An AHL game on Friday night gave us a glimpse of the glorified and gory days of 1970s hockey.
In a matchup between the Rockford IceHogs and the Milwaukee Admirals, wingers Kurtis Gabriel and Mathieu Olivier got tangled up behind the play. As the two came to blows, delivering full and wide hooks into each other’s faces with no effort to block them, Olivier eventually popped Gabriel hard enough to make him start leaking blood all over the ice.
Even the most anti-fighting hockey fan can come to terms with the fact that the image of Gabriel fighting with a visor covered in blood is extremely cool. And then as soon as he loses his helmet, the Ric Flair-esque crimson mask is unveiled along with the smattering of blood all over his Rockford jersey.
It's something that makes old school fans cheer in memories of the Broad Street Bullies, and even new fans have their jaws dropped for the sheer rarity of something like this in the modern game.
Gabriel's IceHogs had the last laugh, though, as they went on to earn a 4-3 win in the shootout over Olivier’s Admirals.
As someone who has toured around the NHL and the minors for the last couple of years, this might be Gabriel’s most significant moment on the ice. The 28-year-old signed with his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs last summer, but was soon traded to the Chicago Blackhawks organization and has been in Rockford ever since. He has one assist in 19 games with the IceHogs this season.
The fighters will need stitches in the coming days – or just some ice on the knuckles in Olivier’s case – but this scrap will live on as one of the most dramatic bouts we have seen in a long time.
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