Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Oilers vs Kings War, a classic from Feb. 28, 1990
McSorley claims Messier started things; Ex-Oiler will get gate
Stories by JIM MATHESON Journal Staff Writer. Edmonton Journal. Edmonton, Alta.: Mar 2, 1990
The 3-hour Cold War was over and Marty McSorley was thawing out in the Los Angeles Kings' bathhouse.
The former Oiler had been a key figure in Wednesday's ugly Kings-Edmonton fiasco that produced more penalties - 86 - than any game in National Hockey League history.
When McSorley and MVP candidate Mark Messier tangled 95 seconds in, it was the start of a long night of ugly, stupid brawling.
"I'm not saying I'm innocent but I think if you see the tape, you see Mess drop his gloves first," said McSorley.
By the time the game ended, seven players had been ejected, five of them Oilers including Glenn Anderson for having tape on his hand during a fight.
McSorley got two game misconducts with 26 seconds to go, his fourth and fifth of the year, which means he's automatically suspended for four games.
The late flurry of penalties broke the Boston-Minnesota record of 84 set on Feb. 26, 1981 but the 356 minutes fell short of the all-time record of 406 the Bruins and North Stars rang up in the same game.
Brian Benning, who was pummelled by Oiler Steve Smith late in the second period in one of many fights that broke out between pugilists and normal pacifists, drew a game misconduct for cross-checking Jari Kurri on the side of the head with 3:20 to play.
That set the scene for a repeat of Jan. 25 when the Finn was nicked by McSorley's stick and the Oilers got three power-play goals.
But the Oilers couldn't convert this time and eventually lost 4-2 as Wayne Gretzky's sealed things with a short-handed empty-net goal.
No. 99 was lucky he was still in the game.
"He should have gotten a third-man-in in the Benning-Smitty fight," said Jeff Beukeboom, who eventually sat on Gretzky.
McSorley denied he deliberately went after Messier.
"I wasn't looking to send a message. We bumped heads and you don't want to lose any ground," said McSorley, who'd been more interested in getting Tikkanen out of Gretzky's hair in previous games.
"He went after me for sure. I wasn't expecting it at all," said Messier, who's no shrinking violet but hasn't had a fight all season. "I don't know why he'd want to do it, but as far as I'm concerned, he instigated the whole thing.
"Why? I guess he's trying to do what's best for his team. Disappointed in him? I guess all's fair in love and war."
What bothered the Oilers most was that McSorley didn't fight Kelly Buchberger or Dave Brown.
"Whatever Marty tried to do, it worked," said Oiler coach Ted Green. "He started it, then finished it and he didn't have to fight a tough guy. It was obvious what his game plan was, and he followed it."
"I lost some respect for Marty," said Oiler head coach John Muckler. "He sure picked his spots. He wouldn't accept the challenge of Buchberger or Brown."
McSorley, one of the game's premiere heavyweights, didn't feel the time was right to battle the Oiler sluggers.
"I've got to be on the ice," he said. "There's a time and place to make a stance. We had a two-goal (2-0) lead. You don't change the momentum of the game against guys who don't play much."
Brown laughed when asked if he thought McSorley ducked him.
"What do you think? You can see out on the ice what was going on. I don't think anything would have started if Marty hadn't fought Mess."
McSorley made no apologies, noting that the Oiler heavyweights also went after some of the smaller Kings.
"We had guys on the bottom of piles in two fights. Kelly hit a few of our smaller guys. Kelly hit Tomas (Sandstrom). Dave Brown did the same thing," he said.
Blame McSorley for this ugliness
JOHN SHORT. Edmonton Journal. Edmonton, Alta.: Mar 2, 1990.
If you agree the Edmonton Oilers won the battles but lost the war Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Kings, credit the two points to former Oiler Marty McSorley.
Starting with an assault on captain Mark Messier, McSorley suckered his ex-mates into an almost-endless evening of tugging, hauling, punching and brawling.
At least one suspension seems automatic. Oiler Glenn Anderson entered a fight with tape on his hands, a precaution normally reserved for men who fight in rings and put thumbless gloves over the tape.
After the Oilers lost any lingering semblance of discipline, the Kings won an important Smythe Division victory and stretched Edmonton's losing streak to three games.
McSorley's approach was obviously based on tactics employed by Calgary Flame pest Neil Sheehy in 1986.
As I recall, there were only two clear differences:
* Sheehy wore No. 5. McSorley wears No. 33.
* Sheehy sported a beard that made him look like an unemployed pro wrestler. McSorley's open face makes him look like a 235-pound choir boy.
Sheehy, now a Washington Capital, entered Edmonton's sports hall of infamy by whacking Wayne Gretzky at every opportunity, then burying his head and refusing to look at big opponents.
Gretzky was Edmonton's superstar of the day. McSorley was Edmonton's leading goon, visibly incensed that Sheehy intentionally violated the unwritten NHL rule that says goons can't start brawls with real hockey players.
Goons can learn, too.
These days, Messier is in the same untouchable category as Gretzky. He can't afford to fight because the team can't afford to lose his scoring, so hulking teammates are supposed to provide protection.
After inciting the Oilers by challenging Messier, McSorley pulled another Sheehy-type move. He skated miles to avoid any chance of a meeting with Dave Brown or Kelly Buchberger unless other Kings were in the neighborhood.
Only after the long-overdue ejections of both Oiler musclemen in the third period did McSorley condescend to fight. As Sheehy had done before him, McSorley took great care to seek only smaller foes.
He should have been more careful. After jousts with Jari Kurri, Peter Klima, Craig Simpson and other certified non-combatants, McSorley made a miscalculation and was battered rather thoroughly by large Steve Smith.
Although Sheehy's tactics cost the Oilers both their poise and a Smythe Division final in those dark, distant days, McSorley's style as a villain was at least equally obnoxious.
In approved WWF style, he was positively despicable. All he needed was a foreign object in his trunks.
Evidence aside, McSorley says he didn't intend to start a mini-war.
"I wasn't intending to send a message or anything. We bumped heads. You don't want to lose ground."
Messier and McSorley have a little-remembered history of conflict.
When both were younger and McSorley was a fringe player with the Pittsburgh Penguins, they exchanged fisticuffs twice in one game. McSorley lost both decisions and suffered large cuts over both eyes.
McSorley didn't lose any blood Wednesday night but he may have lost some respect among his friends.
Had he accepted a fistic challenge from Brown or Buchberger early in the game, as goons are required to do, chances are Tomas Sandstrom would not be resting an eye injury and Peter Prajsler would not have stitches in his face.
There is an ongoing theory that on-ice scrapping is a safety valve, preferable to the indiscriminate and dangerous use of sticks in hockey.
It only works when so-called tough guys fight and real athletes play the game.
As I said, McSorley's antics probably won the game for Los Angeles. I suspect the price of victory was too high.
The game was a disgrace. No sport can survive such ugliness for long.