(Voorhees, NJ, March 22) – A day after the scary injury to forward Todd Fedoruk in a fight with New York's Colton Orr, Fedoruk's teammates had a chance to reflect on the role of the enforcer in today's game.
The sentiment among the players polled was not surprising – despite the increased chance of injury, fighting is still a necessary part of the game.
"There's a reason [enforcers] are here," said Denis Gauthier. A lot of teams are highly skilled out here and they've got to protect their guys.
"There's a lot of testosterone running around in a hockey team. If you put 40 guys together on the same sheet of ice, sparks are bound to happen. I think it's a tough thing to get away from. You're emotionally going to get into some battles, and you're going to get in some scrums. That's part of hockey. They are never going to take that away."
On Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers were trying to send a message to Fedoruk. During the previous game between the two teams, Fedoruk threw his weight around throughout the game and landed several big hits, including one on team captain Jaromir Jagr
Orr did not play that game, and Mike Knuble understands what the Rangers were trying to do by inserting him back into the lineup.
"Jaromir probably took some abuse at certain points and they trying to incorporate a guy like that into the lineup, and probably Jaromir has had an easier time now because of it," said Knuble.
"Todd was finishing his hits out there pretty good and running around pretty good and being pretty effective. Orr's job is to let him know that he couldn't do that [Wednesday night]."
The skill players appreciate what guys like Fedoruk and Orr do night in and night out.
"It's the toughest job in sports," said Knuble. "You can't compare it to boxing or what a boxer does, these guys are out there bare-knuckling. Guys are getting bigger and stronger. It's dangerous."
"What happened last night was just bad luck," added Simon Gagne. "We are all going to be behind him and his family. He's been a good friend to me the last couple of years. It's not very fun to see, but it's part of the game."
This was the second time this season that Fedoruk has been on the business end of a knockout blow. While playing in Anaheim, Minnesota giant Derek Boogaard caught Fedoruk flush in the face, breaking his orbital bone. That injury cost Fedoruk two months of the season, and he was acquired by the Flyers while recovering from that injury. Fedoruk himself admitted Thursday morning that has been in his mind ever since.
Head Coach John Stevens isn't surprised that Fedoruk may not have been mentally prepared to drop the gloves.
"It doesn't matter what kind of injury you go through, there's always that mental block you have to get over to get back playing again," said Stevens. "It's no different for him. He's a fighter and a physical player and with that type of injury, mentally it's a difficult process to go through."
In the meantime, the Flyers recalled another tough guy from the Phantoms, as Riley Cote will try and fill the role now vacated by an injured Fedoruk.
"I'll show up every night. They brought me here to help fill [Fedoruk's] role, and I'll do my best. Those are tough shoes to fill, but I'll play my heart out, play as physical as I can, and do what I can to help the team out."Gagne, Upshall Could Play Saturday
Gagne and Scottie Upshall both took part in the team's practice on Thursday at the Virtua Health Flyers Skate Zone, and both could be in the lineup on Saturday afternoon when Philadelphia hosts the New York Islanders.
"Right now I feel pretty good," said Gagne. "I think [Saturday] is perfect timing."
Gagne has been out since March 10 with a left groin strain, while Upshall is recovering from an upper body injury suffered on March 15.