We’ve been struggling lately so we’re trying to just get some physical play, get some energy going, I’m trying to get the boys going any way I can. - Kevin Westgarth
VANCOUVER, BC -- It didn’t take long for the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks to renew acquaintances.
Just two seconds, in fact.
Two seconds, five fights, eight ejections and 150 minutes in penalties, in fact.
And, of course, a highly debated melee guaranteed to spark discussion ignited when coach Flames coach Bob Hartley started a line of Brian McGrattan, Kevin Westgarth and Blair Jones.
“Those guys are playing well for us,” Hartley explained more than three hours after the initial incident. “They got us a goal last game and obviously we’re not scoring many goals. We had absolutely zero intentions there. Those guys are playing hard for us. We’re a disciplined hockey club. As far as I know, they were the home team so they had the luxury to put whoever they wanted on the ice.”
But when Canucks coach John Tortorella saw the likes of the trio trotted out by Hartley’s Flames, it started an arms race.
And escalated quickly.
With last change, Tortorella countered with Tom Sestito, Dale Weise and 6-foot-6 rookie Kellan Lain -- making a National Hockey League debut he won’t soon forget. Kevin Bieksa and Jason Garrison flanked the points.
So it was of little surprise when five simultaneous bouts erupted just a couple of ticks in.
“Well, I saw the starting lineup,” Tortorella countered. “I know the other guy across the bench and it’s easy for people to say ‘put the Sedins out there and it’s deflated’. I can’t put our players at risk that way. With the lineup that he had, I am not going to put those type of players at risk and that’s what ensues. I’m not proud of it. I’ve apologized to every one of the players involved in it. I don’t feel great about it at all.
“It shouldn’t be in the game, that stuff. I don’t want it in the game but I have to protect my team, too. So all the pundits and all the people pissing and moaning about it, they don’t have a clue what a locker room’s about and they don’t understand the whole circumstance involved in that kind of situation.”
McGrattan and Sestito wasted no time renewing acquaintances, fighting for the second time this season.
Simultaneously, Westgarth and Lain tangled while Jones with Weise, Ladislav Smid with Bieksa and Chris Butler with Garrison also threw down.
The latter eight got the boot from the game with 59:58 remaining.
Detonation set in Saturday when Bieksa, a defenceman, stepped up to take the opening faceoff opposite Westgarth.
“We had Grats, myself and Jonesy start and we’ve been struggling lately so we’re trying to just get some physical play, get some energy going, I’m trying to get the boys going any way I can,” Westgarth explained. “I know they started that Lane kid so I was asking him to go and Bieksa stepped in. I thought that he wanted to fight instead. That’s what usually happens if somebody else takes the spot.
“He didn’t and obviously everyone else started going too.”
And though the firepower was certainly there, Butler admitted he didn’t quite expect the fireworks to go off the way they did.
“I don’t think anybody expected that,” the 27-year-old defenceman said. “We went with our energy line to start the game, try to create some momentum for us. From my standpoint, it looked like Grats and Sestito had a conversation and it looked like they were going to fight. The other two kind of broke loose and Garrison asked me if I wanted to fight so I did. It was kind of that.
“It’s been a while since something like that’s happened. It’s five guys pairing off. I don’t think there were any injuries, nothing major really happened out of it, obviously.
“You do come together. Guys want to get involved and want to stand up for each other. It’s pretty awesome.”