Friday night, the Washington Capitals lost to the Florida Panthers. It was the second meeting between the two teams this season, with the Capitals winning the other match-up 3-2 (SO) in early November at Verizon Center.
During the third period of Friday’s game, as Panthers forward Krys Barch dumped the puck into the Capitals zone, CSN’s Craig Laughlin had a question for play-by-play man Joe Beninati.
“Yeah, I was never sure if he did that for real or if it was all a big joke,” Beninati responded with a laugh.
The whole conversation can be heard here.
There was no consensus on what exactly happened that night. Many people, including me, believed they saw a tooth fly into the stands on video. The NHL — with all the resources and connections in the world — called it a joke and labeled their video, Krystofer Barch pretends to throw tooth. The day after the incident, The Today Show aired video of the incident and claimed it was a fake-out too.
Saturday, November 2nd started like any other day for Richmond-native Cale Watson — well, except for one difference. After getting through a week of work at his job at a retail music distribution company, the 28-year-old was geeked-out to be making the two-hour drive up to Verizon Center to see the Capitals play again.
Watson, who described himself as an avid hockey player to me in a recent phone interview, has been going to Caps games since he was eight-years-old. This game was especially exciting for him because the tickets he bought were directly behind the Panthers penalty box.
“Just by the seats, I knew it was going to be a fun game,” Watson said. “But because of the Barch incident, it was a night I’ll never forget.”
After conducting three separate interviews with people seated by the penalty box at the game that night and examining video and photo evidence, I can now conclusively end the debate on what happened that night.
With the Panthers down a few goals in the third period, Barch, Florida’s enforcer, came onto the ice and tried to bring energy to his beleaguered team. Unfortunately, that backfired when he took a run at Steve Oleksy in the Caps defensive zone. An aware Oleksy stuck out his hip, and flipped Barch into the air. The Panthers forward landed head first onto the ice, his mouth making contact with the playing surface.
After Oleksy skated away, Barch — bleeding and in a rage — skated towards the benches and tries to stir things up even more, desperately trying to get someone on the Capitals to fight.
Eventually Barch would be the only player sent to the penalty box, receiving two minutes for charging Alexander Urbom. He was not happy about it.
“You could barely hear what he was saying, but there were a lot of F-bombs coming from him towards the ref,” Watson said. “I think there was some kind of call that he wanted that he wasn’t getting.”
“At some point, when he got into the box, the guy I was with sitting next to me started yelling at him,” Watson continued. “People in the crowd behind us were yelling at him. Barch was looking at us, but we couldn’t really make out anything that he was saying because it was so loud.”
Watson then noticed a man seated directly to the left of the penalty box in the front row get his iPhone out. He was taking video of the whole thing.
“There was a little kid next to him and you could see Barch begin to chat with him,” Watson said. “I don’t know what he was saying, but I’m pretty sure the older guy with the phone yelled out to Barch, ‘Give me a smile with that pretty face.'”
Watson claims that he heard Barch say, “Here. Take a picture of this, you bleep bleep.”
So Barch dug into this mouth and ripped out his tooth. Wait, what? So that really happened?
“He really did pull out his tooth,” Watson said to me emphatically.
“Then he threw it and it hits the little kid,” Watson continued. “The kid sits down and grabs it. All of us come over, ‘Did he really throw that to you? Is that really his tooth?’ The little kid was on cloud nine.”
Watson later took a photo with the tooth in his hand.
Long-time Washington Capitals fan Matt Fierce was the person who took video of the incident. He provided a copy of it to RMNB.
Fierce explained that his dad was nice enough to give him two tickets to the game that night. He decided to bring the only person who he thought would enjoy the game as much as he would, his 10-year-old nephew Grant.
Grant, a polite and precocious fifth grader at Blessed Sacrament, plays hockey in Virginia for the Caps Academy Peewee B Travel Team. He was the one who caught the tooth.
“It was awesome,” Grant said to me on the phone about receiving such a unique souvenir.
“The week after the game, I showed my classmates and everyone that didn’t play hockey — like all of the girls — and they went, ‘ewwwww,’ Grant explained to me. “My best friend that’s a hockey player said, ‘That’s awesome.'”
“Then the girls said, ‘that’s gross.’ I told them I didn’t care.” Grant said proudly.
I asked Grant why he thought Barch threw part of his own body into the crowd. With logic of an adorable 10-year-old, Grant said, “I honestly think he did it to show all his lady friends that he’s tough.”
Yes, that was definitely it. It’s definitely not because Barch is crazy.
Barch’s tooth remains in Grant and Matt’s custody. They hope to be able to get it authenticated somehow someday. I think at this point, however, they have more than enough evidence to prove it’s Barch’s.
“That was totally the most bizarre thing I’ve ever seen at a hockey game,” Watson told me in conclusion. “It’s one of those things where you have to see it to believe it.”
I’ve seen it and I still don’t believe it. But at least now you know the truth: it did happen.