Tim Gleason’s face punch to the Leafs’ Nikolai Kulemin: awesome hockey or unnecessary act of super-violent idiocy?
It looked like the standard hockey brouhaha in the front of the bench. Players crashed into one another alongside the glass, tempers flared, and a shoving match ensued. But the Toronto Maple Leafs players didn’t like the uppercut flush to the face of forward Nikolai Kulemin delivered by the hand of Carolina Hurricanes bruiser Tim Gleason last night. Kulemin’s linemate, Clarke MacArthur, said he was disgusted by it, and teammate Tomas Kaberle called it a “cheap shot.” Leafs head coach Ron Wilson, however, thought it was just fine—“appropriate,” even.
The players’ qualm seems to stem from the fact that Gleason is a brawler and Kulemin is not. Wilson called the altercation a “fight,” but if it was, it was Kulemin’s first in the National Hockey League. Gleason, on the other hand, has racked up 33 fighting majors in six years of NHL service. MacArthur told the media after the game:
I was disgusted with that. There are certain match-ups on the ice and I don’t care what [Gleason] says, you know when you‘re in the right match-up. A guy like Kulemin’s never been a guy to fight and Gleason does it a lot. He knows better than that.
The Hurricanes’ enforcer ended up receiving a five-minute major and a game misconduct on the play, and Kulemin likely received a broken nose and maybe even a concussion. (Though, in typical fashion, the Leafs didn’t provide much of an injury report, mentioning only that the winger had suffered a “facial injury.” Duh.)
Wilson took the position that if you’re in a scrum and you’re engaging in some playful face-washing and perhaps a little fisticuffs, you shouldn’t be surprised when you get clocked. Boys will be boys, casual assaults are a part of hockey, etc. Kulemin gave Gleason a few light shots with the gloves on. Gleason just dropped the gloves first and retaliated in kind. Wilson comments:
Well, they were in a fight. He got it right in the face. The appropriate action happened. It wasn’t a sucker punch or anything. Kulie was throwing punches with his gloves on and Gleason dropped his gloves and beat him to the punch.
Literally and figuratively.
Of course, the problem isn’t that the players and their coach disagree. It’s that Wilson’s brand of barbaric thinking is par for the course among a significant—and rather vocal—section of the hockey populace, scribes, fans and players alike. The video of the incident is on YouTube and posted above. Judge for yourself.
• Leafs ‘disgusted’ after punch on Kulemin [Globe and Mail]
• Cutler takes a knee; Kulemin a punch and Fantuz a job (maybe)… and more [Globe and Mail]
• Sucker Punch or No Sucker Punch? [Toronto Star]
• Cox: Leafs drop messy decision to Hurricans, 6-4 [Toronto Star]
• Hurricanes prove to be too much for Leafs [Toronto Sun]