Yesterday’s Panthers-Lightning game ended with the Florida Panthers losing in a shootout, not an unfamiliar sight. While the 4-3 loss in the skills competition was probably something we have all seen before, I doubt any of us have ever seen anything quite like the second period run-in between Tampa defenseman Radko Gudas and the blue gatorade bottled wielded by Scottie Upshall.
For those that missed it, here is what happened:
At about 13 minutes into the second period, Gudas whiffed on a hit near the Panthers bench and tumbled onto his back. As Gudas was sitting on the ice, Scottie Upshall, who was on the Panthers bench (no surprise there) squirted Gudas in the face with his blue gatorade. Gudas, not the coolest crayon in the box, proceeded to stand up and smash his stick on the boards in the direction of Upshall and Bjugstad who were sitting on the bench.
Gudas was assessed a slashing call, a ten-minute misconduct and a game misconduct. Upshall, the guilty gatorade squirter, was issued a two-minute bench minor for unsportsmanlike conduct. The result of the whole mess was two minutes of 4-on-4 hockey and some interesting post-game comments.
A couple quick things before we get to the post-game comments from the participants. First, all you middle school English teachers with an NHL Gamecenter subscription take note. Re-watching the event in real time is a textbook example of dramatic irony (when the audience’s knowledge of an event surpasses that of the characters/participants). Knowing what happened and listening to Panthers commentators Bill Lindsey and Steve Goldstein try to puzzle the events together is good stuff. It is especially fun when Lindsey gets all riled up because he thinks the Panthers were given a bench minor for chirping Gudas. All-in-all a small point, but I obviously cannot let a good example of dramatic irony go unnoticed.
Second, I think it is important to have the conversation about Upshall’s actions. Was Upshall wrong to squirt Gudas? Obviously. Was it unsportsmanlike? Yes. Was it punkish, immature and unprofessional? Totally. Was it kind of funny? Sure.
I can imagine Kevin Dineen pulling Upshall aside after the game and gently chiding him with something like , “c’mon man we can’t be doing that stuff,” all while unsuccessfully trying to hide a half-smirk. If you have played hockey then chances are you have played with a kid who you can totally see pulling an Upshall, the type of kid that does anything and everything to get under an opponents skin. I was never that kid, but I was probably the Bjugstad-type kid, sitting next to Upshall and laughing at Gudas as he gets escorted off the ice.
Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper said after the game that he felt the ejection for Gudas was a bit strong or maybe the punishment for Upshall was not strong enough. Here is how Scottie Upshall’s explained the incident to the Miami Herald after the game:
“He overreacted a bit. He’s a guy who plays a bit on the edge. He plays hard and he was fired up, took a run at our guy by the bench and fell. I think he was embarrassed he fell. You would think it was the end of the world. He was freaked out.”
Panthers coach Kevin Dineen echoed that sentiment reasoning that Gudas’ reaction was a little bit over the top,
“[Gudas] was understandably upset, but that’s certainly the wrong response by that young man.”
The incident ended up in the Panthers favor as the Lighting, who were playing their second game in as many nights, had to finish the game with only five defensemen. Tired Lighting legs may have played a role in the Panthers ability to close on a two goal deficit in the third period.
What do you think about the incident? Did the refs make the right call? Is there even a right call in this situation? How do you feel about Upshall’s actions? Share your thoughts in the comments section below and follow The Rat Trick on Twitter and Facebook for all the latest.