Mike Gillis was asked to comment on the standoff - without having seen the video, he didn't like Gallagher's chances - giving up 40 pounds to Thornton.
First of all - the issue - was it "unethical" for Thornton to challenge Weise after Weise had fought Horton? Weise, according to comments he made, asked Horton to fight and Horton obliged him. Horton had suffered a concussion in the SCF, but Weise noted that he wasn't trying to take advantage of Horton, and given Horton's toughness, it was not surprising that he would oblige. By the same standard, it is fair for Thornton to challenge Weise. Weise vs Horton was certainly not a mismatch - neither Weise nor Horton appeared worse for the wear, other than perhaps a measure of temporary exhaustion. I don't agree with Gallagher invoking a contested enforcer code of one fight per period, but I also didn't think Horton needed protection after the fact. Regardless, Weise had shown a willingness to fight, and Thornton can't be blamed for challenging him, but was that what actually happened? Weise does not have to fight in that instance, but his body language was definitely confusing and indicating that he was not backing down. It almost appeared as though something was said by the official - Weise acted like there was either an intervention, or he was changing his mind about fighting Thornton.
On a certain level, Weise is not an "enforcer" and not really in Thornton's class. There aren't many guys left in the NHL who are. You had to feel for Weise watching that game, being the guy who was trying to step into this gap of toughness between the teams, trying to equalize things somewhat. Andrew Alberts stood his ground and fought Thornton when he played for Carolina; Alberts doesn't lack size, but wasn't really in Thornton's class either, and Thornton clearly won that fight. Thornton is a guy who, at this point, has perhaps the strongest balance of the ability to fight, as well as skate and play the game. Some enforcers might be having a hard time keeping up with the speed and skill that is evolving in the game, but players like Thornton aren't effected in the same way. Rypien had a similar quality of extreme toughness combined with good speed and skills. Thornton may have less contenders left in the league, but whether he fights or not, he plays a role virtually every team in the league wants - speed, size, and grit - he's a guy who gets over 100 penalty minutes a year at the same time as being a 10 goal scorer. He's not terribly modest either, and obviously brings some swagger to the Bruins bench.
But this is where the story gets interesting.
Boston play-by-play coverage of the game could be heard blasting off on Dale Weise, as if he is a power-coward for not fighting Thornton. It was said that that was the kind of thing that made the Vancouver Canucks the most hated team in the NHL. Ironically Weise was not with Vancouver when they were given that branding, but that is another issue, as well as the question whether that is in fact true - it might be accurate in Boston, Chicago (and maybe Toronto), but if you went to Tampa Bay, the opposite would be the case (although that is a very quiet market), as would also be true in Montreal (but most people don't understand their language) and lots of other cities in the NHL. Overall, I doubt that claim would stand up if tested in an actual sociological way.
When Gallagher asked why a team that has no real fighters is the most hated, the host of Comcast SportsNet New England's Sticks and Stones suggested that it is because they don't stick up for themselves.
If you have a look at the Boston WEEI Sportsradio Big Bad Blog however, the story gets a lot clearer, ironically, thanks to Brad Marchand.
“I’m going to clear it up for everyone who’s listening,” Marchand said. “It was actually a really sneaky play by Thorty. Weise was trying to fight McQuaid, who was standing behind Thornton on the point. McQuaid was going to fight him. So, Weise was yelling and saying, ‘Yeah, let’s go, let’s go.’
“Thorty just figured that at that point he’d drop his gloves and surprise Weise. And the ref just kind of heard Weise yelling ‘Let’s go’ and thought he was talking to Thorty and conning him into a penalty. Thorty kind of surprised him when Thorty dropped his gloves. Weise had no idea Thorty was going to do that.”
Added Marchand: “Him and Quaider know each other a bit from the minors and I think junior as well. They might have went at [it] there.”
As it turns out, Thornton was apparently stepping in between two other guys who had consented to "go" - not necessarily a third man in thing, but makes it very clear why Weise was surprised and didn't drop his gloves with Thornton - there was no consensus; in fact the consensus was between Weise and McQuaid.
Interesting; if Thornton was aware what was going on, he wasn't exactly forthcoming with that information.
Evidently, Weise didn't deserve the barrage of insults, at all.
If you then read the comments on that blog, you will also find -
"Is it just me that believes Marchand should not be sharing these stories with ppublic? Wonder how Thornton will receive this relevation!"
To allow the whole incident to develop as though Weise were a coward? I wonder if it was Weise who told this story in the process of having to defend himself, leaving Marchand to either clarify things, or lie, or if Marchand offered this on his own? Anyhow...for Marchand to temper the misinformation about Weise, well, that came as a bit of a surprise. Perhaps he should follow suit where his low-bridging of Sami Salo is concerned.
If you then read the comments on that blog, you will find the funny stuff.
"Typical Canadian team. They learn to avoid a fight before they learn to skate."
This is the problem with having the Stanley Cup south of the border year after year, and why it is lost on cities like Boston. That guy probably doesn't realize where all the best players on the Boston Bruins, with a couple exceptions in goal and one big one on the blueline, come from.
It reminds me of a story my father-in-law told me when he was living in Denver. He is a wonderful story-teller, something I definitely am not, but I will try to do the story justice. He is from Saskatchewan - an American friend in Denver was engaging in a little 'trash talk' for fun, claiming that despite Canada thinking it is the best at hockey, all the best hockey players in the NHL were American. My father-in-law asked what he meant by that - his American friend insisted that he should look at the Detroit Red Wings as an example - what about that fellow Gordie Howe of the Detroit Red Wings? He thought that because Howe played for Detroit, he must be from Detroit. My father-in-law shared with him that Gordie Howe is actually from Floral, Saskatchewan. His friend didn't believe it - couldn't believe it. There was no Google in those days to resolve the question quickly, but needless to say, there are a lot of great hockey players from Saskatchewan, despite the fact they have never had an NHL team. That is another story in itself, no thanks to Harold Ballard, but Google NHL players from Boston and compare them to Saskatoon, or Vancouver - Canadian cities could ice teams as good as the US National team. I realize that comment was referring to Canadian teams in the NHL, but regardless, Thornton is from Ontario - people from Boston aren't necessarily very hockey literate. The best player in the NHL born in Massachusetts is the Vancouver Canuck who got the win in Boston on Saturday. The city of Vancouver has spawned players like Joe Sakic, Paul Kariya, Brent Seabrook, Peter McNab, Glenn Anderson, Andrew Ladd, Darcy Rota...extend it to BC and you can add guys like Steve Yzerman, Cam Neely and Mark Recchi to that list. The Stanley Cup belongs in Canadian cities more than it does places like Tampa Bay, Carolina, or Dallas. Google players that were born in those cities.
This is part of the reason why the hating aspect is getting carried away. Lucic is from Vancouver, Mike Gillis played in Boston, Schneider is from Boston, etc, etc. The hate is taking on a life of its own, one that in my mind, is taking away from the game itself. It is a game. These are cities and teams - they are not nations, or even real identities. The idea of hating or equating Canadian teams in general as teams that don't stand up for themselves - that is about as ignorant as hockey commentary could possibly get. I understand the Bruins needs to hype the sport in order to get attention in their market - they have the Patriots, Celtics and Red Sox to compete with - but the method is simply bad hockey 'karma'.
I have to admit, there was a time when the Vancouver sports media were possibly the worst in the business- the endless chipping away at the home teams that guys like Neil McRae and Gallagher engaged in never seemed to cease. I also have to admit however, that as annoying as I found Gallagher, he has improved with age, despite the fact he may not have been at his best when Thornton, again, surprisingly jumped in, in this case in the discussion on Comcast SportsNet New England's Sticks and Stones.
The Vancouver sports landscape shifted fundamentally with the emergence of Don Taylor and the ground-breaking Sportspage. The Canucks always had good radio coverage, but aside from that, the newspapers and talk-radio always seemed to be running everything down. It was the absolute opposite of Boston, where media seem rabidly in favour of their home teams. In Vancouver, nothing was ever good enough; the irony was that the level of sports journalism wasn't setting any standards that left them deserving any championship teams. Don Taylor deserves a lot of credit for creating a different tone, and from Sportspage to Sportsnet, Vancouver has benefitted ever since. To hear Gallagher standing up for the Canucks like that erases a few less favourable memories.