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Rolling Rock - A Unique State of Beer

LCS Hockey

  When Heroes Collide
by Michael Dell, Editor-in-Chief

(EDITOR'S NOTE: This article originally appeared in issue 108 of LCS Hockey. It is repreinted here to further illustrate the greatness of Darcy Tucker.)

Here at LCS Hockey, we don't know much. Hell, some might even say we're stupid. But we know one thing for sure: Darius Kasparaitis is the coolest player in the NHL. And that's not the Night Train talkin', either.

It just doesn't get any better than the wacky Lithuanian. To know Darius is to love him. The biggest misconception around the league is that he's a dirty player. That couldn't be further from the truth. Darius is as clean as it gets. He never uses the stick. But rest assured, if there's a chance to hit someone he's going to take it. He never, ever, passes on a check. And since most guys don't like to get wrecked, most guys don't like Kaspar. But don't hate him for playing the game the way it's meant to be played.

Darius Kasparaitis
Darius Kasparaitis
by Meredith Martini

Even though he's a world-class defensemen, Kasparaitis does some of his best work off the ice. He's a funny, funny guy. A few recent examples occurred when the Penguins did some of that charity stuff, taking kids to a local store to load up on winter clothes. The little fella that got stuck with Darius was treated to some comedy, too.

While the youngster was in the market for some boots, Darius did the ol' "pretend he asked for high-heeled shoes" bit. Aw, it was classic. Then when he accidentally tore down a shelf while getting the boots the tyke selected, Darius was quick to rabbit and blame the whole thing on the camera man. Rule number one in department store high jinks: always blame the union guys.

Darcy Tucker
Darcy Tucker

While Darius is definitely in a world of his own when it comes to coolness, he does have some remote competition in Darcy Tucker. The gritty Tampa Bay center has scrapped his way into our hearts with his feisty, relentless play. Even at 5'10", 180 pounds, Tucker isn't afraid to mix it up. He'll go with anybody, anytime. And mess with one of his teammates, you mess with him. That's just the kind of guy he is.

Seeing how they play similar styles and are both in the inner circle of LCS Hockey heroes, it would make sense that Kasparaitis and Tucker would be friends. Sadly, that's just not the case. But it's not all bad. While their mutual hatred does make things a little awkward at our office parties, the rivalry is one that all hockey fans can enjoy from afar... which is the only safe way to be involved when it comes to these two.

It's tough to say exactly when the feud began, but all best estimates point to April 4th of last season. The Penguins waddled into the Ice Palace and were enjoying a 4-1 lead early in the second period when things got ugly. Kasparaitis collided with Tucker at center ice and a huge dog pile ensued. Tucker dropped the gloves and started throwing. Not known as a fighter, Kaspar did his best to survive. Both men received two for roughing to go along with their fighting majors, while Tucker also drew a misconduct.

Fast forward until this past Thursday, November 19. Kasparaitis and the Penguins were back at the Ice Palace. The Birds were trying to close out a 5-1 win in the final minute of regulation when Bolt rookie Vincent Lecavalier ran over Tom Barrasso in the crease. With no penalty called on the play, Barrasso meted out some justice of his own, two-handing Lecavalier across the shin as he looked to circle the net and make his way back up ice.

As play went the other way, Lecavalier stopped dead in his tracks in the right wing circle and seemed ready to escalate things further with Barrasso. Wanting to protect his netminder, Kaspar stepped in and started jawing with the supposed Bolt savior. Lecavalier responded by backing up and dropping the gloves.

Having just seen the tail end of the incident, Wendel Clark assumed that Kaspar was trying to start trouble with Lecavalier, and being the bad man that he is, rode to the rescue. Unfortunately, this meant steamrolling Kaspar from behind. Darius never saw Clark coming and got laid out. He had no choice but to cover up as Wendel stood over him with fists ready to fly. Clark's a good guy, though, and didn't take advantage of Darius while he was down. I guess that whole checking-from-behind thing was just a momentary lapse in judgement.

Anyway, as a linesman stepped in to break things up, Kaspar got to his skates and seemed to explain to Clark that he hadn't done anything to Lecavalier but was just standing up for his goaltender. Clark seemed to appreciate the argument, because the two engaged in quite the civil discussion without any further excitement.

But things weren't over yet. As Darius was skating off the ice, he exchanged words with Tucker on the Tampa Bay bench. It's not clear exactly what was said, but the two really got into it. Tucker snapped. Billy Ranford had to physically restrain him from charging over the boards. All the while Kaspar stood his ground and kept yapping, even pointing at his nemesis in a rather threatening manner.

Tucker was simply out of control on the Bolt bench, breaking his stick and appearing ready to leap out of his own skin to get a piece of Kaspar. Don't kid yourself, Tucker's pretty scary when he gets mad. Look in his eyes and it's as if someone else is driving. I don't want to say Tucker's insane, but after seeing Darcy in this condition my family now refers to our crazy Uncle Earl as just Uncle Earl.

After shepherding Tucker out of the realm of sanity, Kaspar eventually made his way back to the Pittsburgh dressing room. Tucker continued to fume for the final 11 seconds of play before disappearing down the runway. It was just the beginning.

As incredible as it seems, the Penguins and the men with lightning bolts on their pants were scheduled to meet again just two days later in the Steel City. A Tampa-Pittsburgh home-and- home series is quite the rare occurrence, but the Fates smiled on us this day, my friend. Would Kaspar knock somebody silly? Would Tucker make good on his threats? Aw, this was one NHL ticket worth its price in folding green.

Fans didn't have to wait long for the festivities to begin. The very first time that the two were on the ice together, Tucker went looking for Kaspar.

The puck had been shot into the Tampa Bay zone and Kasparaitis was cruising through center behind the play. Now what happened next is open for interpretation. The incident happened so far away from the puck that it wasn't clearly captured on video. One blurry, distant shot is all that was available. One fact was clear, however. Tucker got knocked the (sunshine) out!

It appeared that Tucker attempted to run Kasparaitis only to have his plan backfire. Darius saw Darcy coming and exploded into him with a stiff check to the chest. Tucker got some serious air, covering a good 10 feet before crashing back first into the boards in front of the Pittsburgh bench. He remained motionless for several minutes.

Artist's rendition
Artist's rendition of Kaspar hitting Tucker

Obviously, you never want to see someone get hurt, but this was awesome. I mean, how often do we see guys barking at one another and then nothing happens? Well, not this time. Kaspar delivered. Just like Li'l Davey Cross, he's got the goods. He's a superstar in a superstar machine, takin' it to the sta-ars... emotion lotion! Yeah!

With Tucker still out cold, Cory Cross jumped Kasparaitis and started dealing. Darius was unprepared for the attack and turtled. Cross got a double-minor for roughing, while Kaspar was saddled with two minutes for interference.

Tucker was still lying on the ice long after the penalties were handed out. The worst is always feared in such circumstances, but Tucker ain't no joke. He slowly regained his senses and was helped to the Tampa Bay bench. Miraculously, Tucker didn't even miss a shift. Gotta like that. He was back on the ice just over a minute later to help kill the extra penalty to Cross. And he wasn't done being the center of attention.

The Bolts had cleared the puck deep and Tucker was in hot pursuit. Barrasso took a step from his cage and rifled the puck to the right wing boards, getting a whack from Tucker across the stick for his troubles. It was undoubtedly a payback for the slash Barrasso had given Lecavalier the previous game. Tommy didn't care. He called Tucker out.

Daren Puppa had just made a spectacular save at the other end of the ice when play had to be whistled because Barrasso was out near the Penguin stripe going with Tucker. Barrasso never dropped his gloves and popped Tucker a few good ones with his catcher before the rest of the gang arrived.

Once things were calmed down, Tucker was ushered to the box sporting a freshly split bottom lip to go with his two for roughing, two for unsportsmanlike conduct, and 10-minute misconduct. Barrasso was given two for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct. He also aggravated a back injury and never returned for the second period.

It's unclear whether Tucker got the extra two for something he did on the ice or for his behavior once he arrived in the box. See, Kaspar was still serving his two minutes when Tucker joined him across the scorer's table. That's trouble. Kaspar was the last person Tucker wanted to see.

It was quite the scene. There was Tucker, standing up screaming at Kaspar through the glass with blood-stained teeth and the spirit of Charles Manson dancing in his eyes. For his part, Kaspar remained seated and tried his best to hide a smile as he listened to the verbal assault.

Tucker wove a beautiful tapestry of obscenity that is still hovering somewhere over Lake Erie. Removing the profanity, the gist of Tucker's declaration was that he was going to kill Kaspar. Pretty standard stuff. As he frantically adjusted his elbow pads and tugged at his jersey, Tucker repeatedly warned, "Just wait." Kaspar scoffed, "For what?" Another threat was greeted by Darius with the always reliable, "Go 'head." He then attempted to remind Tucker to just play hockey. The suggestion didn't halt Tucker's theatrics.

Referee Kevin Maguire defused the situation somewhat by making sure that Tucker was escorted to the Bolt dressing room for the remainder of the period. The time away seemed to help. Tucker emerged for the second as the picture of composure. He was even seen calmly discussing matters with Maguire during the pre-period skate. I don't think Joanne Woodward changed personalities as quickly.

Tucker's penalty time wasn't finished until half the middle frame was expired. Meanwhile, Kaspar roamed free and rang up a few more big hits, including a bone-rattling shot on Benoit Hogue behind the Pittsburgh net. Kaspar finished the game with an astonishing eight hits; five more than his nearest competitor on either team.

The two combatants didn't share the ice again until the third period. The Lightning were still within striking distance and couldn't afford any stupid penalties, so Tucker placed the team above any shots at personal vengeance and simply skated by Kaspar on more than one occasion without so much as a word.

The Pens, however, pulled away at the 15-minute mark of the third when Maxim Galanov blasted a slap shot high short side over Puppa to make the score 5-2. At 18:11, with the game out of reach and Kasparaitis on the bench, Tucker found a willing dance partner in Tyler Wright, another LCS hero. Wright is a gritty, gutty guy, but he's not really a fighter. Tucker laid the smack down on him with the People's Right Hand.

The fight marked the end of this chapter in the Kasparaitis- Tucker story. A great time was had by all.

Everything considered, this one has to go to Kaspar. Not only did the Penguins win both games, he provoked Tucker to speak in tongues on two occasions and scored a KO on another. That's fine work indeed.

The importance of this latest confrontation has not been lost on us here at LCS. Construction has begun on a statue to commemorate the event. It depicts a scene of great hope, with Kasparaitis and Tucker working together to try and win a three- legged race. It's really amazing what one can do with duct tape and old liquor bottles. We're hoping to have it completed in time for their next scheduled meeting on Tuesday, December 15.

Kasparaitis and Tucker... if only everything in life could be so meaningful.

LCS Hockey

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