After this morning’s skate, we finally got to hear Aaron Ward’s side of the story concerning the incident near the end of Game 5. It was not a pleasant one.
Ward, who sported a black mark under his left eye but participated fully in the Bruins’ morning skate without a face shield, wasn’t shy about his anger at the fact that the Hurricanes’ Scott Walker was not suspended following his punch at the end of Game 5.
“It’s a convenient story that the NHL accepted, and I think if you in the media accept that then you’re all a bunch of sheep,” he said. “That’s it. It’s a convenient excuse, and it just allows people to get off scot-free and not have to deal with it.
“It’s a joke, and we’ll just move on from there.”
Despite being quite clear on where he stood, Ward suggested he was actually holding back from taking a harder stance on the incident.
“I don’t feel like getting a bigger fine that Scott Walker did for voicing my personal opinion,” he said. “It showed me based on the decision that I don’t matter to begin with, so to voice my opinion isn’t worth it.”
Asked to whether that anger could carry over into tonight’s game, Ward didn’t provide an answer.
“Next question,” he said quickly.
As was to be expected, Walker and Ward had very different takes on the incident.
“I was coming from behind the net and I could see him punching Matt Cullen in the head, I went over, got in between them and said, ‘Let’s go,’” said Walker. “Then I felt what I had assumed was a punch, and then I figured it was time to go.”
“I don’t remember a single word being said,” said Ward. “I was looking at Matt Cullen, and then the left hand came across. I didn’t even see the glove off his right hand.
“I was dusting off his left punch when I realized he was involved.”
It’s clear that those two won’t agree on the circumstances anytime soon. As to whether that will be settled on the ice, Ward obviously wouldn’t commit to that, but his strong displeasure this morning could be an indicator. He did eventually back off that stance somewhat, as both players said all the right things about simply needing to win a hockey game.
Although Ward said that doctors “saw something’ on an X-ray and advised him to wear a visor, that is not his plan for tonight’s game.
“I haven’t worn won in 16 years and I’m not going to start now,” he said.
Clearly, tonight's game just got a lot more interesting.
More from Walker and Ward:
“On the first ruling was the instigator, and he clearly thought that I wasn’t out there trying to intimidate or anything, because I wasn’t. I was trying to defend a teammate. It was unfortunate what happened. I haven’t been known as a player to hit somebody with their gloves on. I thought there was a fight and there wasn’t, apparently. I’ll pay my fine and I accept the penalty.”
“Nobody likes to hit someone when they’re not really protecting themselves, but in the same sense I’ve been on the other side where you’re not protecting yourself and you get hit. It’s tough watching that game – if you watch the whole game closely and you watch Tim Conboy’s fight with Thornton, he never had his gloves off halfway through that fight but he was still doing his job to protect himself. He knew there was a fight going on. I guess I feel the same way. I thought that if we were going to be fighting – I went over there and pushed him, I thought he punched me, I dropped my gloves and I swung. You never want to see anybody get hurt or and for that I’m sorry, but I’ve been on the other end where you think there’s nothing happening and you get punched. I think you have to defend yourself, but it’s not something I’m proud of, that’s for sure.”
“It’s incriminating in the sense that if you watch just the still shots, yeah, it looks bad. I didn’t mean to go out there and say, ‘I’m going to punch this guy with his gloves on.’ That’s not my intent. In the same sense, it’s a game and it’s a battle, and things happen so quick out there. I went in there, let’s go, I got punched and then I dropped my gloves and fought.”
“It didn’t look good on tape, and it didn’t look good in slow-mo on replays, but if you watch the whole thing happen and take the whole game in context … obviously it’s a $2,500 fine and I didn’t get suspended.”
“I’m not sitting here hoping my career is defined by that punch. I haven’t had a penalty in the playoffs. Up until that point I had zero penalty minutes and had played the game pretty hard against New Jersey and against Boston.”
“To be honest with you, I didn’t really know the time of the game in the sense that, ‘Oh, it’s under five minutes, I’d better go out there and not get into a fight or get into a fight.’ I would have done that if there were 25 minutes left in the game.”
“This series is too tight and there’s so much going on. It’s been rough and physical, and it’s the playoffs. Things happen. Retribution – maybe there will be and maybe there won’t be, I don’t know. I’m not assuming there will be. There’s been lots of things on their side that they’ve done to us that we’d love retribution for, but we’re just trying to play the game hard.”
“Obviously it was a well-crafted statement from Scott Walker, because I don’t know any hockey player who would use the word, ‘Engaged’ to describe a fight. I don’t remember a single word being said. I was looking at Matt Cullen, and then the left hand came across. I didn’t even see the glove off his right hand.
“I didn’t even know Walker was involved. The best part about this whole situation is that the first approach they took to this situation was that he was in there because Matt Cullen has a history of concussions. Now, when you realize the following action was a punch to the head, that story goes out the door because it’s a third man in to Scott Walker, and they dropped that pretty quick. Then he went to, ‘We were engaged in a conversation,’ but if you see the video, I didn’t talk to him and my hands were at my side. It was the usual scrum.
“If you believe it, then congratulations and you’re not doing a very good job in the media. It’s a joke.”
“I don’t want anyone thinking about this. We’ve got a game to play, and we’ve got a system set up by the coaches where there’s 20 guys in the locker room that have to play the right way.”