AGING ENFORCERS "STICK" AROUND
When Marty McSorley put the lumber to Donald Brashear in February,2000 it was not the first time an aging veteran with diminishing skills did something stupid with his stick.
On March 7, 1968 Eddie Shack, then a Boston Bruin and Larry Zeidel of the Philadelphia Flyers engaged in a vicious stick fight in an unlikely locale. Since the roof of Philadelphia's Spectrum had blown off- the game was played at Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens.
The colourful Shack is best remembered for his days with the Maple Leafs. Zeidel was a veteran minor league enforcer and one of the few Jewish players in pro hockey. He had played 19 games with Detroit in 1951-52 and nine the following season. His first full season was with Chicago in 1953-54 before being relegated to the minors.
With the expansion to 12 teams from 6 in 1967, Larry "The Rock" Zeidel made his return to the NHL. The 39-year-old Zeidel had sent his resume to each of the 12 NHL teams. Only Philadelphia took a chance on him, largely because he had played in the minors for their GM Bud Poile, and coach Keith Allen. Zeidel's stick fight with Jack "Tex" Evans (former Hartford Whalers coach) in the early 1950's had become part of minor league legend. Shack and Zeidel had had another major clash in an exhibition game about ten years previous when Shack was a New York Rangers protege and Zeidel was policing the blueline for Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League.
Fred Stanfield, a Bruin teammate of Shack at the time of the incident describes the 1968 Shack/Zeidel swordfight in Ross Brewitt's book, "Clear the Track: The Eddie Shack Story": "That night in Maple Leaf Gardens when he and Zeidel went at it was the scariest battle I'd ever seen. Man, they whacked each other with those sticks. In fact, they broke them and got other ones. Nobody, including the officials would go near them." Zeidel claimed he had been the target of anti-Semitic comments from a handful of Bruins. Since he did not finger Shack in this regard, NHL president Clarence Campbell did not address the racist aspects of the incident. Zeidel got a four game suspension. Shack got three games.
Prolific hockey writer, Stan Fischler suggests in his book, "Bad Boys", that Zeidel's career may have been curtailed by the NHL establishment after that season because of his anti-Semitic charges against the Bruins. Those who suggest McSorley's attack on Brashear was racially-motivated are misguided. McSorley's motivation was revenge. Revenge for the pummelling he had taken in their earlier fight and the taunts by Brashear that followed it.
Zeidel plays down his stick fight with Shack in Ross Brewitt's book. "Ah, we just nicked each other. Hell, as a good stick fight it didn't even rate. Yet after, it was like I invented using the stick. I was a 40-year-old defenseman. I had wrinkles and the blood flowed into them. That's what made it look bad."
Another type of wrinkle made Marty McSorley look bad. It was the wrinkles in his playing and fighting abilities that ultimately caused his frustrations.