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Philadelphia Flyers' Zac Rinaldo, right, lands a punch that knocks the helmet off of Tampa Bay Lightning' B.J. Crombeen during a fight in the first period on Tuesday. A later hit, while Crombeen was falling, landed Rinaldo in some controversy. (Tom Mihalek/Associated Press)
Don Cherry came to a spirited defence of Zac Rinaldo during his Coach’s Corner segment on Saturday night.
Rinaldo, the Philadelphia Flyers’ forward, had come under fire for punching Tampa’s B.J. Crombeen as the latter was falling to the ice during a fight on Tuesday night.
Some commentators had been calling for a suspension, but Cherry was having none of it.
“Everyone is ripping Rinaldo, but you’ve gotta realize this guy fights wild,” said the former Boston coach on his Hockey Night in Canada segment. “This guy doesn’t stop. There are guys who fight cool, this guy’s wild. He doesn’t take prisoners.”
Rinaldo was miked for the game, and can clearly be heard asking one of the linesmen after the brawl if he had, indeed, hit Crombeen when the opponent was still on his way down. The official agreed that was the case.
Had the Lightning forward been on the ice, punching him would have broken the unwritten fighting code in the National Hockey League.
Host Ron MacLean said he didn’t buy the explanation from Rinaldo because the player had already landed a punch that stunned Crombeen.
“He had to know [Crombeen] is hurt,” said MacLean, himself an experienced junior referee. “You have to give him a suspension because he’s never going to have it in the back of his mind not to do it.”
Cherry countered by pointing out again the player was not on the ice when hit. MacLean disagreed.
“The only reason he wasn’t down was [Rinaldo] has got him held,” he said.
National Hockey League officials did not issue a suspension in the incident, one that Philadelphia media reports suggested may have been in retaliation for what happened in an earlier game this year where Crombeen apparently slashed at Flyers’ captain Claude Giroux three times on his wrist, the one that had been surgically repaired.
Cherry also chimed in on why the Toronto Maple Leafs are more difficult to beat this year, pointing to the “Three Amigos” of tough guys Colton Orr, Mark Fraser and the recently acquired Frazer McLaren.
“The thing is, you might beat the Leafs, but I’ll tell you one thing, nobody pushes them around,” he said. “Second in fights [this season] boy, you aren’t going to beat the Leafs easy.”
As for why Toronto has just one win in five games at home so far, Cherry blames some of the fans.
“All I got to say for those jerks that are hollering ‘Go Jays Go’[at home games], shove it up your nose. And I’m speaking for the players.”