Matt Bradley is a fourth line player for the Washington Capitals of the National Hockey League. Alex Ovechkin is the captain of the Capitals and one of the poster boys of the NHL along with Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins. There is no star that shines brighter in the NHL galaxy than that of Ovechkin. Ovechkin has been recognized in this forum before as one of the most dominant players in the game, but it is Bradley that garners our attention this time.
On January 12th of this year the Capitals were taking on the Tampa Bay Lightning in Florida. During the game, things became a little chippy between Ovechkin and the Lightning’s Steve Downie. Now this in and of itself is nothing special. Hockey is a game that is readily associated with fighting. Much like Nascar, many fans choose to eschew the beauty that those like me see in the game and watch only in hopes of seeing a major fight break out. Ovechkin and Downie are two completely different types of player. Ovechkin is a team captain, an offensive wizard and an imposing physical force on the ice, while Downie is a thuggish character that will fight any time and has been known to take a cheap shot or two if that’s what it takes to get the job done. As hostilities increased throughout the game between these two players their play became more physical. In the third period, with tensions high and the Capitals trailing as the Lightning drew ever closer to snapping an 11-game losing streak to the Caps, things finally boiled over.
Having served their time in the sin bin, Ovechkin and Downie exited their respective penalty boxes at the same time and immediately came together and dropped the gloves as they squared off to fight. That’s where Bradley comes in.
Before the two players could come together, Bradley came off the bench like he was shot out of a canon and headed straight for Downie, cutting Ovechkin off before the fists could start flying. Bradley fought instead of his team captain and Ovechkin was left to watch. I had never seen this before and I thought it was AWESOME. To be clear, Ovechkin does not need anyone to fight his battles for him. He’s a monster of a man and A DAMN BEAST of a player. Downie is a well known bad dude and Ovechkin is one of poster boys for the NHL. Bradley is a fourth liner whose team was behind and needed Ovechkin’s offensive fire power to remain unharmed and in the game if the Capitals were to have any chance at victory. In the opinion of this hockey fan, it was a fantastic play on Bradley’s part. It doesn’t look like there will be any punishment coming down from the NHL offices for Bradley coming off the bench and being the third man in because it looks like the Washington players made a clean change, but if there were I can guarantee you that Bradley would not pay one penny of it.
I think this is a perfect example of what makes hockey a tremendous sport to watch and what makes competitive team sports fantastic in general…a brotherhood among the participants while in the arena. Although it was not necessary for him to intervene, Bradley knew his role in this instance and he carried it out perfectly. He may not even be friends with Ovechkin off the ice (although I believe the exact opposite to be true), but the reality of that situation does not matter. In this instance, Bradley faithfully executed his role to the letter, just as it is declared in the unwritten but ever-present code of the game, and for that he deserves to be recognized in this forum as A DAMN BEAST of a teammate. Matt Bradley, here’s to you.
Check out a couple of videos of the fight, the first with analyst’s comments, from www.youtube.com. Pretty cool stuff.