Following the now-infamous line brawl against Vancouver on Jan. 18, the Calgary Flames went an impressive 19-14-0 to finish the year.
The secret to that success? According to the players, that huge scrap turned the season around.
(All quotes from the Calgary Sun)
Chris Butler: “I think it was a turning point for our season. Things were tough for us at that time. We were getting tired of losing, and guys were (peeved) off.”
Kevin Westgarth: “It was good for hockey — you don’t want it to happen every day, but that’s part of the soul of the game. People who want to deride that can go watch another sport. People watch hockey for the violence — just like football.”
Joe Colborne: “Things like that galvanize a team. It really brings a team together. It brought a tight group even closer.”
These comments are going to raise eyebrows for a number of reasons. One, they came prior to Calgary getting waxed 5-1 by Vancouver in Sunday’s regular season finale, a game that saw Flames forward Paul Byron get tossed for boarding Daniel Sedin, who was forced to leave on a stretcher.
Two, the Jan. 18 line brawl was referenced in John Tortorella’s postgame media availability, albeit indirectly. Tortorella once again went after Flames head coach Bob Hartley — though this time with only his words, not physically like he did three months ago — blasting Hartley for a perceived lack of respect.
“It’s embarrassing to coach against the guy across from me tonight,” Tortorella said. “Some of the things that went on when Danny was hurt, it’s embarrassing.”
Tortorella was alluding to reports that Hartley was yelling at Henrik Sedin and the officiating crew while Daniel was laying on the ice.
“It just pisses me off,” Tortorella continued. “I just don’t like the disrespect with players. It aggravates me. I am not going to go any further. I don’t like the way he does business. I don’t like him, and eventually I guess why I am talking about it in this way is because I need to protect my players and a lot of people don’t understand that, so I’ll just leave it at that. I don’t know why I opened it up.”
It’s also worth noting that Hartley started Westgarth and fellow tough guy Brian McGrattan on Sunday, the same pair he started back on Jan. 18. The Canucks opted to go with Zack Kassian, Brad Richardson and Shawn Matthias.