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Hockey and Fighting; an Ongoing Relationship

January 10th, 2018 · No Comments · Uncategorized

When did I last watch ice hockey? Might have been the gold-medal game of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Canada versus the U.S., with the Canucks in the living room of a big Abu Dhabi apartment nervous as hell and the Yanks amused to see it.

Hockey is Canada; Canada is hockey. Forget all that stuff about politeness and kindliness; when Canadians are on the ice, they are ready to drop the gloves and get busy.

I was looking for some live sports at about 5 a.m. the other night, and I found nothing except for one hockey game: Anaheim Ducks at Calgary Flames. And I leaned back on the couch with the remote in my hand and wondered how long it would take for a fight to break out.

It took about 30 seconds. Seriously. No joke. I joined the game late in the second period, and in less than a minute a goalkeeper was cheap-shotted, a big guy rushed over to the cheap-shotter and the gloves came off. Within five seconds, at least 10 guys were milling about in a small space, with two more guys also throwing punches meant to injure.

Ah. It was like hockey was welcoming me back!

First, some video:

Here is the essence of the brawl, which lasted about 70 seconds.

Let’s recap it.

Derek Grant of the Ducks skates behind the net, where Mike Smith, an elite goaltender, is retrieving a puck, and Grant takes out Smith’s leg, and the goalie goes sprawling on the ice.

Grant continues on a few more yards as Calgary skaters converge on him and one of the announcers shouts: “There’s going to be a fight!”

Grant ultimately squares off with another strapping suburban kid, Garnet Hathaway, and they are swinging as if they mean it.

Moments later, the swinging starts a few yards away where what I take to be more polished/professional enforcers get busy, Josh Manson of the Ducks and Sam Bennett of the Flames. Manson slips, gets back up off the ice, and both guys are hurling fists that are aimed at the face but tend to miss as the two players “dance”.

When it was over, seven penalties were assessed, with rookie Hathaway hit with three of them — two minutes for instigating the fight with Grant, five minutes for a fighting major penalty, and 10 minutes for misconduct.

Grant, Bennett and Manson each are assessed five-minute majors for fighting, with Grant getting an extra two minutes for the act that started it all — taking the legs out from under Mike Smith, the goalie.

What I found interesting was the reaction of the announcers.

Play-by-play announcer: “Smith upended behind his goal! A penalty call coming up! … and this is gonna be a fight!

“Derek Grant went in on Smith, and look out! We’ve got a couple of fights going! Bennett throwing them hard with Manson! He’s knocked down Manson! Wow, that is a tough customer as Manson is right back up on his feet.

“There’s another scrap (Grant versus Hathaway) going on. And these guys (Bennett and Manson) are still tossing them.”

Color commentator: “I’ll tell ya, Dave Manson’s son, Josh here, is a second-half fighter, though Sam Bennett had the start — he was throwin’ heat. And then these two guys just decide to break it up, afterwards, after bombs were thrown by both of ’em.

“It was Hathaway originally, Dave, that came in after Smith was taken down behind the net. And there’s been a lot of cross-checkin’, a lotta pushin’, a lotta shovin’, a lotta chatter, and here it is here, as you’ll see, the leg extension right there that takes down Smith by Grant.

“Hathaway comes in, Bennett comes in and eventually the gloves get shed and I’m sure they’re going to have to do a little sorting on the penalties here, to settle this one here. Here’s a great look here as the leg gets taken out from Smith.

“And right now, maybe not a bad play for Anaheim, to be honest with you. Smith is playing well, you’re down two-nothin’, trying to get back in the game. This one got everybody fired up and both benches jumped up immediately. It was bound to happen with the way this game’s been going.”

Was Grant thinking that deeply about what he did, in knocking down the goalie? Or was it just frustration on his part?

However it works out, the Ducks scored two in the third period to forge a 2-2 tie, but the Flames scored late to win 3-2.

The Dave Manson, mentioned by the color commentator, was a rough-and-ready guy who played 13 seasons in the NHL and racked up 2,792 penalty minutes, which is a lot, and apparently the son learned the enforcer code from the father. Josh, a strapping lad at 6-3, 220, has 48 penalty minutes this season, second-high total on the Ducks.

Anyway, in about two minutes, from the other side of the Atlantic, I learned that fighting still goes on, in the NHL, and that one good way to get a fight started is to go after the other team’s goalie.

And I can sorta see the thinking behind it. Hockey is a game of men moving fast and carrying sticks, and they can poke or slash an opponent with them, and sometimes officials don’t see that stuff and the players feel as if they have to administer some rough justice on the ice.

It should be noted that penalty minutes appear to be down significantly, from the last century, when nearly every team had someone with 150-plus penalty minutes, year after year.

But fights are not extinct and fighting remains an embarrassment to the league. The league can decry it, but then one guy trips a goalie and teammates come racing across the ice … and the next thing you know there are four pairs of gloves on the ice, the fans are standing and shouting and both benches are cheering on their guy in the scrum.

Thanks hockey. You answered what I needed to know.


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