Gleason: 'I Did What I Had to Do'
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In a scrum in front of the Carolina bench at the buzzer to end the first period, Kulemin appeared to punch Gleason in the face twice with his gloves still on. Gleason finally took exception, throwing his gloves off and delivering a knockout blow to Kulemin, who left the ice bloodied and did not return.
Most likely due to the fact that Kulemin had not yet removed his gloves at the time of the fateful punch, referees determined that Gleason would not return to the game. It was a divisive play that resulted in Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice and Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson both claiming Gleason was in the right, although Toronto players, including Kulemin, continue to express the opposite.
For his part, Gleason isn’t sure what he should have done differently.
“I’ve watched it 30 times, probably more,” he said. “I went home and watched it until 2:30 in the morning. I stand up for myself. I don’t hit people that I know don’t fight, and I actually have zero interest in people that don’t fight.
“He came in, and I could have dropped my gloves then when you think about it,” continued Gleason. “I didn’t. I took one (punch), and I didn’t. I took two, and then I figured, well, if you’re going to keep punching me in the face, I don’t know what else to do. I had to protect myself.”
Gleason said that he plans to get Kulemin’s phone number today and give him a call. The Hurricanes’ defenseman expressed some doubt that Kulemin would pick up, which seems warranted based on the Russian’s comments on Monday. Kulemin seemed to agree with his teammates, who called the play “disgusting” and said that Gleason “obviously isn’t that smart.”
“They can say whatever they want,” said Gleason. “They can stand up for their player and that’s what they’re going to do and that’s fine. I’m not going to get away from my game, because if I don’t play that game I won’t be here.”
Furthering the lines drawn in the sand, Gleason’s teammates similarly stuck up for him.
“To be honest, I probably would have done the same thing,” said Troy Bodie, the closest thing the Hurricanes have to an enforcer. “He took a couple of punches in the face, and correct me if I’m wrong, but I think Ron Wilson even said it was the appropriate action. For an opposing coach to say that says something.”
The game misconduct was Gleason’s second of the season, as referees also gave him the boot for a hit on Washington’s Mathieu Perrault on Dec. 26, even though Perrault’s gruesome injury seemed to be caused by his own stick hitting him in the face rather than from any direct contact by Gleason.
Asked if he felt as though he was getting a reputation, Gleason could only shrug his shoulders.
“I’m not that type of player,” he said. “I don’t care what anybody says. If you have a problem, I’m here.”