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Fits and Fisticuffs

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I try not to dwell on past events, but sometimes dwelling becomes necessary.

 The Tampa Bay press persists in its obsession with Andre Roy’s blow up during the third period of the Lightning-Flyers game at the Wachovia Center.  For those who haven’t seen it:

The complain now – did the Flyers’ event team cross the line by repeatedly playing the KO on the arena screens?

According to NHL spokesman Frank Brown the rules state that “League policy prohibits the use of scoreboards for replays that are provocative or present the opposition in an unfavorable light.”  Including in-house replays of fights.  Violating clubs can be fined.

1.  I doubt there is a single building among the 30 in the league that doesn’t replay fights, hits, or other plays in which the opposition loses.  It happens every night.  So if Andre Roy and the Lightning did not realize that the fight would be shown on the arena screens, they need to wake up and smell the bacon.

2.  If a player chooses to make his living as an NHL enforcer, he accepts that sometimes he will lose a fight.  And if he loses in the opposition’s building, it will be replayed.  This isn’t a secret.  Andre Roy chose to be an enforcer – a job for which he is well-compensated.  Like all competitve guys, I’m sure he doesn’t like to lose.  But it is a risk he takes every time he drops the gloves.  That’s his responsibility.

3.  NHL players voted Flyer fans “the most intimidating fans in hockey” for a reason.  I can recall as a child watching games at the Spectrum.  When players fought, there was actually a bell that would be rung – think boxing match.  Fans love tough, hard-hitting, broken nosed hockey, and they are more than willing to show that.  These are the fans that booed Santa.  One fan got into an altercation with Toronto’s Tie Domi; the fan fell into the penalty box, and Domi started swinging.  Roy has played in the Wachovia Center before, so he knows this.  Fighting Cote is an invitation for taunts from the Flyer faithful.  No surprise when the fans in sections behind the Lightning bench began yapping at Roy.

4.  The most important consideration: the fight was clean.  Cote got a few well-placed quick lefts and KO’d Roy.  Roy wasn’t injured, was more than able to get up and skate on his own strength, and had enough power to make some comments in the process.  Replays may have damaged his pride, but they did not encourage gawking or cheering at an injury.

How many times has the Darcy Tucker hit on Sami Kapanen been replayed – and without showing the vastly important Jeremy Roenick overtime goal that sent the Flyers to the Eastern Conference Final in 2004?  Kapanen courageously stumbled to the bench and had to be helped over the boards.  He was clearly injured.

What about Brian Campbell’s open ice hit on RJ Umberger in the 2005-2006 playoffs?  A friend of mine has season tickets in Buffalo and confirms that the clip was replayed multiple times in the arena.  The hit was fair and clean.  But Umberger received a concussion from the hit and left the game hurt. 

In conclusion – Roy chose to be an enforcer.  He knowingly chose to put himself in a position to potentially lose a fight and to have it replayed.  He did that in a building long known for its bloodlust.  He was not injured nor seriously hurt in the collision.  And moreover, he chose to make his own pride more important than his team – which was in a battle for a 2-2 hockey game at the time.  It’s Roy who needs to take responsibility for his actions.  Not the Flyers.

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