How do you know a bench-clearing hockey brawl has reached legendary status? When the pummeling hits the six-minute mark? When 19 players and a coach are ejected? When one team is penalized so heavily that it later has to forfeit the game due to lack of players?
Everything above can be marked off the checklist for Saturday night's regular-season finale brawl between the Fayetteville FireAntz and the Knoxville Icebears of the Southern Professional Hockey League. Beware random bits of NSFW language/images, and check it out:
Ten players along with coach Tommy Stewart of Fayetteville were ejected due to the brawl. Nine players from Knoxville were ejected.
Fayetteville was already shorthanded but they weren't finished fighting. Barely a minute into the third period, Craig Geerlinks and Nick Bydal get tossed with game misconduct penalties.
At the 9:43 mark, with the Fire Antz's Jesse Biduke, Chris Leveille and Steve Cooke all in the penalty box for delay of game, Fayetteville had only two skaters left on the ice, and that forced game officials to rule the game a forfeit at that point.
Coming up, more video of the fight and a few interesting twists regarding the motivations for the FireAntz.
Here's a TV report from WVLT, claiming the Antz "intentionally" took penalties to end the game early since they were so shorthanded.
Another facet of this strange brawl: The Sentinel reports that FireAntz leading scorer Robert Sich was either pulled or jumped into the Ice Bears' bench to spark the melee, and that his role in the brawl cost him a chance at the SPHL scoring title ... which went to Kevin Swider of the Ice Bears, who wasn't ejected in the fight. How convenient ...
Coach Tommy Stewart told The Fayetteville Observer that the alleged attack on Sich was at the heart of the fight:
"They pulled Robbie into their bench and started wailing on him," Stewart said. "We really didn't have any choice. We sent all our players to go protect him, and they ended up kicking out 10 guys and me.
"It's unfortunate because it was a good hockey game over halfway through, then things started getting chippy. They started taking liberties on Sich and we can't jeopardize not having him for the playoffs."
Here's a second look at the brawl's aftermath, as FireAntz players mock and taunt the Knoxville fans on their way to the locker room (again, beware some NSFW language and images). Stay classy, No. 10 Murray Free:
The Ice Bears and FireAntz met 12 times in the regular season; and hey, guess what: They meet again in the first round of the SPHL playoffs beginning this Friday in Fayetteville. Suspensions for that series are pending as of Sunday night.
You could lock Don Draper in a room with a case of scotch and 10 cartons of smokes and not get better advertising for a playoff series than that Saturday night slobberknocker ...