Scripted? How about inevitable.
The Ottawa Senators’ Zack Smith said after Wednesday’s game with the Toronto Maple Leafs that everyone on the ice knew what was going to happen on the game’s first shift.
Dave Dziurzynski of the Senators and Fraser McLaren of the Leafs went all pound-y on each other 26 seconds into Wednesday’s game, with nausea-inducing results.
You don’t have to be an Ottawa fan to be horrified by the sight of Dziurzynski lying face down, unconscious, on the ice (McLaren appeared ashen-faced).
For those familiar with the rivalry between the teams, it was throwback night in the Battle of Ontario.
But hey, no one really gets hurt in hockey fights, right?
Dziurzynski got his brains scrambled by McLaren, a waiver pick-up who in addition to being quite a large man and a good boxer is a solidly mediocre hockey player.
Add him to a list of players who have been injured in punch-ups this year – New York’s Ryan Callahan, Montreal’s Rene Bourque (probably), Toronto/Edmonton’s Mike Brown, Philly’s Tye McGinn, Boston’s Shawn Thornton. This list is not exhaustive.
But hey, at least fights fire up the crowd right?
From the Toronto Star’s Dave Feschuk at Air Canada Centre on Wednesday, via Twitter: So much for the theory that fights energize a building. Few minutes after McLaren KO’s Dziurzynski, ACC crowd is, as usual, out cold.
But hey, at least fights swing momentum, right?
That must be why the Leafs put the screws to Ottawa and immediately scored. If by immediately you mean six minutes later, and if by “put the screws” you mean “were handily outshot.”
“If anything a fight like that deflates both teams . . . it’s scary, man,” Smith told reporters after the game.
Yes, the Leafs did score on a whiff-and-deflection about 90 seconds after Chris Neil and Colton Orr dropped the gloves, but there was no discernible advantage for either team after McLaren felled Dziurzynski, who has fought six times in the minors but was in his first NHL scrap.
None of which will change anyone’s attitude toward fighting, and that’s a problem.
Toronto coach Randy Carlyle is a fan of tough guys – imagine how good the Leafs could be if they had actual hockey players among their bottom six forwards – and steadfastly insists fighting is part of the game.
In this, he is absolutely correct.
It is part of the game, what isn’t clear is that incidents like Wednesday’s serve any purpose, other than providing a livelihood to marginal players and indulging the meathead element in the stands.
Statistics compiled by hockeyfights.com suggest fisticuffs are way up this year relative to the past two seasons, nearly 41 per cent of games this season has featured at least one fight.
I’ve asked several players over the past couple of weeks why that is, and they mostly answer the same thing: shorter schedule means more intensity, more intensity means more scraps.
Except two hulking guys going after each other basically from the opening faceoff has nothing to do with intensity, it has to do with intimidation, specifically wanting to create some.
It bears mentioning at this point only half of the top fighting 10 teams find themselves in a playoff position – the Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets are runaway leaders in the fight stakes.
Is that really the company Toronto wants to keep?
Hockey has always been a violent game, and when emotions boil over in other sports – rugby, football, baseball – punches are often thrown.
But in other sports such things are sanctioned with more than five minutes in the box.
In a day and age where owners are investing so much money in players – and where so much attention is being paid to head injuries – it makes no sense to risk catastrophic injury because of things like refusing to wear a visor or hopping over the boards with a boxer’s intent.
Sometimes tough men need to be protected from themselves, it would be nice if the league and its owners felt that way.