When a soldier falls in war while bravely defending rights, liberties, and freedoms, there's a general sense amongst the troops that he must be remembered and honoured for his sacrifice. However, I'm not here to talk about the brave warriors who have pledged their lives to protecting freedoms and liberties we seemingly take for granted on a daily basis. No, I'm here talking about hockey, and the Islanders and Penguins had themselves a wild night where they went to battle this evening. Bloodshed? Check. Fallen bodies? Check. A response to a fallen comrade? Check, with an asterisk.
Why an asterisk, you ask? I want to make it clear that there are rules of engagement in both battle and in hockey. We reference those rules of engagement in hockey as "the code", and there were a vast number of rules broken by both teams in this brawl-filled game.
The reason that "the code" exists is to ensure that fights in hockey are fair and that no player ends up injured, humiliated, or disrespected. Injuries do happen as a result of the fight, but "the code" is an examination of who the fighters are and how those fighters engage in battle. This is what I think is most important in hockey's "code", and we're going to see why these infractions have me a little steamed about this game as a whole.
First off, here is the penalty summary for the game. Micheal Haley, whose name appears frequently on the summary, was called up on an emergency basis earlier today as the Islanders look to fill spots with bodies.
While the Islanders can certainly use someone who can score, Haley leads the AHL's Bridgeport Sound Tigers in both goals (12) and penalty minutes (144). Considering he was pinned to the bench for most of the game, which number do you think had more influence? If you don't think he was underutilized as a legitimate goal scorer, how many scoring threats play a total of 5:31 in a game? Four shifts in the first period, six in the second, and a whopping one shift in the third period - quite the game for a scorer, no? And his work in the third period on that one shift is quite well-documented on the penalty summary. Nothing like maximizing your opportunities on one shift when you fight with three different guys - Maxime Talbot, Brent Johnson, and Eric Godard. But he was there for his offensive abilities, right?
Secondly, what is up with Trevor Gillies? Fu manchu aside, his blatantly obvious check to Eric Tangredi's head was something out of Slap Shot. To make matters worse, though, he then decides to pummel the fallen Tangredi as he lay on the ice. Just to add a little insult to injury, Gillies then taunted and yelled at the fallen Tangredi as he stood off the ice in the zamboni runway. Really, Gillies, was all of this necessary?
For a guy who saw less ice-time than the Ice Girls, you really shouldn't be running your mouth or taunting a fallen player. He spent all of 1:40 on the ice in tonight's game! Should you really be running your mouth when you played three shifts in the first period, two in the second period, and all of one shift in the third period? If you want to brawl, get it over and done with, shut your mouth, and move on. There was nothing honourable about what Gillies did in any way, shape, or form.
The code ensures some basic fundamentals in fighting:
- All fights are fair. No fighter creates an unfair advantage for himself. Gillies' elbow on Tangredi and Haley's sucker-punch on Talbot created unfair advantages, and both men continued to assault their opponents after they created the unfair advantage. STRIKE ONE.
- The rules of "Fight Club" apply. If someone says "stop", goes limp, or taps out, the fight is over. Both Talbot and Tangredi went down after Haley and Gillies delivered their cheap shots, and both were dazed and confused. While Talbot got up and continued the scrap after regaining his senses, there was no reason for either Gillies or Haley to continue to pummel their respective opponents as they lay on the ice. STRIKE TWO.
- You do not embarrass your opponent. In both cases, Haley and Gillies broke this rule in spades. Haley dropped Talbot with a cheap shot, scrapped with him, and then went for broke by skating down the ice to fight Penguins' goaltender Brent Johnson. The Haley-Johnson fight was clearly a mismatch, so Eric Godard came off the bench to protect his goalie. In Gillies' case, he dropped Tangredi with an elbow, pummeled Tangredi while he laid on the ice, and then trash-talked Tangredi as he stood in the zamboni runway. STRIKE THREE.
Neither men should be proud of what they did simply because they went outside the realm of acceptable protocols during a fight. I expect major suspensions and fines to be handed down in this one - Godard will most definitely be suspended for leaving the bench during the melee - but this kind of stuff isn't what you expect from professional hockey players. I'm all for retribution for the injury to DiPietro, but this was a little over the top from the Islanders as a team.
The case now rests in the hands of the NHL. What retribution they bring with regards to the carnival that went on tonight is anyone's guess. The asterisk on getting retribution is that you can't act like a savage in doing so when you're a professional.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!