It was a Monday night in November at Capital One Arena, a contest on the ice between the Washington Capitals and Anaheim Ducks — not exactly the ingredients for a dramatic evening.
But at the end of the second period, those in attendance were treated to wild scene that included a sighting of that rarest of sports phenomena — the magic loogie.
The score was 2-0 in a hard-fought game between the Capitals and the Ducks when Anaheim’s Brendan Guhle tripped up Washington’s Brendan Leipsic.
Leipsic — a human bowling bowl — was not going to let this aggression stand. So he went flying through the air behind the Ducks’ net and nailed whoever was in the way — which happened to be Anaheim’s Derek Grant.
WWE Live had left the building after a Saturday night show, but the National Hockey League put on a battle royal 48 hours later that Vince McMahon would have been proud of.
Six players began throwing punches and grabbing pieces of jerseys. Garnet Hathaway — the new muscle the Capitals imported — was wading his way through Ducks players with his fists when he got to Anaheim’s Erik Gudbranson. As officials tried to separate the two, Gudbranson landed a shot on Hathaway.
I could tell you what happened next, but I’ll let Hathaway do that:
“First there was a fight and then how I saw it was they had a third man in. I think they had a fourth man in, too. The refs were trying to break it up and it felt like there was a couple sucker punches thrown and I … then reacted a little emotionally and unfortunately spit came out of my mouth after I got sucker punched and it went on to him.”
If it just happened to come out of his mouth and just happened to land on the guy who had just nailed him, then this is perhaps the greatest magic loogie since the Keith Hernandez-Kramer and Newman scandal on Seinfeld, when Jerry detailed how spit from Hernandez managed to hit both Kramer and Newman while leaving Shea Stadium. It turned out there was a second spitter — Roger McDowell.
Monday night’s miracle expectorate didn’t have any second spitter. It just had an angry hockey player who had crossed the line.
You can hit a guy in the NHL and perhaps risk breaking his jaw. But you better not spit on him.
“That’s about as low as you dig a pit, really,” Gudbranson told reporters after the game. “It’s a bad thing to do. It’s something you just don’t do in a game, and he did it.”
Spitting is not only frowned on in hockey — it’s an across-the-boards taboo in all of sports.
The late Redskins safety Sean Taylor was kicked out of a playoff game in 2006 for allegedly spitting in the face of Michael Pittman. Taylor denied he spit in Pittman’s face.
It’s almost an epidemic here lately in soccer. Two of the greats of the game, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, have spit in opponents’ faces.
Then there is perhaps the most famous loogie let loose in all of sports — Orioles second baseman Roberto Alomar spitting in the face of home plate umpire John Hirschbeck on the last weekend of the 1996 season in Toronto.
To his credit, Hathaway appeared repentant after the game. “It has no place (in the game),” he said. “It was an emotional play by me. You don’t plan any of that stuff in your head and it was a quick reaction and unfortunately the wrong one for me after a sucker punch.”
His coach, Todd Reirden, also read from the short list of things you can’t do to an opposing player in the NHL. But make no mistake about it, he loves him some Hathaway.
“I have a lot of time for Garnet Hathaway,” Reirden said. “He’s a stand-up guy, a first-class guy, and he was getting punched by a couple different guys at once and lost control of his emotion and did something that there’s no place for in the league. That’s disappointing and he feels terrible about it. He didn’t have to talk to anybody today, but he’s the first one who said, ‘I want to own up for what I did.’”
By the way, while this was going on, Chandler Stephenson scored a goal to give the Capitals a 3-0 lead, on their way to a 5-2 victory.
Yes, the Capitals can fight you and score at the same time. They are that good — 16-3-4, the best record in the league.
“If that is the way the game goes, I like our chances,” Reirden said. “Our team can play a number of different styles.”
Wet and wild, if need be.
⦁ Hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings and on the Kevin Sheehan podcast Tuesdays and Thursdays.