DeCock: Funny how icy words can melt

Staff WriterNovember 23, 2011 

Who said this about the Carolina Hurricanes?

"It's embarrassing how they play the game. They don't play the game the way hockey should be played. They don't battle hard, but take the easy way out and take dives trying to get the cheesy call. A lot of guys are frustrated playing them because it's hard to play a tough game against them."

A: Bryan Allen, who now plays for the ... Carolina Hurricanes.

Allen laughed about that recently, saying he didn't remember saying it, but he remembers the circumstances. Four years ago, the Hurricanes were embroiled in a diving controversy concocted by then-Florida Panthers coach Jacques Martin, whose team's inability to beat the then-defending Stanley Cup champions forced him to pursue alternate methods.

It started in April 2007, when Allen's trip of Eric Staal led to the winning goal for the Hurricanes. Then-Panthers goalie Eddie Belfour threw a tantrum and Martin continued to harp on it before the team's first meeting of the next season, seven months later, saying, "I guess we'll have to teach our players to dive," among other comments.

Martin's little ploy worked - referee Brad Watson called a pair of diving penalties against the Hurricanes - but Martin soon was fired (he since has resurfaced with the Montreal Canadiens, who visit the RBC Center tonight) and the issue hasn't come up again, not even when Allen was traded to the Hurricanes last spring.

"In 82 games, there are things that happen, especially within the division," Allen said. "You say things to try to get the upper hand, to get in guys' minds - you do what you have to do. I think guys are professional about situations when you change teams. I'm an emotional player, so things happen and you say things."

It's funny how often this seems to happen in the NHL. Whether because of the frequency of heated emotions on the ice or the frequency with which players change teams, yesterday's mortal enemies often become today's foxhole buddies. Allen isn't the only one to settle into a dressing room where he once would not have been welcome.

Cam Ward and Michael Leighton dropped their goalie gear and exchanged punches during an American Hockey League brawl; three years later, they were the Hurricanes' goalie tandem. Kevyn Adams played for Carolina during a nasty playoff series against the Buffalo Sabres in 2006; he was an assistant coach for the Sabres when they visited the Hurricanes last week.

Four months after Scott Walker cold-cocked Aaron Ward during a playoff game, they were looking at each other across the Hurricanes' dressing room. Ward, now a studio analyst for Canadian sports network TSN, called the immediate aftermath "the most complicated situation I've ever been in."

Once they became teammates, Aaron Ward said there was nothing complicated about it. After speaking to the general managers involved, the next person he called upon being traded back to the Hurricanes was Walker.

"One hundred percent, without a doubt, the moment I got traded, the moment we had the conversation, I never thought about it again except when someone would ask me about it," Aaron Ward said. "There's no lie to that analogy about what happens on the ice stays on the ice. ... It's baffling as a young guy to watch it happen."

A 12-year NHL veteran, Allen has seen it happen. He has been on both sides of it. He has gone through worse than this.

"It's amazing, too, in those situations when it is worse, how accepting guys are," Allen said. "We're all in this business together, in a sense. In general, we're a good group of guys as hockey players.", or (919) 829-8947

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