“It’s been 84 years....”
...just kidding, it’s only been ten.
Ten years since a hockey game between the Penguins and the New York Islanders turned into a violent gong show at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Often times in sports, something will happen in a game that causes you to look ahead to the “rematch” when it might turn into an ugly affair, and usually, the rematch doesn’t hold up. That was clearly not the case here.
Nine days prior, a scuffle between the two teams took place at PPG Paints Arena after Matt Cooke ran into Rick DiPietro. The ensuing chaos led to a rare goalie fight — and it didn’t end well for DiPietro, with Brent Johnson fracturing the Islanders’ netminder’s face. Blake Comeau was also knocked out of the game on a hit from Max Talbot that left a bad taste in the Islanders’ mouths.
Following the Penguins win in Pittsburgh, all eyes looked ahead to the next matchup, and if you were tuning in hoping for a revenge game, it didn’t disappoint — but it was an ugly affair by all possible definitions of the word.
The Main Event
It had all the makings of what became one of the more embarrassing “brawls” in recent memory. Calling it a brawl would be disingenuous though, because that would make the assumption that there was more hockey played in the game than there was fighting, and that was not the case by any means whatsoever.
The Penguins were an injury-riddled squad at the time and came out flat, with the Islanders making them their punching bag on the scoreboard, which led to them becoming their punching bag in general.
With players like Micheal Haley and Trevor Gillies in the lineup, there were all indications of how this “revenge game” might go, but the way the game started in terms of actual hockey did no favors from preventing the chaos from taking over.
It took about ten minutes into the game for the first fight, when Craig Adams and Haley would scrap, with Adams being taken to the woodshed.
Haley’s night was far from over at this point.
Two Islanders goals to make it 3-0 in the first period and more nonsense ensued. The two big boys known for fighting had their turn to square off, with Eric Godard and Trevor Gillies trading punches.
Safe to say Gillies’ night was also far from being over.
Flash forward, as the Islanders continued to pour it on in terms of the scoreboard, with it now being 6-0 just a few minutes into the second frame. This is where things really got ugly.
Matt Martin’s attempted sucker punch on Max Talbot led to a line brawl, with multiple players being dealt game misconducts.
We even got Brooks Orpik blasting Michael Grabner into Brent Johnson to help add the to the nonsense. At 8-2, things really got out of control.
Re-enter Trevor Gillies and Micheal Haley
Eric Tangradi would get blasted with a high hit and then pummeled while down on the ice trying to protect himself.
Haley would square off with Talbot, for his second fight of the game. Talbot would try and hold his own, but didn’t have much success in doing so. Believe it or not, he wasn’t done yet.
After breaking free from Talbot, Haley would survey the ice ahead of him and took one look at Penguins’ goaltender Brent Johnson and decided he was gonna go take part in his third fight of the night.
“Godard’s off the bench!”
As Haley would head up ice to go fight with Brent Johnson, Eric Godard took it upon himself to back up his goalie.
Godard would have to deal with the consequence of an automatic 10-game suspension for leaving the bench to partake in a fight.
“See you later, Trevor. Get back inside of your cage.”
The infamous words of Penguins play-by-play man Paul Steigerwald. This came as Eric Tangradi was down, still reeling from being beaten by Trevor Gillies and being attended to by Penguins trainer Chris Stewart.
As this was all going on, Gillies, who had been sent to the runway just off of the edge of the rink, was standing over Tangradi saying what I can only imagine were not pleasant words.
After this, there would be a few more fights and scuffles after this truly chaotic scene, but none of them anywhere close to being as eventful as the combination of what took place between Talbot, Haley, Gillies, Tangradi, Johnson, and Godard. What a true mess.
Shout out to the official scorekeepers in the rink trying to sort all of that out.
With two minutes left in the game and the score at 9-3, the Penguins only had seven skaters left in the game, with four on the ice and three on the bench.
One thing that still sticks out to me from all of this — aside from when he got into it with Peter Laviolette in the lead-up to the 2012 postseason, this is the angriest I can ever recall seeing Tony Granato while serving behind the Penguins bench.
The final tally — 12 goals scored, 346 penalty minutes, three suspensions, $100,000 in fines, one stern statement from Mario Lemieux, and a partridge in a pear tree.
This debacle that could otherwise be normally referenced as a hockey game, in hindsight, kind of felt like the beginning of what was the most forgettable spring months in this era of Penguins hockey. Sidney Crosby was out with concussion issues following the Winter Classic. Evgeni Malkin was out with torn ligaments in his knee and missed the rest of the season. Perhaps that is the only silver lining in this memory — that the two Penguins superstars were dealing with respective injuries at the time and were not subjecting to who knows what may have happened had they been taking part in this game on Long Island.
All of the chaos from this eventful night a decade ago can be seen here.
Here’s to tonight’s game being less eventful.