TORONTO – Ian White doesn’t mind dancing with the stars.
The Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman got into a first-period fight with New York Rangers winger Markus Naslund, a player whose only other NHL scrap came more than 15 years ago when he was a rookie with the Pittsburgh Penguins. While Naslund is known much more for goal-scoring than punch-throwing, White said the veteran Swede brought the scrap on himself.
“He got me with an elbow in the corner, so my nose is pretty sore,” White explained. “It wasn’t much of anything, I just kind of snapped the first second.”
If any of this sounds familiar it’s because back in November, White was involved in a fight with Atlanta Thrashers superstar Ilya Kovalchuk.
So is the Canadian boy making a point to pick on the skilled Europeans?
“It’s a little embarrassing actually,” White chuckled after his team’s 2-1 shootout win over the Rangers on Wednesday night. “I don’t know. If a guy is going to elbow you in the face, something is going to happen.”
The Kovalchuk fight was a bit of redemption, too. White was on the receiving end of a hit he didn’t feel was clean and decided to settle the score by trading punches with the Russian.
“He kind of cheap-shotted me, so he deserved it too,” White reminisced.
When told Naslund had only been in two scraps in his entire career, the diminutive White pointed out his card isn’t exactly filled, either.
“Well, that’s only my third (fight), so we’re about on the same pace,” said the 24-year-old, who has also duelled Minnesota agitator Cal Clutterbuck this season.
White’s season has been notable for reasons beyond his scraps with stars. After being a healthy scratch for the first 11 games of the year, he’s become a valuable member of the Leafs blue-line as a third-year NHLer.
“I feel great,” said White, who played more than any Leaf player except fellow defenceman Pavel Kubina versus New York. “They’re giving me an opportunity to play and giving me lots of minutes, so you can’t complain about that and you’ve got to take full advantage of it and play hard every shift.”