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.
Firstly, a site announcement – the MLHS ESPN Keeper League has been activated for the season, for anyone involved in that.
Bettman thinks all 6 outdoor games will be sell outs
He also thinks that hockey is viable in Arizona though, so…
David Clarkson learns to make Dairy Queen Blizzards
Useful skillset to be sure, but he should also work on his playmaking.
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That’s pretty good news, actually.