Daily Herald
No way Hawks' Versteeg will fire back at Gretzky
By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 12/9/2008 4:45 PM

If anyone was waiting to hear Kris Versteeg fire back at Phoenix Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky in response to the Great One's comments following Sunday's game at the United Center, it's not going to happen.

For one thing, Versteeg said, it's Wayne Gretzky.

And two, the Blackhawks rookie winger would never hear the end of it from his father.

"My dad's got this big wall full of Wayne Gretzky stuff," Versteeg said Tuesday. "So if I ever wanted to say something bad about Wayne Gretzky, he'd be the first guy here to give me a slap upside the head.

"I've only got, like, 10 games in this league, what am I going to say? I've just got to suck it up and move on."

Versteeg will miss tonight's game against Ottawa at the United Center while he serves his one-game suspension for instigating a fight with Coyotes rookie Kyle Turris with two seconds to play in Sunday's 7-1 Hawks win.

NHL rules call for an automatic suspension for any player instigating a fight in the final five minutes.

Gretzky thought Versteeg jumped the 19-year-old Turris, first yelling at the Versteeg as he left the ice then criticizing him after the game.

"I heard some of the comments, but, I mean, I've got 10 games in the league so what would I really be able to comment on?" Versteeg said. "He's a living legend, and I respect him so much. He's the greatest player ever to play, so I can never really say anything.

"I guess it's just what he thought. He was competitive when he played and he's competitive as a coach. It's the competitive nature and it's a competitive game, and things are going to get said. I guess you just move on."

Some might find Gretzky's critical stance on the fight odd since he has enforcers Daniel Carcillo and Brian McGratton on his roster and, as a player, had the likes of Dave Semenko and Marty McSorley watching his back.

Versteeg insists Turris wanted to fight.

"I can't be fighting any heavyweights or middleweights, but if a guy asks me to fight then usually I'll fight, and that's what kind of happened," Versteeg said. "There was a little altercation, pushing and shoving, and we both gave each other the head nod to go and we fought.

"You can ever see on the camera. I come lollygagging into the pile and (Dustin) Byfuglien had two guys, so I grabbed a guy. It was a pushing and shoving match that happens in every hockey game.

"I really thought nothing of it. I thought it was just a fight, an altercation. I didn't mean for anything. It happened."

Versteeg learned of the suspension while watching TV Monday when it scrolled across the bottom of the screen.

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville, who was fined $10,000 because of Versteeg's actions, preferred not to dwell on the incident.

"That's the rule and we can argue the interpretation (of the instigator) for the rest of our lives, but that's the deal and we move on," Quenneville said. "We'll live with their judgment, but I don't agree with it."