KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Kevin Westgarth did his best calf-roping impression, flinging New York’s Michael Haley to the ice by his jersey. Brett Westgarth one-upped his older brother, squaring off with Kings winger Raitis Ivanans twice in the first period. Los Angeles forward Wayne Simmonds raised his fists between raising his stick after goals.
Ugly? Only on the ice. The rest of the Sprint Center was still sparkling.
“It’d be a shame not to have some kind of major sport in this building,” New York coach Scott Gordon said after the Kings beat the Islanders 4-2 Tuesday night. “It’s a beautiful building and any team that would have it as a home would like it.”
The night was supposed to be a showcase for the shiny-as-new Sprint Center, which has been trying to land an NHL or NBA team since opening two years ago.
Instead, it turned into a slugfest, with more blows and beatings along the boards than goals. The game featured eight fighting penalties, one match penalty, a 10-minute misconduct and plenty of extra whacks after the play.
“It’s going to happen,” said Simmonds, who scored in the second period and on an empty net in the closing seconds. “Guys are fighting for roster spots and want to make an impression.”
Teddy Purcell and Drew Doughty also scored for Los Angeles and Jonathan Quick stopped 15 shots, including one from the seat of his pants in the first period.
Andy Sutton and Josh Bailey had goals for the Islanders, who had half their team – No. 1 overall draft pick John Tavares among them – in New York getting ready to play New Jersey on Wednesday.
They could have used the reinforcements.
Brett Westgarth and Ivanans started the mayhem, squaring off twice in the game’s first 12 minutes. Not to be outdone by his brother, Kevin Westgarth was called for a 10-minute misconduct in the second period for whipping Haley to the ice by his jersey on a rodeo-style takedown.
Haley also had a nasty slugfest with Rich Clune late in the second, then Sean O’Donnell was hit with a match penalty for pouncing on New York’s Matt Martin after he slammed against the boards and ended up face down on the ice.
The feature bout in the third period was between Simmonds and Martin, who traded punches for about a minute before collapsing to the ice.
“There was no question it was chippy,” Gordon said. “Play kind of dictated that.”
At least it made for an interesting show in the second NHL game at Sprint Center.
The US$276-million arena opened in 2007 as part of an $850-million revitalization project in Kansas City’s Power & Light District.
The Pittsburgh Penguins briefly looked at Kansas City while trying to get a new arena and the Predators had an even smaller flirtation while trying to work out a deal to stay in Nashville. The arena has done well with concerts and shows, a handful of college basketball games and tournaments, pulling in about two million visitors to the area.
That’s great, but a few shows here and there doesn’t provide the financial stability of an anchor tenant.
The prospects still appear murky, too.
The Islanders, because of their issues with worn-down Nassau Coliseum, could at least be a possibility.
Owner Charles Wang has proposed a $3.8 billion development project that would include a renovated of Nassau Coliseum. He spent part of Tuesday making his case in a final zoning hearing back in New York, and has said he would explore other options for the Islanders if the deal isn’t approved by the start of the regular season on Oct. 3.
More than 11,000 fans attended last year’s pre-season game and another 9,972 showed up Tuesday night, so Kansas City seems to be ready – if it happens.
“It’s certainly an intriguing possibility,” said Kevin Gray, president of the Kansas City Sports Commission and Foundation. “There seems to be a great deal of uncertainty in the NHL with several teams, so we’ll sort of keep track of that. The league is keeping track of several scenarios and certainly you can’t think of a better building than we have.”
It’s apparently great for fights, too.