"It's a Jewish holiday."
It broke up the locker room. The guys were still laughing when we went out for our pregame workout. The place was full. I didn't pay much attention to the Blues. They had players I knew, and a lot I didn't. As on most expansion clubs, there was a flock of rookies. Those kids are usually the ones to watch because they play harder than veterans in exhibition games. Fighting for jobs, they have to make an impression or they get lost in the shuffle.
The first 12 minutes of the game went by without much happening. There was no checking, no scoring, no fighting, no nothing. Around the 12th or 13th minute, while I was guarding the right side of our defensive zone, somebody shot the puck over our blue line and followed it in. I didn't even notice who it was—to me it was just a blue uniform. Later I discovered it was Wayne Maki, a left wing, but I didn't know that then. He had been with the Black Hawks and he was one of the kids fighting for a regular job with the Blues. The only time I had ever played against him had been when he took one turn on the ice against us while he was a Hawk. I wasn't particularly concerned about him.
As I trapped the puck behind the net the kid hit me from behind, and I got a little ticked off, as I always do when that happens. But my first obligation was to clear the puck. I kicked it with my skate up to my stick and shot it out around the boards to our right wing. Then I turned to take care of the guy who hit me. By that time we had both moved in front and a little to the left of our net. I reached out with my gloved left hand and shoved Maki in the face. He went down by the side of the net. Figuring that was the end of that, I turned away, but then Maki speared me. Spearing, which is shoving the blade of your stick into a guy, is a filthy trick, because if you get him in an unprotected spot he can be badly hurt. That and butt-ending (hitting an opponent with the butt of your stick) are dangerous.
Where at first I had just been annoyed, now I was sore as hell, and I hit Maki with my stick just below the shoulder at the biceps, knocking him off balance and, I think, down on one knee. I say "I think" because I am really not sure, and I wouldn't know at all what happened next except from pictures and from what I was told. Seeing Maki on the ice is the last clear memory I have. My last thought was Well, I guess that'll straighten him out, and again I turned to skate away.
The next thing I knew, I was lying on my stomach with my head turning violently. I remember trying to stop it from moving, but I couldn't because I had no control over it. It was whipping back and forth, and everything else that followed is vague in my memory—little snatches of action, dim pictures of guys around me. I didn't know what hit me, didn't remember anything hitting me, didn't feel a thing—no pain, nothing except this violent head movement that I couldn't stop.
I don't remember going down and I don't remember getting up. Everything was hazy because my eyes were full of water and things were very, very blurry. I still felt no pain, didn't see or feel any blood. I was just in a complete fog, terribly dazed and yelling something—I don't know what. And I remember that nothing came out clearly; I couldn't control my speech. I saw a haze of players, but the only one I remember was Bobby Orr, who had been on the bench and was now on the ice. Dan Canney and somebody else (I found out later it was Phil Esposito) were trying to lead me off the ice, but I tried to push them away. I don't remember how I got off, who led me, where I went, what I did. And I didn't know what had happened, where I had been hit, what I had been hit with, how badly I was hurt. It was the only time in my career I ever got hit without seeing the blow coming—the only time I turned away thinking a fight was over when it wasn't.
"I saw the two guys pushing each other around, but I didn't think anything of it," Canney said later. "That sort of thing happens all the time in a game. I turned away for a second, then turned back just in time to see Maki hit Ted with his slick. Bobby Orr, sitting in front of me, jumped the boards, saying something about going after Maki. I followed him because I knew Ted was badly hurt. He went down with his knees buckling, and then his head kept thrashing around. Even as I was jumping the boards, I could see his eyes glazed and staring oddly. I got to him as fast as I could, but I was still 20 feet away when he stood up under his own power. Phil was holding him by the arm and Ted was mumbling almost incoherently. The only blood I saw was from a small cut on the right side of his scalp.
" 'Canney,' he muttered thickly, 'I'm gonna get that guy.'
" 'Come on, Teddy, you're cut,' I said. 'Let's go in and get you fixed up. Bobby's taking care of Maki. You'll get a shot at him later.'