By Josh Clipperton
Last month’s game between the Ottawa Senators and Buffalo Sabres created a buzz in the NHL not seen in the regular season for quite some time.
And it had nothing to do with goals, saves or the final score.
Sports networks, radio stations and newspapers across the continent were blanketed with coverage of the “Buffalo Brawl” that involved all 12 players on the ice – including the goalies.
The melee started after the Senators’ Chris Neil delivered a technically legal – but morally questionable – hit to Buffalo’s Chris Drury.
The Sabres’ player lay motionless on the ice as blood streamed from a nasty gash on his forehead.
When play resumed, the “fun” started.
Senators coach Bryan Murray put out his skilled players – Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley and Mike Comrie.
Buffalo’s Lindy Ruff responded by sending out a goon trio of Andrew Peters, Adam Mair and Patrick Kaleta.
An all-out mugging of Ottawa’s stars ensued. Buffalo didn’t like Neil’s hit and wanted revenge.
Ruff later admitted he told his players to “go out and run ’em.”
Even Sabres’ goalie Martin Biron – since traded to Philadelphia – joined the fray to challenge Senators’ goaltender Ray Emery.
Emery, who weighs just over 200 pounds, was well known for his fighting prowess in the minor leagues. He made quick work of the 163-pound Biron.
In hockey, there’s nothing wrong with two goalies fighting. It occurs every so often.
But what happened next could have had disastrous consequences to the Senator net minder’s health and the team’s playoff chances.
The 247-pound Peters – one of the toughest fighters in the league – broke away from the scrum on one side of the ice in search of Ottawa’s goaltender, after Emery had already fought Biron.
Let it be known that Emery – “Razor” as he’s known to his teammates – can stand up for himself. He’s probably the toughest goalie in the league.
And judging by the grin on his face, he seemed to enjoy the shenanigans.
After the game, Senators players weren’t worried that their starting goalie had fought one of the league’s biggest goons. Emery can take care of himself, they said.
But that’s not the point.
There’s an unwritten code in hockey that goons don’t fight star players or goalies.
It’s just not done.
It matters not if Emery has the boxing skills of Mike Tyson or Lennox Lewis.
The Senators are pinning their playoff hopes on the 24-year old net minder.
Free agent goalie Martin Gerber has been a complete bust.
Emery has helped the team climb up the NHL standings with his solid play.
In the altercation with Peters, the goalie was wearing bulky and restrictive equipment. This alone both hampered his ability to throw punches – and more importantly protect himself – in a head to head match-up with a thug who has beaten numerous NHL fighters.
Emery has also battled a chronic wrist injury that has hampered his range of motion at times.
He could have aggravated that injury, broken his hand or sustained a concussion.
Even though Ottawa’s stars were on the ice – along with defencemen Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov – someone should have jumped in before their team’s playoff chances ended in the brawl.
One can debate whether or not Emery is good enough to bring the Stanley Cup to Ottawa this year, or ever.
But right now, he is it.
Luckily for the Senators, Emery was none the worse for wear.
But in the future someone – anyone – should step in if their goalie is fighting a noted NHL goon, no matter how tough they think he is.
And hey, by the way…does anyone remember the score?