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Ryan Reaves reflects on tilt with Matt Rempe, the current culture of fighting

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Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Arun Srinivasan
21 days ago
Toronto Maple Leafs forward Ryan Reaves joined Nick Alberga and Jay Rosehill on Thursday’s edition of Leafs Morning Take, where he reflected upon his first year with the club. Reaves completed the first year of a three-year contract inked last summer and brought an element of physicality that was sorely lacking in previous years.
The 37-year-old hit the ground running, getting into a spirited tilt with Montreal Canadiens enforcer Arber Xhekaj on opening night, before getting into the most anticipated fight of the season when he squared off against New York Rangers sensation Matt Rempe.
Reaves reflected on his instant classic fight against Rempe, which took place on March 2.
“It was kind of cool to see because of all the talk of ‘fighting is leaving hockey and all this’ but all of a sudden for a week, there was no talk about the game, it was ‘is Reaves going to fight Rempe?’ That’s all it was. It was kind of cool to see all that build-up to it,” Reaves said.
“Now, with all that build-up, we go into the first period and I thought ‘maybe we get this over with’ so I asked him and he said no, so fair enough. So we played the rest of the period… I think it was at the end of the second or beginning of the third where he buried Lyubushkin and hurt him. And then I didn’t have a shift against him for a while, and we had a shift later in that third. I said ‘hey, you buried Boosh, now you have to answer the bell!’ He kind of looked — I’m assuming his coach was telling him not to do it because he had a bunch in a row there. And he kind of looked at the bench and got the OK, and that was that.”
Reaves previously told reporters that Rempe was ‘the longest guy’ he’s ever fought in his NHL career, a testament to Rempe’s lasting power considering the veteran’s longevity.

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Rempe became a national point of interest upon joining the Rangers, getting into five fights during his first seven NHL games, while playing for a genuine Stanley Cup contender in the media capital of the world. His bruised-and-battered visage conjured up memories of a bygone NHL and Reaves spoke about the dual qualities of Rempe’s entry point into the league.
“I mean, a little bit of both. I thought it was great for the game. It’s good for me, it’s good for my job for sure. You’ve got new guys coming in and teams are going to be looking for protection. It’s good for guys like me and it’s our job.
“On the other hand, if you’re just stepping in and asking everyone to go, all the heavyweights, you’ve got to pay your dues. He wasn’t going about it in a bad way. There were maybe a couple of hits that got away from him and you don’t want to start with that reputation. But we had a little chat in the box, he seems like a nice kid. He doesn’t seem like some idiot running around trying to goon everybody up. From the little chat we had, he seems like a nice, humble kid. Good for him, man! It’s hard to break into the league doing that job and good for him for doing it.”
It’s an interesting point of view from Reaves, who has been one of his generation’s leading enforcers, all the while aiming to play to his strengths on a high-octane Maple Leafs’ offense that led the NHL in 5-on-5 goals. It appears that fighting still has its place in hockey with Reaves overseeing the next generation of fighters.
Reaves also reflected on his opening night fight with Xhekaj, with a tongue-in-cheek message for Canadiens fans:
“I wasn’t overly happy with that fight, either. He kinda jumped me and then, kind of pushed me into the net. Montreal fans were going crazy but hey, I’ve got two years left on the contract, I’ve got lots of time.”
Reaves isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, nor is fighting in professional hockey and his first season with the Maple Leafs provided us all with some of the best tilts of the year.

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