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Peet returns to ice after long suspension
The league punished Shaun Peet for starting what was called the "worst brawl in ECHL history"
BY COREY MCDONALD
Special to the News & Record
December 8, 2001
GREENSBORO - The gloves drop, the players square off, and fists fly. Bodies are dropped and some pounded until the victor is decided or the men get tired.
This is not a scene on the WWF's "Raw is War" or "Smackdown." It is a fight in a hockey game. It can be seen nearly every night in any arena that houses a hockey team. Hockey is an aggressive sport, but unlike other aggressive sports, fighting is considered part of the game.
The Greensboro Generals opened their home season Oct. 20 against Reading. One of the most memorable moments came during a four-on-four brawl late in the second period. Generals defenseman Shaun Peet began what a league official called the worst brawl in ECHL history.
Peet received a suspension of 18 games, or one quarter of the season, a penalty that will end this weekend. His last game sitting out will be when the Generals play Pee Dee at 7:30 p.m. today at the Greensboro Coliseum, and he will return to the lineup when the Generals face Augusta at 3 p.m. Sunday at home.
"Hockey is such an aggressive game, and obviously you have 10 egos on the ice at the same time," Peet said. "You're also carrying sticks, you're carrying a weapon, which makes hockey an unique sport."
"Some people are real liberal with their stick, and that's how a lot of hockey fights start."
Exactly what prompted Peet to get into a fight with Reading's Steve Shirreffs is unclear. But Peet fought Shirreffs, who had turned to chase a puck, and left Shirreffs with a 20-stitch cut over an eye, ECHL officials said in October.
"Unwritten rules govern fighting in hockey, and there are certain situations where you fight, and things happen," Peet said. "Taking up for your teammates is obviously one of them, what I was doing the Saturday night when that big brawl went down."
"Your goalie is 100 percent off limits. If someone hits him, comes in and spears him,once the whistle blows, that's an instant fight."
"Someone taking liberties against your teammates, spearing, slashing from behind, then there's going to be a fight."
After fighting with Shirreffs, the league said, Peet turned to help a teammate who appeared to be losing a fight with a Reading player. Peet hit Reading's Ryan Flinn in the back of the head, dropping Flinn to the ice. Then, Peet hit Shirreffs again.
At other times, like plays in a play book, fights are planned.
"It can change a game and give a team a boost," ECHL referee Ryan Fraser said.
Coaches and players say fighting can be used to change a game. A strategically planned fight can shift the momentum of the game, mentally taking a team or a player out the game, or mentally putting a team or player in the game.
"Players know when a fight needs to occur to spark the team," Generals coach Graeme Townshend said. "Those guys are the guys that will get the job done, and Shaun Peet is one of those guys."
Peet said a fight can help intimidate the other team.
"If you have a soft team that's playing against a tough team, that tough team will just try to intimidate them," he said. "If a team is rolling, sometimes a fight will change the whole aspect of the game, so there is absolutely a strategic aspect to fighting."
Sometimes, a player will fight, simply trying to help himself.
"The aggressiveness of a fight can help a player physically and mentally get in a game, whether he's coming off the bench or starting a game slow," Peet said. "They get that adrenaline rush if they are dragging at the start; they'll fight just to get their head into the game."
Although 11 players were issued 172 penalty minutes in the Oct. 20 game, Peet suggested that there can be a gentlemanly aspect to it.
"Some guys will jump you, but usually they will ask," Peet said. "They'll say, 'You wanna go?' and it's up to you whether to fight or not."
The ECHL suggested that Shirreffs did not want to fight Peet, although the game officials issued fighting penalties to Shirreffs and Peet.
"If you don't fight, some guys will keep hounding you because they know they have that psychological edge," Peet said. "They know that you don't want to fight them, so they'll try to exploit that for the rest of the game."
Many players have had jaws broken, noses shattered and head injuries because of fighting. Other than Shirreffs' injury, the Oct. 20 brawl did not result in serious injuries beyond facial cuts and bruises.
After Flinn was taken off the ice and made remarks to the Greensboro bench, Peat skated past the Reading bench and gestured by dragging his thumb across his throat, the league said.
While Peet may be remembered for his actions, he insists that's not the type of person he is. "Guys on this team take up for each other, and if it were anyone else, I'm sure the same thing would have happened," Peet said. "Players take up for teammates. If someone messes with your brother, you take up for him."
During the seven-week suspension, Peet has participated in Generals University. A few players and staff go to schools and talk to students. Peet said he had also participated in other community activities.
"That was my first game in Greensboro, and I don't want people to see me as a bad guy on the ice," Peet said. "That is not the type of player I am, but that is the game of hockey."