Sports Hockey

Kessel, Booth tussle at Leafs practice

By Terry Koshan, Toronto Sun

Phil Kessel during Leafs' practice at the MasterCard Centre on March 20, 2015. (Dave Thomas/Toronto Sun)

Phil Kessel during Leafs' practice at the MasterCard Centre on March 20, 2015. (Dave Thomas/Toronto Sun)

TORONTO - 

Too little, much too late?

No doubt.

Maple Leafs teammates Phil Kessel and David Booth tussled in practice on Friday, and big surprise, everyone laughed it off later (though not Kessel, at least not to reporters, as he was not made available).

But it was newsworthy in that teammate-on-teammate skirmishes don’t happen often, even on a club that, considering it will miss the playoffs again, would have plenty of excuses to want to take out its frustrations on each other.

Funny thing, though: Interim head coach Peter Horachek didn’t mind seeing it. Eric Brewer and James van Riemsdyk and others moved in to separate the pair, who began to jostle along the boards during a power-play drill, before true punches were thrown.

“Great,” Horachek said. “Guys are going to compete in practice, I think that’s a good thing. It used to happen all the time. Teams need to compete in practice, and that’s just the way it is. Part of the game.”

Booth said he would be happy if that kind of compete level carried over against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night at the ACC. Perhaps it could spread around the team, though with the playoffs on hold for at least another year, we would not count on it.

“It was just a drill that promoted competition,” Booth said. “It was good to see that. Hopefully, we can take some of that competitive nature into the game.

“That stuff is bound to happen. I don’t think it’s a big deal at all. When it happens here, it might create a bit of a ruckus.”

Said Horachek: “We want to start instilling that whole idea that there is competition everywhere and it’s an on-going thing. That’s good for people to step out of their comfort zone.”

Captain Dion Phaneuf already was looking past the incident.

“We are competitive guys and sometimes tempers flare and emotions boil over,” Phaneuf said. “It is going to continue to happen. It’s not the last time you are going to see it.”


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