MOOSE JAW, SASKATCHEWAN: Late last Saturday night, the players, for lack of a better word, took to the ice. The three forwards chosen by the Calgary Flames head coach Bob Hartley boasted 37 games played out of a possible 150 and similarly unimpressive were the trio’s stat line which read: four goals, two assists, six points–combined! Brian McGrattan and his equally-framed 6’4″, 235-pound teammate Kevin Westgrath and Blair Jones however did amass 146 penalty minutes (PIM) in those 37 games when their skates actually hit the ice.
Road teams are required to submit starting lineups first and the home team Vancouver Canucks accordingly and strategically fielded its own in response to the opponent. The heavyweight tag-team of Tom Sestito and Kellan Lain summoned by John Tortorella stood 6’5″, 228 and 6’6″, 217 (very) respectively. The former, NHL’s current PIM leader at 167 in 49 games and the latter “who’s had a very trying rookie season” with 3 games played and 15 PIM or a fighting major in each contest. Dale Wiese rounded out the forward line to whom credit goes for piling up 8G, 11A, 19PTS in 93 man games amongst them. What followed came straight out of hollywood cinema.
While it wasn’t confirmed whether or not Sestito asked to buy McGrattan a soda after the game, Sestito did go on to bloody McGrattan in the fight. Lain set a new NHL record for the fastest fight to start a career (2 seconds in) and probably along with it the quickest ejection. Too bad the rookie had family travel from his native Ontario for the game and saw him for several blinks of an eye and missed his first NHL goal on Tuesday night. Eight ejections and 152 penalty minutes later, order seemed restored until the buzzer sounded ending the first period and the teams retired to their respective locker rooms. That is until John Tortorella acted like, well John Tortorella.
While much grief has been thrown “Torts” way–probably by disgruntled NY Rangers fans–for his attempts at storming the visitors dressing room to give the Flames’ coaching staff a piece of his mind, he was merely sticking up for his boys like a good general should amid Bob Hartley’s chicanery. Tortorella’s insanity to venture alone into a room full of enemy players with sticks and sharp skate blades sounds a lot like Custer’s Last Stand and considerable merit for his intentions thankfully intercepted by a few Flames players turning events into nothing more than a rugby scrum.
To use a Slapshot analogy, Hartley played Reg Dunlop, coach of a misfit team a mile behind the opposing team, to Tortorella’s Hanrahan, the Ducks thin-skinned goalie who also loses his cool. The two bench bosses are no strangers to each other from years coaching in the AHL can attest and probably where Hartley’s seed for Saturday night’s main event was planted. Tortorella took the bait and Hartley was just as much if not more culpable. Apparently the NHL feels the same with a $25K fine for Hartley and a 15-day (six game) unpaid vacation for Tortorella. Old time hockey, eh coach?
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