Mayhem Monday

The best of bench-clearing brawls.

MAYHEM MONDAY: Lightning vs. Flyers, April 8, 1998

2017-05-22T19:52:40+00:00 May 22nd, 2017|Mayhem Monday|

Somewhere in the archives of 1970s sports magazines is a cover of a hockey player with blood streaming down his face. Couldn’t locate it, but have every reason to believe that the Flyers were complicit.

Whether he deserved it or not Philadelphia’s Daniel LaCroix evoked that image after an explosive brawl between the Flyers and Lightning in Tampa Bay.

His ravaged mug came courtesy of the man commonly regarded as the NHL’s first Russian enforcer, Andrei Nazarov.

It was a garden-variety, gloves-on, jersey-tugging affair in the middle of the ice until Nazarov bopped Lacroix but good without any apparent provocation. Lacroix recoiled in surprise more than anything, which left him quite defenseless when Nazarov did rid himself of his gloves and began to pound away with both hands.

Lacroix went down in a heap, partially motivated by befuddlement, and Nazarov backed away. Moments later when he got back to his skates, his cut had opened up and he was, it’s fair to say, a hot mess.

And so too had become the scene on the ice. With temperatures rising to the boiling point all around, Lacroix made sure that everyone stopped watching the pot when he took off in a sprint for the first Tampa jersey he could locate. The innocent bystander — and when was that ever said about him ? — turned out to be Darcy Tucker.

Tucker — completely unprepared for Lacroix’ assault — beat a hasty retreat, in a rare moment of flight over fight.

Here Nazarov re-enters the picture, flying after the temporarily insane Lacroix and tackling him from behind. The two quickly fell to the ice, limbs disappearing into each other’s sweaters. (more…)

MAYHEM MONDAY: Maple Leafs vs. Canucks, November 5, 2016

2017-05-08T21:34:09+00:00 May 8th, 2017|Mayhem Monday|

Guess what? Mayhem in the NHL isn’t completely reserved for nostalgia.

Sure, maybe bench-clearing brawls are confined to history and players demanding that fans shoe from their seats is a tableau not to be experienced again. But the elements were clearly in place during a Leafs-Canucks game to have lead to one of those ugly / beautiful nights of yesteryear.

Behind the play, Matt Martin of Toronto and Vancouver’s Troy Stecher were already battling, with Stecher last seen by the camera laying along the ice before the scrap ensued. Then everyone made a U-turn from center ice, their eagerness to join the battle unusually pronounced.

This is because Canucks goalie Ryan Miller had thrown himself into the middle of the altercation, presumably having seen his prone teammate getting hammered from above by Martin.

For a moment, Miller, Martin and Stecher made a perfect A-Frame, with Stecher’s head providing the connector. Stecher quickly extricated himself from that compromised position and wanted to jump Martin. But, strangely, he was held back by teammate Ben Hutton.

If Hutton was trying to spare Stecher a third-man-in game misconduct, he had a funny way of showing it. As quickly as he’d dispatched Stecher, Hutton and teammate Brandon Sutter closed in on Martin from opposite sides and walloped him atop his helmet — all while goaltender Miller was still battling Martin.

After delivering their message in tandem, Hutton and Sutter attempted to pry Martin and Miller apart. And that’s when we warp a bit to 1979.

Activate Camera 2. Enter Frederik Andersen, the Leafs goalie. At first we see him strolling somewhat leisurely through the neutral zone. Back to the pile in the corner we go, and who should be plowing into it full tilt? None other than Andersen.

With his big goalie mitt arcing over the tops of all the involved heads, he crashes it down on Miller as though he were some mutant reptile with a monstrously webbed forelimb.

The assembled bodies continue to pull at any different-colored sweater in sight and Hutton for a moment looks like he’s going to have both arms ripped out of his sockets as Martin and Auston Matthews tug at him with purpose from both sides.

The ever-alert Jim Hughson then comments, “Tonight we turn the clocks back an hour, and these teams have turned the league back . . . 30 years.”

It never did quite get that good / bad, but hockey fans of a certain vintage had a long dormant part of their memory banks reactivated for a few nostalgic moments.

MAYHEM MONDAY: Kings vs. Sharks, February 5, 1997

2017-01-02T19:54:53+00:00 January 2nd, 2017|Mayhem Monday|


The Kings and Sharks have a great recent history as rivals. In four of the past six years, these elite Western Conference teams have faced each other in the playoffs, with the four series split evenly.

But that is now and this . . . was then.

Six years into their existence as a franchise, San Jose left behind a brawl for the ages. The whole thing took ten minutes of their lives, and probably added ten minutes to many of the combatants career penalty minute totals. It was bloody and it was comical. The two key ingredients for hockey bedlam.

Kings left wing Matt Johnson, who averaged 114 penalty minutes for every goal he scored during his five seasons in Los Angeles, charged Sharks defenseman Andrei Nazarov in the corner behind the play and flattened him against the boards. Then he felt like spearing him with his stick a bit while Nazarov lay in a heap. The eight other skaters made an immediate U-turn and convened behind the Los Angeles net. Johnson quickly became the focal point of the other Sharks who rushed to the defense of their fallen teammate.

Johnson squirmed his way of the corner — both literally and figuratively — and was corralled by a linesman. However, he was mad. Fighting mad and the linesman was not immune from his ire, as the Kings skater tussled with him to get free. In the meantime several pairs of players squared off, but Nazarov, bloodied and angered, waded through them to find Johnson again. Just as Johnson shook off the linesman, Nazarov started wailing on his head and Johnson responded by flipping him to the ice, ultimately pinning him down as their bodies made a “t”.

In the meantime, San Jose’s Owen Nolan was going fairly beserk with Kings wing Barry Potomski. Eventually fatigue took over and they resisted glorious opportunities to sucker-punch each other.

But the linesmen earned their keep in this one as they were constantly on call to separate flailing fists and piles of bodies. The two zebras managed this melee extremely well, as at the outset, the combatants were not particularly concerned with their safety.

The boxscore from the game is impossible to find, but the teams did amass 190 penalty minutes between them over the 60 minutes and the brawl lead to numerous ejections.

If you’d like to read up on the Sharks / Kings rivalry, here’s a good historical overview:



MAYHEM MONDAY: Rangers vs. Flyers, April 6, 1978

2016-12-27T12:02:43+00:00 December 26th, 2016|Mayhem Monday|

Among other things we learn from this fisticuff frenzy is that the Flyers hadn’t retired Dave Schultz’s number 8. Which is maybe more shocking than if they had.

But it lived on on the back of another Dave — Dave Hoyda, who periodically sought out the Rangers smurfy Eddie Johnstone during this melee. And why not? After all he was an heir to the Broad Street Bullies of the mid-70s and Johnstone provided a suitable project, at 5’9″ and 175 pounds, four inches shorter and 30 pounds lighter than Hoyda.

We use the Doc Emerick approach for selecting this edition of Mayhem Monday, however. Say happy birthday to the Rangers Mark Heaslip, who is too obscure to merit a Wikipedia entry, but who connoisseurs of hockey pugilism probably know for his role in starting this brou-ha-ha. After both benches emptied, but milled around for awhile, Heaslip and Philadelphia’s Mel Bridgman played rock-em-sock-em robots at center ice for about 15 seconds, when Hoyda decided he wanted the spotlight and engaged Johnstone.

As if things weren’t getting messy enough, New York goaltender John Davidson shed the solitary confinement of his crease and flew into the mass of humanity, soon followed by Flyers goalie Bernie Parent. Davidson — and his pads — compressed Hoyda against the ice surface and Parent dosey-doed a bit with a man who looks suspiciously like Ed Hospodar.

Things quieted down for a bit. But there were still 40 men on the ice and three and a half minutes left in the YouTube clip. So you knew this wasn’t over.

Bridgman and Heaslip resumed. According to the always-objective, paragon-of-fairness Flyers announcers, the entire misunderstanding was instigated by Heaslip high-sticking Tom Bladon. So as Bridgman and Heaslip went after each other with renewed fury, an entire waltz broke out on the ice. As By the Beautiful Blue Danube played from The Spectrum’s PA address system, the ice was occupied by numerous couples caressing each others’ faces with clenched fists.

Hoyda and Johnstone had failed to find new dance partners and engaged again, but apparently Davidson was riven by insane jealousy at the sight and tried to intercede. But Davidson’s new partner — who turned out to be none-other than someone’s parent!, Bernie Parent in fact — was aghast at losing him to another couple.

In the meantime, legendary Canadiens’ tough-guy John Ferguson, now Rangers GM, had catapulted down from his vantage point in the stands at the Spectrum to occupy the unoccupied Rangers bench. Would we soon see Gene Hart and Jim Gordon squaring off at center ice? No, but Nick Fotiu was in civvies due to an injury and for a few moments all eyes turned to him as brave Flyers fans, sealed off by a phalanx of security, tried to expand the dimensions of the rin(g)k to the first rows of spectators.

Eventually — as we well know, since it’s 2016 and there is no longer any Spectrum — the fracas fizzled. But next time the Rangers and Flyers square off on NBCSN’s Night You Love To Hate, fondly recall this episode from one of the 70s nastiest rivalries.

Watch the video on YouTube