Once upon a time, in the NHL rule book, the section dealing with fighting was entitled “Fisticuffs.” Sadly, because they hate fun, the wording has been changed to just “Fighting” in the current edition.
No matter what they call it, it’s still the only professional sport that allows it in the flow of play. The league has crafted a long and sometimes weird set of guidelines as to what is wrong and right in a fight (rule 46.19: if a player penalized for fighting stops to pick up any of his equipment he could be subjected to an automatic $100 fine).
This is the official definition of a fight according to the NHL:
Officially (at least according to hockeyfights.com) Steven Stamkos has been involved in two fights during his career in the NHL, and they encompass both ends of the fighting definition.
Fight number one (punching and attempted punching):
This fight took place on November 26, 2008, versus New York Rangers Nikolai Zherdev.
Sam Rosen’s “Wow! What is this?” really highlights the fight. There is a clip with the Lightning broadcast, and Rick Peckham’s voice almost cracks when he realizes it’s Stamkos in the fight, but Rosen’s amazement and insistence on pointing out that both players wore shields swayed the decision as to which video to use. Both broadcast crews expressed their wonder that the young rookie was throwing bombs on Nikolai Zherdev.
Stamkos touched this one off with a questionable hit on the Rangers forward along the boards. In 2008 it was a hockey play, in 2016 it would be a .GIF posted on Twitter that would spark 234 comments arguing if it was a hockey play or if Stamkos was a goon [TOTAL goon. - Acha].
As for the fight itself, Stamkos does all right. Once the decision is made, he drops the gloves and starts firing rights. He lands a couple on the side of the head, misses with a haymaker, grabs onto the jersey and then wrestles Zherdev to the ground. Stamkos is clearly the winner of a short, but fun, fight.
Following the game, Stamkos gave credit to his dad, “My dad, he was a pretty aggressive hockey player when he played...he was known for being feisty. I guess with me being his son, I kind of carry on that trait a little bit.”*
There is some context to the fight. It had been 11 games since Stamkos had scored his in first NHL game, and he was dealing with that frustration. Ten days had gone by since Barry Melrose had been fired as head coach, and interim coach Rick Tocchet was demanding his players play tougher on the ice. He was most likely referring to battling for pucks and along the boards as opposed to his number one draft pick bouncing his knuckles off the side of someone’s head, but tougher is tougher.
While Zherdev isn’t a heavyweight, it did show that Stamkos was willing to fight his own battles. As an 18-year-old kid in the NHL, that is important. If he’s willing to drop the gloves and represents himself well, it cuts down on the liberties other teams will take with him. It’s one of those dumb, old-school hockey cliches, but hey, sometimes it works.
Fight number two (wrestling):
This took place on May 22nd, 2015, versus Boston Bruins Brad Marchand
Apologies for the Boston broadcast. Unfortunately there is not a video with another broadcast crew available.
If his first career fight was about standing up for himself, then his second career fight was about standing up for his teammates. Brad Marchand was doing Brad Marchand things. Apparently a “green light hit”, to use Jack Edwards term, is a low-bridge hit made well after someone has passed the puck. There was also a questionable hit earlier in the game by Marchand on Tyler Johnson.
It is also funny to hear Edwards’ comment that Stamkos had “just dropped!” as if the Lightning captain initiated the fight. He dropped the gloves because Marchand had already thrown his off. In the end, the tussle definitely fell under the “wrestle” portion of the rulebook, as neither player actually got a punch off before they hit the ice. So I’d call it a solid draw for this one.
One of the reasons fans of fighting in the NHL champion its continuation is that it can spark a team that might be struggling a bit. The Stamkos/Marchand fight would be a prime example for their cause. Less than a minute after the altercation, the Lightning scored two goals in 15 seconds to blow open a 1-1 game.
After the game, Pierre McGuire praised Stamkos’ willingness to get involved. "Stamkos is like, 'No, I'm the captain. I'm Stamkos. I'm not going to let someone push around an important player on our team.' He fought for his team. That's why he's a champion."
And yes, the “I’m Stamkos.” part of that quote is just as fantastic as you think it is.
Stamkos’ fighting record in the NHL currently sits at 1-0-1, which is pretty good. I’m sure General Manager Steve Yzerman, veteran of nine NHL fights, would be happy if it stayed that way.
*Brant, James. "DOWNIE DEMONSTRATES GOOD GRIT." St.Petersburg TimesNov 29 2008. ProQuest. Web. 2 Feb. 2017 .