January 2, 2007
Piestany brawl thing of past
By TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun
LEKSAND, Sweden -- Ryan O'Marra has seen the tape and skated in the same arena.
But the Canada forward, who won gold at the under-18 junior world cup in 2004 when Canada played some of its games in Piestany, Slovakia, does not think a brawl similar to the one between Canada and the Soviet Union at the world junior in 1987 in that city could happen again.
The 20th anniversary of the melee -- investigated in superb fashion by Gare Joyce in his recently published book When the Lights Went Out -- is Thursday.
"Back then in hockey, fighting was a lot more prevalent," O'Marra said. "I don't think many guys on our team have experience a line brawl, let alone a full bench-clearing brawl. I just don't see it happening."
Canada's chance at a gold in 1987 was killed when the brawl began. The Soviets, who had Alex Mogilny, Sergei Fedorov and Vladimir Konstantinov, had no shot at winning gold.
Among the players wearing Canada's sweater were Brendan Shanahan, Theo Fleury and Pierre Turgeon. The coach was the late Bert Templeton and his assistant was Pat Burns. One goalie was Shawn Simpson, now a scout for the Maple Leafs.
"Everything happened so quickly," said Simpson, who is attending the 2007 world junior. "The fight started and the next thing you know we are on a bus, then on a plane to Vienna and then Toronto.
"A black mark, I don't know. I guess it is. I don't think it is something that should be celebrated. But it's not something to turn away from, either. That team went over there and performed."
Is Simpson sour that Canada was denied what could have been a gold medal?
"We were up 4-2 and we had to win by five goals," Simpson said. "We didn't have a feeling we were going to win by five. We were not dominating. But it doesn't take away the accomplishment."
Skating on that ice surface in Piestany is an experience O'Marra will not forget.
"I can picture the exact rink where it happened and I still can't believe it happened," the Mississauga native said. "Incredible. And I think it is hilarious they thought they were going to fix it by turning out the lights."