BROSSARD – Brandon Prust might have earned his stripes with his fists, but the 30-year-old’s game is about much more than that.
In a recent article entitled Why We Fight published on The Players’ Tribune website on February 3, the Canadiens’ resident tough guy shared his thoughts on fighting in today’s NHL, confiding, among other things, that his willingness to drop the gloves played an important part in his road to the NHL ranks and that fighting can potentially ensure player safety.
“The Players’ Tribune wanted to work with me. They have people that write for you. Obviously, it’s all in my own words. I didn’t think it was going to be a huge deal. I just thought it was a cool idea,” offered Prust, who boasts 113 career regular-season fights in the NHL to his credit during stints with the Calgary Flames, the Phoenix Coyotes, the New York Rangers and currently with the Canadiens. “They wanted to get something that was unique and based around that person’s experience. That was my experience. Those were my words and my honesty.”
Following Thursday’s practice session at the Bell Sports Complex, the eight-year NHL veteran expanded upon his comments in the online publication, explaining that while fighting does have its rightful place in the game, there’s a lot more to hockey than simply inflicting physical pain on the opposition.
“Fighting is down. I think it’s better for the game. There aren’t as many set-up fights, like you know that these guys are most likely going to go. I definitely think about hockey a lot more. Before, I remember my first couple of years in the league, I wasn’t really thinking about hockey, I was thinking about fighting,” stressed Prust, who has racked up four goals, 13 points and a plus-3 differential in 50 games during the 2014-15 campaign. “Now, it’s definitely changed, and I think for the better.”
The numbers certainly don’t lie, especially over the last five seasons. While at least one fight broke out in 26 percent of games in 2010-11, that number has dropped to 16.9 percent through 1,518 games this year. That’s just fine with Prust, who is adamant that the fighters of today aren’t necessarily the same players as in years past.
“There are still a lot of big boys out there, but I think the game is changing. It’s getting faster and guys aren’t as big as they used to be. I’m still getting in fights with guys that aren’t huge. Obviously, those guys are the ones I tend to go after,” confided the London, ON native, who leads the Canadiens with 92 penalty minutes on the year and ranks third with 72 hits behind Dale Weise and Alexei Emelin. “The big guys that are just there for that, the game is kind of passing them by.”
While Prust appreciates the fact that fighting is on the downswing, it hasn’t stopped the former London Knight from going toe-to-toe with some of the league’s hardest hitters, especially when it comes to standing up for his teammates. Prust has accounted for 10 of the Canadiens’ 15 fighting majors this season, and he isn’t about to relinquish his role anytime soon.
“Some years, I’ve had help. Some years, I haven’t had help. That’s the way it goes. It’s all about team toughness. If there’s something where guys have to stick up for each other, I know these guys in here will. As long as we’re out there playing physical and being tough to play against, that’s all that matters to me,” offered Prust, who lists Milan Lucic, Chris Neil, Tanner Glass and Jared Boll among the NHL’s toughest customers. “But, when it comes to fighting, I know guys will step up if they need to. If it’s something other than that, like creating energy, I know I’m the guy most likely to do it.”
And, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s a tough job. It’s nerve-racking. I’m not going to lie about it,” concluded Prust. “But, it’s the job that I picked and I enjoy it. I enjoy coming to the rink every day.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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