Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Top 10 "Staged" Hockey Fights

NHL GMs have signaled their intention to eliminate "staged" fights -- those fights that occur right after a faceoff. I've already explained why I don't think the new rule will work. But there's another problem with the idea: most hockey fans don't seem to mind "staged" fights at all.

Instead, many (even most) fans seem to want to get rid of meaningless fight, the ones where two guys square off for no reason beyond padding their stats and justifying their ice time.

But does every so-called staged fight that happens right off a faceoff fall into that meaningless category? No. In fact, some of most memorable fights have been "staged".

Ah well. Let us not mourn our friend the faceoff fight. Instead, let's celebrate him. Or it. Whatever, let's get to the fight videos.

Here's a hastily assembled list of my top ten fights in NHL history that happened within seconds of a faceoff. Enjoy them now, since apparently the league has decided we won't be getting any more.

#10 - Belak vs. Brashear

Let's star the list with a recent bout. Journey back with me in time, all the way to... Monday.

As you can tell by the reaction in Nashville, this sort of nonsense is just killing fan interest in the southern US.

#9 - Twist vs. Odjick

A solid bout between two of the most memorable heavyweights of the early 90s.

This fight is so staged that the shocked commentators start speaking in some weird moon-man language!

#8 - Stock vs. Peat

A pair of cruiserweights make the highlight reel. This is the highest rated NHL fight on

Incidentally, this is last time Canadian hockey fans would hear the terms "PJ Stock" and "highlights" without cringing.

#7 - Avery vs. Tucker

Sure, these two guys hate each and have a long history. But I think we can all agree that it would be far better to force them to wait until somebody actually did something during a play to cause a fight, like throw a questionable hit or otherwise anger the other team. Because neither of these guys would ever do something like that.

And yes, I'm still mad that nobody signed Tucker, Avery and Jaarko Ruttu last off-season and formed the R.A.T. line.

#6 - Probert vs. Kocur

This isn't the first Probert/Kocur fight -- that happened when Probert was still with the Wings and Kocur had gone to the Rangers. But this time, Kocur is back with the Wings and Probert is on the other side.

To this day, it still doesn't feel right to see Probert in a Hawks uniform. He'll always be a Wing. In fact, let's move right on to...

#5 - Clark vs Probert

Anyone who's familiar with this blog knew I'd find a way to work Wendel Clark into the list, even though he almost never fought right off of a faceoff. This is from Probert's much-hyped return to Canada after his drug-related legal problems were resolved. It's also the most memorable fight in the Clark and Probert series.

After this game, Probert went to the Supreme Court to ask that his ban on entering Canada be reinstated.

#4 - Crosby vs McLean

OK, just kidding...

#4 - Shanahan vs. Brashear

The brash young heavyweight champion is challenged by the grizzled, respected veteran standing up for his team. Awful. You can even hear the MSG faithful screaming their disapproval.

Not sure what Ward did to deserve that cheapshot. Probably said something along the lines of "Watch out for Wade Belak in about two years".

#3 - Lemieux vs. McCarty

Fighting two seconds into a game? How contrived and meaningless! You can even see them planning it out beforehand. Obviously nothing could have happened between these guys to cause them to want to fight.

Incidentally, the pre-faceoff chatter involved a bet that the loser of the fight would have to keep playing until he was 50.

#2 - Flyers vs. Senators

This memorable series of fights started off with a Rob Ray/Donald Brashear tilt that spilled into a line brawl. That turned out to be just the start of the fun, as a series of "staged" fights followed until both benches were virtually empty.

By the way, that clip is the most-watched hockey video on youtube, and it's not close. Apparently somebody forgot to tell over 12 million viewers that hockey fans hate this stuff.

#1 - Domi vs. Probert

This is round two. In the first bout, Domi made his name by handing Probert a beating in Detroit and then skating off the ice doing the "I have the belt" gesture. The rematch was hyped for weeks, was the hottest ticket in New York, and provided one of the most memorable moments in MSG history.

In hindsight it's a good thing Probert got the decision, since if Domi had won in front of the MSG crowd he might still be celebrating today.

RIP faceoff fight. You've provided some memorable moments over the years, and you will be missed. Just try to understand when we all have to pretend to be happy to see you go -- after all, we wouldn't want the media to call us unenlightened.


  1. Incredible post.

    After this game, Probert went to the Supreme Court to ask that his ban on entering Canada be reinstated.


  2. one thing to note for those in the media that are pushing the fight ban.. look at the fans in the PJ Stock fight.. they are going nuts.

  3. Thanks for brightening my morning.

    I think hockey should next remove hitting and add sow cows and camel spins.

  4. I really miss Tucker!

  5. beautiful. domi-probie II such a classic (just as their first tilt)

  6. I miss haymakers. You don't see many of those anymore. Domi took about 37 in that last fight.

  7. DGB, how could you include the Belak - Brasher bout over the Belak - Janssen bout?

  8. DGB, how could you include the Belak - Brasher bout over the Belak - Janssen bout?

    I orginally had that on my list, but I couldn't remember if it was actually a faceoff fight. The youtube clips don't show the start, and I couldn't find any articles from the next day that included that detail.

    It was definitely a fight that everyone knew was coming, but for some reason I think it may have come in the middle of a shift.

  9. Great work as per usual sir. In posts like this though I think you should make clear to your younger audience that staged fights were happening long before the advent of youtube - even vcr-to-digital youtube (see All Heart). The "in NHL history" tag you've used carries a lot of weight, and your list doesn't give the old warriors the respect they deserve.

    Constructive criticism from one of your nerdiest fanboys. I actually dress up as you (circa 1993) at hockey conventions.

  10. @Dan...

    Some of the older stuff is hard to find on youtube. But at the same time, the faceoff fight really wasn't all that common until the NHL started cracking down on altercations between whistles.

    I'm under the impression that even as recently as the 70s or early 80s, it was more common to see two guys wind up fighting during a break. Once the NHL cracked down on that, players waited until the faceoff.

  11. Wow. Belak burned Brasher's barn.

  12. That's a very good point... Maybe you can define the term "staged" within the context of this post.

    Belak screaming at Janssen to go for an entire 30 second shift, and Domi and Probert going back and forth in the media are two definite examples of staging. Does the NHL mean only to curb staging at faceoffs?

  13. The Belak vs Janssen "Kaberle's revenge" fight was staged as staged can be. Everyone and their mother knew it was coming. It was not off of a face-off though, so that I would assume excludes it from being "staged" in the manner being discussed here.

    Glad big Wade got on the list! And I would hardly call Stephen Peat a "cruiserweight"; Dude is 6'4" 220 easily, maybe more. Stock is a little guy though...

    ...and I like his highlight reels on Hockey Night in Canada. Sue me!

  14. @Dan...

    I was going by the NHL GMs' definition of staged, which is pretty unclear right now but seems to based on faceoff timing. It sounds like they intend to leave anything beyond that to a referee's discretion, which seems like a bad idea.


    I think that does as good job of showing how silly the GMs' definition is -- if Belak/Janssen wasn't a "staged" fight, what's the point of even having the rule?

  15. ...some weird moon-man language? That was French!
    What about respect?

  16. Yes, staged fights are stupid - fights between two slightly-talented-if-that-semi-hockey-players for no good reason other than that they are bored. The problem is that not all fights that happen right after the faceoff are staged. Sometimes there was no animosity going into a game, but after a period and a half a couple players get very cranky and go after each other right after the next faceoff because that just happens to be when the opportunity presents itself.

    Why are the GMs completely incapable of doing ANYTHING in anything other than a half-assed fashion? They use non-human logic so often it makes me want to start punching things.

  17. uhhh... Sabres V. Senators, after the Neil hit on Drury. Emery v. Biron, spezza getting punched in the face.... How did you leave that out?

  18. @Andrew...

    I didn't think that one came right off the draw. I seem to remember the Sabres having to chase Heatley and company around the ice for a while before things finally got going.

  19. It really interesting to see all together.I didn't think that one came right off the draw. I seem to remember the Sabres having to chase Heatedly and company around the ice for a while before things finally got going.thanks for it.


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