TORONTO - At a time when the merits of fighting in hockey are under scrutiny, Ben Ondrus made his position crystal clear.
During the last minute of the Toronto Maple Leafs' 4-1 loss to the Tampa Bay on Thursday night, Ondrus was involved in an incident with the Lightning's Evgeny Artyukhin.
Ondrus claimed Artyukhin used his stick in a manner he didn't like while the two were lined up for a faceoff.
"He kept putting his stick in my mid-section and that's part of what's going on here," said Ondrus, a noted scrapper. "They want to take fighting out of the game, all the stick work is going up. You don't have that instigating rule, maybe someone beats the crap out of him and he doesn't do it again."
Ondrus, Artyukhin and Tampa's Ryan Craig all received 10-minute misconducts for their actions in the ensuing scuffle. Toronto coach Ron Wilson was assessed a game misconduct for arguing a little too strongly that Artyukhin should have received penalties for actions prior to the confrontation with Ondrus.
He stressed referees need to step in and control situations before they have a chance to turn dangerous.
"I was upset at the end because they allowed a situation to almost escalate out of control and they could have called Artyukhin for a couple penalties ¼- - interference, stick between the guy's legs - and they chose not to and it almost resulted in a fight and whatever else can happen at that point," he said.
"I thought they could have stopped it. We weren't trying to start anything by any means and it almost ended up becoming a situation that got out of control. You don't want to see one of your players put in peril like that."
Ondrus said he didn't see much potential for talking things out with Artyukhin, a six-foot-five, 254-pound Russian who leads Tampa Bay with 117 penalty minutes.
"I was standing there and he put his stick between my legs and tried to lift me up or something," Ondrus said. "I asked him what the hell he's was doing, but I don't think he speaks a word of English so, there's another problem."
Leaving, in Ondrus' mind, only one option for clear communication.
"All these questions are coming about fighting, I think stick work is just going to go up if they take fighting out," he said.