The 5 most unlikely fights in Leaf history


From Conn Smythe’s likely-apocryphal quote, “If you can’t beat ‘em in the alley, you can’t beat ‘em on the ice” to Brian Burke’s tears for Colton Orr, the Toronto Maple Leafs have always encouraged fighting.  There’s not much to report on in Leaf land right now, and instead of lamenting unsigned RFAs and the cap woes, let’s take a look at some of oddest fights in Leaf history.

The combatants are unusual, the results often surprising, and most of them leave one thinking fighting has no place in hockey (especially if you can’t fight).  But they’re all still pretty hilarious, and ought to be remembered fondly by all Leafs fans.

Phil Kessel: Aikido Master

I gotta give Phil all the credit in the world for scoring the take down at the end of this grappling fest, using leverage to blunt Kris Russel’s assault.  It makes for awkward watching, but so does pretty much everything Kessel does that isn’t scoring goals.

But after watching this video I can’t understand why people call Kessel soft.  Here he is, mucking and banging in corners and answering the bell.  Look at that grit! Look at that jam! Sign him an 8-year contract extension already!  Seriously Dave, sign him to an 8-year contract extension.  Please?

Ian White just drives Ilya Kovalchuk crazy

Losing Ian White was pretty much the only sad thing about the Phaneuf trade and this video is probably the best evidence of it.  It’s not every night you can bait a Rocket Richard winner into a fight.  The diminutive Ian White antagonizes and targets Ilya Kovalchuk time and again throughout the game, demonstrably rattling the Russian superstar.  White lays a thunderous/late hit on Kovalchuk.  Kovalchuk responds with his fists, looming large over White, to an eventual draw.

While not exhilarating or decisive, it’s without a doubt the best fight on this list tactically speaking.  That’s what makes it so unlikely.  One of the league’s best players is driven mad to the point of violent criminality at the expense of the good but not amazing Ian White.  It’s one thing to take a guy off his game, another to get him out of the game for 9 minutes in penalties.

Sylvain Lefebvre and the origin story of a prominent hockey blogger

Pretty much everything about this video is amazing.  First off: remember Beckers and Xerox machines? Hilarious!

This was a terrific fight from one of the least likely candidates in Lefebvre, who was a sturdy defenseman but no noted fighter.  The fight itself starts off with a lengthy chawing session between Lefebvre and Rob Brown, before some wild flailing.  Eventually Lefebvre connects with some haymakers, and just flattens Brown into the ice. The fight spawned the moniker of the hockey journalist/humourist Sean McIndoe (though in fairness, the call on the play sounds more like, “Brown! — and he goes down!  Three in a row and Brown is down”).

Gary Leeman and Denis Savard on protracted war

What happens when a guy who scores 1300 points in his career faces off against a guy in the middle of a 50-goal season?  Perhaps the most tentative fight ever.  The video begins with Leeman and Savard together in a scrum, with Leeman landing a few shots before Savard slips way.  Around the 2:00 mark, the two stars circle each other for a solid minute, with Savard constantly conceding ground and trying to slip away from Leeman.  There have quite possibly never been two people less eager to fight each other.

By the time Leeman finally closes the gap on Savard, a streaking Dave Manson comes from off the ice to intercept him.  Manson, who would tally over 300 PIM that season, obliterates a referee and helps put the world’s most miserable fight out of its misery.

Felix Potvin shocks the world; stands up Ron Hextall

Felix Potvin has a special place in the hearts and minds of Leaf fans who saw him play in the 90s. Ron Hextall has a special place in history for being the only guy to ever take off his skate and try to stab a guy.  No, not actually, but he’s the only goalie to have three consecutive 100+ PIM seasons and was a vicious loose cannon.

So when Ronny boy took off down the ice after Potvin as the final buzzer sounded, Leafs nation collectively held their breath.  Then something impossibly awesome happened: Potvin fought back.  And well.  While no decisive take down or knock out is scored by Felix, he certainly gave the bigger, brutal Hextall an even beating.  One of my favourite Leaf moments ever, without a doubt.

BONUS: Remember that time Mats fought?

I never really questioned why Mats Sundin never fought.  He was a skill player, and the Leafs always employed a policeman or two during his tenure.  And then I stumbled upon this glory from his days with the Nordiques.

Sundin’s opponent, Dave Hannan, was a bit of journeyman and hardly a reputed fighter. He stands a half foot shorter than Sundin, but it isn’t even close to a contest.  Sundin fires off some ungainly punches before Hannan closes the distance and starts landing a flurry of rights. Hannan manages to sneak behind Sundin as the  Swede tries to swat him, in a display of puglism that would make Alex Semin snicker.  For all his hands, Mats sure couldn’t throw a right.



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Michael Stephens has been writing for Maple Leafs Hotstove since 2010, and has featured in the 2010 and 2012 Maple Leaf Annuals. Former Editiorial Intern at The Hockey News. Undergraduate degree from the University of Windsor. Chat me up about all things hockey on twitter @MLHS_Mike
  • Robbies

    Good morning…what a great way to kickstart the day..
    Felix takes the prize, with Killer leading ths cheers
    Great stuff !!!

    • phaneufoundlander

      Did you see Wendel trying to leave the bench after Manson jumped Leeman? Manson was lucky that night…..he would have lost some chiclets for sure….my boy Wendel, he will always be my favorite of all time!!

    • mcloki

      Ya just look at that team. Clark Gilmour. Potvin, Lefavre, Sundin. Such a good team

      • MaxwellHowe

        mcloki One of the best.  A golden opportunity to win the cup, but it slipped away.

        • phaneufoundlander

          Thanks to buttfuck Kerry Fraser

  • phaneufoundlander

    Bob Cole and Harry Neale…..those were the days…

  • mcloki

    Love that Felix fight. A highlight that will be shown forever.

    • Leafs rule

      mcloki I hated Hex after that ,called him names every time I had to watch him play ,good thing he couldnt hear me lol

  • phaneufoundlander

    Happy Friday morning folks…..can barley wait for the season to start….been following the juniors and our kids are looking good! I think Finn will surprise a lot of people.

  • MLHS_Luke

    Has Gauthier scored in both games he’s been in now?  Or has he just been in one game and I’ve read that article twice?

    • GeorgeCastanza

      MLHS_Luke 2 goals in 2 games so far

  • MaxwellHowe

    I was really disappointed when Lefebvre left the Leafs (traded for Clark?), in part because he was a very good player, in part because of this fight.  Brown was out there acting tough with the visor, and Lefebvre knocks his ass out.  And just leaves him there and skates away.  Too sweet.

    • Jantz

      MaxwellHowe He was without a doubt the best Defenseman on that team. In his own end the puck would be on his stick, off the glass and out. Without question…… every time. He was so damn reliable.
      I think you meant to say he was traded with Clark in the Sundin deal. Funny thing with Lefebvre, he wasn’t much of a player before getting here and his career was never the same after he left.

      • MaxwellHowe

        Jantz MaxwellHowe yeah, I recalled he was traded to the Nordiques.  The Leafs really took a gamble with that trade for Sundin – I loved Clark, but in every respect that trade turned out to be a steal.

        • Jantz

          MaxwellHoweJantzIt sure wasn’t like that in 94 as most of Leaf nation was in mourning. Hated to see Wendell go however, anyone who can’t acknowledge how one sided that trade became is delusional. Wendell’s body betrayed him and his career subsequently ended way too early.  #Alltimegreat

  • mORRganRielly

    Okay, story time.  I think I’m going to do the Mash Up on Saturday or Sunday with more details, but here we go.
    Back in 2008, I had just been promoted to Line Supervisor for a well known restaurant down time.  I had finished my apprenticeship only months before, so this was a big deal for me.  But where the perks of more responsibility in the form of a bigger paycheque were obvious, the hockey connections the restaurant owner were not.  
    His name is Wayne Cowley.  He played one game in the NHL and never played again.  Bounced around in North American minor leagues and the professional leagues oversea.  
    Anyway, there was one night where I was asked to stay behind for a party of 40.  The Leafs had just beaten the Lightning at the ACC that night during the honouring of the 1993 Leafs team.  You know that team.  Many of us had become Leafs fans because of that team.  
    Well, the entire team, including some of the current Leafs, came to the restaurant.  While I’m by myself in the kitchen, guess who walks by the line saying, “Hey bud!”
    Doug Gilmour.
    I died and went to heaven.  
    But this isn’t about Gilmour.  It’s what I said to Felix Potvin after I was told to get out of the kitchen to meet the guys.
    “Man, I cannot believe you fought Hextall.  What the fuck were you thinking?”
    You know that moment that gets frozen in time when you say something really stupid and the recipient’s face goes from pensive to incredibly offended?  
    That was me and Felix that night.  
    I am not a smart man.

    • Mind Bomb

      mORRganRielly  Good times, Good times 

    • Robbies

      Please finish this tale of unfortunate brain lock !!

      • mORRganRielly

        Robbies I will post more on the weekend.  Some amazing stories.

    • dlb eh

      haha, you picked a fight with felix and he didn’t throw down?  he wasn’t scared of Hex but he sweated you.  maybe it’s time you puff out your chest and tell it that way haha
      we ran into Gilmour at a golf course the year he was a free agent and he was class all the way.  no trouble stopping to chat with a couple of thugs.  reassured us something would get done.  love that guy.

    • Leafs rule

      mORRganRielly re ::You know that moment that gets frozen in time when you say something
      really stupid and the recipient’s face goes from pensive to incredibly
      offended?  Wow what a post ,thanks for sharing

  • mORRganRielly

    -Keon- Hmmm, please edit that Keon.  You know what words I’m talking about.

    • phaneufoundlander

      what wrong with it bro…they are cute little creatures :)

      • mORRganRielly

        phaneufoundlander It’s racist, derogatory, and offensive.  It also reflects badly on the site.  I doubt we would get the interviews we have been getting all summer if MLSE saw the racist comments.  No one wants to be remotely connected to that kind of language.

      • mcloki

        mORRganRielly phaneufoundlander Totally agree. I like the fact that this site is relatively civil. and the racial aspect is frowned upon.

      • mORRganRielly

        phaneufoundlander No. It’s for the same reason we’re aligned with the YCP project.  No one should have to endure any form of discrimination or bigotry.  Ever.

  • Cartsy

    I believe it was Joe Bowen who had the “Down goes Brown!” call, not Bob Cole or whoever is doing play-by-play in that clip.

    • ingy56

      Cartsy Bowen had the radio call that night, it’s a classic.

  • GeorgeCastanza

    Amazing that in 1996/97 all my favorite post ballard leafs playing together. Gilmour, Sundin, Clark, and Domi for frick’s sakes  just before Gilmour got traded.

    • Leafs rule

      GeorgeCastanza Just seeing that sentence that gilmore got traded made me wince again ,memories that will never end ,sigh

    • dlb eh

      great time to be a fan.  i also got excited when Clark-Muller-Thomas weer on the team, and when we signed Niewy and Roberts that one summer.  honorable mention goes to having Tucker-Green-Corson in there too.
      we had some tough teams back then…

      • dlb eh

        i thought trading for Nolan would put us over the top but he couldn’t stay healthy.  i remember thinking “now we have a guy who can catch up with and beat on the guys we hated” in addition to score the odd big goal.  that never really materialized, of course.