Flames And Canucks Start The Game With A Line Brawl


Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Well, well, well…

This isn’t something you see everyday as a Flames fan. A line brawl that was brewing before the puck had even dropped, heated anger on the benches as the opening lines took their places at the faceoff, and two very different coaches and teams, preparing for what was about to become a highlight of the season.

The stage was set when Bob Hartley made the decision to start his fourth line against the Vancouver Canucks at the Rogers Arena. John Tortorella, then, had a decision to make. We can play the blame game all we want, but the fact remains that it was fourth line against fourth line at puck drop. And then it happened…

With Tortorella already screaming from the bench at Bob Hartley, the puck dropped, Kevin Westgarth slapped it off the dot, and then gave Kevin Bieksa a friendly hug before they were separated by the refs. By that time, the entire front line had dropped the mitts and the puck was all but forgotten.

Chris Butler hovered around the blue line while Ladislav Smid moved in on the action to stick up for his teammates. The Vancouver bench came unhinged as their coach screamed and yelled at Hartley and his players, the Flames standing stoically on their bench, watching the brawl unfold.

Torts seemed flustered by a desperate Flames team that was trying to make a statement. During the broadcast on Hockey Night In Canada (about 3:25 into the video), Kelly Hrudey had explained that the Canucks seemed “undisciplined” during their road swing. I think that John Tortorella was just as “undisciplined” during this game as his team may have been on the road, and that was proven a while later in the game as Tortorella made his way into the hallway outside of the Flames dressing room (more on that scenario to come).

Hartley tested Torts and Torts played right into Hartley’s hands. The Flames looked like the passive aggressors while the Canucks looked thrown off their game. In my opinion, Hartley and his team didn’t win the hockey game but they won a moral battle to prove to themselves that they can keep up with and contend with some of the tougher teams in the league.

Throughout the game, the Flames kept up with the Canucks, and had the upper-hand from the time the puck dropped because they had sent a message, loud and clear, to a team that is known for their gritty play.

Maybe it’s because I love old-school hockey or maybe it’s because I’ve watched the Flames suffer through mediocrity for a few years now, but I was impressed with Hartley’s proactive, assertive, and aggressive decision to start the game off with a little bit of intimidation.

And there hadn’t been any actual hockey played yet at that point. As the players crowded into the penalty boxes, the list of infractions was being written out…

To be continued…