“That escalated quickly”, was one of the many comical lines from the movie Anchorman.
The same phrase could describe the antics at the end of the Kelowna Rockets 5-3 win over the Victoria Royals last night, but the WHL league office in Calgary won’t be chuckling.
Brandon Magee, the Victoria Royals player who was suspended for the first 12 games of this season after a vicious cross check to Portland’s Nic Petan in last year’s playoffs, was up to his old tricks last night.
With the game no longer in question after a Nick Merkley empty net goal to make the score 5-3, the 20 year-old high sticked Rockets forward Cole Linaker on the ensuing face-off. No penalty is called on the play, but you can clearly see on video that Magee uses his stick, almost like a pitch fork, thrusting it up towards Linaker’s face.
Oh, it gets worse folks.
With 3.3 seconds left in the game, with a face-off to the left of Rockets goaltender Michael Herringer, Magee again takes the draw with Linaker. This time the Edmonton product makes no attempt to win the face-off but appears to be more concerned with inflicting pain on the 19 year-old by spearing Linaker, which starts a donnybrook in the corner. As several players come together to protect teammates, two fights break out involving Rockets forward Rodney Southam and Victoria’s Austin Carroll and Rockets rookie defenceman Devante Stephens and Royals d-man Chaz Reddekopp.
Magee is seen firing right hands at Linaker as the two are at the bottom of a pile of bodies.
The damage could have been a whole lot worse. There could have been more fights and significant injury could have been inflicted. But this isn’t about the carnage that is left; it is more about the act. There is winning with class and losing with class. Magee doesn’t get it. He showed it against Portland in last year’s playoffs and his uncontrolled anger reached a boiling point again last night. If Magee can’t control his dislike for losing, does his coach bare any responsibility for putting Magee in that situation?
I think Dave Lowry does.
I thought Rockets assistant coach Travis Crickard said it best on our post game show. “This is the team that I fear for our player’s safety”. Crickard isn't exaggerating. The Royals, when provoked, play a below the belt game and someone is going to get hurt.
Oh, did I mention that the Rockets beat the Royals and won for the 21st time this season?
The score on this night is secondary. The focal point was the thuggery that hockey executives want to eliminate from the game.
On this night, it was a black eye for the WHL.