CALGARY – Sure enough, the Oilers got a chance to retaliate with a stick flip of their own.
It came with 24 seconds left in the second period, a split-second before the first goalie versus goalie fight in the Battle of Alberta’s history.
Yep, you read that right.
Despite all the bad blood flowing for decades between north and south of this great province, it took a matchup between goalies who switched sides this summer to come to blows.
With Cam Talbot throwing blockers into the face of Alex Chiasson as part of an old-school melee in the Flames end, Mike Smith skated to centre ice with hopes of attracting a dance partner.
As Matthew Tkachuk and Ethan Bear traded punches and several others wrestled one another to the ice, Talbot obliged, prompting Smith to first toss his stick, much like David Rittich did to punctuate his shootout triumph Wednesday. His mask and gloves followed.
“Old fashioned hockey right there,”said Smith, one of the few goalies to earn the career Gordie Howe hat trick.
“Obviously Talbot gets in there and mixes up a little bit, throws some blockers. I didn’t really like that. I was just seeing what was happening there. He obliged.”
Sporting some swelling on his forehead, Talbot said he regretted being ejected, forcing Rittich to return.
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“I didn’t like the fact (Sam Gagner) comes in and spears me when I’m on my back after the whistle,” said Talbot of his rationale for engaging in his first NHL fight.
“It kind of sets you off. I reacted accordingly. Probably not the smartest reaction on my part. It was a highly emotional game and my emotions got the best of me.”
If there was ever any doubt Rittich’s inadvertent Joey Bautista impression rubbed the Oilers the wrong way Wednesday, their anger was on display as they chirped Rittich while he skated to the bench after being pulled earlier.
Smith and others confirmed it afterwards.
“I’m not going to start a media circus here – I was fortunate enough to play with Ritter so I have a relationship with him,” said Smith.
“He’s a fiery guy, but sometimes it goes a little too far. I think sometimes what goes around comes around.”
Added Leon Draisaitl, “It’s just disrespectful. We hit two posts and he’s celebrating like they just won the Stanley Cup. I get it. They’re excited. Good for them. They won the game in the shootout. But show some respect.”
The goalie fight was simply another product of intense hatred between two rivals, fuelled by a scrum started with Gagner poking a puck that was underneath Talbot into the net. As the goal was waved off, Mark Giordano jumped Gagner and all hell broke loose.
Talbot went after former Flame Alex Chiasson, Andrew Mangiapane tackled Chiasson and Smith awaited the main event.
Once Talbot got to centre, the six-foot-four, 196-pound netminder was greeted with a series of furious rights by the six-foot-five Smith who outweighs Talbot by 25 pounds.
As the officials skated through a tangled mess of lumber, gloves and helmets, they decided to send both teams to the dressing rooms to sort out the issues.
When they returned from the intermission for the final 24 seconds of the second period, both goalies had been ejected. Unfortunately from there, sanity prevailed, with no sign of Milan Lucic for the fourth time in the battle.
A discussion for another day.
“You’re trying to get at something there and I’m not going there,” said Flames coach Geoff Ward when asked if he’d seen enough of Lucic the last three games against Edmonton.
“I have a long history with that player and he’s been good for us this year. I’m not going there.”
The media will on Monday, when the man acquired to be a nuclear deterrent will get his say on how he saw things unfold.
In a game the nation must have watched in awe, there were 75 shots, 11 goals, four goalies, three fights and two fans in turtle suits as part of an 8-3 win for the Oilers – their first in four provincial matchups this year.
The goalie grappling represented the NHL’s first all-netminder fight since Braden Holtby and Ray Emery went at it in 2013.
When reached in Arizona during the game, Grant Fuhr said he was shocked to hear no other goalie tandem got at each other during the Battle before.
“I know, and there have been some ugly games,” said Fuhr, who was asked if he recalled fighting anyone as an Oiler or Flame.
“No, but four or five bench clearing brawls.”
In a game the Oilers led 2-0 just 65 seconds in, the Flames played catch up all night.
Buddy Robinson’s first as a Flame ignited a raucous Saturday night crowd filled with Oilers faithful, only to have Connor McDavid score back-to-back goals, ending Rittich’s night… For the time being.
Between those two goals, Robinson tried turning the tide by fighting Jujhar Khaira, to no avail.
Talbot made several huge stops immediately to help the lift the Flames claw back to with one following goals by Tkachuk and Elias Lindhom. Alas, a minute later Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored and the route was on.
The Oilers controlled play most of the evening, outshooting the hosts by a whopping 49-26, to give the Oilers a feeling of superiority they earned.
They deserved the win, and with it, sole possession of second place in the Pacific, ahead of the fourth-place Flames by two.
In Calgary, the talking point will be Lucic, and the goalie fight.
“I think that’s obviously just the cherry on top a little bit,” said Draisaitl.
“Respect to both goalies for doing that. Obviously Smitty’s a tough customer out there. That was an entertaining game.”
They next meet on the final game of the season, in Calgary Apr. 4.
Croatia coach sends Canada a stern message ahead of World Cup showdown
Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic sent Canada a message Saturday at the World Cup. And he didn’t need the F-word to deliver it.
Dalic offered up a stern statement when asked about John Herdman’s emotional words after Canada’s 1-0 loss to Belgium on Wednesday.
Asked in a pitchside interview what he had said to his team in a post-game huddle, the Canada coach replied: “I told them they belong here and we’re going to go and eff— Croatia. That’s as simple as it gets.”
While Herdman delivered the last line with a smile, Dalic clearly did not see the humour.
When a Canadian reporter at Saturday’s pre-game news conference asked Dalic for his team’s response to Herdman’s heat, the Croatia coach lectured his opposition ahead of Sunday’s showdown at Khlalifa International Stadium.
Dalic used the word “respect” 12 times in his answer.
“The Croatian team deserves respect from everyone … We respect everyone, equally so,” he said through an interpreter. “We expect our opposing teams to respect us. We are worthy of their respect. The Canadians must also have respect for us. This way of putting words together is not a sign of respect. We are the (2018 World Cup runners-up), not Brazil, Spain or other countries.”
“I shall not focus or comment on any other people’s comments,” he added. “We will be prepared (Sunday), we will be fit and we will demonstrate respect for Canada … and for everyone else. We expect respect just as we exercise this view”
Croatian forward Ivan Perisic then backed up his coach, saying simply: “I second the head coach and I cannot wait for the match to begin.”
Sunday may prove otherwise but it seems, motivationally speaking, Canada has taken a knife to a gunfight.
Both the 41st-ranked Canadians and No. 12 Croatia need to get points out of the match. Belgium tops Group F with three points while Croatia and Morocco both have one point after their scoreless draw.
Canada needs to secure at least a point if it hopes to have any chance of reaching the knockout round. A loss Sunday and the Canadians can finish with no more than three points while Croatia ups its total to four. And no matter what happens in Sunday’s match between No. 2 Belgium and No. 22 Morocco, one of those teams will have at least four points.
With only two teams advancing out of the group, that would render Canada’s final group game next Thursday with Morocco meaningless in terms of tournament progression.
“At the end of the day, both teams really have to win this game,” said Herdman.
Croatian reporters didn’t bother engaging Zlatko on Herdman’s inflammatory words. They had already done so, with tabloids back home having a field day.
In contrast, three of the first four questions in Herdman’s availability were about his post-game hot take. Another came later.
The Canada coach, who had already addressed the issue on Thursday, tried to laugh off the reaction he had sparked in the Croatia camp.
He insisted he was on task “and loving the experience.” And he rejected the assertion that his words were just another motivational tool.
“We’ve been waiting 36 years to get here. I’ve used all my motivation tactics in the 20-odd games it took to get here,” he said in self-deprecating fashion.
But he maintained his words to his players in the post-game huddle after Belgium were simply “to remind them that there’s another task ahead.”
And he was quick to compliment Croatia, calling it a “top top top top football team.”
“(A) hell of a test. Hell of a test for this team,” he added. “But we’re excited.”
Herdman called Sunday’s match a “defining moment for Canada in this World Cup. It’s one of those do-or-die games now that we have to perform in to stay at a World Cup.”
Dalic, meanwhile, called Canada “a tough team full of self-confidence.”
The two sides have never met before.
The Croatian roster features the likes of Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Perisic (Tottenham), Marcelo Brozovic (Inter Milan), Mateo Kovacic (Chelsea) and Mario Pasalic (Atalanta). Only six of its 26-man roster play at home in Croatia, with four of those at Dinamo Zagreb.
Despite that talent, Croatia had its hands full with No. 22 Morocco in its tournament opener, playing to a scoreless draw in a game that saw each team put just two shots on target.
Croatia goes into Sunday’s match riding a seven-game unbeaten streak (5-0-2) dating back to a 3-0 loss to Austria in June in UEFA Nations League play. Croatia avenged that defeat with a 3-1 decision over the Austrians in September.
Croatia has outscored the opposition 9-3 over that run, which includes a win and tie against No. 4 France.
“With all due respect to Croatia, they have a very very good team. It’s going to be tough for us,” said Canadian midfielder Stephen Eustaquio. “But it’s going to be tough for them as well.”
The Canadians, who blamed traffic for showing up 41 minutes late for their news conference before the Belgium game, arrived two minutes early Saturday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2022.
Croatian coach feels disrespected by Canadian coach’s comment at FIFA World Cup
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DOHA, Qatar — Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalic said he felt disrespected by Canada head coach John Herdman for his comment in a group huddle following a loss to Belgium on Wednesday.
After the emotional 1-0 loss at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, Herdman gathered his troops on the field and gave an impassioned speech.
When asked following the game what he told his team, Herdman admitted he told his group to ‘F’ Croatia, in reference to Canada’s second game at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
On the eve of the game Sunday (11 a.m. ET) at the Khalifa International Stadium, Croatian coach Zlatko Zlatko Dalic was again asked about the comment at the pre-match press conference here on Saturday.
“Canadians must have respect for us and this way of putting words together is not a sign of respect,” Dalic said through an interpreter. “We are the runners up (2018 World Cup), it wasn’t Brazil or Spain or any other country. We are the runners up, we were second in the world, we are worth of respect the way we played, the way we behave, the way we respect all others, is the reason we are worthy or respect.
“I shall not focus or comment on other people’s comment. We will be prepared, be fit and we will demonstrate respect from Canada and from everyone else. We expect respect just as we exercise this view.”
Croatia was a surprising World Cup finalist four years ago in Russia, beating England in the semifinal before losing to France. Along the way, Croatia also beat Argentina in the group stage.
Croatia was held to a scoreless draw in its opening match by Morocco on Wednesday. Croatia concluded the group stage against Belgium on Thursday.
“The Croatia team deserves respect from everyone; we have proven that by the way we’ve played with our conduct at the World Cup; since the very beginning we’ve deserved respect and dignity,” Dalic said. “We have two (World Cup) medals in the last 30 years and we’re up there with Germany and France and countries like that have such an achievement. We respect everyone equally so we expect our opposing teams to respect us. We are worth of their respect.”
Croatia striker Ivan Perisic was also asked for his thoughts on Herdman’s comments.
“I second the head coach,” he said. “And I cannot wait for the match to begin.”
Canada coach Herdman jokes about Croatian tabloid
DOHA, Qatar –
Canada had just lost its first World Cup match in 36 years, outplaying Belgium for much of a 1-0 defeat, and an emotional John Herdman revealed in the on-field interview what he had just told his players during a postgame huddle.
“I told them they belong here. And we’re going to go and F Croatia,” the coach said with a smile, using a single letter to avoid a televised profanity. “That’s as simple as it gets.”
His words reverberated all the way to Zagreb as Sunday’s Croatia-Canada game approached.
Croatia’s 24 Sata (24 Hours) tabloid ran a fullpage photo of a naked Herdman with Maple Leaf flags over his mouth and private parts and a headline that translated to: “You have the mouth, but do you have the (guts) as well?”
Commenting Saturday on Herdman’s words, Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic used the word “respect” 13 times in a 90-second span.
“This way of putting words together is not a sign of respect,” he said through a translator. “The way we play, the way we behave and the way we respect all others are the reasons we are worthy of respect.”
Sitting next to Dalic, winger Ivan Perisic said simply: “I second the head coach and I cannot wait for the match to begin.”
Speaking before Dalic, Herdman used humour in an attempt to defuse tensions.
“When you get a text from your wife telling me you need to start working out before you get home, yeah, you think you know something’s going on,” Herdman said, noting the newspaper image was of a trimmer midsection than his own.
“My wife’s coming after you guys,” he told a reporter from that Croatian paper, laughing. “She wishes she got that guy. I’ve got a bit more of a belly than that. I’ve been eating too much.”
On Thursday, Herdman had explained what his intent was.
“You say those things in an impassioned moment trying to inspire your team in a huddle, and when you’re asked the question what you said in that huddle, yeah, it was what I said,” he said.
“It’s not massively respectful to Croatian people and the Croatian national team. I understand very well where they’re at on the world stage. But in that moment, you’ve taken your men to that next place,” he added.
Playing Croatia for the first time, Canada could be eliminated with another defeat.
Croatia, which lost the 2018 final to France, is the world’s 12th-ranked team and opened with a 0-0 draw against Morocco. Star Luka Modric, playing what is likely his last World Cup at age 37, put a first-half shot over the crossbar.
Canada has played just four World Cup games in its history and still is searching for its first goal. The Canadians outshot the Belgians 21-9 but gave up a 44th-minute goal to Michy Batshuayi from a long pass. Alphonso Davies had a chance to put Canada ahead in the 11th minute but his penalty kick was saved by goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
“We know exactly what our slingshot is and we’ve got to be ready to attack that across different games now because, as I say, the cover’s off from Canada,” Herdman said. “I think people come into this game, the next games respecting us a little bit more.”
Captain Atiba Hutchinson, at 39 the only member of the current roster alive when Canada went 0-3 at the 1986 World Cup, can make his 100th international appearance Sunday — Julian de Guzman is second with 89.
Midfielder Jonathan Osorio is looking forward to facing the last World Cup’s runner-up.
“We like to play the best,” he said after the Belgium match. “We’re excited for the challenge.”
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