By Ed Kimberley
I was having a nice chat with Ashley about fighting in hockey the other day and I thought it would be good to explore the role of enforcers and tough guys in the EIHL. I love fighting in hockey and although it is something not everyone condones and with recent legislation in the NHL about protecting players from concussions and other injuries related to fights it’s a bit of a hot topic.
Fighting in the UK is something that is widely anticipated and there is a lot of discussion when tough-guys/enforcers are signed. Some of what is said is positive. For example Kevin Harvey who signed for the Coventry Blaze earlier in the summer is coming off the back of a season where he posted a pro-career points high with 31pts in 53 games for the Elmira Jackals in the ECHL while racking up 191pims and 10 fighting majors including this slugfest vs Mathieu Gagnon:
Some of the talk is negative. Tim Spencer who recently signed for the Sheffield Steelers, has only amassed 35 points in his pro career. His signing is aimed at taking away some of the pugilistic load off star defenseman, and returnee Drew Fata. The Steelers fell short of silverware last year that ultimately cost their coach Ryan Finnerty his job. Finnerty built a team that epitomises a notion that is popular in UK hockey as a roster with “team toughness ” and boasted fighters like Fata, Chris Frank, Simon Ferguson, Shawn Limpright and Tylor Michel.
For a few seasons now teams have tried to err away from having an out and out fighter and focus on team toughness however this seems to be a redundant exercise as even with team toughness clubs have to sign someone to carry the load. Looking briefly at the champions rosters most have a guy signed to carry the weight:
03/04: Sheffield Steelers – Dion Darling carried the load with 8 fighting majors where regular fighters Gerard Adams chipped in with 3 while Kirk DeWale had 4 and agitator Marc Lefebvre had 5.
04/05: Coventry Blaze- Wade Belak was arguably the toughest guy to ever play in the EIHL and came to the Blaze via the Maple Leafs in the 04/05 lockout year. He quickly went to work with 8 fights, going unbeaten and led the Blaze to a Grand Slam year. The team also had UK hockey legend Andre Payette who amassed an impressive 18 fighting majors 369pims and 31pts. While returnee from the year before Graham Schlender added 7 fights, the team had learnt from being pushed around the year before and was one of the most exciting and one of the best EIHL rosters to date.
05/06: Belfast Giants – the Giants were a team that oozed tough guys that year with Jason Bowen who returned had 7 fighting majors and Shawn Skiehar had 13. The team had a lovely balance of goals and toughness boasting Stanley cup winner Theo Fleury and former San Jose Shark Ed Courtenay.
06/07: Coventry Blaze – the Blaze boasted ex Buffalo Sabre Rumun Ndur who managed 9 fights in a year plagued with injury and Dan Stewart who had 6 which included fights against Brad Voth from Cardiff and a great tilt with Shawn Maltby of Sheffield.
07/08: Coventry Blaze – originally signed Rumun Ndur but his season ended through injury after only 2 games. The rest of the fighting load fell to Dan Stewart again and KC Timmons who as a midseason addition had this fight, although not the best still remains a favourite among Blaze fans as he beat Corey Neilson of Blaze rivals Nottingham Panthers:
08/09: Sheffield Steelers – a team built for in your-face hockey boasted fighters in Ryan Finnerty, Steve Munn and Brad Cruikshank who had 5 fights each, while Scott Basiuk added 7 and Andrew Sharp added 8.
09/10: Coventry Blaze: This year Blaze added Derek Campbell who posted 9 fights, tough Defenceman and fan favourite Jason Robinson who had 5. Robinson was good friends with former Anaheim and Chicago prospect Brian Lee who had 3 fights for the Blaze and had 3 scraps including this: 3:20 into the vid:
10/11: Sheffield Steelers: a fun team to watch they had Derek Campbell and Neil Clark both with 8 scraps while the ever present Steve Munn added 5.
11/12: Belfast Giants: The Giants relied on Adam Keefe for toughness this year and he added 11 fighting majors.
12/13: Current champs Nottingham Panthers broke a drought of 50+ years with their league win and it was hard fought win with 16 fights coming from Guy Lepine and 6 from Kelsey Wilson whose scrap with Mike Egener I looked at last blog and also included the following 2 vids:
which led to this:
at 40:10. Jason Beckett had 4 and Steve Lee, David Ling and David Clarke all had 3.
What does this mean for the EIHL fighting mix? Find out in part 2 tomorrow.