Minnesota Wild star Matt Dumba was roaming near the blue line during Tuesday’s game at Xcel Energy Center when he saw Sharks winger Alexander Barabanov drop his head.
Not a good idea.
You could almost see Dumba’s eyes light up from way up in the press box before he sent Barabanov crumbling to the ice with a hip check that would make legendary NHL defenseman Rob Blake proud.
“He’s just skating up the wall with his head down,” Dumba said. “I was able to step up and get a good lick on him.”
Not surprisingly, Dumba had his head on a swivel as soon as he regained his balance. He braced for impact knowing what was coming down the pipeline. A couple of seconds later, Sharks center Tomas Hertl jumped Dumba and all hell broke loose along the boards.
“You’re always kind of expecting it,” Dumba said. “My boys had my back.”
The fact that Dumba had to answer for his big hit in any capacity is 100 percent what’s wrong with NHL hockey: A guy who lays out an opponent with a clean hit is immediately expected to drop the gloves. It’s ridiculous.
And it didn’t stop there.
A few minutes later, Sharks winger Jonah Gadjovich confronted Dumba behind the play, begging for a fight. Dumba smartly declined, knowing the Wild had the puck going the other way. Why drop the gloves and negate a potential scoring chance? Problem was, Gadjovich wouldn’t stop. He stalked Dumba up the ice before Marcus Foligno finally jumped in and gave him the fight he so badly wanted.
“He’s trying to do something (after) their player gets hit,” Foligno said. “It is what it is. There’s no need for Matty to fight there. We’ve got guys that can fill in for that.”
As for Dumba, he opted to throw some shade at Gadjovich postgame.
“I wasn’t going to fight that guy,” he said. “I don’t even know who that is. He’s just barking at me. I didn’t even think Moose has to fight him at that point.”
He’s absolutely right. Nobody should have to fight in that situation. It was a clean hit by Dumba. He popped his hip out and glided into the point of contact. You literally can’t do it any better. There’s absolutely no reason he should have to engage in the toxic masculinity that followed from Hertl and Gadjovich before everyone finally felt OK letting bygones be bygones.
This is a sport that prides itself on toughness, yet players consistently feel the need to drop the gloves after every big hit. It’s hilariously backwards, and Dumba had already dealt with it earlier in his career. A few years back, he laid a clean hit on Flames center Mikael Backlund, and got jumped for his actions. Then a couple of weeks later had to fight Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk, too.
To make matters worse, Dumba threw an errant punch in that fight, tore his pectoral muscle in the process, and was forced to miss the rest of the 2018-19 campaign. The culture of the sport literally stole a year of his prime.
Thankfully, nothing happened to Dumba this time around. He finished out the game and garnered praise from coach Dean Evason afterward.
“He’s always ready to go. No question about that,” Evason said. “He was calm. He wasn’t trying to do extra stuff. He was just playing within himself.”
Asked if he was frustrated that he had to answer for his big hit, and might have to do so later this season, Dumba tried to brush it off, responding “No. It’s part of the game.”
It is. And it shouldn’t be.