Pavel Datsyuk and Corey Perry square off against each other. (Photo by Dave Reginek/ NHLI via Getty Images)
It will surprise no ardent reader of this website that fighting is a very divisive issue amongst THN writers. Some are vociferously against it, others think it’s part of the game. I like fights. The spur-of-the-moment bouts are passionate and even the staged ones come with a fun level of anticipation (Probert and Domi, anyone?). The following fights were my favorite of the past calendar year. There may have been better tilts, but these ones stood out to me. In the immortal words of AC/DC, if you want blood, you got it…
This happened just more than a month after Cooke nearly ended Marc Savard’s career with a blindside hit and since the NHL impotently avoided penalizing the Penguin, karma took over. I’m sure Pittsburgh fans would disagree – every team has a player other fans hate – but there was more than a little poetic justice in the superb agitator picking a fight with a teenager and then getting one-punched. By the way, Kane has only fought once since the Cooke K.O., and I’m pretty sure Matt Hunwick regretted his decision to drop the mitts with a kid named after a boxing champ.
A pretty good scrap on its own, the intrigue of one of the NHL’s best players trading bombs with one of the Rangers’ most important players takes it up a notch. I like that Ovie knew his low-bridge (but clean) bit on Dan Girardi would cause a ruckus and decided to cut to the chase and engage Dubinsky. The question now of course, is will Ovechkin ever drop the gloves with Sidney Crosby?
(In a similar vein, I love that Alexander Burmistrov and John Tavares tangled recently. That may have been one of the highest-drafted fights ever.)
Fight of the year? Certainly one of the longer and more entertaining tilts. This even-handed scrap featured two big dudes throwing haymakers and got a little extra juice from Erskine’s handlebar mustache.
An early 2010 bout, this meeting was naturally the aftermath of the hit Richards put on Booth earlier in the season that knocked the Panthers left winger out for most of the 2009-10 campaign with a concussion and really started the blindside/head shot debate. In fact, most stories about the issue afterward featured a picture of Booth laid out on the ice. But when the young Panther returned and suited up against Philadelphia, he confronted the man who made him a case study. You can see Richards knows he must fight Booth when the Florida winger starts talking to him. Whether or not Richards believes his initial hit on Booth was dirty is inconsequential; the Flyers captain takes responsibility for his actions and drops the gloves. It’s not the most exciting fight ever, but it’s a pretty powerful statement about how accountability is measured in hockey culture.
This unexpected battle happened during the first game of the season for both squads and was an instant Internet pleaser. Perry’s a skill player, but tough. Datsyuk is even more skilled and had just one previous fight in his NHL career – a playoff loss to the similarly unpugilistic Scott Niedermayer (also with Anaheim). But Datsyuk has clearly learned since then, perhaps from off-season buddy Derek Boogaard, and the balance and punching prowess he displays against the bigger Perry was impressive to say the least.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Fridays, The Hot List appears Tuesdays and Rookie Report appears every other Wednesday.
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