January 19, 2012

Stevens: Wings-Knighthawks Fight Shouldn't Go Past Round 1

by Neil Stevens | LaxMagazine.com

Rochester's Travis Hill (47), shown during a play earlier in the Wings-Knighthawks game Saturday night, was one of many players to take part in a closing minute brawl.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

It's always been one of my favorite tunes.

"Do You Want to Dance?" was written by Bobby Freeman and he recorded it in 1958. The Beach Boys put out a classic cover in '65 as "Do You Wanna Dance?" The Ramones brought it back loud and lewd in '77.

Any of these versions -- forget the Mamas and the Papas '66 rendition because it's way too slow -- would have worked well in Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia when the Wings and the Rochester Knighthawks paired off to dance up a storm in the closing minute last Saturday night.

Not surprisingly, Rochester defenseman Kyle Laverty was one of the primary participants. The Wings' David Brock might have been wise to check Laverty's NLL rap sheet before agreeing to dance. Laverty, choosing direct arm thrusts rather than the type of upward swings preferred by John Travolta in the '77 movie Saturday Night Fever, was full merit for his game misconduct.

Most of those remaining witnesses from the original turnstile count of 8,813 went bonkers when sticks and gloves were dropped all over the green carpet and they used their cell phone cameras to put it all over YouTube.

The Wings' six-foot-five Paul Dawson had a four-inch height advantage on Pat McCready and his superior reach allowed him to punch Rochester's captain in the head before rolling with him on the floor.

Rochester's Tyler Burton showed unprom-like aggressiveness while clutching Tom Hajek's sweater, the Knighthawks' Travis Hill held Jordan Sealock close as chaperones yelled encouragement from the benches, and Brodie Merrill ended his first game with the Wings by kissing Scott Campbell with his fists.

Then the chant started in the stands.

''Goalie fight, goalie fight . . . ''

Kurtis Wagar obliged.

The Wings' big backup, having replaced starter Brandon Miller much earlier, trotted to the other end to challenge Jake Henhawk, who'd been sent in just a few minutes earlier to relieve starter Matt Vinc because -- and this is just a guess -- he's a better dancer than Vinc. Henhawk threw off his sweater and upper-body pads as he left his crease. Wagar went scanty as well. The two goalies converged and did some dirty dancing before aping the breakdance moves of Dawson and McCready.

News photographers were on the floor with cameras following the dancers. How does that happen? The game wasn't over.

At the end, the Knighthawks congratulated one another for their 22-12 victory while the Wings nursed their knuckles and left content in the knowledge that, at the least, they went down with a bang rather than a whimper.

''It's team toughness we can build on,'' offered No. 1 entry draft pick Kevin Crowley.

Building a better defense might be helpful, too.

"Macho mania doesn't appeal to me, especially after reading about recent research that suggests hits to the head can cause brain injury leading to dementia later in life."

Rochester coach Mike Hasen has danced a bit himself, and we're not talking waltzes.

''It brings the guys confidence that no matter what's going on in the game we're always going to be there for each other, we're always going to stick up for each other,'' Hasen said as bruised cheekbones around the dressing room began to turn black below the eyes.

The league reviewed the dance pairings and assessed 10 game misconducts on Thursday.

Laverty, McCready and Hill of the Knighthawks and Brock, Dawson and Sealock of the Wings each got a game misconduct for violating rule 80.15, which states that a game misconduct penalty shall be imposed on a player who is assessed a major penalty for fighting after the original fight.

Wagar and Henhawk were each assessed a game misconduct via 80.15 and a second was tacked on for violating 80.13, which states that a goalie will get a game misconduct if he leaves his crease during a fight and gets into a fight.

It takes three game misconducts in a season to result in an automatic one-game suspension. So, the misconducts issued Thursday do not push any of the players into an automatic suspension. They'll all be available to their teams this weekend.

I'd rather watch Cody Jamieson score a goal than see Dawson slug McCready or Laverty lambaste Brock. Macho mania doesn't appeal to me, especially after reading about recent research that suggests hits to the head can cause brain injury leading to dementia later in life.

The brawl got me humming Bobby Freeman's oldie but, when the two teams renew acquaintances on March 3 in Philadelphia, I'll hope the score is closer and they stick to lacrosse. One dance review is enough.

Neil Stevens has covered pro and Canadian lacrosse since 1971. He and the late Tom Borrelli -- a longtime Lacrosse Magazine contributor -- are the only media members recognized by the NLL Hall of Fame.

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