Fine feathered fiends

Exhibit A on why we need players like Derek Boogaard


recent cover story

on hockey fighting sparked a debate about why the NHL continues to tolerate fisticuffs. Some even went so far as to

suggest it was racist

, since fighting is heavily penalized in African American-dominated sports such as basketball, but earns just a short stay in the penalty box in the majority-white NHL.

But anybody wondering whether fighting serves a legitimate purpose in hockey need look no further than Game 4 of the Wild's playoff game against the referees the Mighty Ducks.

After the Wild went up 4-1 in the third period, the game began to resemble a streetfight more than an organized sport. Wild defenseman Brent Burns (above) admirably showed up for his second scrap of the series, thoroughly trouncing the overmatched Corey Perry.

Then all hell broke loose.

With less than two minutes to play in the all-but-decided game, the refs lost control and the Ducks decided to take out their frustrations via cheap shots and sucker punches. Ducks left winger Shawn Thorton was the third man in during a fight between teammate Kent Huskins and the Wild's Adam Hall. While the cowardly Ducks were going two-on-one with Hull, Anaheim agitator (read: chickenshit) Brad May cold cocked Wild pacifist Kim Johnsson, who'd done nothing to provoke the blindside attack. Johnsson collapsed to the ice with a head injury in what was a scary moment for the home crowd, which had earlier made its feelings about the piss poor officiating with a rousing chorus of "bullshit."

The jeers turned to cheers when Coach Jacques Lemaire took action where the refs would not, sending Wild enforcer Derek Boogaard onto the ice to restore order. Showing their yellow bellies, the Ducks ducked and covered, refusing to engage the Boogeyman and finishing the game in a defensive crouch. Afterwards, Boogaard made his feelings clear.

"Brad May is supposed to be a tough guy and everybody sits there and says he's one of the toughest guys in the league," Boogaard said. "I don't think tough guys go around suckering guys that don't fight. If he deserves respect and does stuff like that, he's not going to get respect in this series... if he even plays again. He's done for the rest of the playoffs as far as I'm concerned."

Which is to say there's a lot of bad blood that might be spilled on the ice tonight during Game 5, which starts at 9:30 p.m. in Anaheim. The Ducks better come prepared to drop the gloves and fight like men, because the Boogeyman certainly is.

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