Tag: enforcers


Enforcers card collection: brilliant, bad timing or both?


In a vacuum, In the Game’s “Enforcers” series of trading cards is a pretty bright way to shake up a rather stagnant industry. After all, it’s difficult to top the love that NHL tough guys tend to receive. Of course, when you consider the context of a tragic summer of enforcer deaths, a creative idea becomes a divisive matter of taste, as venues such as 680 News and Puck Daddy discussed.

To give you the rundown, ITG is releasing the “Enforcers” set in mid-January 2012. Many of the cards feature a “bloodstained” effect, there are game-worn jerseys from fights (aping an industry standard that goes back many years) and historic fights are trumpeted with images and sometimes memorabilia from both enforcers. Take a look at some of the most provocative cards, via ITG’s blog.

source:  (Here’s one video of Worrell vs. Chara, if fight videos are you thing.)

source:  Marty McSorley

source:  Donald Brashear

Perhaps the most controversial inclusion will be Wade Belak, one of the enforcers who died last summer. Click here for the card that includes Belak (H/T to Greg Wyshynski.)

ITG’s owner Brian Price responded to some of the criticisms, including a 680 News caller who believes it is “completely appropriate” and that the cards promote violence.

“I guess it’s just a timing issue right now, with the unfortunate deaths of a couple of players, maybe some related to injuries on the ice but others related to other things,” Price said. “We are not glorifying violence whatsoever. We are playing tribute to a group of hockey payers who have a specific role in the sport.”

(It’s kind of hard to believe that blood-splattered effects aren’t an example of glorifying violence, but that’s just me.)

What do you think about the enforcer cards? Do you think it’s a brilliant campaign, an example of bad timing and taste or maybe some combination of both? Let us know in the comments.

Brian McGrattan says BizNasty “wouldn’t even look at him” to fight

Paul Bissonnette, Jerred Smithson

Brian McGrattan certainly knows how to get noticed upon making his return to the NHL. The AHL single-season penalty minute record holder and newly acquired Nashville Predator got to suit up against the Coyotes in the Preds 5-2 loss to Phoenix, but it didn’t go quite the way McGrattan was hoping for.

With McGrattan being a fighter and the Coyotes having Internet superstar Paul “BizNasty” Bissonnette roaming on the ice there ready to drop the gloves, McGrattan was hoping to get famous on BizNasty. Bissonnette wasn’t having it though. Buddy Oakes of Preds On The Glass hears from McGrattan about how BizNasty wouldn’t have a go.

McGrattan is known as one of the toughest enforcers in hockey. During the game he tried to use his physical game to no avail. “I tried a couple of times but if you don’t have a taker then you can’t take yourself out of the game trying to do that the whole game. You ask once or twice and if nothing’s there you try to do other things.”

The guy that wouldn’t participate was Coyote tough-guy, Paul Bisssonette. McGrattan said, “He didn’t even look at me.”

Things in the AHL might be a bit more brutal with fights and shenanigans, but in the NHL when your team is up, and up comfortably, the chances are that an enforcer taking a fight while his team is up big will get him benched. Bissonnette did right by his team not taking a fight and potentially getting the Preds fired up and back in the game.

McGrattan may have been out of the NHL for a bit, but even he’s got to know that no one will dance with him when things are out of hand.

Ryane Clowe: the NHL’s most functional fighter?

Germany Adler Mannheim San Jose Sharks Hockey

For better or worse, fighting is a part of hockey. It entertains fans and also allows teams to “police” the game. Yet while it’s true that few people stay in their seat for a fight, it’s a shame that so many enforcers don’t leave their seats on the bench until it’s time to march off to a boxing match on ice.

With that in mind, it seemed worthwhile to see if there are semi-regular fighters who can actually play. I put together a short list of the league’s best “mini-enforcers”: players who were involved in at least 10 fights per season in 2010-11 and 2009-10 but still managed to bring a nice offensive boost to the table. (Fight totals via Hockey Fights.com.)

Ryane Clowe: 12 fights and 62 points in 2010-11; 11 fights and 57 points in 2009-10.
Steve Ott: 10 fights and 32 points in 10-11; 11 fights and 36 points in 09-10.
Brandon Prust: 18 fights and 29 points in 10-11; 25 fights and 14 points in 09-10.
Chris Neil: 12 fights and 16 points in 10-11; 13 fights and 22 points in 09-10

Other noteworthy players

Defenseman Theo Peckham is a little newer to the NHL, but he averaged more 18 minutes per game and engaged in 10 fights last season. Steve Downie and Milan Lucic aren’t usually in the 10 fight range, but they’re willing to drop the gloves and have much higher ceilings as scorers than anyone but Clowe. Zenon Konopka can do one thing beyond fighting: win faceoffs. Derek Dorsett might be worthy of an “honorable mention” alongside Neil as guys who fight a lot but can sprinkle in a bit more offense than usual.


When you look at that list, it seems like most of the players can be labeled as pests who fight a bit more than usual or enforcers who get a light amount of points. Clowe stands out in that group, though. He fought the likes of Paul Bissonnette and Jared Boll last season, but also showed how much of an impact he could make while playing focused hockey by scoring 15 points in 17 playoff contests in 2011.

Perhaps there’s a current player who provides an even better combination of fighting ability and on-ice usefulness, but if there’s only one player that future “mini-enforcers” could be modeled after, it might just be Clowe.

Devils enforcer Cam Janssen discusses dealing with depression, stresses of his role

Edmonton Oilers v St. Louis Blues

There’s no doubt that the recent string of deaths for enforcers has been a troubling trend for the NHL. It might be a bit much to call three ugly instances an “epidemic,” but some are throwing around that term. However you frame the situation, the consensus seems to be that opening the lines of communication will be an important element of any plans to prevent more untimely deaths.

While people debate the merits of banning fighting altogether, it’s important to keep a close eye on the guys who hope to continue earning paychecks for on-ice skirmishes.

One fringe fighter who’s hoping to make his way back onto the New Jersey Devils’ roster is Cam Janssen. Janssen might be best known for his marathon fight with former Devils pugilist Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, but he’s had plenty of other battles in his career, with 17 in 2010-11 alone.

With all of those fights in mind, Janssen seems like a good person to ask about the effects of fighting and how he handles the general drawbacks of his profession. He spoke candidly on that subject with Rich Chere of the Newark Star-Ledger, admitting that depression might just be part of the job.

“I think it has something to do with the job. Absolutely,” Janssen said. “People look at the fame and the money part of pro athletes and they don’t understand how hard and stressful it can be. Listen, I have the absolute coolest job in the world, but it’s also one of the most stressful jobs in the world, too.

“If you look at me, talk to me and see me every day, you’d say, ‘This kid has absolutely no depression.’ But everybody has depression. Some have it more than others. It’s how you deal with it. You can feel sorry for yourself, lock yourself in your room all day and kind of crawl into a hole and deal with it that way. Or you can go out and get something accomplished, work out and do the right things to get over it. There are different ways of coping with depression.”

Janssen probably touches on the central theme of much of the discussion: many believe that it’s dangerous for anyone to “bottle up” their issues with depression – from enforcers to everyday people. Janssen wasn’t sure what to make of the trend, since each situation was different.

“With Boogaard, painkillers and alcohol are a deadly mix. He’s an NHL enforcer, but that could happen to anybody anywhere,” Janssen suggested. “From what I heard, Rypien had some off-ice issues and depression problems that I don’t want to get into because I don’t know the inside. From what I hear, he had problems and it wasn’t because of what he did and being an enforcer. So you can rule both of them out.

“I have no idea what the deal is with Belak. I have no idea what happened. All I know is he was an unbelievable, well-liked human being. Everywhere he went I heard nothing but good things. Fighting him, the battles we’ve had, he’s been very respectful and very honest. And very clear-headed and clear-minded. He didn’t seem unpredictable, let’s put it that way.”

Belak’s funeral will take place in Nashville this afternoon. There still might be some finger-pointing going on when it comes to his death and the recent string of deaths in general, but all the NHL can do is take as many steps as it can to help those who need it. Getting enforcers like Janssen to open up about the issue could be an important first step.

(H/T to Rotoworld.)

Wade Belak’s funeral will take place in Nashville on Sunday

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While the hockey world and various pundits try to make sense of Wade Belak’s death, the former fighting defenseman’s family, friends and colleagues also must move on. A big part of the grieving process will happen in Nashville, where his funeral will take place on Sunday. Belak played his final NHL games with the Nashville Predators.

In the mean time, the search for answers will continue as details emerge. The Toronto Sun’s Dave Feschuk wrote that two anonymous sources claimed that Belak struggled with depression and quietly used medication to try to deal with his issues. It’s not a shocking revelation, but it’s important to try to maintain a sense of perspective even in a time of awful loss.

To some, that column will fuel a reaction that his former teams, the league or someone else was to blame for this sad story. The NHL and its players association hope to find ways to improve their process, but it’s naive to believe that a larger entity can solve its players’ issues with some broad stroke. If there’s one prevailing thought that is emerging from the many columns and criticisms, it’s that the culture needs to change.

That’s not something that you can expect to change overnight, though; some might assail the “macho” culture of hockey yet that same person may glorify the brazen action of a player giving up his body to block a shot once the action picks up again. The league should examine how it opens up the lines of communication between players, teams and health care professionals, but ultimately it might take some time before hockey people are willing to be honest about their problems.

After all, Belak and others aren’t just fighting on the ice, they’re often fighting to keep their jobs. One can see the double-edged sword that enforcers would deal with: if they decide to break their silence, they might not be in the NHL much longer because they may be deemed unfit to complete their duties.

This may be an issue that can only be realistically solved by baby steps. The NHL is probably justified in trying to keep players’ troubles as confidential as possible for all the reasons stated in the previous paragraphs. If you ask me, the best they can do is find practical ways to encourage players to seek help if they need it, on their own terms. Maybe that means investigating troubling signs a little more deeply or consulting any number of different avenues, but to claim that there’s a quick-fix solution is to ignore human nature and a complicated issue like depression.

Hopefully we’ll remember Belak and other recently deceased hockey players for more than just their untimely ends, even if their deaths might give others the push they needed to get the help they’ve been missing.