"Money well spent."
That's how Zack Kassian sums up the $20,967.74 US he will forfeit during his two-game suspension for tossing Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk around like he was a scarecrow.
Well spent, the Oilers winger made clear to reporters on Tuesday, because he now knows two important things: that one of the biggests pests in NHL seems unwilling to fight, and that the league considers the crunching, blindside hits Tkachuk threw to start the whole rigamarole were clean.
"That gave me some clarity about what you can do and can't do now," Kassian told the media Tuesday after his team's morning skate at Rogers Place. "So, I put that in the memory bank."
For those who don't speak hockey player, that likely means Tkachuk will have to watch his own blindside when the teams meet again later this month.
It also means we may need stronger words than the Battle of Alberta to characterize the bad blood now simmering between these two guys and their teams.
Anyone who needs reminding should know that things went ballistic Saturday night in Calgary after Tkachuk throttled Kassian with not one, not two, but three crushing hits before the target of all that violence decided he'd had enough.
Late in the second period at the Saddledome, with the game tied 3-3, Kassian reached his personal enough when Tkachuk drilled him into the boards and sent his helmet flying.
'I'd do it again'
Kassian grabbed Tkachuk by the collar of his sweater, tossing him around like he was made of rags, then landed several punches before the linesmen stepped in. Kassian was given a double minor for roughing. The Flames scored on the powerplay and won the game 4-3.
Both players have made it clear they wouldn't change anything, even if they could.
"I'd do it again all over again," Kassian said Tuesday.
The Oilers forward said he spoke with league officials, who explained the Tkachuk hits were not dirty plays. He said he accepts that, and his own suspension.
"Clean or dirty, if someone takes two runs at you on your blindside, I told [the league], since I've been in minor midget I've stood up for myself and my teammates. People don't do that to me or my teammates when I'm there.
"To me, those are two dangerous hits. If they're clean, they're still predatorial, which is completely fine. I'm a big boy, I love big-boy hockey. But if you're going to play big-boy hockey, you've got to answer the bell once in a while."
Had Tkachuk been willing on Saturday to go toe-to-toe with gloves off, the unpleasantness might have ended already, Kassian said.
If you're going to play big-boy hockey, you've got to answer the bell once in a while. - Zack Kassian
"If he just answers the bell right there, I don't think anything ever happens, right? He actually might gain a per cent of respect in the league. That's where it stands."
Fans of both teams, and across the league, will no doubt be eager to see for whom the bell tolls on Jan. 29 at Rogers Place, when the Oilers and Flames face off again.
"He messed with the wrong guy," Kassian said. "I don't think he realizes that we're in the same division, and I have a great memory."