Ask Winnipeg Jets’ tough guy Tanner Glass about Derek Boogaard, or head injuries, or brain damage from fighting, and he shrugs.
“I don’t think it’s much new,” Glass said Tuesday. “We’ve known about that in boxers and fighters for years. It’s a risk that every guy who drops the gloves assumes.”
Glass, 28, is not your typical NHL combatant. He spent four years playing hockey in the Ivy League at Dartmouth College, a place better known for producing Nobel Prize winners than hockey pugilists.
Glass said he learned the techniques of hockey fighting from his father, Fred, during some rough family games on a frozen pond near the family farm in Saskatchewan. His dad taught him “where to grab, where to throw, how to switch hands.”
Glass honed his craft in junior hockey, earning a reputation as a skilled player who could also fight. He didn’t fight at all during his four years at Dartmouth, partly because players worn cages across their face and because fighting resulted in a game suspension.
But after he was drafted in 2003, taken 265th overall by Florida, Glass resumed his role as a fighter. He had a few stints in the minor leagues before getting called up to the Panthers. “I was essentially their tough guy. They didn’t have anyone and I was a penalty killer, a physical player and fighting a little bit.”
Now into his fifth NHL season, Glass said he views fighting as part of his duties with the Jets. “It’s part of the job and hockey has afforded me a great living and it’s a risk I assume,” he said. “I feel like I can take it. It’s just the way I feel. Maybe it’s not the brightest way to think right now.”
Glass dismissed suggestions fighting should be banned from the NHL. “To me it’s part of the fabric of this game. It’s something that allows us to police the game and it brings a level of toughness and respect the players have for each other.”
As for other leagues that ban fighting, Glass said: “That’s why [the NHL] is the best. We are the best. It breed toughness. You learn how to take care of yourself and play hard. And I honestly believe that’s part of our game.”
The Jets are hoping to break .500 Tuesday night against Boston but after watching the Bruins beat Pittsburgh Monday 3-1, Winnipeg coach Claude Noel said he took something from it. “I took out of it that Boston is a good team,” Noel said with a smile Tuesday after the Jets’ pre game skate. “And I knew that before I watched the game.”
Boston has been on an unbelievable roll, taking 29 out of a possible 30 points in their last 15 games. That included a 4-2 win over Winnipeg on Nov. 26 in Boston.
The Bruins have scored 88 goals this season and allowed 52, giving them a goal differential of 36. That’s 19 goals higher than the next best team, the Detroit Red Wings who have a goal differential of 19.
Only one Bruin, Shawn Thornton, has a minus on the plus-minus scale. And he is just a minus 1.
“Who doesn’t scare you on that team?” Noel asked. “It’s gong to be an interesting game for us.”
One issue for the Jets will be the absence of centre Nik Antropov, who is expected to miss his third straight game with an injury. Noel said missing Antropov has caused problems for the wingers on his line, Andrew Ladd and Kyle Wellwood. Both have seen their goal and assist totals slump lately. The line has been centred by Alexander Burmistrov who Noel said has done a decent job, but doesn’t have the same chemistry with the others.
“That’s why a centre is pretty important,” Noel said. “A lot of times he makes the line go. That’s no disrespect for Burmistrov but Antropov’s a veteran guy with size and he’s pretty clever and he’s got a lot of experience in the league and he knows his way around the ice especially in the offensive zone. They get used to playing with him and his chemistry. All of sudden it’s like okay what have we got here, now it’s a little bit different so there’s an adjustment there.”