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Controversy surrounding Flyers' sandy skate issues boils over

May 24, 2010, 10:30 AM EDT

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The reflexive response is to attach “-Gate” to any controversy (although I wonder what would happen if the Dallas Stars were involved … we already have “Stargate” after all) but perhaps this Flyers-Habs dilemma deserves a couple extra syllables. Maybe we should refer to it as “Sand-on-the-Skategate” instead? Or perhaps the “Great Sandy Skate Debate”?

Either way, the media is buzzing with discussion about the odd story. Puck Daddy includes a media roundup. The local scribes, including Philly.com, discussed the “unsolved mystery” today. And you know it’s a big/ridiculous/embarrassing deal when Deadspin gets in on the action.

If you’re not up-to-date with this odd little story, Brandon shared the initial news (broken by NBC’s Pierre McGuire) and then followed it up with a story that the Montreal Canadiens claimed they were dealing with skate issues of their own. Brandon broke down the situation – including how much of an impact faulty skates can have on a sport with such a thin margin of error – in his first report.

Those “rumors”, first reported by NBC’s Pierre McGuire, was that some some sort of substance had been spilled on the rubber mats that players walk on from the locker room to the benches, which was causing all sorts of problems with their skates not only being sharp but having gouges nearly destroying the blades the blades as well.

The Flyers didn’t exactly blame any sort of tampering or sabotage for the sand ending up on the rubber mats, although according to Seravalli one player did admit there was a substance on the mats that caused these issues.

For those unfamiliar, any sort of sand or sand-like substance is kryptonite for the sharpness of skates and for such a highly skilled sport as hockey having your skates as sharp and in as good condition as possible is tantamount for success on the ice. Yet the Flyers lost players all throughout the game to have their skates repaired, and likely had them ruined once more walking back out of the locker room and to the bench as no one discovered the substance until later in the game.

Eventually, towels were laid across the mats to prevent further damage.

The story went from troubling to (mostly) amusing thanks to the fact that the Flyers still managed to bludgeon the Canadiens 3-0. Anthony Safilippo reported that Mike Richards and Kimmo Timonen had the most issues while Scott Hartnell, Darroll Powe and Claude Giroux also needed to head out for extra skate sharpening. On the Habs side, the reaction probably can be summed up by Jaroslav Spacek comparing the Flyers to “figure skaters.” Montreal coach Jacques Martin even blamed, oddly, the sport’s heavy use of composite sticks.

As Brandon mentioned, it’s a good thing that the Flyers won or this could have been a genuine headache for the league. Here I was, thinking that home ice advantage left the series with that limp Montreal loss, but you certainly cannot blame Habs fans for their team not showing up on Saturday.

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