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37 FOR 37: FIGHT CLUB

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / calgaryflames.com

By the bitter - and brother, was it ever bitter - end, both herds had been thinned out substantially.

Only one Flames' skater remained on the bench to keep the back-up goalie of the evening, Roman Turek, company.

The Anaheim Mighty Ducks had four.

On that night of infamy, Dec. 8, 2001, all hell done broke loose. Not just your run-of-the-mill Game 30 of a season.

Even the infamous, legendary Battle of Alberta donnybrooks paled in comparison.

With the Ducks leading Calgary 4-0 and only 1:25 of Pengrowth Saddledome scoreclock-time left to be sorted through, Flames' tough guy Craig Berube slammed into Anaheim goaltender J.S. Giguere behind the net. 

Next shift, in retribution, Ducks' Kevin Sawyer made a beeline for Calgary's hometown goalie Mike Vernon, in the process of freezing a puck, and absolutely levelled him.

Sawyer received a match penalty. But that didn't calm things down, not in the slightest.

In short order, Calgary's Jarome Iginla and Denny Lambert - 497 career NHL games, 27 goals and 1,391 PIM - engaged in a drawn-out knuckle-duster.

Off the ensuing faceoff, the eight remaining skaters picked a dance partner, and commenced throwing punches.

The whole crazy affair ended with Berube, only just released from the penalty box, chasing Anaheim's Jeff Friesen around the ice with nine seconds remaining.

When the smoke had finally cleared, 279 minutes of penalties had been dished out over that closing minute and a half - 182 minutes to the Flames, including seven misconducts, four game misconducts and one gross misconduct to centreman Scott Nichol; and 97 minutes to the Ducks, including one misconduct, two game misconducts, and a pair of match penalties.

Three days later, an unamused NHL's director of justice, Colin Campbell, rendered his verdict.

Sawyer, tagged with a match for charging, received a five-game suspension, Giguere and defenceman Ruslan Salei - for head-butting Steve Begin - found themselves $1,000 lighter in the wallet.

The Flames, meanwhile, were fined $25,000 as a team, coach Greg Gilbert and Nichol were banished for two games. Berube was slapped with a three-game ban.

Nichol's suspension was the result of a scrap with D-man Oleg Tverdovsky. As he was being escorted from the ice by a linesman, the feisty little fella charged the Anaheim bench and was subsequently assessed a gross misconduct penalty for allegedly spitting.

"It wouldn't even cross my mind to do something like that," Nichol claimed later. "Maybe the linesman was frustrated because he got a little carried away with me and then maybe he went back to the ref and said that's why he manhandled me a little bit. Maybe that was his excuse. But I would never (spit)."

The Flames, in fact, felt upset with the punishments assessed.

"We feel that we got an unfair burden and weight of the incidents," GM Craig Button maintained, "and we stand by that."

A team meeting ensued, during which it was decided that the monies lost to suspension by Berube and Nichol would be absorbed by their teammates.

"We'll find a way,'' announced Bob Boughner. "Guys will chip in and make sure that they get their money back. We'll support that 100 percent.

"We'll make sure they don't lose any money.

"They did it for the team. If they'd taken it upon themselves to do something stupid, then it would be a different story."

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