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Back to the box

by Farhan Devji / Vancouver Canucks
Infractions are a part of the game of hockey.

Before Tuesday night’s game in Calgary, it may have appeared as though Kyle Wellwood had forgotten.

But fear not, because 159 games after his last penalty, Kyle Wellwood made his long anticipated trip back to the sin bin Tuesday at the Pengrowth Saddledome, after he was called for high-sticking Calgary’s Dion Phaneuf late in the first period.

Yes, Wellwood finally took a penalty, but was it merited?

“I didn’t think I clipped him,” he said. “But I got my stick close to his face so the ref has to call that.”

Merit or not, Wellwood is glad that the streak is over. And he doesn’t have to worry about giving up his stick to the NHL Hall of Fame like Washington Capitals defenceman Mike Green did after he broke the longest goal-scoring streak for a defenceman this week, because Wellwood came up 26 games short of the all-time record without a penalty set by left-winger Val Fonteyne between 1965 and 1968. Regardless, Wellwood hopes that his streak won’t return any time soon.

“I hope I can start taking some more penalties and not go that long without one. I don’t really want to get on that streak again.”

For most hockey players, it would seem like an impossible feat to go that long without taking a penalty, whether it be an errant stick, a lazy hook, an undisciplined skirmish, or a late body-check. By comparison, Pavel Datsyuk – who has won the Lady Byng trophy for the most gentlemanly player the last three seasons – has even recorded 40 minutes in penalties over the past two seasons, in close to as many games as Wellwood’s streak lasted.

So what was his trick?

“I don’t know. It just seemed like when you go that far, you just keep it going and stay out of the box.”

And this isn’t the first time the former Maple Leaf has been on such a streak. In Wellwood’s final two years in junior, playing with the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League, he went 106 consecutive games (including playoffs) without a penalty. Wellwood suggests he has put the streaks behind him, and he looks forward to taking more penalties in the future.

“I’m glad that it’s done with and now I can get more penalties I guess.”

If Wellwood wants to stay in the line-up, perhaps he shouldn’t tell that to Coach Vigneault any time soon.

Farhan Devji is a freelance journalist based in Ottawa, Ontario. For more of his work, visit

Offside with Wellwood
The Everyman
Rising stock
West Coast Rebirth

  2 - Penalty minutes for Wellwood this season

159 - NHL games between penalties for Wellwood

26 - Games short of the all-time penalty free record held by Val Fonteyne

Snapshots: Wellwood
Serious hand-eye
Perfect poise

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