When fights break out in the NHL usually there’s a protocol for how things go down. Guys will shove each other, words will be exchanged and usually an agreement on dropping the gloves goes down. During last night’s game between Carolina and Toronto the unspoken language of fighting (read: smashing gloves into each others faces) didn’t seem to send the same message between Carolina’s experienced fighting machine Tim Gleason and Toronto’s newbie to pugilism Nikolai Kulemin.
Kulemin and Gleason got entangled near the bench at the end of the first period and Kulemin started shoving Gleason including catching him with a couple of gloved shots to the face. In Tim Gleason’s world, punching a guy in the face, glove or no glove, means it’s “go” time. Gleason grabbed Kulemin and paired off to fight with his gloves seemingly peeling off. One uppercut on the nose later, Kulemin was down on the ice and Gleason had won yet another fight. (See video here)
After the game, opinions differed on how things went down. AM 640’s Jonas Siegel got the lowdown from the Toronto room that saw a difference of opinion all around. Leafs forward Clarke MacArthur was none too pleased with Gleason.
“It was a cheap shot,” said an infuriated Clarke MacArthur, who registered his first official NHL fight with Chad Larose earlier in the period.
“I don’t know if he’s smart enough—probably not—but he should know that Kulemin’s not a fighter. I think Kulie just went in there to stick up for teammates and Gleason obviously isn’t that smart. Kulie didn’t drop his gloves and he gets suckered like that.
“I was disgusted with that. There’s certain matchups on the ice. I don’t care what he says. You know when you’re in the right matchup. Kulemin’s never been a guy to fight and Gleason does it a lot. He knows better than that.”
It’s fair to saw that Gleason probably didn’t get a good look at the number or name of the guy that was busy punching his own face and therefore had no idea that Kulemin was a total novice when it comes to fighting. Leafs coach Ron Wilson took a decidedly different look at things though.
“They were in a fight and he got it right in the face,” said Wilson, who coached Gleason with Team USA at the Vancouver Olympics last February. “The appropriate action happened. It wasn’t a sucker-punch or anything like that. Kulie was throwing punches with his gloves on and then Gleason dropped his gloves and beat him to the punch.”
As you may have seen in the video the interesting part of the whole mess was that Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf stood by the scene and did nothing to respond to Gleason. Very odd. It’s strange to see players and coach differ so wildly in their take on things as you’ll almost always see the coach get very indignant and at least verbally stick up for his player even if they’re in the wrong. In this case, Wilson’s stand is either oddly refreshing or completely infuriating depending on your thoughts on him as a Leafs fan.
Was Gleason wrong in this situation? We’re inclined to think he isn’t. After all, he’s a guy with a fighting past and when you enter his world and you start acting the way Kulemin did giving him the physical means of saying “let’s go” that’s the language he speaks. Lost in translation here is that Kulemin got way in over his head and paid for it in doing so. If Kulemin isn’t intent on fighting a guy next time, mixing it up with someone more his speed would be wiser.