For the uninitiated, hockey is often synonymous with gap-tooth smiles and raging fights. And who doesn’t like a good fight? So any effort, in my opinion, to better understand the NHL and the game of hockey has to appreciate why hockey players fight, and how to recognize a good one.
According to HockeyFights.com (a site that is one of the greatest time-sucks a hockey fan can discover), in the five seasons after the NHL lockout, fighting has stabilized, at least in terms of numbers. So while the days of enforcers and thugs on skates seems to be slowing down as players with the greatest number of fighting majors are getting increased ice time to skate, it doesn’t mean the fights on the ice are getting any less entertaining.
Altercations like the ones that are celebrated in arenas across the U.S. and Canada could land someone in jail if they happened on Division Street, Broadway, Broad Street or Ste. Catherine Street. But there is no denying that a good fight is a thing of beauty (and at times, justice).
The top fights from the 2009-10 season include:
5. Colton Orr, Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Matt Carkner, Ottawa Senators: According to reports leading up to this fight, Carkner kept talking in the media about taking Orr down. Unfortunately for Carkener, anytime you call out a guy like Orr–who earlier in his career had cross-checked NHL superstar Alexander Ovechkin–to the face, things are not going to end well. Orr wins this one quickly and decisively.
4. David Koci, Colorado Avalanche vs. Brian McGrattan, Calgary Flames: Koci has scored one goal in six years in the NHL so clearly he is part of the game to keep the other team honest (and probably very nervous). Add Brian McGrattan, considered by many to be the toughest guy in the NHL, and what you have is a fight that is summed up best by the announcer calling the game, ”What a fight! Holy guacamole, what a fight!”
3. Micheal Haley, New York Islanders vs. Rod Pelley, New Jersey Devils: The best fights seem to come from intense rivalries. While Islanders/Devils isn’t as intense as some others, rookie heavyweight Haley plus great announcing makes this one of the most entertaining fights of the season.
2. Evander Kane, Atlanta Thrashers vs. Matt Cooke, Pittsburgh Penguins: Any fight that ends with a stretcher being brought in can only be redeemed by knowing that the injured player left under his own power and also seemed to deserve the beat-down. With one punch, Evander Kane knocked Matt Cooke, a third line forward considered by many fans one of hockey’s dirtiest players, to the ice. The belief that karma does exist was instantly restored.
1. Rick Rypien, Vancouver Canucks vs. Cam Janssen, St. Louis Blues: Everyone should have seen the classic brawl between these two guys coming. Rypien’s hands were taped below the wrist to protect them in a fight (and inflict more damage) and Janssen averaged the exact same number of minutes in the penalty box as he did on the ice for the season. Add in over 40 punches thrown, blood, and the fact that it happened on New Year’s Eve, on the ice, when both guys were seemingly sober, and you have the fight of the hockey season!
What do you guys think? Which ones did I forget?