Bertuzzi incident puts black mark on 6-1 Marlies victory

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There are a lot of good stories that should be talked about tonight. William Nylander stole everybody’s hearts yet again with a pair of goals. Richard Panik went full early 90’s Adam Oates and had four assists. TJ Brennan is near a point per game again.. Frank Corrado is starting to get back into game shape, and Garret Sparks saw his save percentage go from beer league to near the league’s best in a matter of hours. 

We shouldn’t be talking about Tyler Bertuzzi tonight, but yet, here were are. These are the type of moments that make people take the American Hockey League less seriously.

Let’s run through what’s wrong with everything going on here, in terms of the direct incident.

Everybody on the Griffins and Marlies starts to pair off in what looks like your typical pushing and shoving scrum. Bertuzzi is no stranger to playing with an edge, having always been a 1.5-2 penalty minute a game type of player with the Guelph Storm. He doesn’t get in quick enough to find a player of his own grit level, so he grabs one about a year younger than him, Kasperi Kapanen.

Grab, in this case, isn’t a metaphor. Kapanen has no interest in fighting and is basically in the scrum for solidarity. Bertuzzi literally pulls Kapanen into open ice. Kapanen takes two glove punches to the facial area before he pulls his second arm up in defence, to keep Bertuzzi from doing more. It doesn’t matter. Third punch. Fourth punch. Fifth.

Bertuzzi is going nowhere with it and knows it. Normally, this is when a player either gives up or tries to find a new opponent. Bertuzzi, however, pulls out his leg, slew foots Kapanen, and as the 19-year-old Finn is losing balance, throws him down. He then shakes his hair back and stands around, his “message” apparently sent.

I know what you’re thinking. If the Marlies didn’t want this to happen, why didn’t anybody defend Kapanen? But take a look at the background. Stuart Percy and Justin Holl both get paired off with Tomas Nosek and Xavier Ouellet, respectively. They don’t make a big deal out of things yet because things don’t look too bad at this point, and trying to break off is a great way to start a brawl.

Besides, Sam Carrick and Nikita Soshnikov have them covered. Both of them, Carrick in the background and Soshnikov behind the view of the camera, are very obviously furious and trying to get over to address Bertuzzi. Carrick is held back by a linesman, who is backed up by Robbie Russo. On the other side, the other linesman is holding back Soshnikov, while Anthony Mantha stands guard of that situation. Kapanen had teammates trying to help him; they just, well, couldn’t.

This leaves the lone remaining official to break up Bertuzzi and Kapanen. I know you’re reading this and saying “that’s only three officials, though”, and you’re correct in that statement. Despite the fact that the AHL is making more money than ever, and despite NHL teams using it for development more than ever, it’s rare to see an AHL game use four officials, despite that being the standard in the NHL, major junior, college hockey, most of Europe, any significant IIHF tournament, and even a lot of Junior A leagues. 

The lone official spends his time doing a lot of pointing and yelling. I’m going to assume that he’s staying away from breaking up the situation because he feels it hasn’t escalated yet and because that leaves all three officials with tied hands while four Griffins skate around with two Marlies. This is a case where that fourth official would be useful.

Alternatively, not having players who want to fight being prevented from taking on the guy bullying their teammate could have worked too. But in the heat of the moment, I understand that’s a risky allowance.

Sheldon Keefe seemed none too pleased about the incident. “I’m sure it will be looked at” said Toronto’s head coach in regards the potential for a suspension. “I’m not sure how Kappy’s doing here; he was a little shook up on the play. I’m sure he’ll be alright, but there was no doubt an intent to injure here, and you never like to see that”.

Bertuzzi received a match penalty for the incident, but you would hope that this isn’t the end of the line. The short term hope would be a suspension if only to give the player a hint that actions like that aren’t accepted at the professional level. Long term, however, I’d hope that a situation like this pushes the league to consider adding a second referee; an extra set of hands likely defuses the situation before it escalates to the level that it did.

Toronto ultimately ended up with the last laugh, in any event. Twenty-three seconds after play resumed, the Marlies took advantage of the ensuing powerplay, and Brendan Leipsic ended his goalless drought while giving Rinat Valiev his first professional point.

Like I said, there were a lot of positive storylines in this game. Unfortunately, they lost the spotlight to silliness.

  • Jeremy Ian

    Bertuzzi is an embarrassment. But the ref who stood around barking and waving should also be dragged before the carpet. He watched the whole thing unfold.

    • Jeremy Ian

      Sorry but I need to stand up for the ref on this one… The guys wearing the red stripes are never to involve themselves between players; their job is to observe and record penalties. This is especially important if team brawls are happening. How was he to know that buddy would slew foot him? It is not his responsibility to get in between

      • Jeremy Ian

        Simply untrue. You think refs don’t communicate with players?

        Of course he has no idea just how bottomless someone like Bertuzzi can get. But if he wanted to find out, then he should have done exactly what he did. Great way to advance the game.

        I don’t have time to dig around on ahl rules, but remember the Emery-Holtby “fight” a few years ago. Here’s Kerry Fraser’s take:

        http://www2.tsn.ca/blogs/kerry_fraser/?id=435837

        Does not concord with your view of reffing. Here’s a quote:

        Since Braden Holtby was not a willing combatant I would have been much more assertive and aggressive in gaining a position in front of Emery, placed both hands on his outer arms and flexed my knees to gain a position of leverage and strength. It is extremely important for a Ref who places himself in this position to talk Ray Emery down so that the player does not respond with aggression toward the official.

        “I would have said, “Ray, my friend, listen to me. Nothing good can happen for you here. I cannot and will not let you get past me. We’ll be in for a rough ride and you don’t want to be physically aggressive with me because I would hate to see you get an automatic 20-game suspension!” With the death grip I would have placed on him, Ray Emery would know that I meant business. None of this happened, however, and Ray the former boxer launched a barrage of punches that hit the target.

        Once Emery quickly got the upper hand in this fight and Holtby was incapacitated I would have grabbed/tied up Emery’s punching arm and slipped my chest and body in front of the Flyer fighter and skated him backward with my legs driving quickly and forcefully. I would immediately talk with the player to get his mind distracted and his adrenaline under control.”

        And that’s even AS the fight is going on, not (as in this case, while Bertuzzi is plugging Kapanen in the face repeatedly.

        So, sorry man. Can’t agree with you.

  • Gary Empey

    Suspend the coach as well. This is the bush league type of hockey the NHL wants to get out of the game.

    Piccinich and Marner both netted two vs Windsor tonight, Korostelev got a goal & assist for Sarnia, Bracco added his third assist in two games with Kitchener. Dzierkals scored his 10th of the season, Timashov set up the game tying goal for Quebec vs Halifax, and Cody Donaghey scored the OT winner!

  • Three thoughts:

    – The even worse thing about this situation is that Carrick, who was aggressively trying to shake loose of the linesman to protect Kapanen, is probably going to get suspended too because of the game misconduct he got.

    – It’s somewhat reassuring to know that “Bertuzzi is a douche” is a phrase that will live on through a second generation. Sadly, just like his uncle, he doesn’t need crap like this in his game – he’s a good player without it. He was all over the Marlies in the playoffs last year.

    – This officiating crew was already going to be on the carpet with the league for this game. That mess with the penalty timing (down 5 on 3 and Gauthier takes a penalty – the officials don’t start counting his time until the 2nd penalty ends, instead of the 1st, so he spends 47 seconds extra in the box) was ridiculous. If none of the officials have even a basic understanding of the rules, they’re in trouble.

    • CMpuck

      I don’t want to see another Steve Moore incident.. which I’m sure is bound to happen as Tyler was quoted saying he was “meaner” than his uncle when asked to describe himself as a player.

  • dougie88

    While the situation was not ideal, the referee is not supposed to get involved in any altercation. He is the only person who is allowed to call penalties (majors not included), and is not supposed to be tied up with 2 players. To the person saying that him yelling and pointing wasn’t enough, that’s all he’s allowed to do under the referee/linesman system. Even in a 4 man system, the second referee is only supposed to get involved if absolutely necessary.

    • Jeremy Ian

      That was me. I didn’t say he should jump between the players. But if he can’t command enough authority in a situation in which no one is fighting (yet) and remind the most belligerent player on the ice that he’s on thin ice (as it were), he’s lost control even before the fight. The refs’ roles are NOT just to punish, but to deter.

  • CMpuck

    I never understood this, if someone is punching you, even if he’s bigger than you, you’re in a fight and need to defend yourself.

    It’s the same thing with Moore, what good did turning his back to a legitimate threat do for himself? Now he can’t walk because he made a bad decision.

    I’m not excusing what either Bertuzzi did, being from Sudbury Todd’s d-bagness in general is well documented in this city. That said, not impressed how either Moore or Kapananen handled themselves.

    • CMpuck

      I never comment on forums but your post pissed me off enough to do so. I’d like to see you in a situation where you have in his prime Mike Tyson in front of you picking a fight with you for no reason. You’ve never wronged, him don’t even know him. Knowing full well he’d cave your head in if you actually tried to fight him. I’m pretty sure you would have done either of the strategies these two took to diffuse the situation and not actually fight.

      It’s not up to a skilled 1st round talent like Kapanenen to oblige a never going to make it goon like Bertuzzi. He also shouldn’t have to turtle up and look like a bitch either to “defend himself”. Bertuzzi should be fined and suspended enough that he or other goons know better in the future

      • CMpuck

        Bertuzzi has 2 inches and 10lbs on Kapenin….calling him Mike Tyson is beyond absurd.

        The slewfoot was ridiculous and should be a suspension. The punches to the face….fight back.

        I wouldn’t play with a guy in beer league that let somebody do that to him, How are his teammates supposed to respect a guy that sits there and just takes it? You might think that sounds macho and ridiculous……but they’re in a locker room, a very macho environment.

        Kapanen f’d up here.

        • magesticRAGE

          Believe it or not, being punched in the face is not a skillset that everyone has. If say Tie Domi decides to pick on an unsuspecting Letang, you’d expect him to fight back? Doing that would antagonize the situation. Nobody is fighting for a man card here, but one is trying to be an NHL player.

  • CMpuck

    “Kapanen f’d up here.”

    That is without a doubt one of the most rediculous things I have read. Ever.

    Kapanen has no intent to fight anyone here. He’s in the scrum to help seperate guys and keep the peace. He shouldn’t have to fight just because some goon pulls him away from everyone and starts laying into him.

    As far as Bertuzzi goes, I hope he gets a maximum suspension for his actions. You are trying to fight someone who clearly isnt interested in doing so. Be a man and walk away. To slew foot him and throw him head first into the ice is bush league. Who in their right mind does that?

    I say all this not as a Marlies fan, but as a hockey fan in general. There is no place in the game for garbage like that.