Every now and again something so rare and unexpected happens that it’s worth revisiting years later. Certified NHL handsome devil Alexander Wennberg shocked the Columbus Blue Jackets world in December of 2016. We take a look back and wax nostalgic on the surprise dust up in Calgary.
It’s best to start off by mentioning that I don’t condone fighting nor do I typically celebrate an NHL brawl. Once in a very blue moon though, things get a little extra physical and it changes the dimension of a game for the better for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
A hockey fight can be perfectly meaningless, in fact most are. On occasion though, they can add jet fuel to a rivalry, a fiercely competitive game or simply settle a dispute between two guys who don’t like each other much.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The most common fights in the NHL are retaliatory in some nature. If you’re new to the NHL, or hockey fighting, please allow me. It typically goes something like this. Player A from the home team makes a dirty hit on Player B from the away team. Player C from the away team is displeased with said dirty hit. Player C feels a surge of violent justice shooting hot through his veins. Fists ensue.
To fully appreciate this throwback into (albeit nascent) Columbus Blue Jackets history, it’s only right to frame the situation. Without further ado, grab yourself a case of sugar free Red Bull, a five dollar Little Caesar’s and let’s bask in a wave of angry heroism.
The stage is set. It’s Friday night, December 16th – the year is 2016. There is a fine aura of mystery descending upon the Scotiabank Saddledome in frosty Calgary, Alberta. Something magical and wild was in that frosty winter air. Everyone wants to know what it is, but it’s impossible to put a finger on it. Surely it can’t be that familiar musk of moose perspiration that radiates the province’s summer nights. It’s too cold and it feels more special.
Meanwhile, inside the dome a hockey game is taking shape. The score is zero to zero and the ice is barely scratched. It’s just 52 seconds into the contest when the Calgary Flames’ Matthew Tkatchuk takes a run at the Columbus Blue Jackets’ left wing Brandon Saad. Tkatchuk leaves his skates, raises an elbow into the air and hits Saad in the upper body, twisting him to the ground and knocking him on his backside.
Cue heroic trumpets. Cue blazing trail of violence. Cue Swedish rage. Cue a massively displeased Alexander Wennberg coming to defend his teammate’s honor. Clean hit or not, #10 in the union and blue was not going to let the brazen Flame walk away from his offense without retribution.
This is when the magic happens. Breathe it in slowly. The magic is happening. Before you know it, Tkatchuk and Wennberg are gloveless and throwing blows. The last time I’d felt this level of surprise was when Jared Boll played three consecutive games without engaging an opponent in fisticuffs.
It certainly wasn’t the most glamorous knuckle duster. This isn’t Wennberg’s game and his reputation for being a genuinely nice guy certainly doesn’t sponsor this sort of behavior. You know what though? Kudos to Wennberg for standing up for his teammate. You can almost hear Jody Shelley‘s proud voice singing into his microphone, “good for Wennberg, it’s nice to see to him provide that kind of energy for his team.”
The fight was brief, but a wrinkle in time that deserves recognition every couple of seasons. Those six seconds were enchanting and powerful. The unhappenable happened and I saw it live. In that very moment I knew I had seen the Sasquatch video of the NHL. Except in this version, he didn’t just prance through a wooded parking lot, he punched Matthew Tkatchuk in the face.
According to YouTube user Alyssa Scott, “that left by wennberg was pretty nice.” I have to agree, it was. Seven people liked her comment (I confess I was number seven) so obviously there is some legitimacy to her assessment.
Without shaming the Jackets center for not being a fighting type, I have to say that I too had a swell of Blue Jacket pride in my chest when he stood up for Saad that night. If Wennberg were a seasoned NHL enforcer, this tale wouldn’t be so wonderful. Alas, he is not and we have this moment.
My only hope is that your grandkids’ grandkids will someday too appreciate this timeless affair. The Columbus Blue Jackets are not the most storied NHL franchise, but we are a proud community.
No matter how many cups end up calling the Buckeye City home, let’s never let Alexander Wennberg’s 2016 brawl in Calgary lose its honor. Instead, let it serve us as an ice cold reminder that on any given night, even ordinary Swedish men can become heroes.