NHLers enjoying ‘healthy hatred’ between Doughty and Tkachuk

Drew Doughty answered questions about his rivalry with Matthew Tkachuk, if it’s good for the NHL overall, and why it felt so good to score in overtime last time they played.

LOS ANGELES – Joe Pavelski is aware of the rift between Drew Doughty and Matthew Tkachuk, but insists his interest level will only be piqued if their feud takes it up a notch.

“Have they fought yet?” asks the Dallas Stars veteran with a grin.

“Until they fight I don’t think it counts. I think they do hate each other – I wouldn’t put that by them. I want to see them fight though. That’s what I want to see.”

Hockey Night in Canada is squarely focused on the latest installment of MatthDrew (OK, maybe that’s a little too Hollywood), which goes tonight at Staples Center.

But is the rest of the league paying attention to the NHL’s juiciest battle?

You bet it is.

The only other significant tete-a-tete in the league to spill over into the media is the Ryan Reaves/Evander Kane spat, which took centre stage last spring.

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Reaves has kept an eye on the Doughty/Tkachuk war on and off the ice and is enjoying it as much as the fans.

“To be honest, I think that stuff is fun for the game – people stay interested in that kind of rivalry,” said the Vegas Golden Knights bruiser.

“You can ask Evander, but I’m sure he likes the little rivalry we have, too. I definitely enjoy it. I think some healthy hatred is good for any sport.”

What makes this quarrel so unique is their sniping in the media, which is something sports fans are more used to seeing in football or basketball.

“You see the stuff in the NFL with (Baker) Mayfield and (Richard) Sherman – we’ve got Tkachuk and Doughty, why not?” smiled Dallas star Tyler Seguin.

“I’d say there are more feuds than the public ones. In hockey, you just kind of know to never really let it out in the media – that’s just kind of how it was.

“I think the Doughty and Tkachuk thing started because it’s a Canadian-based team and it kind of got out and everybody rolled with it. I have no problem with it. I think it’s great for the game. I love in hockey when you show more personality or swag or a little bit of an altercation like that. As long as it’s not out of line, go for it.”

They have, and they will.

Unlike prior to several of their nine meetings since Tkachuk’s suspension-inducing elbow kick-started their clash, both players have chosen to avoid chirping one another this week.

Doughty made headlines Friday when he said his mother, Connie, had ordered a cease and desist order on the fracas. In particular, she was upset with his profanity-laced celebration in Calgary two weeks ago after he scored the overtime winner in a game that saw both players find the back of the net and get three points.

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people around the hockey world, and then they tell listeners all about what they’ve heard and what they think about it.

“To be honest, I’m just sick of it,” Doughty said of the affair, which he insists is a product on increased media attention north of the border.

“I mean it is, I guess, good for the game in a way because other sports do it, but we don’t.

“Hockey in Canada is huge. It’s the No. 1 sport, so you’re going to get more attention, more media, more people talking about it. There are more fans in Canada, obviously, and that’s why it happens.”

It also happens because the two hate each other and aren’t afraid to show it or tell anyone.

“In order to win hockey games you need to create rivalries, both personally and team-wise, and I think we have a good one going with Calgary now,” said Doughty.

“So it should be a good one Saturday.”

Players around the league will indeed be watching.

Milan Lucic’s theory is that the hate that used to be in the game has disappeared largely because players around the league are pals on social media, who work out, practice or live near one another in the summer.

“That might be it a little bit,” said Reaves, arguably the league’s toughest lad alongside Lucic.

“I think it’s a little more of the hockey culture too – it’s a combination of the two.

“There’s definitely less hitting and less of the hacking and whacking in scrums, because you’re going to put your team down a man. With the rule changes, they cut a lot of that out. Because of that you don’t have those constant battles after the whistle and constant slashing and getting into one another’s face. You can’t do it anymore.”

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Seguin insists there’s still plenty of bad blood out there.

“I think there’s hate, it’s just that hockey is known to be a laid back kind of classy, almost golf etiquette,” he said.

“Everyone’s got emotion and everyone is chippy, but there’s mutual respect. And when it gets dirty it’s kind of kept behind closed doors.”

Not in this case.

“It’s all you guys want to talk about,” chuckled Pavelski, a Wisconsin native, taking his dig at the Canadian media.

“It is good though. I know Drew a little bit. Seems like a good guy. Seems funny. Likes to run his mouth a little. I think it’s great for the game.”

And hardly surprising, given the two personalities.

“Drew is a nice guy, wears his heart on his sleeve, passionate guy, so I’m not surprised he’s in the middle of this,” laughed Seguin.

“It’s pretty funny.”

Even if the game doesn’t live up to the hype, you can bet Doughty won’t disappoint afterward when he is Scott Oake’s post-game guest on After Hours.

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