Goalie tussle sparks fun memory

BOSTON -- A few times this season, former Boston Bruins goaltender Hannu Toivonen has been the topic of conversation. The reason: Current Providence Bruins goaltender Malcolm Subban was involved in a goalie fight earlier this season, which reminded many of the time Toivonen, while playing for the P-Bruins in 2004, dropped the gloves at center ice with opposing goalie Peter Budaj of the Hershey Bears.

“Hopefully he did better than I did,” Toivonen said during a phone interview.

On Wednesday, Budaj, now a backup for the Montreal Canadiens, tried to fight Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, but the referees stepped in before the two could tussle.

Toivonen saw the highlights and laughed.

“Yeah, that was pretty funny,” he said.

On Nov. 12, 2004, the P-Bruins were hosting the Bears at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence when a fight broke out between the P-Bruins’ Jay Henderson and Hershey’s Jeff Finger. It wasn't much of a fight, but since there was less than five minutes remaining in the second period, both players went to their respective locker rooms.

In the hallway, the two got into it again and both benches emptied into the lower concourse. The only two players remaining on the ice were Toivonen and Budaj. They began to pass the puck back and forth before they decided to meet at center ice and drop the gloves.

“I got my ass handed to me,” Toivonen said of the first and only fight of his career.

“It was just me and him on the ice,” Toivonen remembers. “Me not knowing any better how tough a customer he was, and everybody was going at it, he asked me to go so I tried to do my best and it was basically hang on because I had no idea what I was doing. Sometimes you’ve got to step up to the plate and defend your teammates and try to do your best in any given situation. Obviously, he knew what he was doing and it’s a funny moment in my career. It’s not like I’m looking for anything like that, but it’s a good story and something to be still laughing about.”

Speaking of his career, Toivonen, 29, is currently playing for the Milwaukee Admirals, the AHL affiliate of the Nashville Predators. The Bruins drafted the Finnish native in the first round (29th overall) of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. He was supposed to be Tuukka Rask before Tuukka Rask. Toivonen spent five seasons in the Bruins organization and played a total of 38 games. On July 23, 2007 the Bruins traded Toivonen to the St. Louis Blue in exchange for Carl Soderberg.

Reflecting on his career with the Bruins, Toivonen doesn’t focus on the what-ifs.

“Obviously, it would have been nice if it worked out better for me at that given stage and maybe it could’ve been me, but you just can’t live your life that way,” he said. “You’ve just got to face what’s ahead of you and unfortunately it didn’t work out.

“I’m happy for [Rask] and how well he’s doing and handling the task there. It’s not an easy task, either. It’s a great place to play and the fans are knowledgeable and demand the best. He’s done great and obviously going deep last year, carrying the team and it’s the same this year. You don’t put up those numbers with lucky breaks here and there, you obviously have to be talented and work hard every day and he’s doing that. I’m happy for him that he’s been able to do that and obviously it’s a great place to play and a great organization. It’s a great hockey town with great fans and he deserves all the credit in the world for the way he performs.”

Toivonen hasn’t played in the NHL since the 2007-2008 season with the Blues, but he’s hoping to return soon.

“It’s good to be back on the map,” Toivonen said.