Aside from some fire from defenseman Mark Stuart, I thought I was watching a home video of an eighth grade dance, and not a hockey game between the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers on March 11. You know, girls on one side of the dance floor, boys on the other, and nary the twain shall meet.
There was nothing special about Stuart’s fights with Dan Carcillo and Ian Lapperierre; no punches of any significance were landed in either fight. And the game itself was a one-sided affair the Bruins decided to attend. The Flyers, apparently, had other plans.
The only noteworthy attribute to the game was the lack of snarl exhibited between these once-pugnacious rivals.
Anyone who has watched hockey over the past 40 years knows that any time these squads met up, the potential for exciting exchanges of fists, and plenty of them, gave the game an edge of anticipation and intensity.
Let’s face it: In the 1970s, Schultz and O’Rielly were bound to go, as were Cashman and Kelly. In the early-80s, Wensink vs. Wilson was a sure thing. Later, Jay Miller and Dave Brown battles seemed inevitable whenever they shared the ice.
Alas, Flyers-Bruins games no longer hold the same promise for hockey fight fans. It’s a sad state of affairs … and I’m not the only one lamenting the change.
Jay Miller himself shares the same view I do.
“It’s [punk-ass] bullpoop, not hockey,” Miller told me after I asked his opinion of today’s game vis-a-vis fighting. “The NHL needs to go back to the old style.”
The old style. Ask any sampling of current NHL hockey fans, and many will tell you the old style, which placed a premium on fighting and overall team toughness, is passé, detrimental to the game, and even the very antithesis of sport.
Fans like me and former players such as Miller and Dave Schultz, who made a living fighting upwards of 30 times a season, will insist that fighting in the NHL is more than mere bloodsport. It serves a vital function. “You see all the hits to the head and hitting from behind going on today?” asked Miller “We didn’t have as much of that when I played because players had to answer for their actions on the ice. We (the players) policed the game. Today, guys pull [stuff] because the mentality is, [If somebody does something cheap], the League will handle it.”
Schultz simplified Miller’s point. “As long as hockey is played with a stick, there will be a need for fighting in the NHL.”
Miller, is also quick to point out that fighting, for him anyhow, was never about theatrics or entertainment. “It was a my job,” Miller explained, “to let the other team know, ‘Do not f-ck with our players.’ My job was easy.” Nor was fighting ever personal. “There was never any bad blood. I’ve never even met Dave Brown (off the ice). Never said a word to him.”
By the way, Miller and Brown fought nine times throughout their careers.
While understanding his job may have been easy for Miller, who spent four seasons in the Black and Gold before being traded to Los Angeles, taking on the likes of Brown, Chris Nilan, John Kordic, and others several times, executing it was anything but.
“Brownie and (Rick) Tocchet were probably the toughest [Flyer’s I fought], Miller admits, “but you can put a bunch of Flyers up there in any order.”
Just a job, yet without men like Miller on the clock, this once-fierce rivalry is in danger of losing it’s spark.
In his ongoing efforts to embarrass the NHL, head disciplinarian Colin Campbell issued a two-game ban on Alexander Ovechkin. Personally, I like Ovechkin. He’s a talented, gritty player that’s good for the league, but he’s dumber than a box of hair.
His hit on Brian Campbell was a classic case of boarding—numbers in plain sight, a few feet from the boards, blatant contact from behind … and totally unnecessary. OV should have received 10 games minimum for the act, and another two for being dumb.