It was for most of Sunday night an insignificant pre-season snoozer. Then the fists began flying and the blood began spilling and the staid old Air Canada Centre turned into a hepped-up cauldron of hate.

Alas a crowd-pleasing melee that resembled a Slap Shot-era throwback ended with the Maple Leafs suffering a not-so-comedic setback. Most significant among the 201 penalty minutes doled out after a third-period line brawl was a 10-minute misconduct to Toronto forward David Clarkson for leaving the bench to join the hysterics. According to the NHL rulebook that penalty comes attached to an automatic 10-game suspension — hardly the beginning the Maple Leafs imagined when they signed Clarkson to a seven-year contract worth $36.75 million. For a player being paid handsomely to provide experienced leadership the transgression showed an utter lack of judgment.

Toronto’s season opener goes a week from Tuesday in Montreal. Clarkson figures to have to wait for his regular-season debut until Oct. 25 in Columbus.

“Obviously we’re not proud or happy with what went on” said Leafs coach Randy Carlyle.

“I think David Clarkson made a mistake. And now we pay for it.”
Clarkson wasn’t the only Maple Leaf who lost his head during Sunday night’s bizarre sequence of violence which was the only story of a 5-3 Maple Leafs win. The bad blood began to boil after Sabres forward Corey Tropp appeared to willingly engage in a fight with Maple Leafs counterpart Jamie Devane. That bout was a mismatch from the get-go. Devane is listed at six-foot-five and 220 pounds; Tropp at six-foot 185. But after Devane left Tropp bloodied and wobbly on his feet Sabres enforcer John Scott was sent out to exact vengeance.