Just because the events of Thursday night jogged my memory:
You older (older?) guys and gals might remember the 1990 line brawl with the Islanders with two seconds left in the game, in retribution for Pat LaFontaine being knocked out cold by a clean shoulder hit from James Patrick (who certainly was never anything close to a dirty player).
Those who do, no doubt recall Mick Vukota, fake tough guy, right off a faceoff in the final seconds, not bothering with one of the Rangers’ tough guys on the ice, like Chris Nilan or Mark Janssens, but going straight for Jeff Bloemberg, who not only wasn’t a tough guy, he was a born-again Christian who didn’t believe in fighting. Bloemberg didn’t even fight to defend himself. He simply tried to hang on while he was pummeled, and while the officials had their hands full with all the other four fights going on.
I remember a side note to that melee.
Janssens—who was a big, tough kid; pretty good fighter, would fight anybody and do OK—got paired with Bryan Trottier because they had taken the faceoff. Trottier was the only non-fighter on the ice for the Islanders.
Janssens didn’t know what to do. He had too much respect for Trottier, the game, and himself, to pound the Hall of Famer. He surely could have, and it would have been understandable given what was going on around him. And surely Trottier was strong and tough enough to defend himself to a degree. But Janssens didn’t. He did the right thing and just wrestled around with Trottier.
Janssens and I discussed that after the fact. He wasn’t sure if he should have taken advantage of the situation. But I think in his mind he did the right thing, because he respected the game. He respected Trottier. He respected himself.
A side note: I think it was another earlier that season with the Islanders. Troy Mallette was on the Rangers bench trying go go over the boards. Roger Neilson had a hold of him by the back of his pants, hollering at him to stay. Neilson told me that Mallette could be heard whimpering like a little puppy that had to “go” outside. That’s how badly he wanted to leave the bench.
Reader LW3H noted last night, and I looked it up, that Dan Girardi received an instigator, fighting and misconduct penalty when he fought Mike Richards in Philadelphia last March 15, coming to the protection of Nik Zherdev. That was a 0-0 game at the time. The Rangers killed the penalty and won 4-1.
Now, granted, Richards isn’t that peabrain, neanderthal Daniel Carcillo, but let’s give Girardi some credit for that, and some slack for the other night. He had a split-second to make a decision, thought too much, and made the wrong one, instead of going on instinct. He knew he made the wrong decision, and he said so afterward. He said in the same circumstance, the next time he will jump in.
I don’t think it’s fair that we question his manliness to the degree we have since Thursday night. He made a bad decision. And Gaborik, fortunately, wasn’t hurt or bothered by the whole thing at all.