On Friday night, an AHL game gave us a flavor of the glamorous and gory days of 1970s hockey.
Wingers Kurtis Gabriel and Mathieu Olivier got tangled up behind the play in a game between the Rockford IceHogs and the Milwaukee Admirals. As the two fought, delivering full and wide hooks into each other’s faces with no effort to block them, Olivier eventually popped Gabriel hard enough to cause him to start leaking blood all over the ice.
Even the most adamant anti-fighting hockey fan can admit that the image of Gabriel fighting with a blood-splattered visor is extremely cool. When he loses his helmet, the Ric Flair-Esque crimson mask is revealed, along with the smattering of blood all over his Rockford jersey.
It brings back so many memories of the Broad Street Bullies for old school fans, and even new fans are taken aback by the sheer rarity of something like this in the modern game.
Gabriel’s IceHogs, on the other hand, had the last laugh, winning the shootout 4-3 over Olivier’s Admirals.
As someone who has spent the last few years bouncing around the NHL and the minors, this could be Gabriel’s most significant moment on the ice. Last summer, the 28-year-old signed with his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs, but was quickly traded to the Chicago Blackhawks organization and has been in Rockford ever since. This season, he has one assist in 19 games with the IceHogs.
The fighters will need stitches – or justice on the knuckles in Olivier’s case – in the coming days, but this fight will go down as one of the most dramatic we’ve seen in a long time.