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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Old-Time Hockey: Fights Abound In Islanders-Penguins Grudge Rematch

Friday night at the Nassau Coliseum, the hockey game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders evoked memories of true old-time hockey.  With each team missing its best players, the remaining combatants  the sort indulged in by the likes of Dave Schultz, Tiger Williams and . . . Reg Dunlop, the Hanson Brothers and even Jonathan E.  (Keep reading to get the movie references.) 

A staggering 346 penalty minutes were recorded by the two teams (183 for Islanders' players, 163 for Penguins' players).  So many players were thrown out of the game that by the last five minutes of the third and final period, both teams had barely enough eligible players to step onto the ice.
Oh, by the way, the final score last night was a shocking 9-3 Islanders victory over the 2009 Stanley Cup champions (admittedly, the Penguins are missing their best players, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, to injury.

Friday Night Fights at the Coliseum:  After the score was 6-0 Islanders (there's a shock!) early in the second period, fights became commonplace at virtually every play stoppage.  Real fights involving obscure tough guys from the minor leagues -- like the Pens' Dave Tangredi and Isles' Micheal Haley -- called up to fill in for injured players.  Fights involving the Islanders' Trevor Gillies, who is unrelated to former Islander legend and Hockey Hall of Famer Clark Gillies (and who, contrary to legend, was very disinclined to fight but equally proficient when he felt provoked). 

NHL teams dress 20 players for a game.  Count the number of expulsions (10) from the official game night stat sheet, add in five-minute fighting majors when less time remained in the third period, and determine for yourself how many players remained standing and eligible to play by the end.  By the last two minutes, there were not enough players for a shift change!  The game even featured a rare moment when a player -- the Penguins' Eric Godard -- left the bench (this is prohibited) to engage in a fight.  Watch the clip below and look for number 28 in white from the right side of your screen.

Truly a war of attrition.  Just like the 1975 cult classic Rollerball, starring James Caan (aka Sonny Corleone) as Jonathan E.

 As notable Islanders/NHL blogger Chris Botta noted on his Islanders Point Blank blog, the game -- from an Islanders standpoint -- should have been devoted to former Islanders Garry Howatt (the "Toy Tiger" from the late 1970s and first Cup season of 1980), Clark Gillies and Bob Nystrom. The aforementioned triumvirate were always notable for standing up for the Islanders' skill players (Hall of Famers Mike Bossy and Bryan Trottier) when other teams would try to intimidate them.

Tonight's game brought back old memories of true old-time hockey.  Check out this legendary bench-clearing brawl between the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Islanders from January 1979.

Compare it with one of my favorite clips from the legendary cult classic Slap Shot (warning: profanity):

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer.  Mr. Dixon helps business, individual and political clients with legal and strategic matters, crisis management, assertiveness training and  litigation stress management.  Mr. Dixon is a former New York Islanders season ticket holder and has been a hockey fan since 1975.

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