Wed Mar 03 10:45pm EST
Because of one hit back in October, Florida Panthers forward David Booth(notes) missed 45 games and his opportunity to represent the United States at the Olympics. It was a long comeback, but Booth returned to the ice a little over three months after the devastating hit laid on him by Mike Richards(notes) of the Philadelphia Flyers. When the teams met two months after the hit, Booth watched from the press box as two fights broke out within the first four minutes of the game and close to 100 penalty minutes were handed out.
With Booth facing Philadelphia and Richards for the first time since Oct. 24, Steve Gorten of the Sun-Sentinel asked him if he would seek revenge through a return hit or dropping the gloves. Booth sidestepped the question and didn't give any hint that the Flyers forward should be the one keeping his head up this time around.
Booth waited just 2:45 into the opening period to go after Richards, tracking him from each end of the ice until getting into a minor scrap:
Ugly fight or not, Booth had his "Erik Cole moment." You'll remember Cole had his neck broken in 2006 by Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik(notes) and the Carolina Hurricanes forward got his frustrations out and fought Orpik two seasons later. Like the Orpik-Cole scrap, this one wasn't much of a fight and right from the start you can see Richards was hesitant at first, but realized that it needed to happen, almost as part of Booth's on-ice rehabilitation.
After the game, Booth said the hit is now in the past telling Gorten, "That’s behind me now. I don’t have to worry about that ... and be free of this.”
Florida ended up beating the Flyers 7-4 (still need that goalie, eh?) and Booth had a memorable night finishing with a goal and three assists, not to mention a Gordie Howe hat trick. After recording just two points in the seven games between his return and the Olympic break, Booth now has six points in two nights - a hopeful sign that the 31-goal, 60-point scorer from a season is fully recovered.