By: Brennen Krikorian
There are few things better in sports than a good rivalry, and the Battle of Alberta between the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers might just be one of the best.
This past weekend, that rivalry grew stronger after a brawl broke out between Matthew Tkachuk and Zack Kassian.
After making two huge hits on Kassian, the Edmonton winger seemed to have had enough of Tkachuk’s antics, throwing him to the ice while distributing a series of punches to Tkachuk’s head.
The two were ultimately separated and Kassian was given a double minor for roughing, as well as a 10-minute misconduct. While on the power play, Calgary scored the goal which ended up being the difference-maker in the game.
After the game, the two exchanged insults in their post-game interviews and Oilers star Leon Draisaitl stated that he would immediately get off the ice if he and Tkachuk were on the ice at the same time during the All-Star game.
On Monday, Kassian received a two-game suspension from the Department of Player Safety for violating Rule 46.2, also known as the aggressor rule.
This suspension came with a lot of speculation from around the league, as most suspensions do.
Tkachuk is a repeat offender when it comes to being in the middle of brawls and is well-known for his ability to instigate fights with opposing players while not breaking any rules in the process.
Many former players, including Teemu Selanne, Scottie Upshall, and Ray Ferraro, took to Twitter following the game in defense of Kassian.
They all believed that Tkachuk was targeting a vulnerable player, and if it were one of higher stature such as Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl, the suspensions would be much different.
These types of instances are what the league has been trying to get rid of over the past few seasons, however I think it should be a necessity for the league.
While the league should take action to reduce long-term head injuries, big hits and fighting are what make hockey unique to any other sport. Situations like these are what attracts new fans to the game and allows the culture to grow. It also allows players to energize their teammates and release the intensity that builds in each player throughout the game.
Kassian’s suspension will force him to miss games against Nashville and Arizona, but more importantly, his first game back will be at home next Wednesday against none other than the Calgary Flames.
It seems likely that the rivalry between Tkachuk and Kassian is far from over.
Cover photo via: David Lueng/AFP
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