When you ask hockey fans to name the most fearsome enforcers of the last decade, it’s likely that Donald Brashear would be among the first names mentioned. Yet with enforcers becoming less and less prevalent in the NHL, it seems silly for a professional team to waste $1.4 million of cap space on a guy who doesn’t do anything with his hands but throw punches.
So Brashear found himself shuffled around the depths of the New York Rangers and Atlanta Thrashers’ minor league systems the last two seasons, often being paid handsomely to not play hockey.
Jeff Z. Klein of the New York Times caught up with the fading enforcer in the LNAH (Ligue Nord-Américaine de Hockey), an obscure semipro league inhabited almost entirely by French-speaking players who squeeze 44-game seasons into their lives as they work day jobs. Apparently a point-per-game player in the marginal league, Brashear says he still enjoys being one of the guys and is happy to fight far less frequently. (Although that story included video of an ugly LNAH incident in which Brashear more or less loses his mind.)
The most interesting part of the article revolves around Brashear reflecting on his final seasons and the changing landscape in the NHL.
Q. Your last year, with the Rangers [36 games, 0 goals, 1 assist, minus-9, 73 penalty minutes, 13 fights, 6:15 average ice time], did that go well?
A. Not at all. At some point the role I had to fulfill wasn’t — I didn’t like it anymore. It was more like, “Just get on the ice and fight.” When I met with the coach in the summer before, he was telling me I was going to have all sorts of ice time, but he never gave it to me.
Fighting is not a big part of the game in the N.H.L. right now. If there’s fighting it’s more the middleweight guys. I feel like I played at the right time, and they decided to change the rules, and it was toward the end of my career. I tried to make it last. It was good, and now it’s over.