For unexperienced hockey fighters, there may not be any real strategy to winning a brawl other than “flail more intensely and accurately than your opponent” and “hold on so you don’t fall on your ass.” But when two properly trained punchers square up on the ice, the resulting competition can be as calculated as it is brutal. In the first period of Sunday’s 5-1 Canucks win over the Panthers, Vancouver defender Erik Gudbranson and Florida center Micheal Haley delivered an actual round of the sweet science to help settle some bad blood between the two teams.
This was the squads’ first meeting since Mike Matheson chokeslammed Canucks wonderkid Elias Pettersson and gave him a concussion back in October, but Matheson refused to fight all night and Pettersson was out with a knee injury. Instead, it was Haley and Gudbranson who filled the void of aggression, and they did so with a scrap that lasted almost a minute.
Like any good fighters, the two spent several seconds feeling each other out at the beginning, and the refs were almost able to jump in and prevent any blows. But once the back-and-forth started, it became a showcase of endurance and determination, with both sides smartly picking their shots and holding their ground. Haley got the bell to ring when he forced an off-balance Gudbranson to the ice, but if this had gone to the scorecards, the reach of the Canuck may have been enough to give him the edge.