“Oh no,” spat the L.A. Kings defenceman mere hours before facing his young nemesis.
“No respect for him, none. I respect everyone else. I’ll never talk to him off the ice.”
On the ice the two have exchanged plenty of words, dating back two years to when a vicious Tkachuk elbow to Doughty’s face left a gap-toothed grimace worn every time the two have met ever since.
That elbow earned Tkachuk his first NHL suspension — a two-gamer — and spawned a running feud the veteran blueliner insists doesn’t stem simply from their initial run-in.
“It’s happened many times — every game since he’s been in the league,” said Doughty, working himself into a lather before an otherwise benign matchup Monday at the Saddledome.
“That’s his role, that’s how he likes to play. That’s fine, I have no issue with it. But when he crosses the line I lose respect for him for sure.”
Without citing examples, Doughty suggested Tkachuk crosses the line regularly with him, and believes it’s all part of a concerted effort directed at the Norris Trophy winner and divisional rival.
“Right when he came into the league obviously his plan was to try to get me off my game and at times it worked,” said Doughty, visibly agitated with almost every meeting.
“But I’m used to it and know how to deal with it. He’s entertaining for you guys, but he’s not respected by most of the people in the league, it’s not just me — that’s just a fact.
“But that’s how he plays and that’s how he makes his money, that’s fine. You’ve just got to be aware of him and take him out of the game and not let him be effective, it’s pretty simple.”
Strong words, even from an outspoken veteran who has shared similar thoughts before.
Shortly after the initial elbow, Doughty spoke of how surprised he was that a rookie would be so “dirty.”
Tkachuk preceded their next meeting by calling out Doughty for “complaining to the media after a loss,” sparking a wild rematch that began with pre-game vitriol at centre ice between several players, and ended with Flames defenceman Deryk Engelland getting beat up by Kings rental Jarome Iginla, of all people.
In between, Tkachuk took his lumps by fighting Brayden McNabb early on.
Doughty would be lying through his tooth to suggest he isn’t fazed by Tkachuk’s style, as that night ended with Doughty screaming at Calgary’s crowd, offering up an angry Jagr salute and a stick toss after setting up Tanner Pearson’s game-winner in overtime. After charging off the ice in an animated fashion, he shouted across the hall at Tkachuk en route to the dressing room.
Minutes later he told me Tkachuk was the most hated player in the league.
Tkachuk took heat the next day for the massive distraction he caused, prompting then-coach Glen Gulutzan to say, “he’s been talked to.”
There’s little doubt that theirs is one of the most famous feuds left in the increasingly sanitized league.
Tkachuk’s unique ability to get into the heads and under the skin of opponents has him leading the NHL in penalties drawn over the last three seasons.
Many despise his incessant chatter, his post-whistle aggression, his crease-crashing tendencies and scrum-inciting face-washes.
Few have called him out as dirty in the past, just highly unpopular in every building but their own, a la Brad Marchand.
“Marchand will cross the line too — he bites people and kisses people,” said Doughty, when asked about the comparison as agitators.
“I guess he’s similar in that sense, but Marshie doesn’t chirp me because I’ve known him for a long time. So he doesn’t really say much to me.”
Tkachuk has said in the past he wants to be known as someone known for playing hard, being part of a winning team and would relish being compared to guys like Marchand and Corey Perry for their offensive contributions.
The 34-goal scorer has certainly continued to elevate himself that way, sitting 24th in NHL scoring, making far more headlines for his offence than his offensiveness.
For the first time in his NHL career, the 21-year-old has more points (76) than penalty minutes (60).
For it, he will be paid handsomely this summer as a restricted free agent clearly in line to be the highest paid Flame at well over $7 million annually.
Tkachuk is likely to respond to Doughty’s latest verbal salvos as he has every time they’ve played — by finishing every check possible and punctuating it with thought-provoking conversation.
“Our rivalry is not even close with this team compared to other teams,” said Doughty Monday.
“I think most of it is just because Tkachuk going after me is kind of how the rivalry started. We’ve never really had any playoff series against this team or any big games, I think the rivalry just kind of started with that shit.”
Puck drop is at 7 p.m. MT.
Fireworks to follow.