The Impact of Gabriel Landeskog’s Fight


“It takes a lot of courage to stand up and fight, and we appreciated that a lot in the room.” – Calvin Pickard

At 11:14 of the second period in the rematch between the Colorado Avalanche and Winnipeg Jets, the two teams faced off to the left of Colorado goalie Calvin Pickard. Well, eight of the ten skaters faced off. Two skaters essentially did not. They yapped at each other, made the most perfunctory of moves toward hunching for the faceoff and dropped the gloves a nanosecond after the puck dropped.

Those two players just happened to be the two team captains, Gabriel Landeskog and Andrew Ladd.

The Controversy of Fighting

Fighting in hockey is a polarizing issue — you either love it or hate it. I don’t like boxing or bar fights, but I firmly believe fighting has its place in hockey.

One rationale for fighting in hockey is that it gets the team and the crowd more excited about the game. It hearkens back to dueling, when two men were willing to fight for honor. As humans, we automatically respond to that duel for honor by cheering our champion.

That was the feeling Landeskog’s fight engendered in Pepsi Center and across the Avs Nation. He’s our captain, and he was willing to bloody and get bloodied in the name of our honor. Pretty heady stuff.

The Combatants

Winnipeg captain Andrew Ladd is a surprisingly scrappy sort. In his 10 years in the NHL, he’s averaged a fight or more a year. He’s a tough winger, a big hitter but not such an elite scorer. Like I said — surprisingly scrappy.

Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog is a power forward who participated in his third fight when he dropped the gloves with Ladd. Landeskog is a big hitter with a bit more eliteness to his scoring touch.

The Impact of the Fight

Some Avalanche fans question the efficacy of Landskog’s fight. After all, the immediate impact seemed to be on the Jets since they scored on a power play that came two minutes later.

Former MHS editor Stephen Crociata was one such nay-sayer:

However, the feeling in Pepsi Center after Landskog won that fight was electric. See, he won that fight, and decisively.

Landeskog started with a barrage of right hooks that left Ladd off-balance. The more experienced of the two fighters, Ladd appeared to be trying to free himself up from his jersey to limit Landeskog’s purchase. While he did eventually manage to free up his right arm, in the time it took for him to execute that maneuver, Landeskog landed several punches. Indeed, Ladd’s helmet came off, giving Landeskog more access to punch his head.

Ladd rallied, but Landeskog still wholloped him with a haymaker and got in a few more hooks before wrestling the older man to the ice. It was a classic, old-style hockey fight:

So, while the Jets did, indeed, go up 3-1, that just gave the Avalanche and the Avs Nation more chance to prove how much the fight meant to them/us. When the Avs were down a manageable 1-0 against the Nashville Predators, there was an air of defeat on the ice and in the stands. People started streaming out of Pepsi Center even before Nashville scored their fist empty-netter.

On the other hand, no one left when the score was 3-1 for the Jets. And the players on the ice looked electrified. The Twittervere was similarly enthralled.

Head coach Patrick Roy credited Landeskog’s fight for that feeling:

"“Very proud of our captain, the fight that he had. I’m not saying that we’re for fighting, but I thought it showed a lot of character. You can’t lose that game when your captain does that.”"

Center Matt Duchene was also impressed by Landeskog’s bout:

"“He wanted him last game and it didn’t happen. This game he went, and you could tell that he wanted him bad and get some momentum for us. He did a heck of a job stepping up there.”"

Even the #1 star of the night, Calvin Pickard, had praise for the fisticuffs:

"“It was awesome. He really got us going there. It takes a lot of courage to stand up and fight, and we appreciated that a lot in the room. It got us going.”"

Conversely, no one in Winnipeg even mentioned the fight, and the most the fans mustered was that Ladd needed to get some fighting pointers from Evander Kane. That’s not much to rally around.

More from Mile High Sticking

There’s no doubting that Landeskog’s dropping the gloves with a fellow captain had an eventual positive impact on the game. It was a big move, one that showed a lot of leadership in addition to courage. Landeskog has been struggling to score recently — the whole team has — so he gave something else of himself, something that cost more than shooting the puck or holding player meetings.

The Avalanche and Avs Nation are hoping that rematch with the Winnipeg Jets proves to be a turning point for their season. If it does, Landeskog’s act of bravery could have even greater ramifications than motivating the team during one game.