October 29, 2010: The Penguins played the Flyers for the third time in a month, meeting for the second time in their new home at Consol Energy Center. In the first 27 seconds, two fights broke out. The first, Matt Cooke versus former Flyer Captain Mike Richards. The second, Pens bruiser Deryk Engelland against Flyer Jody Shelley. It was my first time at CEC. My best friend and I rolled in blitzed from happy hour and almost spilled our nachos everywhere as we cheered on our guys.
A few months later, this happened:
This was enough to make your stomach turn. The officials had zero control over what was going on and it was not what hockey fighting is supposed to be. Someone lays a dirty hit on you, keeps bumping your stick prior to the face off, someone runs your goalie, a team frustrated over missed calls or a team who is badly losing and wants to try and throw off the other team’s game…those scenarios usually lead to fights. (Or if you are Tyler Kennedy and Sean Avery who absolutely hate each other, you try to beat one another into oblivion every time you meet.)
So, last night, the Devils and Rangers faced off and in the first three seconds of the game, enough fights broke out for the officials to dish out 6 misconducts.
John Tortorella started the game with Stu Bickel, Mike Rupp and Brandon Prust on the ice, 3 guys who are not afraid to throw down the gloves for the sake of their team. That was obviously a calculated move to try and jar the game from the get go. These are division rivals and they hate one another. The Devils started their fighters as well.
As I have stated in previous posts, I like a good hockey fight. But this just seemed senseless. When two players fight in the heat of the moment, things can get exciting and change the course of the game. We saw this on Sunday when the Pens played the Flyers. Things got chippy, the Pens lost their cool and played right into the hand of the Flyers. And because of it, they lost a point when the game went to Over Time. (See Chris Kunitz versus Scott Hartnell.)
I’m not writing this blog to even begin to touch on player safety, but just to draw some awareness that fighting can be stupid at times. The fight at MSG last night was one of those times. Fighting can be exciting, but as the videos above show, it can also be an absolute embarrassment to the game as well.
Last week, Steve MacIntyre fought in Wilkes-Barre Scranton. He didn’t just fight though. He checked into a mental institute in Amityville on the ice. What he did was no better than Trevor Gillies in the Long Island Brawl against the Pens last season. Four games? Joke. Should have suspended him for 10 or more.
Mind you, the Pens fought more than any other team last season. They fought so much I made a video montage of the fights (you can find it in the Media section of the site). But fight because something happened on the ice, not this fabricated crap that you are fighting just because you can.
Last night’s fight at MSG pales in comparison to all out wars on the ice like Pens vs Islanders and Bruins vs Canadiens just about a week earlier, but it was still something that you had to look at it and say to yourself, “Okay, what exactly was the point of that and what did it accomplish?”
Fighting will always be a strongly debated topic. I am not against fighting, but I am against stupidity and over the top hostility. Fighting in hockey is an occupational hazard and I don’t want it removed from the game, but come on Rangers. I get that the Pens are nipping at your heels and you needed that win last night, but such a calculated move just looks tacky.