Hockey fights like the old days

There have always been fights in hockey, but the recent dust-ups between rival goaltenders are a flashback to the old days.

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Hockey is a tough game. The speed, the body checks, the battles in front of the net. It is like rugby on ice, with blades of steel on the players' feet and sticks in their hands.

But what is going on with the goaltenders? They are suddenly fighting again, like the ghosts of Billy Smith and Ron Hextall caught in a two-fisted time warp.

Most notably, Brent Johnson, the Pittsburgh backup goalie, skated the length of the ice a couple of weeks ago to answer the challenge of Rick DiPietro, the New York Islanders starter. And answer the challenge he did, one-punching DiPietro to the ice.

The Isles stopper, who told reporters after the game that Johnson had "long arms", suffered facial fractures and knee swelling.

Less than a week later, in a game between Boston and Montreal, things got a little nutty toward the end of the first period between Carey Price, the Canadiens goalie, and Tim Thomas, the Bruins netminder.

The two players, All-Star Game buddies a few short weeks ago, skated to centre ice while the Boston fans bounced around in frenzied anticipation.

In the end, it was more of a grappling match as Price swung a haymaker and then wrestled Thomas to the ice.

Seconds later, as they held on to each other while a referee tried to split them up, both goalies were chuckling with each other at their knuckle-chucking antics, and Thomas later told reporters that he had said to Price: "I just don't want to end up like DiPietro."