The last time there was a major brawl in Dallas, Brent Severyn was on the other side.
Sparked by a bad hit on Teemu Selänne by Craig Ludwig, the Dallas Stars and Anaheim Mighty Ducks squared off in a line brawl with a little more than three minutes remaining.
Here was the hit that started everything on March 13, 1998:
On back-to-back face-offs each team dropped the gloves, including this bout between Severyn and Stars defenseman Darryl Sydor.
“I remember sitting at the face-off looking at the people that were across the way from me for the Dallas Stars,” Severyn said. “And this was not going to turn out well for the Dallas Stars, because they didn’t put out their tough guys.”
It did not end well for Sydor.
“I’m afraid so,” Severyn said.
Severyn and Sydor were actually teammates one year later when the Stars won the Stanley Cup in 1999, and Severyn is now part of the Stars broadcast as a studio analyst on Fox Sports Southwest.
With the Stars dropping the gloves six times against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday, I decided to get some insight into the bouts and evolution of the evening from a hockey fight expert, who had 67 fighting majors in his career according to HockeyFights.com.
Against the Florida it started with an innocent play. Panthers goalie James Reimer was injured on a non-contact play, but Antoine Roussel was in the area and with the Frenchmen’s reputation, the Panthers immediately jumped to a conclusion and Keith Yandle dropped the gloves.
It did not end well for Yandle.
“You know what? It’s kind of like Darryl Sydor coming at me,” Severyn said. “That’s not going to turn out well for Yandle. But you’ve got to give him all the props in the world for getting out there and protecting his goalie, who he thought got steamrolled.”
From there Radek Faksa became the primary combatant, fighting both Michael Haley and Derek MacKenzie in the first period.
“He is playing a stronger tougher game now, if you notice, he is always in the mix now,” Severyn said. “Not only is he playing well defensively, but he’s checking hard. And he’s getting in there and bumping and grinding every game and he’s starting to get people angry at him.”
That’s what caused the first fight with Haley, a bit hit along the boards while the wounds were still fresh from the Yandle vs. Roussel bout. Faksa didn’t have the best luck in the first fight, Haley is a more experienced battler, while he stood up pretty well against the Panthers captain.
Around the same time Faksa was fighting MacKenzie, Dillon Heatherington got into his second career NHL fight against Alex Petrovic. Petrovic had been trying to get at Roussel, but the rookie defenseman jumped in for a bout that was more or less a draw.
While Heatherington was disqualified from the game along with Petrovic, it’s against the rules to be the second fight during a stoppage, it’s a moment that Severyn said would endear the rookie to Stars coach Ken Hitchcock.
“This is what Hitch likes,” Severyn said. “He likes the big strong defenseman, he likes the big team. I don’t know where it stands now, after they traded (Jamie) Oleksiak, but at the start of the year this was the biggest and heaviest team he ever had. And the kid, he did well, and his teammates will notice what he did.”
The fights took a step back after that, but returned in the third period.
Connor Brickley took a run at Brett Ritchie, and Ritchie responded with a resounding victory.
“I think Ritchie’s fight was good,” Severyn said. “He got the kid down, gave him a couple extra when he was on the ice. This is where I think I disagree with a lot of people, if you get ran — whether it’s a good hit or not — I think there should be retribution for that. It settles you down and settles the other team down, and it lets them know that you’re gonna take that.”
Twenty-three seconds later Stephen Johns fought Jamie McGinn. It was a bout the Stars were prepared for, instead of a traditional lefty-righty pairing on the ice, Hitchcock had put both Greg Pateryn and Johns on the ice — a pair of righties, but easily his biggest and toughest defenseman.
“That’s a good move, you’ve got to read the situation,” Severyn said. “As a tough guy when I played and when that score went from 3-1 to 4-1, it’s on. Time to chalk up the knuckles, because it’s coming.”
“What something like this shows me, and what I learned from brawls in my career,” Severy said. “Is it kind of brings the team closer together, because they know that they’re going to stand up for each other.”