Monday, November 28, 2011

Brawling Etiquette, or Did I Just See What I Think I Saw?

I didn't notice it the first time.

 Or the second.

But the third time I watched the replay of Brandon Prust take on Zac Rinaldo - causing a stoppage just 4 seconds into Saturday afternoon's game with the Flyers - I finally saw it.

"Pruster" as Ranger coach John Tortorella affectionately calls him and Rinaldo first exchange words. Then they drop their gloves - and then the really odd thing happens:

They both take off their helmets.

I don't recall ever seeing that before. I've seen one player take another player's helmet off - to make it easier to punch the other guy in the head. In fact, Mike Rupp (before he got hurt) in a fight this year pulled off his opponent's headgear deliberately and clinically before he began throwing punches - like he was literally opening a can of "whoop-ass".

But players dropping their own helmets after dropping the gloves? That I have not seen before.

What is it? Fighting etiquette? An act of common courtesy – directed at the guy you're about to punch in the face? A show of courage? An attempt to protect a fellow fighter's hands by offering your own softer head for him to pummel?

Whatever it was - probably some weird combination of the above, Prust and Rinaldo both did it simultaneously. Then they proceeded to swing each other around and hit each other in their un-helmeted heads.

And in doing so, Prust accomplished several things at once:

1 - He sent a message to Zac Rinaldo – the same guy who gave Mike Sauer a separated shoulder back in September.

2 – He kept Sean from entering a fight of his own. Seanny is still on shaky ice right now - so this is good.

3- He totally pumped up the Rangers (not to mention the MGS crowd) to get the game started.

4 – He served notice to the tough Flyer team that our Rangers would not get pushed around.

I know that in my Ideal Hockey World – there would be no fighting. What kind of message does this send Pucks Junior as he watches his heroes settle their disputes by escalating the violence?

But – in the jaded, complex, shades-of-grey NHL world we live in – the sport polices itself- and brave smaller guys like Prust show their courage through willingness to take on all comers. I don't pretend to understand it all – especially this taking off your protective headgear prior to fisticuffs stuff – but I can see how Brandon Prust's fight inspired and ignited his team. And I can see that the coach approves.

So – I will learn to adjust to this Helmets-Off Etiquette thing - but for God's sake, Brandon - please keep your Hockey Pants on at all times!

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