One of the beautiful things about two teams playing in the same division is the history that organically develops over time. While the final scores from dozens of games help build the rivalry, it’s usually specific moments and incidents that have a greater influence on shaping the ongoing story between said teams.
Like most things with history though, people’s perspective of those events generally change – even if ever so slightly – when given the benefit of time.
Case in point, Coyotes’ enforcer Paul Bissonnette and his views on Kings’ forward Kyle Clifford.
Better know as Biz Nasty, the 6-foot-2 twitter sensation had some sharp words two years ago for the then-rookie during our first – and only – twinterview.
At the time, Bissonnette said – “Clifford jumped me in pre-season, then I asked him to fight last game like a man, (he) wouldn’t. Standard. Heard he jumped guys in junior a lot.”
Both claims were vehemently denied by Clifford in a subsequent conversation we had with the former OHL forward. Plus, he was backed up by then-teammate Kevin Westgarth and the video proof pretty much supported Clifford’s case as well.
“Well he kind of jumped me,” Bissonnette said when we caught up with him prior to the Kings-Coyotes game on Monday. “He had the upper hand. I asked him to square off, and that didn’t work out.”
Not only did it seem he was he softening his stance on what went down, Biz Nasty was openly complimentary of the player Clifford is morphing into.
“He’s really become a player,” said Bissonnette. “I know he won’t fight me (now), just because of the amount of ice-time he gets. He’s like a 10-15 minute guy now. But, he steps up for his team and he’s been scoring this year – especially early on, when LA’s big guys weren’t really going. He was stepping up and helping the team get points. He’s a good player.”
Wow, this is all new.
“Yeah, I’m a fan of him. But, not on the ice,” he said with a huge laugh.
Not only has Bissonnette seen a change in Clifford, he’s seeing changes in the way scraps develop in the NHL now.
“Fighting is down, but I don’t think there’s a problem with it,” he shared. “It’s kind of good fighting is down. Guys aren’t just doing it for the sake of doing it. I think it’s good to keep it in the sport though because it kind of separates us from other major sports. And it does keep guys honest to a certain extent. It’s not like it used to be where if you ran a skill guy, guys were coming off the bench and getting maybe a one game suspension.”
True, guys may not be coming off the bench, but it certainly does seem like over the last few years more and more players are taking greater exception to clean hits.
“Yeah, 100%!” he said, when asked if he agreed with that statement. “Everyone kind of talks about that, ‘Man, it was a good hockey hit. Play hockey.’ I think it’s more so that guys just want to look out for their own guys – which isn’t a bad thing either because if it’s our guy hitting their guy then it’s like, ‘Yeah that was a clean hit.’ But if it’s their guy, it’s like, ‘Let’s get that guy.’ So, it’s kind of hypocritical, but it will always be like that.”
The usually talkative and generally fascinating Bissonnette even admitted that he has anxiety about fighting and that’s part of the reason why he tries to study as much video as possible.
“I know I get it, the anxiety,” he remarked. “I know a lot of guys I’ve talked to who fight, it’s just kind of nice to watch, and maybe see the other guy’s tendencies and stuff. I know come pre-game nap time you’re thinking about it, there’s a little bit of an anxiety build up. You don’t want to end up knocked out on the ice. So seeing things like that, you kind of have an advantage.”
But with a pair of games against the Kings, it was back to talking about Clifford.
“He’s going to be in this league for a long time,” Bissonnette said, as we continued to discuss the offensive evolution of the Kings’ third year forward. “It adds another dimension to his game. I think when he started out, he fought just because that was his role then – to try to sneak into the organization and the NHL. He did it that way, and then just kind of evolved his skill. But he was a good player in junior (and) he was a second rounder. So, he had a good base to work with.”
Perhaps realizing he was gushing a little too much for his tough-guy reputation, Bissonnette quickly added – “Don’t tell him I’m saying all this good stuff,” with a huge smile on his face.
We never would Paul.
We’re good at keeping secrets.
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Great read. Maybe not all of the their team are douches ha ha