Fair fight may have led to unfair outcome

Adam Deadmarsh is proof that while a fight may be fair sometimes the outcome isn't.

Updated: January 18, 2004, 11:15 PM ET
By Terry Frei | Special to ESPN.com

Los Angeles Kings winger Adam Deadmarsh hasn't played an NHL game in over a year. He is out of the lineup with post-concussion syndrome, but still is hopeful of returning.

As a power forward, Deadmarsh took more than his share of pounding over the years, and sometimes it was literal. His concussion problems seemed to start when he took a punch from Vancouver Canucks defenseman Ed Jovanovski in a fair and otherwise unremarkable fight on Nov. 1, 2000.

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The two had been maneuvering in front of the net, Deadmarsh slashed Jovanovski, emotions overheated and the gloves dropped.

"There was nothing different about that time than any other time I'd been in a fight," Deadmarsh said. "I just happened to get hit in the wrong spot in that one and it put me out for a while."

Jovanovski nailed Deadmarsh and knocked him cold. Deadmarsh missed a month with a concussion.

He also made a mental note that he needed to respond. Not out of hatred. In fact, he and Jovanovski at the time both were about to become fathers, and their wives were going through difficult pregnancies that both would result in the birth of twins.

As the teams were about to meet again on Dec. 23, 2000, Deadmarsh at least publicly scoffed at the notions that he should hold a grudge and also that he needed to back off his tendency to get into fights. The Avalanche generally preferred that Deadmarsh leave the fighting to others, but admired him for his spunk.

Deadmarsh, who had been trained in the rough-and-tumble Western Hockey League, said he wouldn't change. "Unless you've got an extra set of Forsberg hands sitting around," he said, laughing.

Jovanovski said he didn't expect Deadmarsh to come after him.

"The fight was unfortunate," Jovanovski said, "but I wasn't looking to put him out for a couple of weeks. Whatever he does, I can't control that. If he does come after me physically, I'm going to answer physically."

Of course, after Deadmarsh downplayed the need to salvage his honor, he challenged Jovanovski at the 2:31 mark of the first period against the Canucks. They threw a few punches and that was it. Honor restored. Nothing personal. Deadmarsh received an instigator minor as well.

Yes, Deadmarsh has played effective hockey since then, but the concussion caused by the fight was the beginning of his problems. The Kings were satisfied with his health, accepting him as one of the cornerstones of the Rob Blake deal in early 2001. He had 29 goals in 2001-02, but the concussion problems keep returning. Last season, he suffered a concussion in a collision with the glass in Toronto, and then took an accidental knee in the head from teammate Craig Johnson in practice. He was limited to 13 games.

Did the fair-and-square punch from Jovanovski start this spiral?

There is no way to know for sure. The suspicion is that it did.

It sure didn't help.

Terry Frei is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. He is the author of "Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming," available nationwide, and 2004's "Third Down and a War to Go."

Terry Frei

Special to ESPN.com
Terry Frei is a columnist for the Denver Post. He is also the author of "Third Down and a War to Go" and "Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming."