Fighting is a part of hockey, and if you talk about hockey fights with those who engage in them, it’s unemotionally understood as such.
It’s not necessarily the act of punching someone on the opposition – a regulated act unique amongst virtually all team sports – that the players focus on, but rather in many cases the need to come to the defense of a teammate. In the first period of Saturday’s game against Ottawa, Mark Borowiecki slammed Tyler Toffoli against the boards, and after he served a five minute boarding major, Matt Greene engaged him off the faceoff of his next shift. The two were assessed five-minute fighting majors.
“It’s part of the game. He plays a physical game and I think he knew it was coming, too, and I think that’s part of hockey,” Greene said. “That’ll be part of the game long before I came around and a long time after I’m gone.”
“It’s not a part of the role that I’m in, it’s just being a teammate. I think there are a bunch of guys, and I was the guy that happened to line up next to him right away, that’s it. There are a lot of guys on this team that want to stick up for Tyler and everybody has different jobs on the team, but that’s one where everyone can be a good teammate and everyone can help each other out.”
Toffoli, thankfully to the team and its heavily taxed medical staff, wasn’t injured. He returned to the dressing room to get looked at before the team received word he’d additionally have to go through concussion examinations in an effort to determine whether he was fit to re-enter the game. He was, finishing with 11:30 of ice time.
With the new concussion spotting protocol, he knew he’d be taking part in the regimented procedure and acknowledged that the process moved swiftly. “Yeah, all standard stuff,” he said.
“The needle is way on the side of precaution more than anything else,” Darryl Sutter said. “There’s not much we say or do about it. I mean, the league has made a real clear definition, statement, message, whatever you want to call it on it, and I don’t think that would change.”
Because the team has battled injuries since Marian Gaborik broke his foot at the World Cup in September, a potential loss of one of its top potential goal scorers would have been yet another hurdle to clear during a season in which it feels Sutter, Dean Lombardi and others have aged well beyond the 27 games of NHL calendar time.
That never came to pass, and Toffoli knew he was most likely in the clear shortly after he was hit hard into the boards, a play that drew Borowiecki a two-game suspension in addition to the major penalty.
“It wasn’t really my head to be honest. It was more my neck,” he said. “I mean, obviously it was my head too, but my neck kind of tightened up a little bit, did all my stuff with Kinger (Athletic Trainer Chris Kingsley) and I think it was fine, and then they obviously called down and said I had to [continue protocol], with reason, but it was all good. We did a good job, Kinger got through it as fast as possible and Mellman (Dr. Michael Mellman) and Kvitne (Dr. Ronald Kvitne), we all did it and we were all good.”
That’s fortunate, because in addition to the hit, there was a tangle of bodies around him converging in an emotional scrum. In a startling scene in New Jersey last week, the Canucks’ Philip Larsen was knocked unconscious on a hit by Taylor Hall of the Devils and lay motionless on the ice amidst a heated fracas.
“I heard one of the linesman, I don’t know who it was, I felt him trying to grab me and pull me out and I was trying to move myself,” Toffoli said. “Fortunately, I wasn’t like [Philip] Larsen there when he was knocked out and getting kicked and stuff, but I was just trying to get out of there and I heard people yelling, so it was all good.”
Tyler Toffoli, on whether he agreed with the two-game suspension:
I’m not sure. I mean, whatever the league chooses, but I think at the time, five minutes, we score two goals on it, won us the game, so it’s all good.
Toffoli, on concussion protocol:
Yeah, yeah. I kind of knew that I was going to have to do it but I was doing all the other stuff before with Kinger, then they called down and said I had to [go through protocol]. [Reporter: That’s what took so long for you to get back on the ice?] Yeah, I had to wait and I don’t know how long you’re supposed to wait or however it is but we got through it as fast as possible. Yeah, all standard stuff.
Toffoli, on being fortunate that it wasn’t worse:
I watched it a couple times and I knew I was fine but I kind of felt bad, my mom was freaking out. I called her after and she was trying to get as much information as she could, but that’s just pretty standard I think, every mother would do the same thing. [Reporter: So mom was happy when you came back?] Yeah, she actually texted, she said she can’t wait, because she’s going to be in Buffalo, so she can’t wait to see me and see how I’m doing. So it’s all good, mom being mom. [Reporter: Maybe she’ll give you a scarf or something to cover your neck.] Yeah, yeah, she’ll take care of me. She knows what to do.
Matt Greene, on whether he agrees with Borowiecki’s two-game suspension:
Yeah. I think, you know, it’s a hockey play. There’s going to be hits like that that happen throughout the course of the year and it’s out of our hands. The league deals with it and that’s what they did.
Greene, on the team’s mindset as they prepare to play their next nine games on the road:
We want all the points we can get right now. I think we want to get them all and I think you just take it one game at a time. I know it’s cliché but that’s exactly what you’ve got to do. You don’t circle any date on the schedule and say ‘that’s more important than any other one,’ because it’s not. I think we’re battling for a playoff spot and especially going into the Christmas break here. I know it might not be mathematically the mid-season break but it feels like that, especially for players. Once you hit Christmas it kind of goes down until the All-Star break and then it goes down a little bit more after that so you’ve got to eat up these points and get in to the holiday break here.
Greene, on Joe Louis Arena, and whether he attended games there as a kid:
I did, but I never went to a Red Wings game. They used to have GLI’s, the Great Lakes Invitation and my Dad used to bring me down there and we’d watch. Usually catch the day of a double-header, Michigan State would play the first game and Michigan would play afterwards either against Tech and [an invited team]. [Reporter: Lake Superior played in them.] Yeah I think, well there’s Michigan Tech, Michigan, Michigan State and then they always have an outlier team, so you’d get to see a double-header and that’s the only time I went down there. And then I played there when I was in Midgets, Little Caesar’s [minor hockey program] practiced out of there everyday, so I was there everyday skating and that was a lot of fun. A lot of good memories there.
Greene, on whether he’s sorry to see Joe Louis Arena be replaced:
Yeah, I think there’s a lot of history there, but it’s starting over everywhere and I think it’ll be good for them to get in their new building and embrace the history that it was and get excited for the new building that’s coming.