Wheeler says he and Chiarot have made up

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A contrite Blake Wheeler accepted the blame for a rare fight with teammate Ben Chiarot during Saturday's practice at Bell MTS Place.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/03/2018 (1707 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A contrite Blake Wheeler accepted the blame for a rare fight with teammate Ben Chiarot during Saturday’s practice at Bell MTS Place.

Speaking this morning, the Winnipeg Jets captain admitted he was the instigator, whipping a shot in frustration that nearly hit the blue-liner, adding Chiarot had every right to react with malice.

“I had a little bit of a bad day, shot one a little bit high and tight at Benny,” he said. “For me, I thought it was great. If it were me in his position, I would go after whoever did it, too. You love playing with guys who are competitive.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Blake Wheeler says he and Ben Chiarot settled their differences amicably. Blake Wheeler #26 with the Winnipeg Jets on the ice at MTS Centre practicing with teammates Thursday. Dec 28, 2017

“That’s the spirit of our team. We’re competitive in every game, competitive in every practice, and sometimes those things are going to boil over a little bit.”

Wheeler didn’t participate in an optional skate this morning but spoke openly with reporters about the incident.

Midway through Saturday’s noon-hour, some pushing and shoving occurred after Wheeler’s shot sailed by a group of players in front of the net during a special teams drill. Chiarot and Wheeler traded punches while teammates waded in keep the peace.

Wheeler wasn’t done, tossing down his gloves and challenging Chiarot for another go.

Head coach Paul Maurice instructed Wheeler to leave the ice. As he departed, the veteran winger tossed his helmet into the bench.

Wheeler said his fierce competitiveness sometimes goes to another level.

“The guys know me well enough that, typically, when those things happen guys just kind of leave me alone because they can see the steam coming out of my ears,” said Wheeler. “I love when a guy doesn’t tolerate it and gets in my face. I thought it was great.”

Wheeler, who is having a sensational season — he’s tied for the NHL in assists (64) and is eighth in overall scoring (19G, 64A — 83P) — said cooler heads prevailed after practice and has quickly become a running joke with the squad.

“Pretty much after it happened, (we) hugged it out in the room and the boys have been laughing about it for the last 24 hours,” he said. “People made (Chiarot) out to be the villain, and it was all me. “

Winnipeg (45-19-10) hosts the Nashville Predators (48-16-10) today at 6 p.m. The Predators, who lost 4-1 to the Minnesota Wild on Saturday, remain six points up on the second-place Jets in the Central Division.

Maurice said Wheeler’s act of contrition is a sign of leadership.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Ben Chiarot was upset with Blake Wheeler during a power-play drill Saturday. Practice had to be cut short.

“For sure. He could have blamed Ben, right?” said the Winnipeg bench boss. “When you talk to (Wheeler) after a game, win or loss, you’re going to get a real honest answer. Not always appreciated, but you’re going to get some emotion in the answer. That’s the way he practices, the way he lives.

“So he’s wired up in practice. It’s part of the reason why he’s an elite player in the game. He drives every day. Gets a little boiled over? He accepts responsibility for his piece to that.

“He’s an incredibly honest player, the way he plays. He’s also an equally honest man,” added Maurice.

Meanwhile, defenceman Toby Enstrom (lower body) won’t play for the rest of the regular season but is expected to be ready for the start of the playoffs.

He left the game in the second period Friday against the visiting Anaheim Ducks.

The veteran blue-liner has already missed 31 games this season due to a number of injuries.

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Sports editor

Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).

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