Perry game-long target in Punch and Corey show

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:39 AM ET

The sideshow stole the spotlight from the big show.

The London Knights went into Kitchener and came away with a 5-3 win yesterday in an Ontario Hockey League game.

But the hockey took second place to the Punch and Corey show. The Rangers did a lot of punching with Corey Perry as the target.

That's not to say that the Knights didn't participate in some of the shenanigans when it came to hacking, whacking, slapping and fooling around. In fact, it got downright silly at times as players dropped the gloves at regular intervals. But from the drop of the puck Perry was target No. 1.

That's not unusual with Perry. After all, he is the league's top scorer and for a number of reason he seems to get under the other team's skin. He faces such treatment game in and game out.

"But (yesterday) everyone in the building saw it," said Knights coach Dale Hunter. "It was extreme. We have to go out and protect him. He's the best player in the league and you can't have a six-foot, six-inch guy punching your best player in the head."

The six-foot, six-inch guy Hunter was referring to was the Rangers' Boris Valabik. Valabik and Perry ran into each other at the blue-line. Perry went down and Valabik punched him. In stepped the Knights' Kelly Thomson, who went after Valabik and earned a minor, major and game misconduct.

"Thomson had to step up," said Hunter.

Valabik was only one of a long list of Ranger players Perry had encounters with. They included Mike Duco, Adam Keefe and David Clarkson. Duco caught Perry with a check as Duco was coming out of the penalty box and earned a minor for high-sticking and a misconduct.

The sideshow between Perry and the Rangers stirred up the 6,370 spectators. They called Perry every name in the book and some that aren't allowed in books. As the crowd seethed, Perry drove them crazier with a little smile or a couple of gestures implying they needed to get louder still.

Perry is a player plenty of people run at but he's like a rubber band. No matter how much punishment he seems to take, he keeps bouncing back.

There may be certain comfort in knowing that Perry can take a pounding and survive but it doesn't make Hunter feel any better.

"It's not good for the team, the league, the player or the player's career," said Hunter.

When Perry touched the puck in the third period, the booing was loud and lusty.

"I heard them," laughed Perry. "I was trying to cheer them up. I was just having some fun with them but it wasn't fun when we were protecting a one-goal lead late the game. We were up 4-1 and we let them back to 4-3. It was time to start paying attention to the game."

Perry had his usual assortment of welts and bruises after the game. None of it seemed to trouble him much. Perry seemed to enjoys the attention.

"This is pretty much the way it is between the two teams," said Perry. "Whether we come here or they come to (the John Labatt Centre.) The fans get into it."

It was the last regular-season meeting between the two with the Knights winning all six games.

The vigorous treatment of Perry will no doubt continue, especially when playoff time roles around.

"There are a lot of targets on this team," said Perry, rhyming off names like Rob Schremp, Dylan Hunter, Danny Syvret, David Bolland and several others. "Everyone plays this game hard. It's a tough game to play.

"Besides, if the other team pays attention to me, it might open up the ice for the other guys."

Given the attention Perry will continue to get, look for plenty of open ice.


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