Vail Yeti’s final matchup against FDNY ends with fistfights
The Vail Yeti hockey team routed their FDNY opponents this season, defeating the traveling team of New York City firefighters in all four of the matchups they saw in 2023.
The final of the four games took place on Saturday in Vail and while a fight or two is commonplace during a hockey game, it’s not often you see fights break out after the conclusion of a Vail Yeti matchup.
But that was the case on Saturday as numerous fistfights broke out during the handshake portion of the game, which occurs after the conclusion of the match.
Announcer Drew “Doc” Jones said he has yet to see a fight break out during the handshake, which is intended to be a show of good sportsmanship.
“The handshake was intended to put out the fire,” Jones said. “No pun intended.”
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But instead, Jones said it had the opposite effect.
“Some of the aggressiveness had started toward the end of the game, and the handshake just ended up fueling it even more, with everyone being in such close proximity to one another,” Jones said.
Jones said he and DJ Krusher Jones, in the announcer’s booth, weren’t quite sure what to do.
“We were like ‘should we play some music here?'” he said with a laugh.
Krusher Jones said the crowd wasn’t helping calm things down, either.
“The fans were going crazy,” he said.
Doc Jones said the fans are what make the Vail Yeti games special on the circuit, with traveling teams like the FDNY not often finding such packed stadiums in their travels. At Dobson Ice Arena in Vail, the Vail Yeti’s home ice, it’s not uncommon to have 1,000 people pack the arena, Jones said.
“And this year, we’re seeing a really high level of hockey being played,” he said. “It’s not just a beer league, it’s legit hockey. There’s a bunch of adjustments that happen throughout the game, the players are actively being coached, and it makes for some pretty attractive play.”
Doc Jones said the high level of play was evidenced by the Yeti’s defeat of FDNY in all four games this season.
Left wing Dom Panetta said he’s been pleased with his play this season, scoring a few goals in the matchups with FDNY.
“We had a couple good comeback wins, some close contests,” he said.
On Friday, the Yeti was trailing FDNY with 1:20 remaining, but managed to score two quick goals in the final minute of the game to win 5-4. Saturday’s game was also close, with the Yeti coming out ahead 8-6.
On Saturday, Panetta said he could feel some of the frustration coming out on the ice. It started to pick up in the third period, he said.
“You started to see some little scrums – guys pushing each other or maybe throwing a punch here and there,” he said. “When you start to see that, and it starts to become obvious that one team is going to win and the other is going to lose, that’s when it starts to escalate.”
Panetta said he had second thoughts about lining up for the handshake.
“I was in the back of the line, and then the line just stopped moving, and I looked ahead two guys were grabbing each others’ helmets and trying to shake them off each others’ heads,” he said. “And then everybody started piling in, and four or five different fights broke out – you got three guys grabbing one guy and pummeling him to the ground. The refs were flying around trying to break it up.”
Doc Jones said he felt bad for the referees.
“The game is over at that point, they just want to go home,” Jones said. “Not to mention the fact that they were short-staffed – usually we have four refs and we only had three that night.”
But while it all sounds a bit unsportsmanlike, Panetta said it’s important to point out that no one was seriously injured, and amid it all, there is an underlying ethic that’s adhered to in hockey, which was upheld on Saturday.
“There’s a gentlemanly thing to do at the end of a fight, when you sense you and the other guy are getting tired,” Panetta said. “It’s like ‘you tired? Yes I’m tired. OK, let’s be done.’ There were definitely some cuts and bruises, but nothing serious.”
The Vail Yeti have three home games remaining this season, playing the Phoenix Desert Dogs on Friday and Saturday. The final home game is scheduled for March 24 when the Breckenridge Vipers visit Vail. Tickets are $10 in advance at VailYetiHockey.com or $15 at the door.