany a five minute major for any fight during the course of a game.
Of course, we must not forget about the children, who according to USA Hockey's VP for the Junior Council John Vanbiesbrouck, would be helpless to gain any information about the connections to fighting and head trauma, if it were not for USA Hockey imposing rules on them.
"Our efforts in player saftey include a concerted focus on eliminating dangerous behavior in junior hockey,"
STOP! We are ALREADY on a very slippery slope on what USA Hockey considers "dangerous" as it is. By this logic, Open-ice body checks are dangerous. Are we on the road to eliminating checking in the junior ranks?
Many people will look at that last paragraph and see an overreaction. I have a feeling that owners of teams down south may be right on track with my thinking.
Lets take a look at the NAHL's South Division in the 2013-14 season, which had six out of their seven members in the top 10 in attendance. Lone Star (North Richland Hills, TX) was 11th.
According to hockeyfights.com, the South Division partook in 245 of the 348 fights in the league last season. In fact, the top four teams in fighting Corpus Christi, Rio Grande Valley, Amarillo, and Wichita Falls all compete in the South Division. This is hardly a coincidence, folks.
Rough house hockey south of the Mason-Dixon dates back to 1996 and the birth of the Western Professional Hockey League. In a time where folks still didn't know the North Stars moved to Dallas, a new professional hockey league took shape in nontraditional hockey markets like Rio Rancho, NM, Austin, Amarillo, and Waco. Attendance numbers soared and expansion soon followed for this rough and tumble league. The birth of the WPHL has been what has arguably kept the Stars in Dallas. Hear me out, here. Was the popularity of the Stars, just in Big D, enough to keep them in Dallas? No. They needed neighboring regions to buy in. The Stars needed the WPHL and in turn the WPHL needed the Stars. And just like the NAHL needs the South Division, the South Division needs fighting. Not a rodeo circus every night, but fans down here need to know that part of their entertainment value in a ticket is the chance that a fight will break out. That was what their hockey values were built on. Think of the first time you saw the game of hockey. Growing up in Michigan in the early 90's, I saw both sides of the game. Steve Yzerman would gracefully carry himself around the ice creating plays for his line mates, while big, bruising Bob Probert would barrel his way through defenders and not think twice about it. For many in the south, the first time they saw the game they were witnessing Jacques Mailhot fighting security guards in full hockey gear on the concrete in Rio Rancho. They thought that is what hockey was. People grew used to this style of hockey that contined into the last 2000's when the pro hockey model became much too expensive for smaller markets. Teams in the south switched to juniors to save a few bucks but not to sell their stripes. Amarillo, Topeka, Odessa, Fort Worth, Corpus Christi, and Rio Grande Valley all continued to play the styles that had made them successful in the past.
My biggest fear in all of this is that I am not entirely convinced that the Tier II product can survive without fighting. Tier II provides an opportunity for players who might not have the speed or skill to compete at the Tier I level, a chance to get a Division I scholarship. What is never highlighted by the league, for obvious reasons, is it's physical, sometimes over-the-edge type play. I'll cite one major example. Weekly, the league requests members send in what they think are the top plays of the week. Not once this season, was a fight, or even a hit, highlighted. Hits and Fights can change the outlook of a hockey game and can be just as important as a goal or save. It's a game built on momentum.
At the end of the day, I don't think we are giving enough credit to the kids who are coming up to play juniors. With so much talk about head trauma awareness, isn't there enough information available to players that they can make their OWN educated decision on whether it is safe for them to fight or not? When I was younger, it was simple. If you are not a fighter, you put on a cage. A visor was as good as a welcome mat. If you were tough you didn't hide behind the cage because at that time, the rules didn't protect players who wore cages. Everything and everyone was fair game, as it should be.
Proponents to these rule changes will say that this is one step closer to eliminating fighting in junior hockey all together. With the information provided above, it would seem that we are one step closer to eliminating hockey in the South all together.
This is an opinion piece and in no way reflects the views of the Odessa Jackalopes, the NAHL, or any of it's members.
The NHL season is upon us. After a tumultuous 12-13 season that saw no pre-season and a shortened season the league is back with its full 82 game regular season schedule for 13-14. Full of hope and excitement as well as full of some new rules that are based in total hypocrisy and political correctness.
Players whom have played less than 26 games must wear a visor. As of last season, 73% of NHL players were already wearing them. It is mandatory in Juniors and in the AHL. I like the idea of personal choice to professional players who choose to not wear one, but the rule happened because of Marc Staal’s unfortunate accident. It has happened before and it will happen again to players who wear visors as injuries are part of the game. Overall I don’t have issue with the rule except for it creates a serious problem to the grandfather players combined with yet another rule.
This would be the helmets during fighting rule. This rule trips over itself in hypocrisy and stupidity. So if you take off your helmet to engage in a fight you get an extra minor. It’s about safety. How is it “safe” for a grandfathered player who chooses not to wear a visor to engage in a fight with a player who has to wear one? One of them is forced to fight with their face exposed and the other with it protected with the shield. Forget the hand injuries that come with punching a shield, but this scenario that has already played out creates an uneven playing field. Players do hurt themselves sometimes hitting their head on the ice during a fight. It is a reality to the sport. The thing is when two men are engaged in a bare-knuckled on ice skates sometimes people will get hurt. A player is more likely to injury their hand or in the case of players who does not wear a shield and is fighting someone who does he is at a greater risk due to this rule.
There was a popular NHL promotional commercial that I saw up until this summer that showed a fight in where Joe Thornton and Jamie Been took off their helmets to engage into a fight. So the new rule is for safety, yet it is used to promote the game at the same time? Profit over safety is the NHL’s way I guess. Those Center Ice packages don’t sell themselves.
The league is a walking contradiction when it comes to fighting. They create rules like this to limit/curb fighting yet make money off of the new EA NHL14 game that has a primary selling point of a new fighting engine. Make up your mind.
Anyone who thinks these changes are for safety are being very naive. This is about looking at what happened in the NFL with lawsuits and seeing some of the tragic deaths of young hockey players, most of them pugilists. This has nothing to do with safety, but money.
Besides, hockey is a very physically demanding sport. While rules are needed as well as advances in equipment the game has a physicality to it that will result in players getting hurt. Adding politically correct rules that cause more harm then good will stop this. You can’t Nerf proof the NHL. The league is slowly but surely alienating its fans. Hopefully after some poor NHL vet that does not wear a visor gets his clocked cleaned by someone who does wear one and tucks his chin while firing a big punch the league can see how absurd forcing guys to keep their helmets on is. Sadly that won’t change a thing but I assure you it will be on highlights and promotional videos to sell the game. Those Center Ice packages don’t sell themselves.
Canucks new winger a waiver-wire pickup, and plays with one speed — full throttle
BY BEN KUZMA, THE PROVINCE MARCH 3, 2013
Tom Sestito, here with the Columbus Blue Jackets, redirects a shot past goalie Roberto Luongo for his first NHL career goal during a game in December 2010 at Rogers Arena. The two are now teammates, as Sestito was acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers off of waivers.
Tom Sestito has been called a lot of things. Some of them are flattering. Some aren't.
As a waiver-wire claim after the Vancouver Canucks lost Aaron Volpatti to the Washington Capitals in the same process Thursday, the hulking winger has a hard head and soft hands — he scored his first two NHL goals against Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider — but his long-term effectiveness as a fourth-line checker, grinder and fighter will be measured in the short term. The 6-foot-5, 228 pound forward knows he can't be a gentle giant in the Canucks' ongoing fourth-line experiments with Steve Pinizzotto honing his game with the Chicago Wolves.
Sestito made the right first impression Saturday.
After levelling Colin Fraser with a heavy shoulder check in the neutral zone that dropped the Los Angeles Kings centre, he had to answer a challenge from Jordan Nolan. Sestito got in the first four punches — popping the lid off the Kings winger — and also absorbed four punches. The fight not only got Sestito going, it energized his new teammates in a 5-2 victory at Rogers Arena. Sestito also nearly scored early in the third period and forced Jonathan Quick to make a shoulder save.
"You don't want to wait around to get into the game," said Sestito, who finished with three hits in 7:03 on a line with Jordan Schroeder and Dale Weise. "It was good to get that first fight out of the way and the first game out of the way and go from there. After the hit, I just looked around to see if anybody was coming and I was expecting somebody. I wasn't looking for a fight, but that's my game.
"It was great. An unbelievable atmosphere and the fans were great."
So was Sestito.
"He was physical when he had the opportunity and had a good scrap," said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. "He seemed to be comfortable with the puck and I think we've got some elements to work with there."
That doesn't surprise Scott Arniel. He enjoyed coaching Sestito in Columbus and hated coaching against him in the AHL and that says something. In this abnormal NHL season, waiver-wire claims have become the norm as teams wrestle with compacted schedules and expanded injury lists. Fourth lines are a factor, not an afterthought, because Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago proved as the last three Stanley Cup champions how effective the right fourth line can be. In that respect, Sestito took a step in the right direction.
"That's the one thing with Tommy — if anything you've got to calm him down and don't let him get too rattled," said Arniel, who now guides the Wolves. "He's one guy you don't have to wire up. He's not afraid and if he recognizes that fine line between taking a bad penalty or going after somebody, he can be a real solid player."
The book on Sesito includes 26 fights at the NHL level — including one against Zack Kassian last season just 11 days before the winger was traded from Buffalo to Vancouver — and an OHL resume with Plymouth that included a 42 goals and 135 penalty minutes in 2006-07 with linemate James Neal and a Memorial Cup semi-final appearance at the Pacific Coliseum. That came a year after he was selected by the Blue Jackets in the third round of the draft. There was also the growth spurt from 5-foot-10 to 6-foot-3 the year before junior and the constant comparison to his older brother, Tim, who plays in the New Jersey system.
However, above all, there's the chance to expand a 35-game NHL career with Columbus, Philadelphia and Vancouver that includes four goals — two this season — to go with seven assists and 164 penalty minutes. He knows that. Just ask him about the waiver-wire claim.
"I was ecstatic," sid the 25-year-old Rome, N.Y native. "I was surprised because I had heard rumours about Edmonton and I've been here a couple of times and it's a great city."
Sestito can't let a recent charley horse injury slow his approach, even though he hasn't played in a couple of weeks. After all, Calgary has recalled Brian McGratton and Sestito may have to take on the Flames enforcer Sunday in the Saddledome.
"You've just got to get out there and it doesn't matter who I play, I play the same way with hitting bodies and fighting if I have to," added Sestito. "And I love playing in the away rinks because the fans get on you and under your skin and that's good to hear. I've got one speed and I go full all the time."
Had the Canucks known Ryan Kesler's right foot was broken before they placed Volpatti on waivers — an awkward two-hour window — then Sestito probably wouldn't even be here. The Canucks were hoping Volpatti would clear waivers and develop his limited game with more ice time in the AHL. And knowing Pinizzotto will eventually play his first NHL game because Volpatti was placed on waivers to activate Pinizzotto from injury reserve, there were enough fourth-liners in the fold.
"We liked what he (Volpatti) did here, but you need to be able to kill penalties and he didn't develop last year because he was hurt for the entire season," said Canucks general manager Mike Gillis. "And we still want to have a player like that, so we selected Tom."
Sens should re-sign tough duo
By Don Brennan ,Ottawa Sun
First posted: Thursday, June 07, 2012 05:38 PM EDT | Updated: Thursday, June 07, 2012 07:11 PM EDT
Matt Carkner catches his breath at practice early in the 2011-12 season. (Darren Brown/Ottawa Sun)
Two key ingredients in the Senators’ recipe for modest success this season were toughness and chemistry.
That’s why there should be no hesitation in re-signing Matt Carkner.
I understand GM Bryan Murray when he says he “can’t bring them all back” when referring to seven pending unrestricted free agents.
He needs to make room for Jakob Silfverberg, maybe Mika Zibanejad, perhaps Mark Stone, and possibly one, if not both, of Patrick Wiercioch and Mark Borowiecki.
He wants to have openings for a veteran, defensive defenceman to replace Filip Kuba and either another free-agent signing or a training camp surprise.
But there also has to be a spot for a 6-foot-4, 230-pound blueliner who happens to be one of the top heavyweights in the league.
A man among so many boys in the dressing room.
A guy coach Paul MacLean scratched from the lineup during the regular season but leaned on in the playoffs, and someone he would have turned to again in Game 7 against the Rangers if Carkner’s knee wasn’t banged up.
A Winchester product who has a lot of fans here and was making only $700,000 this season. His cap hit won’t be an issue.
Carkner has his shortcomings, but he also has a lot of respect, both around the league and on this team. He has an off-ice demeanour that makes him popular with Senators who play a little bigger and braver knowing he has their back.
Carkner re-emphasized he’ll stop at no length to stand up for them by confronting Brian Boyle in Game 2, and the Senators rallied around the beating he administered.
Going forward, the only possible issue could be Carkner’s knee. But even if it will never again be 100%, he’s worth having as a sixth or seventh defencemen on a team that shouldn’t have to rely every night on two rookie rearguards.
Only four other defencemen are expected to return in September — Erik Karlsson, Jared Cowen, Chris Phillips and Sergei Gonchar. That number could be trimmed to three if Murray can somehow unload Gonchar’s $5.5 million salary.
Re-signing Carkner should be a no-brainer, and at the end of the day I expect Murray will see it as such.
Of the six others who are eligible to test the market, Kuba, defenceman Matt Gilroy and backup goalie Alex Auld are gone. If winger Rob Klinkhammer is re-inked, he’ll likely be playing in Binghamton.
Jesse Winchester is certainly worth retaining if he’s over his concussion problems.
That leaves Zenon Konopka.
Like Carkner, Konopka provided plenty of grit and leadership. (Remember when Senators teams would be searching high and low for those qualities)?
Like Carkner, he watched a number of regular-season games from the press box. Like Carkner, he was tapped on the shoulder by MacLean in the playoffs — and his effort in response should have earned him another contract here.
Konopka could barely walk, his back was so bad, but he pleaded to keep playing. He had the best faceoff winning percentage of any centre on the 16 first-round playoff teams, and he helped set up huge goals in Game 2 and Game 5 victories, both at Madison Square Garden.
Like Carkner, he made $700,000 and wants to come back. Konopka, like Carkner, is 31. There are plenty of miles left in his tank. Also, his personality is strong in the dressing room, where it’s known he’ll do anything it takes to win.
There’s a theory the Senators were able to come from behind to win so many games in the third period because they weren’t intimidated — opponents couldn’t push them around when protecting a lead. The presence of Carkner and Konopka was a big part of that.
Perhaps Konopka isn’t as likely to be re-signed as Carkner because the Senators would like to put Zack Smith in his fourth-line role and sign Chris Kelly to centre the third. But then, Kelly can also play wing.
It’s a great thing to have so much promising youth, but it’s also necessary to possess a blend of veterans with character. Should Murray allow Carkner and/or Konopka to slip away, he’ll bring in more toughness — probably, younger players to fill the role.
But Murray would be messing with chemistry by following that path. and the Senators already have a lot of youth. To show the way and protect them, they’re best hanging on to and rewarding two good men who are already here and eager to reach for a pen.
COLEMAN, Alberta (AP) - Winnipeg Jets center Rick Rypien was found dead in his home Monday, nine months after he took a leave of absence to deal with an undisclosed personal matter.
An official with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police called Rypien's death sudden, but not suspicious. Rypien, a cousin of Super Bowl MVP quarterback Mark Rypien, was 27.
"We would like to express our sincere sympathies to the Rypien family as well as Rick's friends,'' the Jets said in a release. "We also appreciate all of the support that has come pouring in from Rick's fans. Rick was a talented player with an extremely bright future. His hunger for the game made him a valued team member both on and off the ice. This loss has impacted us as more than just a hockey team.''
Rypien is the second active NHL player found dead this offseason. Former New York Rangers enforcer Derek Boogaard died in May due to an accidental mix of alcohol and the painkiller oxycodone.
The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Rypien signed a $700,000, one-year deal with Winnipeg last month after spending parts of six seasons with Vancouver. He had nine goals, seven assists and 226 penalty minutes in 119 career NHL games, often dropping the gloves against much larger opponents.
The Canucks announced on Nov. 25 that they had granted Rypien an indefinite leave of absence. It was the second time in three years the forward had left the team to deal with an undisclosed personal matter. Rypien also received a six-game suspension from the NHL last season after grabbing a fan on his way to the dressing room in Minnesota.
Rypien also took an extended personal leave after a rash of injuries two years ago, missing 70 games during the 2008-09 season.
New York Rangers forward Derek Boogaard was found dead Friday. He was 28.
Known as the Boogey Man because of his role as one of the game's most physical forwards, Boogaard was found by members of his family at his apartment in Minneapolis. Boogaard spent the first five years of his career with the Minnesota Wild before signing a free-agent deal with the Rangers last summer.
His first season with the Rangers was cut short due to a concussion and a shoulder injury. He played just 22 games, scoring 1 goal, adding an assis and earning 45 penalty minutes.
"Derek was an extremely kind and caring individual," Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather said in a statement. "He was a very thoughtful person, who will be dearly missed by all those who knew him. We extend our deepest sympathies to his family, friends and teammates during this difficult time."
In 277 NHL games, Boogaard, a 6-foot-7, 265-pound winger, compiled 3 goals, 16 points and 589 PIM. He was very popular during his time with the Wild, winning over fans with an ever-present smile and an eagerness to help out his new community. He was also loved for his willingness to protect teammates on the ice. He's second on the team's all-time list for penalty minutes with 544.
The Wild released a statement Friday night: "The Minnesota Wild organization sends our deepest sympathies to the family of Derek Boogaard. Derek was a fan favorite during his five seasons with the Wild and will be greatly missed here in Minnesota and throughout the NHL."
As the news of Boogaard's death spread Friday night, it hit the hockey community especially hard.
"The news that we have lost someone so young and so strong leaves everyone in the National Hockey League stunned and saddened, Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement released Saturday morning. "The NHL family sends its deepest condolences to all who knew and loved Derek Boogaard, to those who played and worked with him and to everyone who enjoyed watching him compete."
It was his teammates and his foes, though, who knew Boogaard best. They saw past the intimidating stare and the reputation as the toughest man in hockey.
"Unreal guy - just a really big teddy bear," Wild goalie and former teammate Niklas Backstrom told the Minneapolis-Star Tribune. "Outside the rink, he didn't want bad for anyone."
Boston defenseman Shane Hnidy played with Boogard in Minnesota last season and was clearly upset as he discussed his former teammate and friend after Saturday's morning skate in preparation for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning at TD Garden.
"It's really tough,â€ Hnidy said. "It hit me pretty hard last night when I heard. I send everything out to his family. It's a tough time for everyone.
"Everyone just saw the big tough exterior, but he was a great guy that really gave back. Especially in Minnesota, he was probably the biggest, most popular player there. He always gave back.â€
Boogaard was active in a number of charities during his NHL career. Last season he started "Boogaard's Booguardians," where he hosted military members and their families at all Rangers home games. He also was active with the Garden of Dreams Foundation as well as the Defending the Blue Line Foundation, a non-profit foundation that ensures children of military members are given the chance to play hockey.
According to the Star Tribune, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office confirmed that an autopsy would be conducted Saturday.
New York Islanders' Matt Moulson, front left, and teammates celebrate his second-period goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins in an NHL hockey game, Friday, Feb. 11, 2011, in Uniondale, N.Y. Other Islanders are, from left to right: Moulson, Andrew MacDonald, PA Parenteau, Milan Jurcina, and John Tavares. Penguins' Craig Adams, top left, Marc-Andre Fleury (29) Maxime Talbot and Brooks Orpik, upper right, look on.
John Tavares, Matt Moulson and rookie Michael Grabner all scored their 20th goal of the season and the New York Islanders got some revenge against the injury-depleted Pittsburgh Penguins with their sticks and their fists in a fight-filled 9-3 victory on Friday night.
Just nine days after Brent Johnson beat New York 3-0 and knocked out Rick DiPietro in a one-punch fight that left the franchise goalie with broken bones in his face, the Islanders responded with four goals in the first period and four more in the second - with an all-out brawl in the middle of the offensive outburst.
That was just the appetizer for a third-period donnybrook - in which Johnson fought again - that caused a delay of about 15 minutes. With multiple ejections, both benches had only a handful of players on them for the final 12-plus minutes.
New York chased Johnson 3:46 into the second period when callup enforcer Micheal Haley made it 6-0 on the Islanders' 16th shot. As Johnson skated to the backup goalie seat in the tunnel leading to the Penguins' dressing room, he was showered with an avalanche of boos from the unusually large crowd that clearly remembered what he did to DiPietro.
But his night wasn't over. Johnson returned at the start of the third period and got bowled over 1:19 in when Grabner was knocked into him by a hard hit from Pittsburgh's Brooks Orpik.
The second huge brawl broke out at 4:47, and Haley had two fights in the melee - first with Max Talbot and then with Johnson after the goalie skated out toward the blue line. Haley charged after him, and both players dropped their gloves and started punching. Eric Godard was also involved, trying to protect the Penguins' netminder.
Haley became an instant favorite among the 12,888 in attendance, who probably never heard of him before Friday. But they chanted his name every time there was another dustup, long after he was sent to the dressing room.
The second major uprising was sparked by New York enforcer Trevor Gillies' elbow that left Eric Tangradi prone on the ice. Tangradi was recalled on Friday from Wilkes Barre/Scranton of the AHL. Godard and Haley, who came up from AHL Bridgeport on Friday, were both ejected with double game misconducts.
Pittsburgh's Craig Adams and Gillies were also booted from the game. Johnson was forced to remain in the net and heard boos and derisive chants during the final minutes.
Travis Hamonic, Jesse Joensuu, and P.A. Parenteau added goals for the Islanders, who earned their second win in two days after beating Montreal on the road in a shootout on Thursday night. Mikko Koskinen earned both wins - his first two in the NHL.
Moulson and Grabner both added second goals to give them a team-leading 21 as the Islanders broke out with their highest-scoring game of the season. Grabner provided the final punch with a short-handed breakaway goal with 2:09 remaining in the game.
Kris Letang, Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy scored power-play goals for Pittsburgh, which won at home in overtime against Los Angeles on Thursday and will play at the New York Rangers on Sunday afternoon. It hardly mattered in this one that the Penguins were again without All-Stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
The melee in the second period came when Matt Martin jumped Talbot in the neutral zone. The Islanders had made Talbot a marked man because of his hit against Blake Comeau in the previous game that has left the Islanders forward sidelined since with a concussion.
Martin's actions sparked fights between unlikely brawlers Josh Bailey of the Islanders and Pittsburgh's Pascal Dupuis, Hamonic and Penguins forward Mike Rupp, and another matchup of Martin and Deryk Engelland.
Bailey was ejected following his first NHL fight along with teammates Martin and Hamonic, and Pittsburgh's Engelland, Rupp and Dupuis. Martin was also hit with an instigator penalty and a separate 10-minute misconduct.
Marc-Andre Fleury allowed two goals on nine shots in 16 minutes, 14 seconds of action in the second period. Johnson then returned for his rough third period. He was slow in getting back to his skates after being down in a snow-angel position for a few moments after being hit by Grabner.
Notes: Haley, who played in his third career NHL game, had 144 penalty minutes in 50 games at Bridgeport this season. ... In addition to the absence of Crosby and Malkin, the Penguins were also without forwards Matt Cooke (suspension), Arron Asham (upper body), Mike Comrie (hip), Chris Kunitz (lower body), Mark Letestu (lower body). ... The Penguins hadn't allowed nine goals since an 9-0 loss at Tampa Bay on Nov. 8, 2003.
At 12:36 of last nightâ€™s second period, with the Bruins holding a 5-3 lead, Brad Marchand had no idea the play had been called offside when he slammed James Wisniewski into the end boards.
BRUINS 8, CANADIENS 6 Standing 8 count
And Marchand had absolutely zero clue that his actions would trigger a sequence that saw Tim Thomas sprinting from one end of TD Garden to the other, ready to engage Carey Price in what would be both goaliesâ€™ first NHL fight.
â€œIt was getting into an outnumbered situation,â€™â€™ said Thomas, called to duty when Price left his crease to join the jostling. â€œThatâ€™s what I was thinking when I was getting down there. He was more than willing to fight. I had this big old plan. I was going to grab his right, then I was going to throw lefts, because I know heâ€™s bigger and taller than me and has the reach on me. I thought I could do a better job of throwing lefts than him. When we went to grab, he got a good hold of my right arm and I got nothing. So then I was like, â€˜Now what do I do?â€™ Heâ€™s got a big right cocked and ready to come.â€™â€™
The showdown, which ended when Price hauled down Thomas and got his jersey over his head, highlighted an evening of ill tempers. Nathan Horton (goal, four assists) and P.K. Subban went at each other all night. Andrew Ference threw down with Travis Moen. Johnny Boychuk repeatedly cuffed Jaroslav Spacek. Gregory Campbell fed Tom Pyatt with a string of lefts. Benoit Pouliot decked David Krejci with a right hand that had the Bruins center icing his lower lip after the game.
And, oh yeah, there was an 8-6 Bruins win amid all the belligerence (187 combined penalty minutes).
â€œIt looked like back in the day in the â€™70s and â€™80s when there were those rivals,â€™â€™ Milan Lucic (two goals) said of the hatred. â€œIâ€™m sure [assistant coach] Doug Jarvis knows all about those. He was in the middle of a lot of them. Weâ€™re just happy that we were able to get that win. Theyâ€™ve been a tough opponent for us lately. Weâ€™d lost eight of our last nine before tonight. Most of all, weâ€™re just happy to get those two points and keep getting up in the standings.â€™â€™
Ever since the nastiness of Lucic squaring off repeatedly with Mike Komisarek in 2008-09, there had been an easing of the bad blood between the clubs. Things got testy on Dec. 16 when Krejci threw down with Michael Cammalleri in the first NHL fight for both skilled players. On Jan. 8, tempers flared after Max Pacioretty shoved Zdeno Chara at the conclusion of Montrealâ€™s 3-2 overtime win.
Last night, the kettle was screaming at full boil.
â€œItâ€™s a rivalry you want to compete in and you want to beat each other,â€™â€™ said Michael Ryder (two goals). â€œWe donâ€™t want the other team to have the best of us. For Montreal, we knew it was a big game. We knew we had to be emotionally involved. A couple games against these guys, we havenâ€™t done that. Tonight, we wanted to do it. I think we did.â€™â€™
Five seconds after Lucic scored his first to give the Bruins a 5-3 edge, Marchandâ€™s check ignited the powder keg. Brian Gionta crashed into Marchand, which brought all 10 skaters together. Then when Price got too close to one pile, Thomas joined the fun. Briefly, when Thomas missed with a lunge and Price had his right fist at the ready, the Boston goalie acknowledged thinking of Brent Johnson one-punching Rick DiPietro and breaking the ex-Terrierâ€™s face.
â€œOnly a little bit when I didnâ€™t get the arm I wanted to get,â€™â€™ said Thomas. â€œHe had a good grip on my arm and was free to do it with the big right. The thought crossed my mind that I donâ€™t want to be DiPietro.â€™â€™
By the time every piece of equipment was gathered, six Bruins were stuffed into the penalty box, creating a clown-car effect.
â€œHalf of us couldnâ€™t even sit down, we had so many guys in there,â€™â€™ said Marchand, who scored one of two goals (Dennis Seidenberg netted the other) in a 12-second span in the first period. â€œEspecially when guys stick up for each other like we did, everyoneâ€™s getting in there and itâ€™s good. Itâ€™s a good feeling when youâ€™re sitting in the box.â€™â€™
The Bruins, up, 6-4, after 40 minutes, saw the Canadiens turn it into a one-goal game when Pacioretty netted a power-play goal at 7:06 of the third. At 9:18, after Zach Hamill drew an interference call on David Desharnais, Ryderâ€™s power-play goal was waved off. It was ruled that Marchand had interfered with Price, when replays showed that he was knocked into the goalie by Yannick Weber. But Ryder gave the Bruins the cushion they needed with a PPG at 10:01 to make it 7-5.
If the game was over by then, the hate was not. At 17:06, after Horton and Subban clashed, Krejci and Pouliot squared off. At 19:19, Ference, Thornton, and Boychuk were nabbed for fighting. At 19:35, Adam McQuaid tried to goad Pacioretty into a fight and was tagged with a roughing double-minor.
â€œAs players, we all had fun in tonightâ€™s game,â€™â€™ Lucic said. â€œI think the fans definitely had a lot of fun watching tonightâ€™s game. We were able to play with a lot of emotion. We were able to keep our heads on straight to get that win. Thatâ€™s the most important thing.â€™â€™
One of the problems with hockey today, Flyers' legendary tough guy Dave Schultz was saying, is that players no longer have the freedom to monitor each other.
"There were guys like [Wayne] Gretzky who used to say, 'We need protection,' and now the only protection star players have is the National Hockey League's judicial system: Colin Campbell," said Schultz, whose single-season record for penalty minutes has stood for 35 years. "[But] players can police themselves. There used to be a thing called the code. The code is kind of gone."
Schultz was a key member of the Flyers' Stanley Cup-winning teams in the 1970s. While he scored a combined 29 goals in the two championship seasons, Schultz was most valuable for his role as an enforcer. In 1974-75, Schultz racked up the record 472 penalty minutes and had 25 fights.
"There's still certain rules and [current fighters] follow them," he said. "Like if a guy's hurt, you don't fight him."
But if an opponent took a cheapshot at one of the Flyers' skilled players, he could expect a quick visit from the man still affectionately known as "The Hammer."
"Today, you can drive Danny Briere's head into the boards and get suspended and lose some money," Schultz said. "In my day, you'd have to turn around because there would be guys lined up and you'd have to fight. That prevented a lot of guys from doing a lot of B.S."
Schultz and other proponents of hockey fighting argue that the instigator rule instituted in 1992 actually has made life less safe for star players. The rule gives a penalty to a player for unilaterally starting a fight. As such, retribution for a hit on a star player could wind up costing the aggrieved team even more.
"That's a bad rule," he said. "The instigator rule changed the game. It changed players being able to protect their teammates."
Suspensions and fines also are laughable, Schultz argues. There is no greater deterrent to cheapshots than being forced to fight after delivering one.
"I was only suspended one time," Schultz said. "I head-butted [Bruins' nemesis Terry] O'Reilly because he was holding my hands."
Sounds like O'Reilly violated "the code" and Schultz made him pay. What a concept. *