Sabres-Maple Leafs Brawl Shows Best and Worst of Hockey

Garrett BakerSenior Analyst ISeptember 23, 2013

Sep 22, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Tyler Bozak (42) and defenseman T.J. Brennan (25) and forward David Clarkson (71) and Buffalo Sabres defenseman Chad Ruhwedel (5) fight during the third period at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Buffalo 5-3. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Spo

Sunday night's NHL preseason matchup between the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs resulted in a full-line brawl and goalie fight that showed both the best and worst that hockey has to offer.

Preseason games don't mean anything, but don't tell that to these two teams.

It all started with a somewhat routine fight between Jamie Devane and Corey Tropp in which Tropp ended up getting dropped at the end.

He had his helmet removed during the fight, and seemed to smash his bare head on the ice at the end. Tropp struggled to get up and stumbled off the ice in a scary and sobering scene.

It is just another reminder of the well-intentioned new rule that the NHL has instilled which prohibits players from taking off their helmets before fights.

Players may get their hands hurt worse, but better their hands than their brains.

Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle then sent in his top line for the next shift, figuring that would diffuse the situation and let the focus go back to playing.

Clearly, he was wrong.

At 1:34, Phil Kessel ran his mouth and Buffalo's John Scott showed some ridiculously embarrasing behavior in attacking Kessel, a guy who was clearly not really interested in a fight.

Scott, a goon who stands at 6'8", quickly chucked off his gloves and took a run at the 6'0" Kessel, who had an equally unsportsmanlike reaction to Scott's advances.

Both of these players really showed a disappointing lack of class, especially considering this was a preseason game. Scott never should have gone after Kessel, but Kessel's two-handed slashes were pathetic.

If you don't want to have anything happen, then keep your mouth shut and don't put your glove on your opponent's chest. But to then take multiple two-handed slashes with your stick? That's pathetic.

Once his teammate David Clarkson gets Scott firmly in his grasp, Kessel comes over and gives him a nice little prodding with his stick again. 

Kessel should be embarrassed and should get a suspension. Free-swinging, two-handed slashes should not be tolerated. That's not what a hockey stick is used for.

But at the same time, the best of hockey was revealed from their altercation. Check out how quickly the Maple Leafs rushed to the aid of their star player. That's what makes hockey such a great sport: teammates defend each other.

Sep 22, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller (30) and Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jonathan Bernier (45) fight during the third period at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Buffalo 5-3. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolo
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Spo

And the goalie fight was just pure entertainment.

Jonathan Bernier really loved getting his teammates and crowd into it. Check out the Maple Leafs' bench at 2:40. Their reactions are great stuff and remind you of the fun these players are having.

I didn't want to end on a sour note here either, but I have to go back to Clarkson. While I understand him wanting to jump off the bench and defend Kessel, he really made a boneheaded decision.

It's a known fact that coming off the bench in a brawl like that is a 10-game suspension, which will roll over into the regular season for Clarkson.

He wanted to make a statement to his new teammates, coaches and fans, but now he'll miss their opener and not have the opportunity to help the team when it actually counts.

There's a lot to take in here, and everyone is sure to have their own opinions. But even though Scott made the initial poor decision, Maple Leafs fans will likely end up being the most disappointed by the results of the brawl that ensued because of their own players' bad choices.