The gloves have been on more than usual this year for the league’s various on-ice mercenaries—fight numbers are down. And roster sizes have been shrunk yet again, eliminating that extra spot or two for a team to load up on the muscle. Is fighting on its way out? Will it never again be seen in an NHL arena near you?
Hardly! While it’s true that overall fighting statistics have tumbled a bit (there have been 93 battle royales in the first five weeks of this season, while last year saw 121 fistic face-offs during the same time frame), the numbers are a bit deceiving. Less square-offs, yes, but when they do get down to business, it’s been nothing but the heavyweights, baby! I’d much rather see one Grimson–Brashear main event than three slapfests be tween the kinder, gentler occupants of a much-desired roster spot. So while many a self-proclaimed tough guy has found himself in the AHL or IHL this year, looking up at the pro ranks and wondering who forgot to send him his invite to the dance, the league’s true toughies are busy showing off their wares in the never-ending, hotly contested race to see who will lay claim to the title of top-shelf shitkicker in the NHL. Until then, see ya in the sin bin!
Some of the year’s best battles to date!
Oct. 4 › Mark Janssens (chi) vs. Ronnie Stern (sj)
Stern draws the short straw and gets paired off with the fistic Hawks frontliner in this center-ice slugfest on opening night at the Shark Tank. A battered and bloodied Stern makes his way to the trainer’s room for repairs after becoming Janssens’ second victim of the period.
Oct. 10 › Patrick Cote (nas) vs. Mark Janssens (chi)
A great go as these two toughies get it on big-time, trading a bushelful of blows in a major league brouhaha, Chi-town style. Score it a draw after they play pound-the-melon on each other’s grills for about a minute and a half.
Oct. 14 › Matthew Barnaby (pit) vs. Todd Harvey (nyr)
This punch-packed middleweight affair at the Garden sees both mighty mites landing punishing shots—especially via the uppercut—as the game winds down. Give the slight edge to Harvey—at least the Ranger faithful think so.
Oct. 22 › Sandy McCarthy (phi) vs. Stephane Quintal (nyr)
It looks like Ranger-Flyer meetings mean business this year. Massive McCarthy gets it on with new blueshirt Quintal after the Sandy-man puts a big lick on fragile Peter Nedved along the boards. The result is a crowd-pleasing slugfest that ends with a McCarthy win on points.
Oct. 23 › Jim Cummins (mon) vs. Tie Domi (tor)
All-time pound-for-pound pugilist Domi and gamer Cummins get it going, toe-to-toe, right after the face-off—until Domi decks Cummins with a huge left that leaves the Hab hooligan flat on his can.
Oct. 27 › Brad Brown (chi) vs. Jim Cummins (mon)
It’s another unscheduled trip to the team doctor for Cummins after eating a bevy of bruising blows from blueliner Brownie, resulting in a bloody and broken beak for Cummer and a set of sore knuckles for Brown.
Oct. 28 › Todd Gill (pho) vs. Brad May (van)
Veteran Gill shows his mettle by going after the haymaker-throwing May in a frantic feud that ends with both battlers sporting some badass bruises.
Oct. 30 › Krystoff Oliwa (nj) vs. Sandy McCarthy (phi)
True heavyweight titans heat things up in this tussle, going punch-for-punch in a center-ice soiree that leaves ’em screamin’ in Philly.
Nov. 3 › Eric Cairns (nyi) vs. Stephane Quintal (nyr)
Quintal continues to endear himself to the Ranger crowd, taking on former MSGer Cairns in a New York–flavored main event. They both get a bit o’ thumpin’ in, with Cairns showing late why the Rangers should have never given up on him and his anvil-sized fists.