Hockey enforcers excel in art of grip it and rip it
The Denver Post
In other sports with sanctioned fighting, the goal is to win, to have your arm raised in triumph and watch your opponent hang his head in disappointment. Whether one “wins” a fight in the NHL is beside the point.
Sticking up for a teammate after he takes a big hit and showing you won’t be pushed around is often just as important for hockey teams. Not only are the star players “protected,” but an esprit de corps can develop. No matter how one fares in a hockey fight, teammates almost always tap their sticks on the ice as a show of respect.
That said, fighters always are trying to get better at their craft. What makes a good fighter? Much more than muscle, said the Avalanche’s David Koci, a 6-foot-6, 240-pound left wing
with 34 career NHL regular-season bouts on his fight card.
“First thing is, you can’t panic and go too fast,” Koci said. “Next thing is, you have to get a good grab.”
Grab, as in get a good grip on the opponent’s jersey with the off hand.
Often fights are decided by who gets the best grab of the jersey. Do so, and you can pull the opponent off balance for a second and have the best chance at landing a good punch. Injuries are common from fights, but the seasoned fighters know how to protect themselves.
“It’s a technique, just like boxing or martial arts,” said Koci, who is the NHL’s first heavyweight fighter to hail from the Czech Republic.
“Some guys know how to grab your jersey so well, you can’t even punch them. All the heavyweights really know what they’re doing. We study each other a lot.”
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.