WWE legend Ric Flair said it best: “to be the man, you gotta beat the man.”
His famous quote might have inspired Rangers forward Frank Vatrano to unexpectedly drop the gloves with Lightning forward Brandon Hagel during Game 4 on Tuesday as New York tried to get one step closer to halting Tampa's quest for a third straight Stanley Cup.
Flair was in attendance to witness the first fight of Vetrano's career, and to say he was delighted by the scene — both of the scrap itself and of Hagel firing up the crowd after the tilt — would be a large understatement.
Ric Flair loves himself a good hockey fight 😂👏🏻 pic.twitter.com/Iclc9ckQj0
— Gino Hard (@Ginohard_) June 8, 2022
Once Hagel hit Vatrano with a strong right at the back of the head, sending both players to the ice, the fight came to an end. But it managed to accomplish an important feat: it got Flair out of his seat, cheering for more.
Right before the combatants dropped the gloves, the camera caught Flair in attendance at Amalie Arena. Sitting in a suite with friends, the iconic wrestler saluted the crowd with his drink, and also seemed to kick off the fight between Hagel and Vatrano as he riled up the crowd with his signature "WOOOOO!"
— Jay Recher (@jayRecher) June 8, 2022
The professional wrestler also got to enjoy the feisty verbal battle that continued in the penalty box as the two players jawed each other basically the entire time they were in there.
— B/R Open Ice (@BR_OpenIce) June 8, 2022
It was Vatrano’s first career NHL fight, while Hagel has just a little more experience than him. This was the third scrap of his career, fighting Patrick Laine back in Feb. 2021, and JT Compher earlier this season in January, according to Lightning Insider Erik Erlendsson.
Unfortunately for Vatrano and despite his best intentions, the scrap did nothing to help the Rangers in Game 4. Nikita Kucherov put the Lightning ahead 2-0 with a breakaway goal before the end of the second frame, Steven Stamkos made it 3-0 five minutes into the third, and Ondrej Palat sealed it with a late empty-netter to even the series at 2-2 heading back to MSG for Game 5.
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