TAMPA -- Tim Gleason says he isn't a bully who goes around picking fights with an opponent who has no interest in dropping the gloves.
But on Tuesday, the Carolina defenceman said he was just “standing up for myself” when he dropped Leafs forward Nikolai Kulemin with a one-two punch to the noggin on Monday night.
“I don't hit people who I know don't fight,” Gleason told the Charlotte News & Observer following the Canes practice on Tuesday morning. “I have zero interest in people who don't fight.”
That changed, however, when Kulemin jabbed him in the face with a gloved hand. Gleason said after being hit more than once, he had seen enough. After dropping his own gloves, Gleason nailed Kulemin in the kisser with his first punch, leaving Kulemin blooded and unavailable for the final two periods of the Leafs 6-4 loss to the Canes.
“I took one punch, then I took two and I thought, ‘Well, if you’re going to keep punching me in the face, I don’t know what else to do.’
“I have to protect myself. It’s almost like a boxer getting hit in the face.”
Gleason felt bad enough afterwards that he says he intends to try to get in touch with Kulemin.
“I don’t wish anything like that upon anybody,” Gleason said. “In a way, I feel bad because of what happened. I’m getting his phone number and will give him a call. Hopefully he answers. That’s all I can do.
“I’m not a type of player like that, I don’t care what anybody says. If they have a problem, well, I’m here.”
Leafs president Brian Burke, meanwhile, told the Toronto Sun the team is satisfied with the five-minute major and game misconduct issued to Gleason and will not appeal to the league for further discipline.
Left unsaid, however, is how Kulemin’s teammates might react when the Hurricanes visit the Leafs next Thursday.