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The Caps/Rangers series, which concludes tonight, has had plenty of great hockey.
But the matchup has gotten to the top of the local sports heap—-Brian Orakpo‘s introduction to the local media at Redskins Park got poleaxed by Donald Brashear‘s banishment—-because of all the quasi-hockey incidents: the pre-game tussles, intra-squad domestic issues, some biting, world-class gooning, and two league-imposed suspensions.
The biggest of the brouhahas came with the fan/coach exchange of fluids behind the Rangers bench during Friday’s game at Verizon Center.
The dousings, which led the NHL to suspend Rangers coach John Tortorella for Sunday’s Game 6 in New York, were featured again and again on NBC’s telecast from Madison Square Garden.
Hockey has a history of participants and spectators going at it like no other sport. And one of the greatest such scrums of all time came in 1979 also at the Garden, and featured Mike Milbury, a former Boston Bruin tough guy who happens to be with the NBC broadcasting crew working the Caps/Rangers series.
As the Bruins piled into the grandstand after Garden patrons who’d been throwing barbs and beers, Milbury ended up on top of a Rangers fan several rows behind the bench.
But instead of raining right hands on the poor, prostrate schlub, Milbury took off the guy’s shoe and pounded him with it. Video of the brawl spread as quickly as possible at the time. If YouTube had been around, Milbury would’ve been Soulja Boy within a week of the beating.
“Oh, you hate to see this!” the announcer screams as Milbury and his mates kick some Ranger fan tail. Speak for yourself, guy. I’ve been watching the clip all day. And as soon as I finish typing this, I swear I’m going to go watch it again.
I didn’t see anybody else use the shoe in such a way for 24 years, until folks in Baghdad went all Milbury on the toppled statue of Saddam Hussein. Watching what turned out to be a U.S.-military-staged photo-op, I immediately thought of Milbury and the Madison Square Massacre of ’79.
We North Americans have since learned that the shoe bottom is the go-to weapon in that part of the world.
So when did that routine start? Was Milbury the father of the Shoe Beating?