The NHL has some deep and historic rivalries – the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers, the Vancouver Canucks and pretty much the rest of the league. Fans are used to pushing, shoving, chirping and the not-so-occasional fight (lest we forget the Penguins-Flyers series in the 2012 playoffs).
In the UK’s EIHL (Elite Ice Hockey League), the big rivalry is between the Cardiff Devils and Coventry Blaze. It’s no secret that these teams hate each other, and both players and fans chirp and taunt each other at games and, lately, on Twitter. But things got very nasty on October 28th in a Devils-Blaze game in Cardiff.
It happened after the final buzzer of the game, which Coventry won 3-2. It was one brawl after another, and the whole thing lasted about seven minutes.
Cardiff police were called by a fan who claimed they were assaulted. It turns out that the fan who called was actually the instigator in a fight against Blaze player Benn Olsen during the giant line brawl. Devils players Max Bierbauer and Devin DiDiomete came out from the locker room to rejoin the fray after being sent there, and Devils bench coach Neil Francis even came out from the locker room and got involved. Thankfully, Torchwood didn’t have to be summoned.
As a result, the fan in question has been banned from all Devils games for the season, and a few players got heavy suspensions: Bierbauer was suspended for eight games (including five for a check to the head during the game), DiDiomete was suspended for four games and Francis for five games. Both teams were also reprimanded by the league, and the Devils organization informed the fan that he won’t be allowed at their games. Olsen had been penalized for starting the fight with the fan but was exonerated by CCTV footage at the game.
DiDiomete tweeted his observations after the league handed down the penalties:
@deeds2424 So if you try and fight a coach or sucker punch a fan, there is no suspension? This is the example we are setting, correct? #Imconfused
@deeds2424 To anyone confused by my comment, I am not justifying my actions, they were wrong, I am amazed it was only 3 people off one team suspended.
And after all this, I’m still not sure what started it. Whatever the cause, it just adds to the bad blood between the two teams and fanbases.