Some media relations guys in the NHL get accused of protecting their players, but Phil Legault of the Ottawa Senators took that to a new level Monday night in Buffalo.
In the dying minutes of the Senators’ 5-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres, Legault found himself between a very angry Adam Mair of the Sabres and Jarkko Ruutu of the Senators. Mair, who was on the warpath looking for Senators shift disturber Chris Neil, grabbed Ruutu by the shirt before Legault stepped between them.
“Mair reaches over and grabs Ruutu by the chest, so by that time he has dropped his gloves and his stick,” Legault said. “So I stood between them and did the old spread-eagle and spread my arms to keep them apart. And nothing else developed. (Mair) let go and he stopped.”
But certainly not before a few tense moments. The incident, which earned Mair a $2,500 suspension from the NHL, started on the ice when he and Neil were given 10-minute misconducts at the 18:12 mark of the third period. Ruutu, who was assessed a two-minute minor for roughing and another for unsportsmanlike conduct, was already cooling his heels in the dressing room, but Neil was still on the Senators bench when Mair came looking for him.
Legault, one of the best media relations men in the league, claimed he was not afraid at any point during the confrontation because he had faith that the players would have come to their senses at some point. But, hey, we’re talking about hockey players here.
And it’s not as though Legault would have been able to trade punches with Mair. A former undersized defenseman, Legault played a handful of games with the Ottawa Jr. Senators in the Central Junior League and was once a member of the South Ottawa Jr. B Canadiens, but rarely ever got involved in fisticuffs.
“I was 150 pounds soaking wet,” Legault said. “One time I got into it with a guy in front of our net and we’re skating up ice and he just wallops me and I dropped. I had a glass jaw and my knees buckled and I fell, but I got right back up.”
He decided to stay in the game playing a much safer role, or so he thought. Standing between two angry NHLers isn’t exactly in his job description.
“I guess not,” Legault said, “but we do a little of everything.”
This column also appears in the Ottawa Metro newspaper.
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