November 11, 2010
Walk around the bowels of any NHL arena before puck-drop, and you'll see players getting into the game: Wind sprints down the hallway, stretching exercises and, for many teams, some informal kicking of a soccer ball.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are one such team, using an area near the main rink at Nationwide Arena to loosen their limbs and sharpen their focus for that night's game. They'll warm up at one end of the hall; their opponents will typically kick around about 200 feet away.
According to Tom Reed of the Columbus Dispatch, however, some protocols were broken before Wednesday night's Blue Jackets' home game against the St. Louis Blues; to the point where a heated exchange between the team caused area security to get involved. Here's the NHL worried about taunting in warm-ups, and meanwhile its hallway soccer they have to worry about:
Last night, Blues players walked around the inside of the building to hold their soccer game within about 100 feet of the Jackets' players, eyewitnesses added.
Jackets alternate captain R.J. Umberger(notes), who does sprints before every game, apparently ran through or nearby the Blues' circle sparking a verbal exchange, several eyewitnesses said. Umberger has grown weary of what he perceives as gamesmanship by the Blues, a source said. The Blues certainly have set a physical tone against the Jackets in recent seasons and the local club has not always responded well.
It's unclear how many players on each team were involved. The skirmish was broken up quickly, but the game featured two fights, multiple scrums, 92 penalty minutes and venomous verbal barbs.
It also featured a goal, an assist and 17 PIMs from Umberger, who was given a double-minor for high-sticking, two minutes for roughing a 10-minute misconduct.
Most importantly: It featured an epic 8-1 beat-down by the Blue Jackets, the worst loss of the season for the Blues and only their second regulation defeat of the season. It was the largest margin of victory in Blue Jackets' franchise history.
Lesson learned: Never mess with another man's footie.
Stick-tap to Puck Buddy Brian Lozier for the tip.