If there haven’t been enough people chiming in on the Zack Kassian versus Matthew Tkachuk storyline, here’s an opinion from one more.
While on the “Kes and Juice” podcast, legendary pest Ryan Kesler weighed in on how he saw the behavior of both Kassian and Tkachuck. And, considering Kesler’s history in the NHL, the comments are a bit surprising.
Saying he hates the constant reference of the phrase “the code” during commentary of what happened between Kassian and Tkachuk, Kesler said this was all about Tkachuk refusing to play the ‘The game within the game.’ Kesler was brought up following players like (Todd) Bertuzzi, (Ed) Jovanovski, (Mattias) Ohlund, (Brendan) Morrison, and that inside any game, there’s going to be another game — the physical, fighting, and hitting part where you’re trying as a team to win that battle. And, part of that game includes a level of “respect and an integrity.”
Kesler said he dislikes the way the NHL addressed Tkachuk’s actions. “The fact that the league is defending that, and basically ran Raffi out of the fu–ing league because of those hits, and then Tkachuk does it twice in one game. To be honest we all know what Tkachuk is doing, he’s trying to hurt him.” Kesler’s co-host Kevin Bieksa said, “Why didn’t the league suspend or at least look at it? But if I’m a teammate of Tkachuk, I love the hit.”
Bieksa said that Tkachuk is trying to rattle a big, tough potentially 20-plus goal winger in the Battle of Alberta rivalry. He loves that Tkachuk was trying to take Kassian off his game. But Kesler then responded the NHL needs to be consistent and if nothing else, “If Tkachuk is going to play like that, he has to fight. Period.”
Bieska did admit that the hit was predatory saying, “That’s the definition basically of what a predatory hit is, or what targeting a player is.” He also said while he loved Tkachuk trying to rattle Kassian, he loved Kassian’s response even more.
“The first time he gets hit and his helmet goes flying off, he gives him that death look, like, ‘Who just fu–ing hit me?’ And he’s looking. He’s like, ‘I want to kill him. But I also have to be a good teammate and I can’t take a penalty.’ And he restrains himself. The second time he gets hit, he’s like, ‘I don’t give a sh-t who hit me, what time of the game it is, I’m looking for blood.’ I absolutely loved what he did.”
Bieksa believes Kassian even gave Tkachuk a chance to engage (in contrast to what the NHL video from the Player Safety Committee suggested) but Tkachuk refused. ‘I’m just going to beat you into the ground then.’ Which I love,” Bieksa said.
Kesler then said, “You got to at least throw. You can’t just turtle like he did after you throw two clean but dirty hits…”
Kesler related it to his own playing days saying that he played a bit like Tkachuk but he’d at least fight, even if he often lost. Kesler isn’t only behind what Kassian did, he loves that players around the NHL are speaking out on his behalf and supporting his decision-making. “I love that Kassian is receiving so much respect and congratulations from other players and GMs around the league. I think everybody that knows the game of hockey thinks what Kassian did was right,” Kesler said.
Kesler finished with, “If I was Tkachuk I’d line up at the first face off and fight him. You have to.” Saying this is something that will just keep dragging on and on if Tkachuk doesn’t at least confront the situation, he’s going to be a hunted man by Kassian and the Oilers, and perhaps other NHL’ers. Kesler called this Tkachuk’s own doing. “If he had just manned up and fought him right away all of this would have been over and done.”