By Victor Mather
Hockey is one of the most physical sports, and referees try to keep it in line by assessing penalties when a push or a trip goes too far. But earlier this week in Ottawa, Ontario, officials had enough.
After a fight broke out in the third period of a roughly played game between the Florida Panthers and the Ottawa Senators on Monday night, officials threw up their hands and kicked every skater on the ice out of the game.
Florida was leading 4-0 when Brady Tkachuk, the Senators captain, came off the bench and got a quick breakaway. His shot was saved, he tried to score on the rebound, and then Dmitry Kulikov of the Panthers drove him into the boards with his stick. Both teams then rushed in, and fights broke out everywhere.
The officials at first seemed to get the situation under control, but a punch heated things up again.
When the ice had finally settled, Tkachuk got a two-minute penalty for goalie interference and two more minutes for roughing. Kulikov got two minutes for roughing. And then referee Garrett Rank made an unusual additional announcement: “Every player on the ice has a 10-minute misconduct.”
There were seven minutes left to play, so the 10-minute penalties were essentially ejections. The miscreants skated to the locker rooms, their games over.
Panthers coach Paul Maurice was seen chuckling on the bench as he surveyed what was left of his team. With both sides undermanned for the rest of the game, there was one more goal, and the final score was 5-0 to the Panthers.
It had been a feisty game even before the incident. Earlier in the period, Zack MacEwen of the Senators had been ejected, and shortly afterward Tkachuk and his brother Matthew, who plays for the Panthers, exchanged words. Then Matthew Tkachuk dropped the gloves to fight Jake Sanderson of the Senators.
Geraldine Tkachuk, the players’ grandmother, was spotted in the stands looking less than impressed.
As remarkable as the 10-man ejection may have been, it barely seemed to faze the participants.
“I mean, I don’t think it’s bad to play with emotion,” Brady Tkachuk told The Associated Press. “I think when this group plays with emotion, we’re a tough team to beat, and I think we rely on our emotion and it shows that we care, shows that we care about what we’re doing here and about the guy next to us.”
Two more players got misconduct penalties later in the third period, bringing the total penalty minutes in the game to 167.
Still, this being hockey, that wasn’t close to a record. In 2004, a series of brawls late in a game between the Senators and the Philadelphia Flyers led to 419 penalty minutes. Sixteen players were ejected from that game, but never more than seven at once.
“It’s just a hockey game,” Maurice said dismissively to reporters Monday. “Both teams want to win, and you get a little snarly. It was fun, it was good.”
Asked where the game ranked in his career for physicality, Maurice said: “That’s mild. We only got to 160-some minutes. It’s got to get into the 250s before it gets too squirrelly.”