SAN JOSE – Ask anyone in the league who's been around the Sharks' Brenden Dillon, and they'll likely tell you that off the ice he's one of the more gentlemanly players in the game today. That might surprise some outsiders, who have become accustomed to seeing the six-foot-four, 230-pounder drop the gloves and throw haymakers when he deems it necessary to stand up for one of his teammates.
But a video circulating on social media and talked about on The Today Show on Thursday morning, in which Dillon was mic'd up during a fight with Nashville's Austin Watson, offered a glimpse into the 26-year-old's personality. Immediately after exchanging blows with Watson in the second period of a game on March 11, Dillon and the Predators forward had a friendly chat from their respective penalty boxes that made it sound as if they were lifelong buddies.
In reality, Dillon didn't recall ever even chatting with Watson in the past.
"People were asking, ‘is that your buddy?' I literally have never met Watson before. I don't know him at all," Dillon said on Thursday.
For those that have seen the video, the "Joey" they were referring to was the Predators' Ryan Johansen, whom Dillon said he knows "really well."
That affable back-and-forth doesn't happen after every fight, of course, but it's not uncommon for hockey players in leagues that still permit fighting to be friends with one another, or to quickly move on from some rough stuff that has happened on the ice. It's simply an accepted part of the culture and the game.
In this instance, Dillon was simply sticking up for Paul Martin, who was on the receiving end of a heavy hit from Watson.
"Some of [the fights], I for sure wouldn't want to see the guy, talk to the guy, [or] touch the guy ever again in my life," Dillon quipped. "There's others where you're able to joke around about it a bit. At the end of the day, you're still going to go out and play hard, and finish your check on him the rest of the game whether you're a good buddy or not."
The Sharks have acquired players in recent years that had some run-ins with current guys already in the dressing room. Raffi Torres assimilated quickly into the dressing room when he was brought in four years ago, and Roman Polak was welcomed, too, despite pummeling Justin Braun in a playoff series while he was still with St. Louis in 2012. Most recently Jannik Hansen joined the team, and mentioned in his conference call with the local media just after the deal that he had fought Dillon once before.
Neither Hansen nor Dillon was worried about any discomfort, though, from a fight that had happened two years earlier.
"A guy like Jannik Hansen, three weeks ago is one of your worst enemies, and now you're playing with him on the same team. You want nothing but the best for the guy," Dillon said. "Last year when Polak came here, he [had] fought Brauner or something, and it was kind of like, is there going to be any awkwardness? I don't think there ever was. You maybe joke around about it at first."
"I think it's something in the world of sports you respect one another, you respect what you do on a nightly basis. That's kind of what hockey is. I think that's something that separates it from football and baseball. You get a five-minute penalty for it, you come back out and play hard. There aren't too many guys that will hold grudges. Obviously if there's a bad hit there might be a little bit, but in certain instances like that one (with Watson), it just happened."