Late in the Minnesota Wild's 5-1 win over Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night, Wild agitator Cal Clutterbuck got into a scuffle with Vancouver's Maxim Lapierre. The fight ended up being a headache for the officials in more ways than one.
As the fight was winding down near the benches, linesman Darren Gibbs attempted to break things up, but he was caught with a straight left from Clutterbuck square in the face. As bad as it looks, Clutterbuck was obviously aiming for Lapierre, but was well off target.
Because of Clutterbuck's reputation as a borderline dirty player who pushes the envelope with his hits, he may not be looked upon too favorably for this mishap, but I think it was an honest mistake. Gibbs was just trying to do his job by protecting the players, and Clutterbuck was doing his.
This most definitely isn't the first time an official has been caught in the crossfire, and there is almost never any type of discipline handed down. Malicious physical contact with an official is unacceptable, obviously, but this was merely accidental.
Even so, the legend of Clutterbuck as a cheap-shot artist will only serve to grow from this incident. Players of his caliber are usually looked upon unfavorably by fans of other teams, but Wild supporters understand that his play opens up the ice for skill players like Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley.
Clutterbuck may also prove to be an innovator because of his wayward punch. With all the talk of possibly making visors mandatory for all players, perhaps the focus will shift to boxing headgear for officials just in case another haymaker happens to inadvertently strike in the future.