When Brandon Manning crashed into the end boards with Connor McDavid a little more than a year ago, breaking McDavid’s clavicle and forcing the superstar out until February, Don Cherry sounded off on Coach’s Corner that the Flyers defencemen intentionally tried to injure McDavid.
“Connor was hurt on purpose. I’m telling you they meant to drive him into the boards,” Cherry said on Nov. 7, 2015.
On Thursday of this week, McDavid and Manning were on the ice against each other for the first time since last season’s incident and tensions flared again. The two were in each other’s face throughout Edmonton’s 6-5 loss and after the game, McDavid called Manning “classless” for comments he made on the ice, suggesting he did intentionally try to hurt him last year. Manning fired back and said he would never try to hurt an opponent.
After the latest flare up, Wayne Gretzky defended McDavid’s comments and spoke about how being targeted is a part of life as an NHL superstar. Gretzky said it’s something players such as Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews have dealt with in today’s game, just as it was something he and Mario Lemieux had to contend with in their day.
“And Connor, he’s going to get tested every night, but this is not new for him,” Gretzky said. “He’s been tested since he was a kid and then playing junior hockey and now in the NHL and he’s always responded and done his part.”
But on Coach’s Corner Saturday night, Cherry said there is no way Gretzky is able to relate to the kind of targeting and punishment McDavid has had to deal with in less than two seasons in the NHL.
“Now Wayne Gretzky one of my favourites comes on and says he can relate because it happened to him all the time, guys on him all the time, are you kidding me?” Cherry said. “He had a credit card for 10 years. He cannot relate because he had (Dave) Semenko and (Marty) McSorley taking care of him.”
Cherry was livid that not only did Manning refuse to drop the gloves as other Oilers egged him on, and McDavid gave him a few shots to the face, but the kind of comments Manning was accused of uttering on the ice were an embarrassment for hockey and had no place in the game.
“That’s a sad thing when someone says something like that ‘ya I meant to break your shoulder.’ Can you imagine that in hockey a guy saying ‘ya I meant to break your shoulder?’ Unforgivable.”