Some (most) teams like to celebrate big milestones. Others prefer to mark such occasions by throwing haymakers at each other’s faces during practice, which is what reportedly happened with the Jets on Saturday.
According to Scott Billeck of NBC Sports, captain Blake Wheeler and blue-liner Ben Chiarot engaged in a scuffle that turned into a small scrap during a drill, which resulted in Wheeler being sent off the ice by coach Paul Maurice. Chiarot was sporting a small cut on his nose after practice, and Billeck noted that Wheeler — who did not speak to the media after practice — appeared to have a welt above his left eye and tossed his helmet into the Jets bench before heading towards the team locker room area.
The incident came merely hours after Winnipeg grabbed its 45th win of the season against the Ducks.
Tensions running high, however, is A-OK with Maurice. He knows each of his players will have to keep the intensity ramped up to the max as, in a couple weeks, it embarks on a gruelling postseason journey through a murderers’ row of potential powerhouse opponents in the West.
Head Coach Paul Maurice on the intensity at Saturday's practice, the win over Anaheim, injury updates and more pic.twitter.com/MMauulDFV9
“You’d like a few more [fights] during the year if you could,” Maurice scoffed. “Our theory in how we practice is really short, as fast as we can, a full-contact sport. In the games, somebody gets an elbow up, somebody gets a piece of someone that happens and occasionally in practice that’s going to happen. It’s all good.”
Chiarot couldn’t agree with his coach more.
“It’s just boys being boys,” he said. “Tempers get up. Intensity in practice is always a good thing and that’s something we’re trying to bring here before the playoffs.
“I look at it as a good thing.”
The club can feel proud of reaching the 100-point plateau for the first time in Thrashers/Jets franchise history but, as evident by the salty atmosphere at pracky on Saturday, no one will be resting on their laurels.
Winnipeg will being aiming to advance to the second round for the first time ever in just its third playoff appearance.