My favorite team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, have battled back from a dismal middle season to clinch a playoff spot. It has been an energizing and excited season these past few weeks. Their last two games have been in Florida. On Sunday, they lost to the Panthers. It was a tough break. Yesterday, the Pens beat the Lightning 6-4. Both games were intense and tensions were running high. The gloves came off on several occasions in both contests. A thought came to me after watching the game against the Lightning.
Late in the first period of Sunday's game against the Panthers, Florida blueliner Keith Ballard threw a hip check on Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin that caused Malkin to flip head over skates and come down on his neck. He was fine but the check was low. Sidney Crosby, the Pens team captain, took umbrage with that and immediately dropped the gloves and he a Ballard went at it. It wasn't really a fight. It was more of a wrestling match that ended when both players fell to the ice and the linesmen broke it up. It wasn't the fight itself that I took notice of though. It was the loyalty to a fellow player that intrigued me.
See, Crosby isn't a fighter. Most folks will tell you that. 90% of the defensemen in the league are probably bigger and meaner than he is but he was all over Ballard in the blink of an eye. Why? Team spirit. Loyalty. Heart. All of these things. Crosby and Malkin are teammates and you always stand up for your teammates. Even Ballard said Crosby did the right thing in challenging him!! The Pens ultimately ended up losing that game but they were winners in my eyes. The whole damn team.
Yesterday's contest against the Tampa Bay Lightning resulted in a win for the Pens but again, team spirit caught my eye.
During the third period, Lightning winger David Koci nailed Pens forward Max Talbot deep in the Lightning zone and then immediately put Talbot in a headlock to keep him out of the play. That didn't bother me because that is hockey. Talbot escaped and headed back up ice but Koci caught up and crosschecked Talbot in the back. A scuffle ensued and Pens forward Eric Godard dropped the gloves and went after Koci. This was a battle of the titans that ended in a draw. Fight or not, Godard was showing his loyalty and team spirit.
Just a few minutes later, Pens forward Bill Guerin mixed it up with Lightning forward Evgeny Artyukhin after Artyukhin crosschecked Pens defensemen Sergei Gonchar.
Is there a lot of fighting in hockey? Not really. Not anymore. Does it have it's place in the game? Absolutely.
Team spirit. Loyalty. These are the things that I see where others just see two hockey players throwing punches. These men are a team. They win together and they lose together. If you want to take a shot at one of them, just know you are taking a shot at the whole team. This is one of the reasons that hockey is the greatest sport on Earth. GO PENS!!!!