Game within the game

STEVE SIMMONS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:32 AM ET

The fighters of a more colourful day stood and applauded.

One watching from his press box seat at the Air Canada Centre. The other from in front of a television screen.

"That was good," said Bob Probert, smiling, before heading home last night.

"It's good to see they let them go. You need more of that in the game. It was good they didn't break it up."

All Wade Belak did was call his name out loud. That's all it took and Cam Janssen, the nefarious and infamous cad of the moment, knew what was expected. Fighters always know.

CALL OF THE WILD

"Did you hear that building?" said Tie Domi, who knows a little bit about the job description. "Ever hear it like that?

"I watched them and I really don't miss that part. That was me at one time. What was I thinking?

"I had my day. Probie had his day. What were we thinking?"

It was no secret what Belak and Janssen were thinking last night. No one had to tell them to get out there and don't dance.

This is the great and often ridiculed code of hockey at play. One minute and thirty-five memorable seconds worth. No one had to write Belak a script last night: He knew all his lines.

Janssen heard his name called out, looked over, dropped his gloves. The call of the wild.

It had nothing and everything to do with an important Leafs victory last night. The relevance of standing up for your teammates is forever in dispute. The entertainment value of a fight that lasted four seconds longer than Mike Tyson's knockout of Michael Spinks was not in dispute.

"It's really tiring," Belak said. "The first thing that goes is your forearms. I couldn't even hold on (at the end). Credit to him, he kept on going. I wanted (the linesmen) to come in.

"Credit to him, he knew what he had to do. Credit to him, he answered the bell. Now it's done with and we can move on."

But only to a point. Belak avenged the pride of Leafs Nation -- "they felt it had to be addressed too," captain Mats Sundin said of Leafs fans -- but it doesn't change anything. Tomas Kaberle remains out of the lineup. The win last night is obviously meaningful but revenge didn't bring him back last night.

"It's nice to have 19,000 plus fans screaming your name," said Belak, living in the moment. "It makes it worth it. And I'm still beautiful, right? I tried not to get hit. I want to have that modelling career when I'm done."

He is, at least, beautiful in the eyes of his teammates. "It was the appropriate thing to do," Sundin said. "You don't have to be a genius to understand that."

"You don't understand the pressure of doing what Belak does," Domi said. "People don't realize that. What happened had nothing to do with him but still it's his job to respond. You take a guy like that for granted. Who had all the pressure on him last night? Belak. It's a thankless job.

"I'll tell you this. Wade Belak shouldn't have to buy a meal on the road the rest of the season. Players should be treating him. He stood up for everybody. He did what the Leafs should have done the first time."

Said Probert: "I think the fight helped the Leafs, it got the crowd into the game. You go out and win a big game like that everyone goes home happy."

Wade Belak didn't know he was playing last night until he found out that Andy Wozniewski had the flu and Kaberle, himself, still wasn't right. Once he knew, he chose not to think about it.

"I have so much going on at home with construction people building and my daughter hating me and stuff like that, it kind of kept my mind off everything," Belak said. "It was good that way I kind of kept my mind off everything.

"It's basically my job," Belak went on to rationalize. "I'm sure if I had been playing in New Jersey, maybe it would have resolved then. My job is protect our players. (Tomas) isn't expected to go out there and fight.

"It's my job and I'm fine with doing it."


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