By Jim Diamond
Quick, name two Nashville Predators you would least expect to drop the gloves and fight.
Were Roman Josi and Craig Smith on your list?
Well that’s exactly what happened Monday afternoon at Centennial Sportsplex as the Predators went through practice. During a battle drill, something the team has done a lot of in this training camp, emotions boiled over and Smith and Josi fought in front of the net.
That’s right, the Bern Brawler against the Madison Marauder mano a mano. According to hockeyfights.com, neither player has an NHL fight under their belts. It started out as one of those situations where everyone wondered if they were serious, and as it turns out, they were serious.
When asked about the fight, Smith channeled his inner Bill Belichick at the start of his media availability.
“It was a good practice,” Smith said. “We got some things accomplished and we are getting better.”
Pushed further, he opened up a little more.
“It’s our team,” he said. “Every day we are going to skate together and we’re going to be battling. We are battling hard. I thought we did a good job at getting as close to game-like as possible and ready to go Thursday.”
Training camp skirmishes between teammates are nothing new. In a not so long ago era, players would state their case for making the team based upon how tough they were, and in an attempt to showcase what they had, they would take on any and all teammates. There’s also the fact that after playing against one another for more than two weeks, one extra cross-check here or there could be the final straw in one player having enough of the other.
After the two went to the ice, several others stepped in to break up the fisticuffs.
“We battled and yeah, it was just intense, I guess intensity in practice,” Josi said.
Asked if they two had talked it out yet, Josi said, “We didn’t talk about it and I don’t know if we will, so we will see.”
It’s nothing to worry about according to the head coach.
“It was competitive,” Peter Laviolette said. “It happens. Guys are battling out there. We’re past it, over it.”
While they like to see the intensity that was displayed, some of the peacemakers were worried about two of the team’s star players going at it.
“You don’t want to hurt your own teammates,” Eric Nystrom said. “Sometimes you just have to go in there and calm some guys down, but this is not a lighthearted game. It’s intense and guys are competing hard and trying to impress the new coach and get ready for games. That stuff happens. I like the intensity, but I don’t like seeing those two guys doing that just because we need them. You’ve got to channel it and save it for the other team.”
They won’t see another team until the team’s season opener Thursday night when Ottawa comes to town.