The latest "Battle of Ontario" erupted in sucker punches and insults, but the goons weren't on the ice — they were in the stands of the Canadian Tire Centre.
On Saturday, some fans of the Ottawa Senators and the Toronto Maple Leafs lost control of their emotions in the final minutes of the game. Video posted on social media shows a stocky man wearing a jersey sporting the name of a Senators tough guy on his back, punching a Leafs supporter three times in the face, seemingly without provocation.
Spectator Tom Kloppenburg posted the video on Twitter under the caption, "This is a soap opera."
Sens fan jumps into fight
He said it all started when a Leafs fan hit a Sens fan after the home team went up 5-3 in the third period.
According to Kloppenburg, ushers and other spectators broke up the fight, and a Sens fan in a red sweater and his female companion were asked to leave their seats about four rows up from the glass in section 114. Two Leafs fans who were sitting beside them were also ejected.
But as the group was walking up the stairs, Kloppenburg said the altercation took another turn.
'What message does this send? That it's OK to be violent and lose control of your passions in support of your team? It's crazy." Randy Boswell, Carleton University Hockey History Researcher
"The Leafs guy is running off his mouth saying, 'When we get to the parking lot you're done. You're done!' Then this random guy wearing a Mark Borowiecki jersey started punching the kid."
Kloppenburg said the aggressor wasn't even sitting near the bickering group, but walked down the stairs and inserted himself in the fight. The Sens fan was also thrown out of the arena.
"That twist ending where the guy comes out of nowhere was just mind-blowing," he said.
Fan violence 'crazy'
A Senators seasons ticket holder, Kloppenburg said he only sees this level of violence when the Leafs are in town and believes that Senators management should improve its security, as the "tiny, little hundred-pound retired woman" at Saturday's altercation was not equipped to break up the fight. He estimates that security took five minutes to respond.
"The first time you see security in the video is after the Leafs fan gets punched on the stairs."
Carleton University professor Randy Boswell, who has researched the history of hockey, pointed out the first modern-day hockey game in 1875 was marked by a brawl in the stands. But he said the game has evolved and the NHL needs to crack down on spectator violence.
"What a terrible example this is for children," said Boswell. "Minor hockey officials have launched entire education campaigns to try and teach adults to behave properly when they take their kids to the rink. What message does this send — that it's OK to be violent and lose control of your passions in support of your team? It's crazy."
Boswell urges the Senators management to issue a statement that fans will be immediately ejected at the first sign of any interaction that "isn't friendly or cordial." And even consider banning violent fans from arenas.
"If someone is essentially assaulting someone else on your property during your games that most of your fans are there for the entertainment value and not because they're losing control of their tempers — the team has to draw a line somewhere for the fans."
Security should have been in there long before. I don't want to take my kids to an environment that lets that stuff unfold. https://t.co/j5yDTzpFcw— @geoffrey_white
'Zero tolerance' of violence, say Sens
The Senators organization does contract private security officers and Ottawa police to maintain safety at games. Some games do have a larger number of officers, but management wouldn't say if that is the case during all Leafs games.
In an e-mailed statement from the Senators, a spokesperson said that Saturday's game against the Leafs was tamer that most.
"We have a zero tolerance policy on violence or intoxication. The number of incidents that game was lower than the average, unfortunately one fan decided to do something unacceptable and was ejected immediately."
Ottawa Police didn't lay any charges after the fight.