A bench-clearing brawl of epic proportions is the highlight of the P-Bruins' victory over Hershey.
01:00 AM EST on Saturday, November 13, 2004
BY JOE McDONALD
Journal Sports Writer
PROVIDENCE -- The image was amazing.
Opposing goalies slugging it out at center ice, with both benches empty in the background. In fact, the Providence Bruins' Hannu Toivonen and the Hershey Bears' Peter Budaj were the only players on the ice. No coaches or officials, either. The goalies had the spotlight to themselves with 4:08 remaining in the second period.
Bring the house lights down, add a ring, put a spotlight on the unmasked men, add a smoked-filled arena and you have Friday Night Fights.
When the smoke cleared, the Providence Bruins finished the entertaining contest with a 3-2 victory over the Bears, but not before a wild night of events.
The excitement started when the Bears' Jeff Finger lost his helmet near the P-Bruins' bench. When Finger was able to retrieve it, it was filled with snow. So he and Providence captain Jay Henderson had words on the bench, and it continued on the ice.
The two dropped gloves in front of the Hershey net late in the second period, but it wasn't much of a fight as both fell to the ice and were pulled apart by the linesmen.
Since there was less than five minutes remaining in the period, the players were escorted to their respective benches and each disappeared down the runway heading to the locker rooms.
When play resumed, the two players continued to have words in the lower concourse. A couple of Hershey players left the bench and joined Finger. According to Henderson, he had three to four Bears players on him when someone alerted the P-Bruins' bench. Suddenly, both benches emptied and the players on the ice joined in.
Dunkin' Donuts Center security guards attempted to break up the brawl, but reinforcements and Providence police officers also were pressed into service.
"It was kind of a harmless fight," said Henderson. "Four guys came off their bench and jumped on me, and (Brendan) Walsh came off our bench to help me out. So it was unfair for him to get a game misconduct."
Meanwhile, the 7,024 fans witnessed the two goalies battle at center ice. As players began to come back onto the ice, Walsh made his way over to the goalies and as they both ran out of gas. Walsh made sure the two separated. The Bears' Budaj held out his hand and Toivonen shook it.
Since the situation needed to be resolved, the rest of the period -- 4:08 --was suspended until after the intermission.
There was a total of 80 minutes in penalties handed out for the confrontation.
Providence coach Scott Gordon didn't want to talk about the melee, but was happy with the way his team responded afterward. To both teams' credit, the rest of the game was dedicated to hockey, and the P-Bruins came away with an emotional victory.
"From that point on," said Gordon, "our guys said we would settle it on the ice, and they did a great job."
Similar to the Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees bench-clearing melee in late July that jump-started the Sox' season, the P-Bruins are hoping the result will be the same for them.
"I hope so," said Henderson. "I don't know if it will or not, but I like the theory. It's a team-builder. I was proud of the guys, and we all stuck together, which is a good sign of a team."
It's not the first time these two teams have been involved in this type of incident.
For a moment, the American Hockey League contest between the Providence Bruins and the Hershey Bears took a step back in time to a game when the Civic Center was a new building and the team that called Providence home was the Reds.
It was 1977 when the Reds' Steve Durbano and the Bears' Ron Anderson dropped gloves, and continued their fisticuffs in the lower concourse. The benches emptied, but the only difference in the two scenarios was that the goalies passed the puck back and forth to each other while the extra activities went on under the stands.
Now, nearly three decades later, the Providence Bruins put a mark on their young season with an emotional game.