Thoughts About The Tootoo/Sestito Tussle

Nashville and Columbus had a preseason game Saturday in Nashville that saw the Predators score in the last 28 seconds to claim a 3-2 victory. The game went as most preseason games go, with teams switching goalies, young players matched on lines with experienced veterans, and vets trying to play themselves into roster spots. Uneventful as far as preseason games go, until the dying moments of the first period, when the Blue Jackets’  Tom Sestito a young player trying to ear a roster spot as an enforcer, challenged Predators tough guy Jordin Tootoo to a fight. Tootoo obliged, removing his helmet (he wears a visor) and engaged the much larger Sestito. Punches were exchanged, and as the fight went on, Tootoo started to gain the advantage. Launching a thunderous right, he connected with Sestito, knocking him backwards. The momentum of the punch carried Tootoo into Sestito, and he fell on top of him as he was going down to the ice.  Sestito’s head was the first thing to hit the ice, and players immediately motioned for trainers from the bench as blood pooled around Sestito’s head. He appeared unconscious, and a stretcher was brought onto the ice to as medical personnel attended to the fallen player. Fortunately, he was able to be helped to the locker room, and after a night in a Nashville hospital and ten staples later, was able to fly back to Columbus and rejoin his team.

One can debate the merits of fighting in hockey, and can cite this fight as one of many reasons why fighting should be banned. I happen to believe that fighting has a place in the game, but I also believe that certain situations can be avoided to minimize the unnecessary fighting and the potential for injury. This fight was “staged”- Ken Hitchcock had sent Sestito out to engage Tootoo. This was not a case of a player policing inappropriate behavior, instead, in my opinion, it was a player being sent onto the ice to prove he was tough enough to fill the role of an enforcer. I fault neither player in this instance, but the circumstances leading up to the fight are suspect.

There is no secret that there is no love lost between Nashville and Columbus. They are division rivals and compete fiercely during the regular season. Why are they playing each other in the preseason? The level of animosity is naturally going to be high, and it’s no secret that Tootoo gets under the skin of the Jackets. The possibility of at least one fight in a meaningless preseason game was high, especially with Columbus skating several players attempting to land the role of enforcer. Is it necessary for any coach to put a player in this position in a preseason game, a staged fight?

Fighting has a place in this great game. It’s part and parcel of the heritage of hockey. Is it essential in a preseason game? Is it essential that a young player challenge a veteran, tough fighter to prove his worth and earn a roster spot in this venue? Sestito’s body of work in Syracuse should have been sufficient to answer those questions. As it is, he is a fortunate young man that will continue in the game he loves. Someone else might not be so fortunate, and these questions will have to be addressed again, in a potentially tragic setting.

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About the Author: A native Nashvillian that grew up with minor league hockey, I'm now a devoted Predators fan and NHL follower. I have had the privilege of allowing my children to grow up watching the Predators and seeing the joy on their face when they are at a game. By day, I am a partner in an independent investment management company in the Nashville area. I played collegiate football and graduated from the University of South Carolina and graduated from the LSU graduate School of Banking. So yes, there are real true southern hockey fans in these non-traditional markets.

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  1. Well said, Mark. For as much praise as Ken Hitchcock receives as a coach, and for as allegedly as close a friend as he is with Barry Trotz, that he would deal with his team, particularly a rookie, is surprising to me. It would be completely disappointing to me if I didn’t know the level of frustration that the Predators represent to the Blue Jackets. This year’s meetings between the two clubs will be very interesting indeed.

  2. David Singleton says:

    Fighting can be a sensitive subject. I find myself seeing both sides of the argument.

    As someone with a three year old son that I would like to get on the ice in a year or two, I have to admit that Darren Elliot’s [url="http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/writers/darren_eliot/09/21/tootoo.sistito.bout/index.html"]article[/url] has really given me pause.