TEN YEARS AGO TONIGHT: ONE OF MY FAVORITE GAMES
Tonight is the 10th anniversary of one of the most memorable games in Flyers history in my mind.
Here is a copy of the story I wrote that night, back when I was just a freelance writer for ComcastSportsNet.com, which is now CSNPhilly.com
What a night.
Feisty Flyers Beat Up Senators
Anthony J. SanFilippo
Martin Havlat has no one to blame but himself.
All the guy had to do was keep his stick down when the Flyers last met the Ottawa Senators in Canada's capital city last month.
But instead, he mistook himself for an Iron Chef and Mark Recchi's head for a nice pot roast.
Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock vowed revenge. What happened Friday night was not what he had in mind, but hey, he'll take it and so will the sell-out crowd who witnessed one of the most memorable games in the history of the Flyers franchise.
What happened? Let's see... where should we begin?
How about the end, where, when the game ended, the Flyers had seven skaters and a goalie, and the Senators six skaters and a goalie — on the entire squad.
In a game fresh out of 1974, a combined 23 players were tossed from the game for engaging in several melees on the ice. The goalies went toe-to-toe, the coaches screamed unprintable words back and forth at each other across the bench, and blood was spilled. The gloves dropped after every faceoff in the game's final minutes. Records for penalty minutes were shattered. After the game general manager Bob Clarke went head-hunting, looking for an Ottawa official to tear apart. Even the media from each country had to be separated following an incident.
All the while, Havlat dodged the combat better than President Clinton during Vietnam, hiding on the Ottawa bench or in the penalty box serving penalties for booted teammates.
Oh yeah, the Flyers dismantled the Ottawa Senators 5-3. But back to the good stuff.
All told there were a combined 419 minutes in penalties, smashing the league record of 406 set by the Minnesota North Stars and Boston Bruins in February, 1981.
The Flyers obliterated their own team record of 194 penalty minutes set in March, 1979 against the Los Angeles Kings with 213 on Friday.
The two teams also broke a record for most penalty minutes in a period by amassing 409, smashing the league mark of 379 set in the same 1979 Flyers-Kings squabble.
And it all started when a frustrated Senators squad took a run at Sami Kapanen.
"(Rob) Ray went after Sami and started throwing punches at him," said Donald Brashear. "If you want to screw around, we will take care of business."
So Brash did. And he beat Ray to a pulp, leaving the Senators' tough guy dripping blood drops on the ice.
A couple of Senators didn't take too kindly to Brashear's easy knockout and went after him as he was skating off the ice. A rumble ensued. Every possible glove and stick was on the ice.
"They were mad because their tough guy got beat up," Hitchcock said. "Then their next two (fighters) go after two guys who don't fight at all. That's why what happened happened."
Even the goalies dropped the gloves, as Esche landed a couple of shots to Patrick Lalime's head.
Brashear amassed 34 minutes of penalties all by himself. He was tossed along with Esche, Danny Markov — who dropped them with Todd Simpson — and Branko Radivojevic, who traded blows with Shaun Van Allen. Ray, Lalime, Simpson and Van Allen all got the gate for Ottawa. All this occurred at 18:15 of the third period.
It was the best brawl of the season. But that was just the appetizer for a seven-course meal.
Three seconds later, on the very next faceoff, secondary fighter for Ottawa, Chris Neil, jabbed Radovan Somik in the groin with his stick. Somik jabbed back. Then Neil punched him, and every player on the ice went at it again.
More penalties. More ejections.
Good-bye to Somik, Neil and Mattias Timander and Zdeno Chara, who also went at it on the same faceoff.
Fast forward another three seconds. Michal Handzus, one of Somik's good friends on the Flyers, attacked Mike Fisher as soon as the puck dropped.
Thanks for playing gentlemen.
By this point, the crowd was in a state of euphoria.
The officials seemed to plead to the benches to end the chicanery.
Oh, but they were far from done.
A mere 23 seconds later, as it appeared cooler heads had prevailed, Recchi drilled Wade Redden into the boards. Redden turned around and attacked John LeClair. Recchi grabbed Brian Smolinski.
More gloves, more penalties, four more players shown the door.
Two seconds later it was Patrick Sharp pounding on Jason Spezza.
Ten fights in 32 seconds. Must be another record.
All the while Havlat just watched from his island.
"My team didn't forget what Havlat did last game," Recchi said. "I'd be pretty upset if I were his teammates, I'll tell you that."
And if the show of sportsmanship on the ice wasn't enough, what happened off of it was just the cherry on top.
First, Brashear allegedly was making gestures down the hallway between the two locker rooms, mocking slitting his throat at Senator player Todd Simpson.
When asked about it, Brashear said, "No comment."
When peppered by a Canadian reporter as to why he sucker punched Ray, Brashear said "I didn't sucker punch him. If I'd have sucker punched him he would be laying on his back."
Brash then said he started the whole bru-ha-ha.
"Of course I started it, why wouldn't I start it?," he said. "Did you watch the last game? You figure it out."
It was the same Canadian television reporter who crashed into a Comcast SportsNet reporter (not this one) during an interview with Senators coach Jacques Martin.
Looking like Tyrone Power and Basil Rathbone in "The Mark of Zorro," the two reporters, wielding microphones, nearly killed each other.
It was a lot more exciting than what Martin had to say, which was nothing.
Maybe that's why Clarke called Martin "a gutless puke."
Wait, when did that happen?
Oh, yeah. Clarkie stormed downstairs from his cozy perch atop the arena and had to be restrained from going after Martin in the Senators locker room.
He later eyeballed Senators G.M. John Muckler in the hallway before voicing his displeasure with NHL supervisor of officials, Claude Loiselle, who happened to be in attendance for the game.
Clarke said a lot more that can't be reprinted here, but it was yet another priceless moment in the middle of a priceless turn of events.
Lost in all of this translation was the fact that the Flyers dominated Ottawa for the game's first 55 minutes.
After allowing Neil to score the first goal of the game 4:07 in, Claude LaPointe, Recchi and Markov all put the puck past a shaky Lalime giving the Flyers a 3-1 lead after one period.
The win and the fights didn't come without a cost, though. The Flyers lost three defensemen in the game and will have to make due with minor leaguers for at least Saturday's game in Washington.
Chris Therien and Joni Pitkanen both left the game in the first period with injuries. Therien suffered a strained left shoulder, and Pitkanen was listed as having his "bell rung," although Hitchcock later said it was a concussion.
Markov will also be out of the lineup serving a one-game suspension for picking up his third game misconduct of the year. This leaves the Flyers with Kim Johnsson, Mattias Timander and John Slaney as the only blueliners left.
Kapanen was an emergency fill-in on defense for the last two periods against Ottawa and may see some time there against Washington.
Hitchcock also said Phantoms defenseman Freddie Meyer and Joey Hope could see time.
Of course, there's also the possibility of Clarke pulling off a trade once he calms down.
With the win, the Flyers (35-16-12-6, 88 points) remained tied for the top spot in the Eastern Conference with Tampa Bay and moved seven points ahead of New Jersey in the Atlantic Division.