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]
4 thoughts on “Tim Gleason’s face punch to the Leafs’ Nikolai Kulemin: awesome hockey or unnecessary act of super-violent idiocy?”
After watching the video replay a few times, I agreed with MacArthur. If you watch closely, Kulemin and Gleason were near the Hurricanes bench by the board facing each other. Then Gleason started the ‘fight’ by punching Kulemin with his gloves on. Kulemin punched back and Gleason punched back with his gloves on again. A few more glove punches were thrown between the two and Gleason finally dropped his gloves and knocked Kulemin down. Should Kulemin be more ready to protect himself during a fight? Absolutely. What gets me is Wilson jumped the gun and did not back his player up. In the replay, it showed clearly that Gleason instigated the fight and either the linesman or the referee caught that and assessed him as the instigator and a match penalty. Talking about adding insult to injuries. In such a close knit team environment, the coach should always back up his player or simply say ‘can’t comment on that. Didn’t see what transpired. Have to look at the video replay.’ Instead of implying ‘your nose got broken during a fight, good you deserved it. Next time be more ready!’ Oh by the way, Gleason played for Wilson and Burke during the 2010 Winter Olympics.
You don’t actually see the beginning of the “fight” between them on this video, but the first thing you can actually see is Kulemin’s arm outstretched toward Gleason’s face at 0:04 (could be a punch, or maybe not). Then they square off and trade punches, and at this point it’s “on”.
Also, while you say that Wilson should have “backed his player”, he (as well as his entire staff and other players on his team) was closer to the actual scene of the event than ANYONE ELSE and so might have just a little more objectivity. The coach should always back his player, but why lie about an obvious “standard” hockey fight where one player just happens to get the worse result?
Also, the coach doesn’t always back his player up if he thinks that player made a really bad mistake and calling him out (like risking long-term injury by starting a fight you can’t finish). Perhaps this is the case here?
You must have Superman’s eyes to see Kulemin’s arm ‘outstretched toward Gleason’s face at 0:04’ based on this video!! Unless you were at the game, sitting right next to the two players when the altercation started AND paying attention, I highly doubt that you can see Kulemin started the fight based on this video.
As for your second paragraph, wrong again DV
The ex-Leafs coach Paul Maurice, his entire staff and other players on his team were closer to the altercation, not Wilson’s team. Wilson’s team including himself were an entire bench length away from the altercation between Kulemin and Gleason and not to mention the entire Carolina team were standing up plus the numerous players that were participating in the melee which could easily obstruct the view of the Leafs coaching staff.
Lastly, DV you’re putting words into my mouth. I didn’t say Wilson ‘lie’ about anything. All I’m saying is Wilson should find out all the facts first before crucifying his own player on national television and the rest of the media.
And as a Leafs fan, I’m saddened at the fact that there seem to be a gap or separation between Wilson and his own players on this incident (MacArthur was ‘disgusted by it’ and Kaberle calling a ‘cheap shot’) You will win games and become a winning team only if you are united as a TEAM. On and off the ice.
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