For an athlete beating around the lower rungs of professional play, it doesn't get any sweeter than that first big-league appearance. Mom invites the girls from canasta over to watch the game. Dad brags it up to the guys at work. Grandma makes some T-shirts with your high school varsity headshot. Big happenings are on the wind. No doubt Eric Selleck's family and friends were feeling that way when he took the ice for his NHL debut with the Florida Panthers this week. But it all went embarrassingly downhill.
With three minutes left in the Panthers' Tuesday matchup against the Carolina Hurricanes, Selleck hopped off the bench. Instead of heading for the action down near Carolina's goal, he honed right in on forward Kevin Westgarth. Punches started whistling immediately, and by the time the seconds-long scuffle was broken up, Selleck was being led off the ice.
Selleck was clearly out there with marching orders to take Westgarth down. Unfortunately, the rookie's man-up moment went wrong. As this video shows, Selleck didn't live up to his minor-league record as an enforcer -- before he could place a punch, Westgarth had him nailed to the ground.
Later this week, the NHL handed the rookie a two-game suspension for instigating a fight he badly lost. The fight broke out with only three minutes left in a game the Panther's had on lock, 4-1. The late time-stamp ensured Selleck would get a one-game suspension; the second was tacked on due to the blatant display of the player's designs. Basically, if you're head-hunting, at least act like you're looking for the puck before introducing your fist to some guy's dental work.
It'll be interesting to see if Selleck lasts on the Panthers. He was obviously brought up to add muscle, and you could see his late-game fisticuffs with Westgarth as a tryout for a spot as the Panther's resident head-basher -- a tryout he lost.
It makes you feel a little sorry for the guy. As he was led off the ice, you can pick up disappointment in Selleck's face. The path of the hockey bruiser is a lonely and troubled one, as this New York Times story shows. Career success is tied directly to how much hurt you can reliably deliver. And losing doesn't help your employment prospects.