Physical teams had to give up fight, says Belfast Giants coach Paul Adey
Paul Adey believes that ice hockey fans in the Elite League will never again see a team built to win fights rather than matches.
It is 11 years ago tomorrow that a match between the Belfast Giants and Nottingham Panthers – who were then coached by Adey – ended in a mass brawl involving almost every player from the two teams.
The Panthers main tough guy Barry Nieckar stripped off his own shirt before attacking Giants enforcer Paxton Schulte in an ugly melee that led to a series of tense clashes between the teams during the 2002-03 season.
The teams meet tonight at the Odyssey Arena on the eve of the anniversary of that infamous night, with Adey now in charge of the Giants and he has seen a major change in approach in the passing years.
"I think the league has moved on from that kind of hockey," said Adey.
"The lesson I learned from that season was that you aren't going to win anything by having the toughest team in the league.
"You need to have guys who can play and score goals.
"It didn't take me long to learn that lesson that season.
"We had a very entertaining team, that's for sure, but we weren't going to win the league with it."
Adey also revealed his attempts to prevent the post-match battle from taking place, but found himself powerless to do so.
"When the guys left the bench that night, I tried to get them back," said Adey.
"It was out of my control at that point. Both teams had tough guys and it went too far.
"I remember sitting in my office with Barry Nieckar, who got a 10 or 12 game suspension, and I looked at him and I said we weren't going to appeal the suspension and he told me I was right.
"We knew and he knew that he'd gone over the top."
Now though, the Panthers come to Belfast as Elite League champions and the only fight on Adey's mind now is the one to take the trophy away from them.
"Nottingham are the team to beat. They set the bar very high last year after winning all three trophies," he said.
"We have to get up to that standard and do our best to change that."