It’s been an entertaining weekend in the world of hockey. One thing about my new sport: it ain’t boring.
The Detroit Red Wings got booed off their home arena last week, after their third sub-standard, disinterested performance in a row. Detroit fans expect better and gave it to the team. The Wings responded by belting the highly-rated Boston Bruins, 6-1, on Friday and then 4-2 overnight.
Meanwhile, at the Melbourne Icehouse, Will and I attempted to work on those pesky pivots and other difficult manoeuvres, only to discover that the rink on a Sunday afternoon was busier than the Boxing Day sales. It was impossible to do anything other than skate in circles, surrounded by hundreds of other skaters of varying abilities. There were lots of newbies, some with the skating equivalent of a zimmer-frame, which I’m secretly proud I never had to use. Plus, of course, there were five or six guys who still felt the need to skate at sub-Olympic speed-skate velocity, missing wobbling beginners by millimetres. No matter what the arena or occasion, there are dick-swingers, no? The skating was actually stopped at one point because there was blood on the ice so maybe one of the Hero Skaters miscalculated.
Speaking of blood on the ice, the weekend’s real action happened in New York. A bit over a week ago, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Islanders had a particularly spiteful match that went close to getting out of hand. Hockey is pretty much unique, aside from boxing, in that a fight can break out and everybody, including the referees, just stands back and watches, until somebody hits the ice.
In the match nine days ago, things came to a head when the Penguins’ Max Talbot landed a questionable blow to injure Islander Blake Comeau and then Pittsburgh’s second goalie, Brent Johnson, charged down the ice and with one punch caved the face of rival goalie Rick DiPietro. And the Penguins won 3-0.
So the Islanders turned up for this weekend’s match in New York in, umm, a mood.
A total of 346 penalty minutes, 10 ejections, 15 fighting majors and 20 misconducts.
Known Penguins’ heavy Eric Godard received an automatic 10 game suspension for leaping off the bench to get involved in a third period fight.
Islander Trevor Gillies got nine games, and Matt Martin got four. The Islanders, as a club, had a $100,000 tap on the wrist for being untoward in their approach to the sport.
Incredibly, one Islander, Micheal Haley, who is normally known as an enforcer (read: professional thug) for the Islanders’ feeder team, the magnificently-named Sound Tigers, was brought into the match specifically because there was going to be trouble. He took out Talbot, who was the target from the earlier match, then charged down the ice to take on the goalie, Johnson, leading to the all-in brawl that got Godard suspended. Haley was hit with an instigator penalty, two fighting majors and two game misconducts but, as far as I can tell, wasn’t suspended afterwards for any games.
Clearly repentant and full of remorse afterwards, Haley told the press: “It was a pretty entertaining, emotional game. I was glad to be a part of it.”
The Islanders won, 9-3. The teams meet again on April 8.
Oh, and here’s where things get truly magical. The morning after this bloodbath, on Saturday, the Penguins stayed in New York because they were playing the Rangers the next day at Madison Square Gardens.
The team was heading to an outdoor practice at Central Park’s rink and were travelling in a team bus, dressed in full playing kit, minus skates, when the bus tangled with a car. (I’m not making this up by the way: look)
Picture your typical clichéd New Yorker leaping out of his car, full of bluster and waving arms. “Whaddayadoing?” to the bus driver. Only to see the entire Penguins team emerge, in uniform, fresh from the previous night’s carnage.
“It was quite a sight,” Penguins coach Dan Dylsma said. “I think the gentleman involved with the accident backed off a little bit when he saw a whole hockey team get out with sticks and gloves in their hands. If he had known anything about last night, maybe that’s why he backed off.”
The players hailed cabs, still in full kit, to Central Park.
Just another weekend in hockey.