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Kings-Blackhawks series erases ‘Slap Shot’ images for novices


I received an email Monday from Jay Richards, who used to write the horse racing column for the Review-Journal. He wanted to know if I (and others on his email list) had watched Game 7 of the beguiling Kings-Blackhawks hockey series Sunday night. And if so, had I seen Los Angeles goalie Jonathan Quick fling his water bottle into the faceoff circle shortly before the Kings scored the game-winning goal in overtime.

Richards said he was happy the Kings won. But that seemed like a blatant delay of game by Quick to give his winded teammates a few extra seconds of rest.

To paraphrase Wayne and Garth: “Conspiracy on!

Two minutes for jumping the gun.

A follow-up email from Richards said upon further review, he noticed one of the linesmen dropping to his knee and smoothing the ice where the puck would be dropped for a faceoff.

“I think Quick rolled his bottle out to the linesman in case he wanted to squirt some water on it. Apparently, Quick was trying to help the linesman, not delay the game,” Jay wrote.

Anyway, I had noticed that water bottle come flying into the faceoff circle. I also noticed this was a great series to watch on TV, even if you were only a casual hockey fan. Four of the seven games were decided by one goal, two went to overtime and one to double-overtime.

A series like that would have kept the Charlestown Chiefs from moving to Florida.

During the first overtime in Game 5, the teams skated for 7 minutes, 53 seconds, without a whistle. They skated furiously, too. There were 11 shots by the Kings during that stretch, seven by the Blackhawks.

“I’ve seen a lot of games, been involved in a lot of games,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “That might have been the greatest overtime I’ve seen.”

So after a game like that, I’ll bet even Johnny Weir was paying rapt attention to Game 6, which saw the Blackhawks rally in the third period to win in regulation; and Game 7, which saw the Kings rally about 28 times to win in overtime. It was a heck of a game, a heck of a series, even if the Chicago checking line wasn’t wearing sequins.

And there wasn’t a single fight.

Seven games played on a razor’s edge, with a berth in the Stanley Cup finals awaiting the victor.

Not a single glove dropped in anger.

And here I thought fighting was an integral part of hockey, that the game would go to H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks in a handbasket without fisticuffs. That nobody would go to hockey games if the only thing that broke out at one was a hockey game. Isn’t that what the fighting proponents always say?

The Kings-Blackhawks series wasn’t the Hanson brothers putting on the foil. It wasn’t Ned Braden stripping down to his athletic supporter, either. It would have been fun to watch, even had the organist played “Lady of Spain” between every period.

Toe Blake, Dit Clapper, Eddie Shore. This was old-time hockey.

There were more penalties for concealing the puck with the hand (1) than for fighting in the Kings-Blackhawks series, and Game 7 set a record for viewership on the NBC Sports Network.

Hockey and boxing are the only sports in which fighting is tolerated, though I have watched some Floyd Mayweather fights where I wish his corner would have sent in the checking line to liven things up. A recent poll of NHL players said 98 percent do not want to see fighting outlawed.

The 2 percent who do must play for Detroit. The Red Wings were assessed only seven fighting penalties in 82 regular-season games (Carolina had eight). It’s a good thing Bob Probert was cremated, or he’d be rolling over in his grave.

Fighting was down in the NHL this season. There were 932 fighting penalties compared to 1,089 in 2011-12, the last full 82-game campaign before this one.

Still, a lot of hockey people make eloquent arguments why fighting should not be eliminated. They almost always mention Wayne Gretzky and his bodyguard Dave Semenko, how the other teams (especially the Flyers) would have roughed up The Great One if The Mean One weren’t skating up from behind threatening retribution.

“Horrific injuries, stars being mugged, rats who run around hitting people from behind — these standout because they don’t happen with regularity,” wrote Brian Burke, the director of hockey operations for the Calgary Flames, in a pro-fighting column for USA Today. “It’s fighting that keeps these incidents to a minimum.”

I hear what Brian Burke is saying. But then you watch the Olympics, and you watch those seven taut games the Kings and Blackhawks played over the past fortnight without once dropping the gloves. And it makes you wonder if a hard body check to the boards wouldn’t accomplish the same thing.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski