There were extraordinary scenes at the Skydome last night after the game between Coventry Blaze and Nottingham Panthers was halted for about 20 minutes after a mass brawl involving not just the players on the ice, but all the players on the bench.
The atmosphere was tense between the two Midlands rivals, particularly after Blaze secured a 1-0 lead. Net minder Jaeger had taken an injury in the warm up and the Panthers went after him but he got no protection from the referee. The Panthers showed their frustration more and more, but the officials failed to get a grip on the game. Their net minder was at the centre of a number of incidents.
In the second period a series of fights culminated in Brad Cruikshank being sent off (a rare decision). As the Blaze player was escorted off the rink by a lino, he suddenly broke free, speed skated across to the charm merchant in the Panthers net and threw a punch.
Mayhem then broke out as both benches poured on to the rink. One player tried to stay out of the action in the sin bin, but net minder Jaeger went in to attack him. The referee stood calmly to one side listing names in his notebook.
At an earlier game one Blaze player went to hospital and had to have a subsequent operation after a fight. On this occasion no one seemed to be badly hurt, although players had their jerseys and vests ripped off. There did not even seem to be any blood on the rink, an event which usually demands the attendance of rink maintenance consisting of two bored teenagers with a bucket and a shovel.
Eventually the teams were persuaded to leave the rink. A list of penalties was read out, Cruikshank being banned for two matches. The Blaze net minder, Jaeger, was also sent off and the youthful Murdy who generally gets very little game time was brought on in his place.
When the game eventually resumed, tensions remained high and another brawl broke out. A Blaze player took his opportunity to get even with the lino who received a few punches. The guy wearing the prison shirt did not look happy as he escorted him off the rink and a game ban was announced for 'abusing officials'. I think that something more would happen in football if you gave the lino a few punches.
There was a large away crowd in attendance and, although they were in their own area, there was no physical segregation. Apart from one idiot throwing a plastic bottle on to the rink, and an announcement that anyone using foul language would be ejected, there was no crowd trouble at all, even though people can take beer to their seats. At the end of the match Blaze fans applauded the Panthers. If there had been this sort of fighting at a football match, there would surely have been fighting in the crowd as well.
It was interesting to hear the crowd announcer state that the fighting was being streamed on the internet and that spectators should use Facebook and Twitter to tell their friends about what was going on. Anyone who had not got a season ticket was urged to buy one. In fact ice hockey is what economists call a 'bundled good': you get to watch the hockey, but you usually get to see some fights as well.
Despite Murdy staying up way beyond his bedtime, the youngster was a lion in goal and Blaze went home 2-1 winners.
You can watch a video of the fighting here: Fight
This was the first full bench clearance I have seen since I started to watch hockey.