Remember playing pick-up hockey with your friends? Those games where the teams were within a few goals, scraps along the boards were frequent and plenty of trash-talking with a ton of fun? You would drop the gloves with someone just to drop the gloves, shake it off and keep playing?
That my friends, is old time hockey.
Any NHL nostalgia nut (alliteration, ho!) will gladly tell you about the years with Brett Hull, Maurice “Rocket” Richard, Bobby Orr and of course, Mr. Hockey himself Gordie Howe. Those were the days were goaltenders wouldn’t wear masks, fights were frequent and ice mixed with blood. During these crucial years, the NHL developed the game of Hockey into a fast and exciting game with equal parts strength, strategy and talent.
We, as NHL fans have been lucky enough to have witnessed a few games this season which remind us of those days. The latest example can be seen with Wednesday’s game with Boston hosting Montreal. If you did not watch this game and consider yourself a hockey fan, you should kick yourself in the butt. This game had everything. 14 total goals. More than 10 individual fights. A GOALIE FIGHT. HELL, WHEN’S THE LAST TIME THE NHL HAD TWO GOALIE FIGHTS IN THE SAME WEEK?! It was competitive old time hockey and it was a blast. Tons of hits, tons of fights and tons of goals. You can’t get much better than that.
And then, something happened.
On Friday, February 11, 2011 the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders squared off in New York. There is good old fashioned old time hockey where players are respected by their opponents, and then there are games where it feels like you’re watching beer league hockey. Saturday night was beer league hockey.
(The first of two Islanders cheapshots in this game.)
(The second of two Islanders cheapshots in this game. Both resulted in a 10 player brawl.)
What a mess. The Islander’s organization should and ought to be ashamed of itself. There should be a formal apology from Commissioner Bettman to the fans of the league for what happened. The Islanders had NO respect for the Penguins. No respect towards their win. And no respect with winning graciously. It’s one thing to have revenge, it’s another to attack.
These two games were like night and day. The aforementioned goalie fight in the Montreal/Boston game was with good intentions. Hell, you can see the smile on Tim Thomas’ face after wrestling with Carey Price.
(During Fight) (After Fight)
They were having fun. There was a mutual respect and it was understood between the clubs. They played their hearts out and left nothing behind. I commend the Bruins and Canadiens for putting on such an excellent game of hockey.
There is nothing wrong with fighting, but there is something wrong with mugging. There were not one but two separate instances of plain flat out muggings in the Saturday night game. One by Matt Martin, which was eerily similar to the infamous Bertuzzi hit we’ve all become entirely too accustomed to. Had Tabolt, celebrating his birthday Saturday, not seen Martin coming in for the attack he could have easily been severely hurt. The other instance which showed a certain amount of classlessness was brought on by Trevor Gilles. Gilles hit Penguins winger Eric Tangradi along the boards within the Islanders’ zone. Before Tangradi could even fall from the hit, Gilles jumped him and began to beat the living snot out of him. Classless, gutless and clueless.
There is a HUGE difference between these two games. First and foremost: RESPECT. No matter the opponent, there is a certain amount of respect for your opponent. You should never go out to play with the intention of hurting somebody. Are there players that do this? Of course. But they are isolated to 1 singular person. When you have an entire line of fully grown, athletically gifted men attempting to hurt someone, it’s going to happen.
Secondly, if there is a fight, you square off with one person, or leave the two instigators battle it out. Just because someone grabs you, doesn’t mean that gives you the right to start beating his face into pulp.
Finally: You want revenge? Go out and win. Embarrass a team with a 9 to 3 win with MAYBE one or two scrums. That’s how you do it. It’s how you always do. To go beyond this, is insane. After Penguin’s winger Matt Cooke landed a vicious elbow to the head to Marc Savard, Boston didn’t come back next game going after everyone on the Pens. They went after Cooke, knocked him around and won the game by a large margin. If the Islanders think their entitled to anything more than how Boston handled their situation, then the Islanders should expect more than just a few losing seasons ahead of them.
I would love nothing more than to have an entire regular season of old time hockey. I think it would an amazing feat to see fights in every game with the kind of high octane offense the NHL has to offer. But at the risk of games happening like this one? I would rather have the NHL revert back to the days of the neutral zone trap in the 90’s. This kind of behavior has no place in any sport, including MMA or UFC. There is a difference between fighting and mugging. New York should know better. But that’s just my take...