In hockey, like in everything else, there's a first time for everything and players remember some of those like it was yesterday.
Hockey is not a gentle sport and if you're not tough as nails, you're not likely to last long. But some guys are just that much tougher as they invite 200 pound guys to exchanges punches with. Some Canucks talk about their first NHL fight.
Left wing, 122 PIMS, 18 fights
TEAM: Florida Panthers
FIRST GAME: November 15, 2007 vs. Washington Capitals
OPPONENT: Matt Bradley
GAME SCORE: 2-1 W
In just his third NHL game, fresh from the Rochester Americans in the AHL, Tanner Glass found himself in his first fight being caught up with a six-season pro.
"It was against Matt Bradley of the Washington Capitals, it was about two seconds long and maybe three punches thrown. I hit him with one but missed and went over his head and then crumbled to the ice."
And while it wasn't the most entertaining hockey fight, it was one that helped Glass get a few more days in sunny Florida.
"After that, I was thinking, I hope I get to stick around another day. There was myself and another guy that were call-ups at the time and one guy just came back healthy so one of us was going to go down. I got in the fight and I think I won the fight and we won the game so luckily I escaped. The other guy managed to stick around maybe another three days."
In fact, Glass went on to play 38 more games with the Panthers that year. He finished that year with six more majors in the NHL with fight list that includes players like Ryan O'Byrne, Chris Neil, and David Clarkson.
He had 84 PIMS with the Americans in his 43 games in Rochester.
Most memorable fight: I was in first year peewee at the time and there was a kid a year younger than me - it was just one of those guys that matured a lot earlier, he had a beard and everything - and he was just a lot stronger and bigger than everyone else. He was hammering guys, just laying all these big hits and he came to hit me one time and I ducked down and he flipped right over me. He got up and slashed me really hard and then I slashed him back, then we ended up fighting. The refs are usually really quick so we didn’t really get much going. When we got in the penalty box, I was fuming mad and so was he so we both got up and just fought in the penalty box. There’s no partition between us so we just got at each other and fought in there.
Fight I learned the most from: Probably fighting Chris Neil in my rookie year in the League. It’s not that he beat me up or anything like that - he probably won the fight - but I was trying to throw and I expected him to throw after so I was ducking and he wasn’t even throwing a punch. He kind of gave me a face in the middle of the fight like ‘What are you doing?’. That made me think, maybe I shouldn’t just expect it to come and I should keep my head up a little more.
Defence, 583 PIMS, 30 fights
TEAM: Anaheim Ducks
GAME: October 7, 2006 vs. Phoenix Coyotes
OPPONENT: Dave Scatchard
GAME SCORE: 2-1 W
At the start of the 2009-10 season training camp, Shane O'Brien got reacquainted with an old foe but this time, they were very cordial - a very different situation than the first time they met.
Shane O'Brien remembers his first fight when he was a fresh-faced rookie entering into his first NHL season after three in the AHL in Cincinnati and Portland.
"It was in Phoenix against Dave Scatchard, who actually ended up coming to camp with us this year and turned out to be one of the best guys I’ve met - funny how that works out. It was about the fifth game of the season and Scatch came in a little hard and the next thing you know, we were in one."
"I’d call it a draw. I think I got the better of him at the start and he got me at the end so I’d say draw."
"At that time, I fought a little bit more so I knew I needed to get in one but if the opportunity came, I would take it but if it didn’t then it was fine too but it just happened like that."
Having a puck flying at you at 100 miles per hour is scary but having a fist aimed towards your face at a close range isn't any easier. But suffering a couple teeth or a scratch here or there on the face is worth it to protect teammates.
"It’s the toughest job in hockey, going out there and fighting, it’s not very rewarding sometimes, a lot of people take it for granted but your teammates always respect you and that’s all that really matters."
Most memorable: We had a line brawl in the last year in the American League against Providence. I fought two guys in one line brawl so it was pretty fun.
Learn most from: Probably my first one, we had a line brawl in Junior Tier 2. We were fighting and I slipped on stick and he got on top of me and hit me so I realized if you are going to get in a fight, you’ve got to try to stand up. Once you get down, they won’t let you up so never take anyone for granted and fight until they pull you off.
Left wing, 930 PIMS, 105 fights
TEAM: Atlanta Thrashers
GAME: January 21, 2001 vs. New York Islanders
OPPONENT: Steve Webb
GAME SCORE: 4-4 T
Before Darcy Hordichuk earned his reputation of resident tough guy - don't mess with him - he was just like most other rookies - trying to stand out and create a permanent spot for themselves on an NHL roster.
Upon his first call-up with the Atlanta Thrashers from the Orlando Solar Bears, it took him just five games to get warmed up and his feet wet.
"A couple of games before, I just got called up and I tried to fight some of the bigger names in the League but I don’t think I had a reputation at that time so guys didn’t want to waste their time with me. I managed to get Steve Webb from the New York Islanders to drop the gloves. I think after I made a hit on one of their skilled guys, he chased me down and it was a good toe-to-toe battle."
"I don’t fight to lose but it was a pretty good one but I think I won because he broke his hand so I came out injury free."
Well, that's not exactly how the decisions are made but we'll go by your word this time.
He finished with a total of six majors that year, which included three scraps with Matthew Barnaby, who was with the Pittsburgh Penguins at the time.
Most memorable: It was in the IHL, which was against Mel Angelstad, we played the Manitoba Moose and I think the fight went a little longer than I wanted to. When I was used to playing with kids 16-20 years old and then you fight some guys who are 28 years old with a reputation for being a fairly tough guy in the NHL too.
Learned most from: I think anytime you lose a fight, you go back to the drawing board and I think that different guys that you fight, you learn different things. I think you learn from every fight and every time you fight, you learn something different. They all expose different weaknesses but there’s not one in particular.
Centre, 158 PIMS, 20 fights
TEAM: Vancouver Canucks
GAME: December 2, 2006 vs. Colorado Avalanche
OPPONENT: Ian Laperriere
GAME SCORE: 2-1 W
Rick Rypien has been turning heads since he entered the league, taking on any challenge, regardless of size or reputation. And for loyal Canuck fans, Rypiens first scrap is a memorable one.
"My first call-up, I didn’t have one and then I went out with an injury. I had three preseason fights but in regular season was with Ian Laperriere. I was told not to fight because I had a bad thumb and I still went out and fought. I think it was in my first shift, right into the game, I went in on the forecheck and hit one of their guys and he came over and approached me. I just had a talk with coach before just saying, to keep playing and don’t worry about fighting because of my thumb but that didn’t happen."
At the time of the fight, Laperriere had 801 NHL games under his belt and 1401 penalty minutes during that time compared to Rypien's five NHL games and four penalty minutes (two minors).
Rypien walked away with a couple of stitches and a whole lot of respect from both sides.
"Apparently I got the win but it was a good fight, he’s a tough guy."
Most memorable: a lot of fights are pretty memorable like fighting any of the big guys, like Hal Gill, Andy Sutton, Mike Commodore, Cam Jantzen... but I think every fight is memorable, you never forget those ones.
Learned most from: I think every fight you taken something from it. I don’t think you can compare one fight to the other, you can’t really compare one fight to another and can’t compare, who fought that guy and what he’s done or what he can do. I think every guy’s different and in any fight, anyone can win or lose. I think you learn something from every fight and one thing about fighting is that you can’t predict what’s going to happen.
I think take away something from every fight and whether you use it for the next fight or learn from it, I don’t think there’s just one thing you can take away from it.