What have we learned so far? Well, I know what I’ve learned coming up to part 13 in this series: The guys who get in the most fights in hockey are some of the nicest guys you will ever meet. Every guy I talked to on the phone was a joy to talk to and I want to take this moment to thank each and every one of them again for taking the time out of their busy schedules to answer my questions. If you missed the last 12 installments go to part 12 and you can work your way back and read all 12.
In this installment I talk to Zack FitzGerald of the Adirondak Phantoms, the AHL affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers. Zack was drafted to the St. Louis Blues in the 3rd round of the 2003 entry draft. He spent some time in the WHL before bouncing around the AHL. He has played in one NHL game for the Vancouver Canucks and that was in the 2007-2008 season. As for his fighting career he has been in 50 WHL fights, 109 AHL fights, and 1 NHL fight in the preseason.
Here is what Zack had to say:
There has been a lot of controversy surrounding fighting in hockey lately, as a player who has been in numerous fights, what is the purpose of fighting in hockey?
I think its necessary. It keeps some players in check and it keeps the game in control as far as dirty and cheap hits. It’s been around since the start. It’s so embedded in hockey that, for me it’s just a natural part of the game. It keeps that thought in the back of a guy’s head, maybe I shouldn’t do something because it’s too cheap. Sometimes it’s going out there and putting yourself at risk for your team mates and showing them that you are willing to go to battle. It gets them excited to play a game. There are a couple ways to look at it but in the end the word I would use is necessary.
If fighting was taken out of hockey how would that change the game?
I think you would see a lot of checks that are questionable, guys taking big runs or maybe stick out a knee. If there was no fighting I think the hitting would maybe not increase but get a little bit more out of control. But at the same time maybe it won’t, maybe it would make the game different. I don’t know. I can’t really see it without it, I’m so used to it being a part of the culture of the game.
Hitting causes the same amount if not more injuries than fighting, why do you think most of the negative attention is focused on fighting rather than hitting?
I think it’s because people see it as more of a combative thing. You are used to seeing guys run into each other because it’s a fast paced game. Hits are going to happen even if you don’t want them to because things are moving and you can only look in so many directions. But there is a lot of respect between the guys that are fighting. For the most part they aren’t going to do something that is going to intentionally try to injure somebody. When you are fighting you are fighting to protect yourself and win the fight but your not fighting to completely injure the other guy. Injuries happen in fights, obviously its going to happen if you are taking punches to the face. Bad things can happen but nobody ever wishes that upon anybody else. I think that some people just don’t understand why the fights are happening and you are going to see the same amount of injuries with checking and fighting. You can catch a guy who is not looking and as fast as your moving that’s putting a 215 pound guy who is probably weighing 400 pounds when he is running into going 30 miles an hour so in that way I think checking is a little more dangerous.
What is your favourite fight in hockey history?
I remember a lot of Bob Probert fights. I can’t really think of one. I was a really big fan of the goalies when I was younger. But I remember Probert fighting a lot, Tie Domi fighting a lot. I remember Darren McCarty, who I actually got to fight in my career which was cool because I watched him growing up. But I can’t remember one specifically that would be my favourite.
Is there a fight in your career that stands out to you as your favourite or one that you are particularly proud of?
One of the more memorable ones would be the Darren McCarty fight I mentioned before just because I watched him growing up. I have a ton of respect for the guy and he had enough respect for me to give me a chance to fight him. So I would have to say that’s probably the most stand out fight. Other than that I’ve gotten to fight a ton of guys that are playing in the NHL now but I think that would definitely be the most memorable.
*Note* I want to thank Zack again for answering my questions and Bob Rotruck for setting up the interview.