The Kings were within a goal in the second period when Calary’s rookie defenseman, Ken Sabourin, ran Wayne Gretzky into the boards as Gretzky was trying to check him off the puck.
It was chaos from that point on as the Kings lost the hockey game, 4-2, and worse, lost three players for the more important game back home Saturday night against the Edmonton Oilers, who pulled into a tie with the Kings for second place in the Smythe Division by winning Thursday night.
John Tonelli will be sitting out a suspension for a spearing penalty, his second stick infraction. And Jay Miller and Ken Baumgartner will be sitting out suspensions that resulted from the second-period brawl.
The Flames will be without four suspended players when they play the Winnipeg Jets tonight--Mark and Tim Hunter, Gary Roberts and Joel Otto. Otto is out for three games for seemingly attempting to strangle linesman Ron Finn later in the game. Mark Hunter was already suspended.
When Gretzky landed in a crumpled heap in the corner at 12 minutes of the second period, to the rescue came Miller, Baumgartner, Steve Duchesne and Ron Duguay, tying up in a scrum with Tim Hunter, Gary Robert, Ric Nattress and Theoren Fleury. While the fists, sticks, gloves and helmets were flying in one big pileup, Gretzky came crawling out from under and tried to stand back.
Then, as the pugilists started to square off, Gretzky tried to break it up. But he couldn’t get all the way out of it. Gretzky, whose philosophy is that fighting has no place in hockey, had to try to hold at least one Flame at bay, because without him, the Kings were outnumbered.
And then, just when the officials seemed to have separated the fighters to their respective corners, Tim Hunter flattened Gretzky right in front of the net.
Baumgartner reports: “It was over, and then Tim Hunter came back and hit Gretzky again, looking right at me, like, ‘What are you going to do about this?’
“I took that as a definite challenge. Sabourin hitting Gretzky? That kind of hit is part of the game, but we had to come over as a show of force, to show that that won’t be tolerated. Tim Hunter hitting him again? That’s a challenge.”
It was Tim Hunter who challenged Marty McSorley in the Flames’ game at the Forum last Saturday night, so enraging McSorley that he ended up with a double game misconduct. Thursday night, there were 193 minutes in penalties called. Saturday night, there were 194, including a bunch on McSorley.
That’s why McSorley wasn’t here tonight. He was afraid the Flames might try to take liberties with Gretzky and Co. in his absence. He was right.
When the fisticuffs resumed, there were some strange mismatches that not even the shadiest of fight promoters could have dreamed up.
Like Tim Hunter vs. Duchesne? Which left Baumgartner vs. Fleury?
It wasn’t a pretty sight.
Baumgartner said: “If Fleury wants to play with the big boys, he’s going to have to take his lumps. But he’s a tough kid.”
Bernie Nicholls didn’t like the idea of Duchesne having to square off against one of the big boys. “Timmy Hunter was beating the hell out of Steve Duchesne. In the exhibition season, he was beating me up. We’ve got a lot of tough guys if Timmmy wants to fight somebody.”
Of course, after that mood-setting brawl, there were more fights and more penalties.
“Thank goodness for the penalties, or we would never have scored,” quipped Nicholls, noting that the Kings’ two goals were both shorthanded goals.
Jim Wiemer, the recently acquired defenseman who scored the game-winner two nights earlier at Edmonton, evened the game, 1-1, at 19:26 of the first period after the five-minute penalty (and game misconduct) on Tonelli.
Wiemer beat goalie Mike Vernon with a slapshot from the left faceoff circle that offset the goal scored by the Flames’ Doug Gilmour just 1:51 into the game.
But the Flames scored the next three goals, all on power plays, to take a 4-1 lead before Steve Kasper added a shorthanded goal at 14:23 of the third period, while Nicholls was in the box for roughing.
Fleury scored consecutive goals in the second and third periods, and Rob Ramage gave the Flames their three-goal lead.
But the Kings had their chances, getting 27 shots to the Flames’ 33.
Cap Raeder, the member of the Kings’ coaching staff designated as spokesman, said: “I was encouraged by the way we played. We had a lot of good chances.”
As for the number of players lost, Raeder said the Kings would likely be calling to New Haven, Conn., for some emergency help.
Kelly Hrudey played well in goal for the Kings, but he had no comment on the incident in which Otto was ejected and then suspended. It began when Otto ran Hrudey into the boards behind the net.
According to King defenseman Dean Kennedy, who was on the ice at the time, Otto never actually punched Finn, but he had “lost it.” He was on top of Finn and he had an arm on his throat and kept pushing him back to the ice as the other officials were trying to pull him off. “I’ve been in situations like that when you get that claustrophobic feeling and you just strike out at anything.”
Hrudey said: “I don’t have to say anything about it. That’s (Otto’s) problem.”
Owner Bruce McNall says there is no truth to the rumor that the Kings are pursuing Vancouver Coach Bob McCammon. “I’ve heard that one, too,” McNall said. “But I don’t know where it’s coming from.” McCammon called the talk “outrageous.”