While the NHL season opener failed to produce much classic hockey bloodshed, it was the American Hockey League that stole the fight night spotlight with Saturday's Grand Rapids Griffins and Rockford IceHogs game. It featured a quasi-bench-clearing brawl that saw 13 game misconduct ejections and 230 total penalty minutes.
It all started—and ended—with 11:58 remaining in the third period, thanks in no small part to IceHogs right wing and former Chicago Blackhawks first-round draft pick (2008) Kyle Beach.
Frustrated with a Griffins team that had continued successfully converting power-play opportunities to take a 7-4 lead, and with the referees' calls leading to said power plays—not to mention the fact that a tightly-packed NHL season was set to begin as he continued yet another season in professional hockey's minor leagues—Beach dropped gloves immediately following a center-ice faceoff. He engaged Griffins center Riley Sheahan in a scrum at ground zero, a contagious disease that quickly spread throughout the pink-iced and pink-jerseyed arena.
When all was said and done, 13 players received game misconducts—most for their roles in the secondary altercations—while IceHogs left wing Kenndal McArdle was charged with a third-man-in game misconduct.
Rockford's Rob Flick was kicked out for leaving the bench to participate in a scrum after the initial melee had calmed.
Save for Sheahan and Beach, all combatants received fighting majors and secondary altercation game misconducts. For continuing to whale on Sheahan after dropping him to the ice and inciting a near-riot, Beach received an aggressor game misconduct, a two-minute instigating minor, five-minute fighting major and 10-minute instigating misconduct penalty for 27 PIM.
Sheahan received a five-minute major but no game misconduct.
According to hockeyfights.com, the following men paired up during the skirmish:
- Griffins defenseman Gleason Fournier vs. IceHogs left wing Wade Brookbank
- Griffins' Sheahan vs. IceHogs' Beach
- Griffins left wing Tomas Tatar vs. IceHogs defenseman Adam Clendening
- Griffins defenseman Brian Lashoff vs. IceHogs defenseman Shawn Lalonde
- Griffins right wing Francis Pare vs. IceHogs right wing Phillippe Paradis
- Griffins goalie Petr Mrazek vs. IceHogs goalie Carter Hutton
By the way, Grand Rapids won the shootout, 11 goals to six.
Unfortunately for the bloodied Beach—who took a massive beating at the hands of Grand Rapids for his continued pounding of the defenseless Sheahan—the spotlight appears to have once again shifted back to the NHL, relegating the AHL once again to ordinary minor league hockey status.
Gil Imber is Bleacher Report's Rules Featured Columnist and owner of Close Call Sports, a website dedicated to the objective and fair analysis of close or controversial calls in sports.