Guest Blog: Ryan Lambert: On the Thin Line Between Awesome and RepulsiveShareThis
Ryan Lambert is a fellow Puck Daddy writer. He’s the dude that writes Monday’s “What We Learned” that I’ve FJM’ed so many times, and Friday’s “Trending Topics.” I look forward to his every post, as the guy has some pretty great points about the NHL. Also, he’s a complete asshole, in a slightly tongue-in-cheek way, and I really enjoy that.
Follow him on twitter, as not enough people do, and he’s one of my favourite follows. Hopefully Lambert will write some more for us in the future.
The Line Between Awesome and Repulsive
Wednesday night, the Bruins and Habs engaged in a bit of a dust-up as part of a rollicking affair that brought hockey fans the world over back to what is affectionately referred to as The Good Old Days.
Because of a couple line brawls and even a good-natured goalie fight, there were 178 penalty minutes. Pretty much everyone thought it an exemplary game of hockey that got a bit out of hand because things were a little testy, and hey, it’s Habs/Bruins, right?
Convert that video to grayscale and scratch it up a little bit, it’s from the 1950s, when those teams legitimately hated each other. Add a different filter, make it grainier, and it’s from the 1970′s. All good stuff.
Apart from Greg Campbell using his elbow pad as a weapon in a fight — which went unnoticed by everyone, apparently, since I’ve not seen or heard a word about it and he sure as hell wasn’t suspended — you couldn’t say this wasn’t a perfectly healthy part of a very contentious game between archrivals. A little out of the ordinary, sure, but everyone involved was very, very willing.
But then the braindead pacifistas Get Fighting Out of Hockey crowd got significant ammo when something they would call “roughly the same thing” happened two days later. As the Islanders piled nine past the Penguins, they also saw fit to turn the game into a sideshow act, a nauseating and deplorable effort to even the score for trespasses — both real and perceived — committed in earlier meetings.
Those trespasses? Well, they’d been embarrassed a week and a half prior when Brent Johnson broke Rick DiPietro’s face with a vicious left, and claimed the rest of the Pens chuckled up their sleeves at the one-punch wonder. And of course Talbot had given Blake Comeau a concussion in the same game with a perfectly clean hit.
But despite this, the game started rather innocuously. The Islanders jumped out to a quick three-goal lead, and it appeared that their way of getting revenge was to badly outplay the Penguins in a game of ice hockey.
Obviously, Michael Haley traded punches with Craig Adams over what he felt was a borderline hit in the neutral zone; one which looked innocent enough but you could kind of see why Haley objected. Then Eric Godard scrapped with Trevor Gillies late in the first period. But this was fair as well. It was two guys whose only job is to beat the living shit out of people like them, doing so.
Godard ostensibly wanted to fire up his team, they’d lined up across from each other on the draw. In short, everyone knew it was coming. Decent fight too. Nothing untoward. Again, an acceptable part of the game.
But these two fights should have, perhaps, served as a bit of a warning. Haley, for example, had been called up specifically for this game. Already a veteran of parts of five pro seasons, he’d been in 56 fights and put up 196 penalty minutes in just 65 AHL games last season alone. Clearly, this call-up was not made to juice the offense; Haley’s job on Friday, like the rest of the Islanders’, was clear. Send a message. They were more than happy to oblige.
In all, the game featured at least two absolutely reprehensible cheapshots (Matt Martin on Max Talbot in a six-goal game, and Gillies’ bionic elbow on Eric Tangradi), 346 penalty minutes, and one gigantic load of shit from the Islanders organization from top to bottom.
To wit, Garth Snow didn’t bring just anyone down from Bridgeport as a replacement. He called up a guy with 144 penalty minutes this season, despite Gillies and Zenon Konopka already being dressed for the game. He clearly knew what would take place, in one form or another, beforehand.
And while Jack Capuano (perhaps) didn’t order this absurd level of hate-fueled violence, he certainly didn’t mind that flying elbows and blindside ambushes and, most disgustingly of all, cretinous taunting were how his team reclaimed their pound of flesh. That he stood there after the game and told reporters with a straight face that he had no problem at all with what his boys had done that night serves as irrefutable evidence of this.
What the Islanders did was pure pro wrestling garbage. That they provoked the Penguins into answering in kind was, as with any good heel act, probably exactly what they wanted.
How else do you explain Haley going after Johnson after already having been sent to the box for fighting on the same play? Yes, Godard leaving the bench was embarrassing, and nothing excuses it, but the circumstances had been so ratcheted-up by the crap the Islanders had been pulling for two periods that of course a cementhead like that was going to be suckered into getting himself suspended for 10 games.
And that’s what separates that sickening display from the dustups in the Habs/Bruins game. There was nothing premeditated about the hatefest in Boston, while the incident on the Island practically had an itinerary.