Party on some more, Westgarth.
Following up with a few more questions from today’s Q-and-A (linked here) with the Kings’ enforcer:
Q: When did you decide that taking the enforcer role would be your ticket to moving up in the youth hockey leagues?
A: Not until I was really 17 or 18. I was in junior B, never really fought before, but then i got into a few fights in training camp, against some pretty tough guys. In the preseason, we got into a few situations where the boys were kinda looking at me to do something. So, well, fine with me. And the fights went well. So I kind of got the role by de facto. And it helped that I scored a few goals, too.
Q: Who did you admire most in that role while you were growing up?
A: I’m pretty lucky being from the Windsor area, where Bob Probert, Tie Domi, Warren Rychel were all there … I don’t know what’s in the water but it seems like everyone there has something a little wrong with them. To me, Propert was the toughest guy of all time, but he could also chip in on the scoreboard. Marty McSorley, in this organization, has been big. Looking back to the ’93 Finals, he was a key component to getting them there.
Q: What was the smartest advice you ever got about playing the enforcer role?
A: You have to take what is said — or unsaid — by your organization. We take pride in keeping everybody here safe, a real watch-your-back mentality. That’s great for me to know, that I can err on the side of protecting my teammates. Over the years I’ve learned as much by watching the guys on the other team as I have from doing it myself. My first year in college, I hadn’t done it much, and it was a different level of fighters. So it was quite an adjustment in the AHL. Last season I didn’t have to fight as much which allowed me to work on some of my other skills and that’s a big reason I was able to make the jump this year. I’ll fight whomever and whenever I have to, but as long as I can keep improving on my skills.
Q: The game recently you had against the Islanders – two fights in the third period, 12 penalty minutes, after having just two penalty minutes to that point all season – was that an adrenaline rush?
A: Actually I was kind of surprised how giddy I was after the game. I was frustrated not having a fight this season. They say it’s impossible to get into a slump in my role, but that’s where I was. It really was a real relief.
Q: In the preseason, you got into a fight with Colorado’s David Koci and he ended up with a broken jaw. Did that affect your psyche when it came to fighting again after that, make you hesitant at all?
A: Not really. Over the years you end up hurting some guys. Sometimes, it’ tough, but it’s one of those things. You end up talking to the guy later, and everyone knows the deal. If it happens, it happens. It’s part of the job. There is that brotherhood, but by the same token that’s our choice. It’s how we choose to make a living. I did see (Koci) the last time we were in Colorado. He’s doing well and he’ll be back soon. He’s a good guy. Everybody knows. I’m sure I’m going to get mine one day but I hope it’s not for a long time.
And about being hesitant, that really wasn’t the case. I was asking every day to get in there and play. It wasn’t for a lack of trying at any stretch.
Q: In reading some of your blog postings on TheHockeyNews.com, one of the books you mentioned that you enjoyed was called “Survivor,” by Chuck Palahnuis — who is also the author of “Fight Club.” Did you ever read that book, and how did that affect your fighting mentality?
A: Unfortunately, I haven’t read ‘Fight Club,’ but I’ve only seen the movie. I do have it on my bookshelf, and it needs to get onto the reading list. I know David Finch is a heck of a director, but no matter how good a movie is, inevidably the books are better.
Q: The Kings have a “Fight Club” link on their website now, with a stockpile of old hockey fights. You can even request fights from the past. Are there any fights you’d heard about in the NHL and always wanted to see?
A: There are a few old ones, mostly between Bob Propert and Troy Crowder. They were absolutely epic. I think there were three of them. One time Crowder caught Propy coming off the ice at the end of his shift and took it to him. I know Proby wasn’t happy and came back at him.
Q: There was the story recently about how after Probert died, his brain was donated to science to see the effects of the pounding it took on him. Is that stuff kind of scary?
A: For sure. It’s been in the news a lot today, with everyone bigger, faster, strong. You’ve got to be aware of it and the leagues are doing as much as they can. It’s one of those things where gotta want to be safe as possible but it’s still a risk you run — even if you’re just driving a car.
== A profile on Keith and Kevin Westgarth, during their playing days in Princeton (linked here).
== Kevin Westgarth’s blogs on TheHockeyNews.com (linked here).