New York Islanders: The Top 10 Fights of the 2010-2011 Season
Along with Konopka, longtime AHL enforcer Trevor Gillies became a regularly dressed player for the Islanders, playing in 39 of the 62 games he was not suspended for.
Fellow Bridgeport Sound Tiger Matt Martin also became a regular in the lineup, ending the year with 13 fights.
In the second half of the season, Michael Haley was also called up from Bridgeport. Haley would end up fighting 10 times in 27 NHL games.
The addition of Konopka, Gillies, Martin, and Haley completely changed the personality of the team. The Islanders more than doubled their fight total from last year's regular season.
Not only was this the toughest Long Island hockey team over the past decade, but the 2011 New York Islanders became the toughest team in the entire NHL.
Among contributing factors to the Islanders' frustration were a high stick by Danny Briere on Frans Nielson, the Islanders' position in last place in the Eastern Conference, and a pair of questionable hits by Maxime Talbot (on Jack Hillen and another on Blake Comeau) during a game on Feb. 2, 2011.
The culmination of disrespect towards the Islanders occurred during the same game as the Talbot hits.
With 20 seconds left in the game, Pittsburgh's rat Matt Cooke collided with Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro. A scrum developed in the corner behind the goal line. As this occurred, Pittsburgh goalie Brent Johnson and DiPietro challenged each other to a fight. The fight ended quickly, with Johnson landing a punch that broke DiPietro's orbital bone and sent him down to the ice.
As DiPietro lay injured on the ice, the Penguins bench could be seen laughing.
Hard hits, cheap shots, being an unsuccessful hockey team, and now this group of grown men could add being laughed at to the list of agitating actions taken against them.
Enough was enough. During the next meeting with Pittsburgh, the Islanders took matters into their own hands in order to ensure that no team, not even one as tough as Pittsburgh, would disrespect them any longer.
In a manner similar to the mindset that led to the Philadelphia Flyers becoming the Broad Street Bullies, Long Island proved to the league that if they were going to be beat, they weren't going to be pushed around.
Despite the NHL's attempts to curb the Islanders' moxie with unfair fines and suspensions, most notably with a 10-game ban on Gillies for a hit on Cal Clutterbuck that was nothing more than interference, New York finished out the season by forcing their opponents to have respect and ensured those wearing the blue and orange uniforms would be taken seriously.
Here are the top 10 fights of the past season from the toughest team in today's NHL.
No. 10: Zenon Konopka vs. Dan Carcillo (Round 2. Oct. 30, 2010)
Though Carcillo may have gotten the better of Konopka during the first of their two fights during this game, the Flyers' middleweight spark plug did little in this bout.
Konopka threw and landed rights with little response from Carcillo, and ended the whole ordeal with an equally as angry exit, first appearing to challenge Carcillo in the penalty box, then the entire Flyers bench before finally going off to the locker room.
No. 9: Trevor Gillies vs. Paul Bissonnette (Dec. 18, 2010)
Bissonnette began the fight with neither hand in a position where he could throw. Once Gillies started going at him with lefts, Bissonnette's only choice was to trade toe-to-toe until he could get into a better position.
During the exchange, Gillies landed a few shots, causing "Biznasty" to enter a defensive mode. Ending up behind Bissonnette, Gillies pushed him away in order to get the fight going again.
This allowed Bissonnette a chance to get into the fight, but the Coyotes' tough guy could not get much going as the superior fighter continued to out-land him.
No. 8: Trevor Gillies vs. Eric Godard (April 8, 2011)
In the first meeting after their brawl-filled affair on Feb. 11, and the last of the season, the respective heavyweights of these teams would have a go early in the first period.
Gillies was more aggressive and accurate with his punches in this fight, clearly winning it.
What is equally as notable as Gillies' victory is the disgusting 10-minute misconducts given to each player, simply for fighting.
In an effort by the NHL to remove emotion from the game and calm rivalries which create excitement and fan interest, the legal act of fighting in hockey was extremely discouraged during this game.
This was one of the few games Islanders fans had to look forward to towards the end of the season, and the NHL did all they could to remove what had caused that interest.
There is a penalty for fighting in hockey; each player is supposed to be given a five-minute penalty. The referees should not have made up their own rules for this game.
No. 7: Trevor Gillies vs. D.J. King (Oct. 13, 2010)
Early in the season, Trevor Gillies began making himself known in the NHL. During his first shift of the game, Gillies responded to a hard hit by D.J. King by skating directly to him and taking care of business with the gloves off.
Though King landed a good left of his own during the fight, Gillies finished him off by landing four and causing King to go down to the ice.
No. 6: Trevor Gillies vs. Jared Boll (Nov. 24, 2010)
Another player hitting one of Gillies' teammates hard, another player getting pummeled for it.
After Boll shoved John Tavares into the boards, Gillies was quick to approach him and drop the gloves.
Gillies said in an interview after the season about the Islanders, "We're willing to bleed for each other."
The bottom line is, other players are going to learn that messing around with the team Gillies plays for is a bad idea. As someone who gets paid to protect his teammates, Gillies does his job perfectly.
No. 5: Michael Haley vs. Sean Avery (March 31, 2011)
There aren't many hockey fans who will not enjoy this fight. Sean Avery loves to talk a lot more than he is willing to back up what he's saying.
Through relentless trash-talking, countless fake glove-drops in order to trick opponents into taking penalties, fighting non-fighters, and running away from actual tough guys all combine to make Avery one of the most hated individuals in the game today.
This season alone he is responsible for a borderline sucker-punch on Ladislav Smid that ignited a brawl. He also picked a fight with Matt Carle (who had never fought before), punched Carle when Carle was down on the ice, and then refused to fight Jody Shelley.
Later, he boarded Haley from behind, and later in the game cross-checked Justin DiBenedetto in the face.
Here he was attempting to pick a fight with a 19-year-old rookie, and instead found himself at the receiving end of a more-than-deserved Michael Haley beating.
After Haley lands a right to start things, Avery begins bleeding and simply hugged onto Haley for the rest of the fight.
At one point he actually had his head rested on Haley's shoulder, and appeared to be a crying child seeking comfort from an adult.
The live feed of this video misses the beginning of the fight. It has been edited for continuity.
No. 4: Michael Haley vs. Craig Adams (Feb. 11, 2011)
Here the countdown enters the game which led to the Islanders staking their claim in the NHL as a force not to be messed with.
There isn't much to say about this fight; Haley simply threw right after right as Adams tried to avoid the beating.
Once Haley got going, Adams didn't have a chance.
No. 3: Trevor Gillies vs. Eric Godard (Feb. 11, 2011)
The rest of the countdown will feature the Feb. 11 game between the Penguins and Islanders in continuity.
Here is the fight between Gillies and Godard. This was the last physical exchange before the game got completely out of hand and consequently more entertaining.
The fight was relatively even with neither fighter doing anything to note, a complete reversal of their actions during the rest of the game, leading to the two of them being suspended for a combined total of 19 games.
No. 2: First Line Brawl vs. Penguins (Feb. 11, 2011)
Matt Martin began this brawl by going after Maxime Talbot, most likely a response to the two hits mentioned in the introduction of this slideshow.
Deryk Engelland immediately went to help Talbot. As he went to pull Martin off Talbot, the rest of the players found partners.
Pascal Dupuis and Josh Bailey fought simultaneously as Mike Rupp and Travis Hamonic.
Only two players on the ice weren't directly involved in a fight.
No. 1: Second Line Brawl vs. Penguins (Feb. 11, 2011)
Earlier in the game, Eric Tangradi had hit Jack Hillen. As retaliation for this, Gillies ran into Tangradi like a truck and them attempted to fight him.
This led to one of the most entertaining and unique NHL brawls in several years.
The next piece of action was Michael Haley hammering yet another one of his opponents, this time getting revenge on Talbot (as Matt Martin attempted to do earlier) for his hits in the previous game between these two.
As Gillies was being shoved off the ice by the officials (a microcosm of his entire season), Haley skated towards Pittsburgh goalie Brent Johnson.
Haley didn't even get past the blue line before Eric Godard jumped off the bench and skated directly towards Haley (an automatic 10-game suspension) in order to protect his goaltender.
Gillies received 34 penalty minutes in this game despite only logging 1:40 of playing time. He would end up finishing the season with 30 percent more penalty minutes than playing time
Bonus Clip: More from Feb. 11, 2011 vs. Penguins
Kyle Okposo tried to get Kris Letang to fight after Letang cross-checked Nielson, but Letang wouldn't drop his gloves.
The most action that occurred in this scrum was Konopka going after Talbot.
By the end of the night, Matt Martin, Michael Haley, and Zenon Konopka had all had an altercation with Maxime Talbot, the man responsible for two borderline hits on Islanders players in the previous game between these two.
Gillies' statement that "We're willing to bleed for each other" was extremely evident here.
Though the Islanders ended up finishing an indignant 14th out of 15 teams in the Eastern Conference, they certainly gained a ton of respect from their opponents by proving their ability to defend themselves.
Not one Pittsburgh player took a run, or laughed at any Islanders' player following this game.