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Flames say line brawl vs. Canucks turned season around, was ‘good for hockey’

Apr 14, 2014, 1:06 PM EDT

Calgary Flames v Vancouver Canucks AP

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.

  1. patthehockeyfan - Apr 14, 2014 at 1:13 PM

    “People watch hockey for the violence — just like football.” ~~ Kevin Westgarth

    Not true. I watch hockey for the skill and sport (seriously).

    And, I hate football.

    • bwayblueshirt - Apr 14, 2014 at 1:19 PM

      There is skill and sport in football as well, but hockey is physical game. I don’t mind these things if they are organic, and the comments from the players are essentially right.

    • valoisvipers - Apr 15, 2014 at 12:51 AM

      Mike, It would have been nice to know the Canuck’s record since the brawl. I guess they lost a lot of them though.

  2. nunan - Apr 14, 2014 at 1:15 PM

    Torts = Bobby Valentine. Just a character… Not a Canucks fan but they can do better (Trotz?)

  3. bwayblueshirt - Apr 14, 2014 at 1:20 PM

    Bob Hartley is a serious POS. Torts is absolutely right about him.

    • mackattack29 - Apr 14, 2014 at 7:51 PM

      Absolutely right my friend. Lol whole flamers organization with burke at the helm is headed for disaster and to be one of the most hated organizations in the history of the sport. Monahan is the only mildly interesting player on their team…

  4. joey4id - Apr 14, 2014 at 1:33 PM

    Well! Then! They should have had more line brawls. They no doubt would have made the playoffs. Go figure!

    Chris Butler – PIM/39 Drop em buddy!

    Kevin Westgarth – Pts/7 Fighting is good for his pocket.

    Joe Colborne – PIM/34 Another whimp who hides behind Westgarth.

    • atwatercrushesokoye - Apr 14, 2014 at 4:45 PM

      What would any article be without Joey climbing on his soapbox and telling everyone how smart he is? Couldn’t you at least cut and pasted some obscure comment you made in Sept 2012 that somewhat has to do with this?

      That game was the turning point in the season for both teams, going into that game the Flames were in the midst of 3 weeks of the worst hockey they’ve played in years, that incident helped bring the team together and they played pretty well, yes they were only 19-14 BUT outside of last night’s game, the other 13 loses were games they were competitive in and had legitimate chances to win. The team definitely looks like a team on the rise.

      The Canucks meanwhile went into a massive tailspin after this incident, and of course Tortorella going insane, and they look like a team who looks like they’re in need of a rebuild, or at the very least a big time retooling with a new head coach.

      I’d just like to point out that the Flames started games with their 4th line on the ice many times this year, probably close to 20, including last night, only once did this ever lead to a fight, and that was 100% due to Tortorella.

      • joey4id - Apr 14, 2014 at 9:11 PM

        Blah! Blah! Blah! Please tell me something I do not know. BTW, are you catching up for time lost? You’re on fire today. Have you been on vacation?

  5. hockey412 - Apr 14, 2014 at 1:35 PM

    I can’t believe that a guy like Westgarth, who made his living off of violence in hockey (and nothing else), would advocate violence in hockey.

  6. flyerspsu - Apr 14, 2014 at 2:01 PM

    Same thing happened to the Flyers after their brawl with the Capitals, whether its right or not, getting in brawls a lot times can bring your team closer together

  7. nicofthenorthstar - Apr 14, 2014 at 3:29 PM

    Not a big Torts or Nucks fan, but I am with them on this one. The Flames and their coach come across as a bunch of classless thugs. And they suck.
    The notion that their behavior is good for hockey is laughable. It’s good for a certain brand of hockey, one that is less relevant all the time. Their’s is the behavior of a bunch of minimal talent minor leaguers trying to find a way to get a spot on the big club.

    • atwatercrushesokoye - Apr 14, 2014 at 4:50 PM

      The Flames started games with their 4th line on the ice quite a bit this year, probably in the neighbourhood of 20 times, including last night, yet only once did it lead to a fight and that was when Tortorella decided the Flames would kill his players if he didn’t start fighters.

      How was Calgary starting their 4th line to blame for the brawl? They didn’t even get in a fight in their first shift in any other game.

      • soro17 - Apr 14, 2014 at 4:54 PM

        Isn’t the objective to win? Maybe you start your better players and you might win a few games.

      • atwatercrushesokoye - Apr 14, 2014 at 5:00 PM

        Calgary won more games than “experts” expected them to and played really well after the brawl game (last night being the only exception) I don’t see any issue with starting a line that’s going to finish some checks and give you some energy right from the start of the game.

  8. soro17 - Apr 14, 2014 at 4:04 PM

    … and yet they lost all 4 games against the Canucks this season (which was hard to do, only the Blues managed to lose all of their games against the Canucks while playing more than twice).

    • atwatercrushesokoye - Apr 14, 2014 at 4:56 PM

      Vancouver is a team that gives Calgary problems every year, it seems like they almost always lose to them. They may have gone winless against the Canucks (one loss was in OT and one in a SO) but they were 3-2 against the Kings, they hammered the Ducks, they won twice against the Hawks, they beat the Sharks a couple of times, they beat the Blues, so they were winning games against the top teams, Vancouver just gave them issues as they always do.

  9. 2qswing - Apr 14, 2014 at 4:24 PM

    Its really really really hard to make Torts and the Canucks sympathetic charactors, But Hartley and his goon squad managed to do it. Chirping at a guys brother and the ref while the guy is face down motionless on the ice is WAY over the top WWE classless. Oh by the way you got your a$$es kicked 5-1 in the actual game. Did anyone notice?

    • atwatercrushesokoye - Apr 14, 2014 at 5:06 PM

      5-1 in the last meaningless game of the season in which both teams missed the playoffs, I don’t think anyone noticed or cared, this game had as much relevance as the games in September will have, zero.

      I didn’t notice the players chirping Henrik, if they did that is classless, but I have no problem with them complaining to the refs for two reasons:
      1. It didn’t look like any penalty was going to be called until it became apparent that Daniel was injured at which point it was 5 minutes and a game misconduct, if it as a penalty based purely on the hit, that’s not a problem, if it’s a penalty because the player was injured that’s an issue…penalize the action not the result.

      And 2. the Canucks swarmed Byron (who’s not a big guy to begin with) he was immediately grabbed by one Canuck (no problem with that) as his arms were pinned another Canuck player punched Byron in the back of the head 3 times, surely that should have been penalized as well?

      • kitshky - Apr 14, 2014 at 5:42 PM

        Well, at least you’re a loyal fan, that’s something … I guess?

  10. nothanksimdriving123 - Apr 14, 2014 at 7:30 PM

    If big fights are so good for the game, why do fighters get major and misconduct penalties?

    • drewsylvania - Apr 14, 2014 at 8:37 PM

      When was the last time someone got a misconduct penalty for fighting?

      • nothanksimdriving123 - Apr 14, 2014 at 10:01 PM

        Well, to be honest, I do not keep close track of such details, so I had to do a little checking. The game noted in the story above is where I started. I count 11 misconduct penalties, both of the 10-minute and game varieties. They weren’t for failure to tuck in a sweater. It’s usually not for the initial dropping the gloves, but for failure to stop brawling when the refs tell the guys to stop. You can pretend it’s not for fighting if you like. But it’s for fighting.

  11. drewsylvania - Apr 14, 2014 at 8:36 PM

    19-14 is only “impressive” in Flames terms…

    • atwatercrushesokoye - Apr 14, 2014 at 8:48 PM

      of the 14 losses, I think 3 or 4 (it wasn’t anymore than that) were by more than 1 goal, and only the one game last night was by more than 2 goals, so with a little more skill you’re looking at a team that’s not that far away. Perhaps they can take on some skill from one of, or both, of the cap disasters that are residing in Pennsylvania? Both will have to shed payroll in the offseason in order to fit 23 players under the cap and the Flames need to spend $14 million to get to the cap floor.

  12. muckleflugga - Apr 14, 2014 at 9:36 PM


    great posts … it’s nice to someone combat the flames bashing with reason and fact … limp dick counters from the habitually cliché ridden are left swimming

    [ not you joey … i like your fight as well ]

    as for the question regarding misconduct for fighting, i’ve seen them handed out if a fight is clearly one-sided and the dominating player continues beating his opponent with force

    details are fuzzy but i remember iginla, early in his career, washing shanahan’s face as time ran out … iginla received an enthusiastic beating off camera and shanahan got a misconduct and as i recall, a one or two game suspension for use of excessive force

    i recall they went after each-other a few times afterward

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