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Baseball analyst sparks Internet debate over NHL in wake of Flames-Canucks brawl

The fight-filled Calgary Flames-Vancouver Canucks game had altercations on and off the ice on Saturday night—and now it's led to an online war of words.

Peter Gammons, an analyst for Major League Baseball's network and website, drew the ire of hockey fans on Sunday when he criticized the two NHL teams on Twitter for their physical game the night before.

"Calgary and Vancouver last night reiterated why the NHL is a minor sport," said Gammons (@pgammo) from his verified Twitter account.

The tweet referred to the Canucks' 3-2 shootout win over the Flames, which saw over 200 minutes of penalties and eight game misconducts. The fights weren't limited to the ice as Vancouver head coach John Tortorella got into an altercation with Calgary enforcer Brian McGrattan and goalie coach Clint Malarchuk outside the Flames' locker-room during the first intermission.

Criticism of Gammons' tweet came quickly after Fox Sports 1 anchor Jay Onrait—a Calgary native—retweeted the remarks with the added note "Shots fired."

"seriously though, who is Peter Gammons? He has a puppy and flowers as his avatar," said professional golfer Graham DeLaet of Weyburn, Sask.

Onrait quickly replied to DeLaet, comparing Gammons to TSN hockey analyst Bob McKenzie.

"He is the Bob McKenzie of MLB I suppose. Bob Mac would never be so rude to insult baseball (might think it though)," said Onrait.

Gammons actually has an impressive resume, earning national recognition in the United States for his work as a baseball reporter for the Boston Globe, Sports Illustrated, the Sporting News and 20 years with American broadcasting giant ESPN. He was named America's National Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association in 1989, 1990 and 1993. Gammons has also earned an honorary Poynter Fellow from Yale University.

Those accolades meant little to the Internet on Sunday, however.

"@pgammo says the guy who makes his living off the dirtiest sport in the world other then maybe cycling," said professional hockey player Mike Commodore, a native of Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., who currently plays in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League. The 11-year veteran of the NHL added the hashtag #beatitpeter to his tweet.

Less than 30 minutes later, Commodore tweeted at Gammons a second time, again referring to MLB's struggles to prevent the use of performance-enhancing drugs: "@pgammo , help us out with your infinite wisdom scoops, would a good solid 25 year HGH/doping era turn hockey into a "major" sport?"

Erik Johnson, a defenceman for the Colorado Avalanche, replied to Gammons with a picture of the sold-out Michigan Stadium, filled with over 100,000 fans to watch the Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 1.

The caption "No one cares about hockey" was superimposed over the image.

Larry Brooks, a New York Post sportswriter renowned for his arguments with Tortorella when the coach was with the Rangers, also criticized Gammons.

"Dont know about that. No one called baseball a minor sport when Carlos Quentin charged mound and broke Zach Greinke's collarbone," said Brooks.

Jesse Spector, baseball writer for the Sporting News, defended Gammons' remarks to Sean Gentille, his hockey-reporting colleague.

"@seangentille Basically, if you think Gammons is the only guy out there who sees last night and says "minor sport," you're kidding yourself," said Spector.

Follow @jchidleyhill on Twitter.

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