In case you missed it let me tell you what I have set out to do. This series is looking at hockey fights from angle we rarely hear or talk about. The players’ angle. Everyone has their own opinion on fighting in hockey but at the end of the day we aren’t the ones that have to drop the gloves. I have set up interviews all over the NHL and AHL so that you, the hockey fan, can better understand the purpose of fighting in hockey and make an informed decision about how you feel. So far I have interviewed 6 players (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6) and there are still many more to come.
In this installment I talk to Triston Grant. Triston is currently playing for the Grand Rapids Griffins, the AHL affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings, but has bounced around quite a bit in his career. He was drafted in 2004 to the Philadelphia Flyers and played 8 games for them in the 2006-07 season. He played 3 other NHL games in his career for the Nashville Predators during the 2009-10 season. So far Triston has been in 8 NHL fights (including the preseason) and 101 AHL fights. 17 of those AHL fights made him the leader last season for the Griffins.
Here is what Triston had to say:
As a player who has been in numerous fights, what would you say is the purpose of fighting in hockey?
It keeps guys honest on the ice. There are definitely a lot more dangerous plays in hockey other than fighting, like hits to the head with the shoulder, hits from behind, or vicious stick infractions. Stuff like that is always going to be in the game but having fighting in the game keeps it limited. It’s always been a part of the game and when you know that there are consequences, that you might have to fight, if your actions step out of line it’s always in the back of your mind. That’s where the honesty comes in. It’s part of the culture of the sport.
If fighting was taken out of hockey, how would that change the game?
There would probably be a lot more injuries. There are still people getting hurt from fights but the ratio of fights to injuries is pretty low compared to people getting knee on knee actions or, like I said before, concussions from high hits. I just think there would be a lot less respect for each other if they took fighting out of the game.
So, like you said, there are a lot of other plays that cause injuries in hockey, why do you think most of the negative attention is focused on fighting rather than the other things you’ve mentioned?
I don’t know. Maybe because it is this barbaric kind of action. When you think of it, when two guys kind of square off it’s as fair game as it could get really. I think it’s different when someone kind of jumps someone’s back from behind and starts punching them that’s not really fair game. But when you have two willing warriors ready to face each other square off and sort things out, I don’t think there’s a lot of things wrong with that. It’s as clean as you could really get. It is a bare knuckle fight, you may break a hand, break your nose or lose a couple teeth but it’s a lot cleaner than a blind sided hit from behind or a high stick to the face or something like that, that’s way more dangerous than fighting 101.
Do you have a favourite fight in hockey history that you remember watching as a kid?
I don’t know. I don’t really remember a lot of fights growing up as a kid. I used to always watch Hockey Night in Canada and the Toronto Maple Leafs were always on there so I watched a lot of Tie Domi fights. I didn’t really grow up thinking that was going to be part of my career. We all grow up being really good players, the best players on our teams. For me it was just a role that needed to be filled on my team early on in my junior career. No one else was willing to do it and I wanted to make the team and contribute. This was something I was gifted in so now I make a living at it. It’s a hard job but I really have no regrets doing it. It takes a different kind of character, a different kind of person, to do it. We’re a rare breed of people and we just care a lot about our team mates and that’s what we get back. You may lose a tooth or take a shot to the jaw but at the end of the day it’s all worth it.
Is there a fight that you’ve been in that stands out?
Not really, I remember moments. I remember the first time I broke my nose back in junior hockey, the first time I broke a knuckle, fights like that. A lot of them just happen so quickly. You remember the ones that you lost, those are the ones in the back of your head because those are the ones you learn from most. You don’t really learn a lot from the ones you win but the ones you lose, the ones where you get hurt, those are the ones you remember. I’ve won lots but I’ve lost lots as well. You just want to stay focused. Like I said you are just doing a job out there, it’s nothing personal. It’s a way of playing.
*Note* I would like to thank Triston for answering my questions and Alan Cross from the Griffins for setting up the interview.