For the most part, hockey enforcers are an admirable bunch. They put their pride and their faces on the line for their teammates every night.
But Sunday night’s game in Nashville was evidence that even among the NHL’s most fearless fighters there are cowards.
With 8:16 gone in the first period of a 1-1 game between the Capitals and Predators, Caps rookie defenseman Patrick Wey stepped up at the center-ice red line to make a clean body check on Rich Clune.
Clune is not one of the NHL’s most physically intimidating fighters – he stands just 5-10, 188 pounds – but he came into Sunday’s game ranking second in the NHL with 15 fights and had dropped the mitts 138 times since turning pro in 2007-08.
Wey, who stands 6-2, 200 pounds, had one career fight in 45 games as a pro.
Immediately after taking the hit in front of the players’ benches, Clune dropped the gloves and threw a bevy of overhand right hands to the head of Wey before finishing him off with an uppercut to the chin that buckled Wey’s knees and dropped him to the ice.
“Wey is a tough kid,” Predators television analyst Terry Crisp said ust before the conclusion of the fight, “because he’s still standing. I gotta tell you that Wey is a tough kid. Let’s hope the youngster is OK.”
After the game Capitals coach Adam Oates was asked if he was surprised to see such an experienced fighter dropping the gloves with an inexperienced rookie with one fight to his credit.
“Yeah, I mean, I’m surprised the guy would do that.” Oates said. “They had contact and they kind of looked each other in the eye and Patrick also didn’t back down. You’ve got to give him credit for that.”
Wey was kept out of the game for precautionary reasons and is expected to be evaluated today.
Clearly. Clune’s decision to fight Wey was an overreaction to a clean hit. But it was his decision not to fight Capitals tough guy Tom Wilson when challenged that brings Clune’s character into question.
Wilson asked Clune on more than one occasion to drop the gloves a second time and Clune refused. Maybe it was because Wilson beat him handily in a fight when the teams last met on Dec. 7. Maybe it was because the two teams were locked in a tight game.
Or maybe Clune simply didn’t want to pay the price for his actions.
What are your thoughts?