Mike Milbury Once Hit A Fan With A Shoe And Now He’s Become A Pacifist, What’s Changed?

Current NBCSN hockey analyst Mike Milbury is a guy many hockey fans love to hate but say what you want, the man sure can spark a conversation. (Photo: AP)

Current NBCSN hockey analyst Mike Milbury is a guy many hockey fans love to hate but say what you want, the man sure can spark a conversation. (Photo: AP)

Mike Milbury, it’s a name every hockey fan should know because whether it was as a player, general manager, coach or analyst he has always found a way to be a lightning rod for scrutiny and usually it’s for being overly aggressive (hence the nickname “Mad Mike”).

This is a guy that when he was a defenseman/enforcer in the NHL playing for the Big, Bad Boston Bruins back in 1979 thought it would be a good idea to enter the stands at Madison Square Garden while still wearing his skates immediately after a game had ended to remove a shoe from a fan’s foot before proceeding to strike the man with it.

And to think, all of this because the fan allegedly hit tough guy Stan Jonathan in the back of the head with a rolled up program before also stealing Terry O’Reilly’s stick, O’Reilly being another player who could more than handle himself. I mean, this incident could in fact be where the phrase “Don’t poke the bear” comes from because this fan was poking a couple of grizzlies if he was in fact picking fights with guys like Jonathan and O’Reilly.

Here’s Milbury recalling the incident to the New York Times:

“I grabbed his shoe, took a little tug on it, and then sort of double pumped. I don’t know if I hesitated for a minute because I thought I’d be vilified for the next 30 years, but I gave him a cuff across the leg, and then I did what I thought was probably the most egregious thing of all: I threw his shoe on the ice.”

Kind of reminds me of the time Adam Sandler’s Happy Gilmore proudly pointed out that he’s the only hockey player ever to have removed his skate and attempted to stab another player with it.

After his NHL career was over, Milbury became the assistant GM of the Bruins under the legendary Harry Sinden and also eventually took on head coaching duties in Boston before moving on after a couple of rather successful seasons.

Milbury then took his talents and loud demeanor to Long Island where he bounced back and forth as both a GM and a coach for a handful of years. It was for his stay on the Island that Milbury is often remembered as one of the worst GM’s in not only the history of hockey, but sports in general.

To be fair, Milbury was often operating on a very restricted budget on Long Island and was at times forced to move a star or two because ownership no longer wanted to pay their salaries. However, there are still plenty of trades Milbury made on his own that were just downright atrocious as he often traded away young prospects who would go on to have very successful NHL careers elsewhere. Zdeno Chara, Roberto Luongo, Wade Redden, Todd Bertuzzi and Olli Jokinen to just name a few.

Milbury also made some pretty bad draft choices as well, specifically when he chose goalie Rick DiPietro 1st overall during the 2009 NHL Entry Draft over franchise changing players like Dany Heatley and Marian Gaborik. We all know how DiPietro’s career played out and oh, did I forget to mention Luongo was already in the organization at the time the DiPietro pick was made?

After making great moves like those mentioned above, Milbury didn’t last much longer with the Islanders and eventually “resigned” in 2006. Shockingly he was unable to land a front-office job with another organization despite his best efforts, so he did the next best thing and became an NHL analyst by inking deals with NESN, NBC, NBCSN (then VERSUS) and TSN in 2007.

Since becoming an analyst Milbury has provided us with many memorable sound-bites and he’s become a TV personality that you either love or hate, there’s no gray area with Milbury.

My favorite Milbury moment of all time came after the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup back in 2011. Fellow NBCSN analyst and former Blackhawk Jeremy Roenick was tearfully explaining how happy and proud he was for the Blackhawks and city of Chicago for bringing home the Cup because it was something he never got to accomplish himself. Milbury brilliantly chimed in with a “Well, I didn’t do it either but I’m not going to cry” and I’ve been watching that clip on a loop ever since.

Last month Milbury was at it again as another sound-bite of his went viral but for entirely different reasons.

Milbury was asked about fighting in the NHL and he shocked the world when the former NHL tough guy responded with, “It’s time for the NHL to grow up and get rid of it”. That’s right, a man who made a living in the trenches (he’s credited with at least 70 fights over his 12-year playing career) and even once struck a fan with his own shoe, was now telling all of us it’s time to grow up and get rid of fighting in the NHL.

Now, if I’m playing Devil’s advocate this wasn’t really the first time Milbury has voiced his opinion about fighting and how he feels it may no longer have a place in today’s NHL. However, it was definitely the strongest stance he ever took and a lot of people were taken a back.

So what changed for Milbury? For him, the answer is simple.

“I’ve been TKO’d before and missed games because I’ve been dizzy, lost in space, tired,” Milbury explained to the Los Angeles Daily News shortly after the clip aired. “I just can’t imagine that being somebody’s condition for most of the days of the rest of their lives. I mean, I’ve been out as a player since 1987 and fortunately haven’t had any issues – although some may disagree. The fact I can still count and put a sentence together, sure, I feel fortunate. No one was worried about all that when we played. We saw the older players hobble around, but we were chasing the dream, chasing glory and we felt it was worth that price.”

Hard to argue with the man there, but the biggest counter argument for those who want fighting to stay in the game is that they believe it allows players to police themselves and keep each other safe. Also, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman downplays fighting in the league and says it plays a “minor role” in hockey.

However, Milbury is simply no longer drinking that Kool-Aid as he feels the simple fact that teams often no longer employ “enforcers” is proof enough that it’s no longer needed.

“Back when the big, bad Flyers won by intimidating teams physically with their fighting, the league took steps appropriately to curb that and since that time it’s been slowly diminishing.”

Now Milbury is also aware that many will question his stance based purely on his history but he doesn’t care, according to him with all the new information available out there on concussions and how it effects players down the road, it’s just simply not worth it to have fighting in the game anymore.

If I’m being honest I have to admit it’s very hard to argue with Milbury when you allow him the chance to explain himself and I myself am a big fan of rough, tough hockey and fighting. But it is starting to feel as though the negatives of fighting are vastly outweighing the positives and maybe it really is time to make a change.

I believe Milbury himself put it best when he said, “As much as I liked to get into a scrap in my day, too many issues here now involving concussions — Let’s grow up and get rid of it.”

Leave a Reply