Islander remembers St. Patrick's Day Massacre hockey game

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Two Prince Edward Island hockey players, Jason MacDonald and David Ling, are featured in a story on the website of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

The story recalls an infamous hockey game between the Penguins and the Syracuse Crunch, both American Hockey League teams. The March 17, 2002 game has become known as The St. Patrick’s Day Massacre.


By Russ Hryvnak

Over the last few years and to be honest, even before that, there has always been a debate inside the sport of hockey.  In an age where rules and ideas can be changed and implemented over the course of one season, the ongoing argument over the role of fighting in the game of hockey still rages on.

People who are against it say that it is too violent, too extreme and dangerous to the health of the players.  It’s setting a bad example for the younger fans.  Many say we are supposed to be playing hockey, not wrestling.  

Then there are the people who believe that fighting still has a place in this game.  The ones who think that there needs to be some sort of accountability beyond what a referee can dole out as punishment in the form of penalties.  A form of justice that allows a player to perhaps send a message to the opposing team saying, “we aren’t going to let you walk all over us”.  

No matter what side of the fence your opinion lies on, fighting is a part of the game and, furthermore, a part of its history.  As the ides of March are upon us, it is the perfect time to take a look back at one of the most famous and infamous games in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins history - a game which took place on March 17, 2002 between the Syracuse Crunch and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.  A game that will forever be known as: The St. Patrick’s Day Massacre. 

By all accounts the game started out as normal as any other Penguins home game.  Both teams were playing hard, there were a few fights, penalties and goals.  By the end of two periods of hockey the score was 2-0 in favor of Syracuse.  

Then, at the 12:55 mark of the third frame, something changed the complexion of the game.  Something that former Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Captain, Jason MacDonald recalls vividly.  

“I remember the shift to this day,” MacDonald said.  “Syracuse forward Brad Wingfield took a low bridge hit on John Jakopin the shift before.  By low bridge I mean he came in and took out his knees.  We had a bit of a scuffle from that and on the next shift Syracuse put some guys out and we put some guys out too.  We were looking to get Wingfield back, or at least Jakopin was for the low hit.  

“Right off of the faceoff, Wingfield and Jakopin got into a bit of a wrestling match, where I believe Wingfield got Johnny Jakopin down on his back.  A few of us jumped in on the pile and it went from there.  Once there is a third guy in on the fight, you kind of know what’s going to come from it.  All five of the guys got in on it.”


Organizations: Penguins, American Hockey League, National Hockey League

Geographic location: Wilkes-Barre, Syracuse, Prince Edward Island

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Recent comments

  • ajjakl
    March 17, 2014 - 16:35

    Just love goon hockey. See you at the Islander games.