57 fight reviews
Nov 14 18:18 ET
|The 1978/79 Philadelphia Flyers was arguably the toughest hockey team to play in the NHL during the past 50-year period. In Behn Wilson, Paul Holmgren and the underrated Dave Hoyda, they had three true heavyweights as well as a great light heavyweight in Mel Bridgman. They also had a few "disturbers" such as Andre Dupont and Bob Kelly who were more than willing to drop the gloves and who definitely added to the team's toughness. |
The 1978/79 New York Rangers, meanwhile, was a finesse team from top to bottom, with the notable exception of their famous enforcer, Nick Fotiu. Many stories have been told by Ranger fans of how Fotiu kept the Flyers "honest" all by himself. In certain games, however, it could become a problem that he had no one to back him up when things got heated on the ice. Many of the more combative players who had stood up so well against the Flyer goon tactics in the mid-70's such as Brad Park, Ron Harris and Jerry Butler, had been traded away by the Rangers or retired by this time.
With the arrival of former Flyer coach Fred Shero, one would have expected that the Rangers would add some muscle to the team for the upcoming season. He did acquire a tough guy from the WHA, Frank "Seldom" Beaton, who had gained a reputation as a fearsome fighter in that league. But Beaton quickly went from "Seldom" to "Always" during his short stint with the Rangers and he was soon sent to the minors. Consequently, Fotiu again had to do all of the heavy lifting for the Rangers by himself.
Midway through the second period of this game, with the Rangers on a power play, the Flyers started playing it rough against the Rangers. Rookie defenseman Behn Wilson roughed up Ranger forward Anders Hedberg in front of the Flyer goal and speared him viciously in the back of the leg, causing Hedberg to lose his balance. Then Wilson gave him a face-wash for good measure. This was in response to a cross-check in the back that he had just received from the Ranger forward.
When play continued, Hedberg, who had lost his helmet in an earlier encounter with Wilson, was belted into the boards by Wilson behind the Flyer goal and a minor skirmish erupted behind the Flyer net. But the referees quickly restored order.
Remarkably, referee Bryan Lewis failed to call a single penalty on anyone following all of this.
The announcers then mentioned that the Flyers' Mel Bridgman was challenging the Ranger bench and he apparently had words with Nick Fotiu, who was on the New York bench.
A little later, when play had resumed, Wilson viciously drove Ranger forward Ron Duguay into the boards from behind, causing another scrum behind the Flyer net. But the Rangers seemed very unwilling to start anything with the Flyers. They seemed intimidated by the Flyers aggressive tactics.
Behn Wilson played a ton in this game, and he continued to stay on the ice. Ranger coach Fred Shero sent out a forward line of Phil Esposito, Dean Talafous and Nick Fotiu. But the Ranger enforcer Fotiu was somewhat timid in this game and didn't lay a single hit on the Flyers throughout the game, despite playing a semi-regular shift. Considering how much abuse the Rangers took in this game, he was conspicuously non-confrontational with the Flyer ruffians. He also did not go after Flyer strongman Dave Hoyda, who had administered a vicious beating to the Rangers Eddie Johnstone the previous season.
Fotiu did vindicate himself somewhat in the playoffs a few months later when he scored a win over the toughest of the Flyers, Wilson, with a punch that, it seems, was in Wilson's head for the rest of his career. That was the only time I ever saw Wilson truly rocked by a punch and as far as I know, Wilson never tried to get a re-match with the Ranger enforcer.
Fotiu once in an interview mentioned how hard it was to go into the Spectrum back then with no backup and, indeed, I have never seen him as quiet in a hockey game as in this game against the Flyers. Every other game I've watched him play in he would take huge runs at players on the opposing teams at every possible opportunity. Sometimes this would lead to a penalty, sometimes not. However, very rarely would anyone from the opposing team try to retaliate. But in this game he seemed to tread a bit more carefully. Fotiu showed that he was human, after all.
| Fun |
Aug 28, 2016 06:52 ET
|Very, very interesting review by racersno5clackson above, and excellent commentary on Nick Fotiu- as tough as he was, apparently it was a little intimidating to face the entire line-up of Flyer enforcers by himself. I confess I have always wondered a little why he never tried to avenge poor Eddie Johnstone after he had taken that sickening three-fight beating from the villainous Hoyda. Great reading.||Reply|