So the Dallas Stars have gone out and signed someone cut from the cloth of what some feel is an obsolete profession: a true heavyweight in Eric Godard. But is the role really obsolete ? Is it really a useless art, once used to combat the other team’s heavyweight, intimidate, and police the game ?
The NHL’s heavyweight heyday was back in the mid 80s to mid 90s. Every team had their version, at least one of them, and in some cases the heavyweight tilt was as much anticipated as the game itself. It was a decade or so in which the league saw some of the toughest combatants and colorful characters ever to lace em up. The late great Bob Probert along with Joey Kocur both in Detroit, as well as Craig Coxe, Tie Domi, Troy Crowder, Tony Twist, Gino Odjick, and Stu Grimson just to name a few of the league’s pugilists. The North Stars even carried their own dynamic duo in Shane Churla and Basil McRae, still two of the most popular players in the franchise’s history.
Bob Probert is the greatest heavyweight ever but make no mistake, he also knew how to play hockey. His 1987-88 season is one of the most impressive in league history. He scored 29 goals and 62 points, ended up a +16, and found himself on the Campbell Conference’s NHL All-Star roster. What makes it impressive though, is that he spent a whopping 398 penalty minutes in the box and fought 28 times in his 74 games. So while Probert’s main role was to patrol the ice next to Steve Yzerman for the first half of his career, he could play the game as well. But he was not the rule, he was the exception.
So is there still a role for the heavyweight in today’s game ? While some may argue no, I would strongly argue yes. The fact is, hockey is a game of raw emotion and momentum swings. The Stars fell victim to that big time early this past February in Boston, getting pounded both on the scoreboard and literally. With four fights in the first period, only Steve Ott managed to claim victory in his while both Adam Burish and Krys Barch suffered severe facial injuries and were sent to hospital. In a game of such emotion and momentum swings, the Stars were simply out muscled and lost the battle early on, unable to recover.
Even the Edmonton Oilers have recognized a need for muscle as they added Andy Sutton, Darcy Hordichuk, and Ben Eager to their young lineup. Guys that will make sure their star players can do their jobs and feel confident that they’re not going to get pushed around more than they should.
Eric Godard is a true heavyweight in this league and has beaten the likes of Steve Macintyre, Shawn Thornton, Donald Brashear, and the late Derek Boogard. Last year there was pressure on guys like Brian Sutherby, Brenden Morrow, and Steve Ott to be the guys to answer the bell when the challenge presented itself. Krys Barch was the team’s designated fighter, but more often than not took the brunt of his battles and wasn’t really scaring anyone. He was even tossed around like a rag doll in Edmonton by then Oiler and new teammate Sheldon Souray. Goddard will take pressure off the middleweights as well as give everyone a sense of protection when it comes to performing on the ice.
Hockey is talent, but it’s also toughness. It always will be. We now don’t have to watch the Stars and hope things don’t get out of hand. We can now watch with a chip on our shoulders and go into any game thinking, ” bring it on.” I should think the players would go into any game with that attitude as well and that’s gotta be a good feeling. Although the we had already added some horses to the stable in Sheldon Souray and Adam Pardy, they now have their very own thoroughbred.
Long live the heavyweight.
About the Author
Written by Travis Currie
Im your typical sports fan. Just a little more crazy about it. I live and die for my teams and I drive my girlfriend nuts. I consider myself the world's biggest Stars fan. Ive been a fan since I was a young kid going back to the mid 80's. Favourite Stars player of all-time is of course Mike Modano. Favourite non-Stars player of all-time is Peter Stastny. I love talking sports so please leave a reply to anything you agree or disagree with. If youd like to contact me my email is firstname.lastname@example.org