Suddenly in Chicago I was in the middle of a rough game, with a lot of pushing and elbowing and scrambling—one of those games you know will blow sky-high sooner or later. We were about halfway through the second period when Don Awrey got into a fight with one of the Black Hawk players. I skated over to give him a hand. I definitely wasn't looking for a fight—all I wanted to do was break up this one. As I approached the two guys battling near the boards on the left side of our defensive zone, Dan Maloney, a 20-year-old Chicago rookie who stands 6'2" and weighs about 200 pounds, grabbed Awrey from behind and started punching him.
That Don had been covering for me all year, probably doing more for me than anyone else on the ice because he was my partner, was not nearly as important to me as the fact he was a teammate in trouble. He needed help, and you help a teammate any time you can. That's the code of our business.
My original reason for going over to where Awrey was fighting was to help him, and maybe Maloney's reason for hitting him was to help a Chicago player. When I got there Maloney had already hit Awrey and was trying to hold him from behind. By then all I wanted to do was get Maloney—get the kid off Awrey's back so Don could keep swinging or at least protect himself. I dropped my stick and gloves and started hauling Maloney off Awrey. As I pinned his arms and pulled him away, Maloney said, "Let go, I'm not going to hit you."
I wasn't going to fall for that without being ready to protect myself—in fact, I didn't want to fight at all because I still wasn't sure of myself. But since he was now clear of Awrey, I let him go—and he threw a punch at me. I ducked, and his punch went over my shoulder and by my head. My helmet slipped down over my face, scratching my nose, and I blew up. While I yanked at the helmet, Maloney tried to punch me again, and again he missed. By the lime I was rid of that damn helmet instinct took over and I could swing freely. I did it naturally—left-handed. I nailed him with four good lefts in a row, hitting him so hard that he started sliding down the boards onto the ice. Somebody had to pull me off before I stopped swinging. The way I was hitting the kid, I'd have knocked him cold. As it was, I dazed him, and he had to go to the dressing room when most of us drew penalties.
I guess I wasn't even thinking as I picked up my gloves and slick and skated over to the penalty box. But I know I felt a sudden warmth, the comfort that comes when something very good happens. I was grinning, almost laughing, as I served my time in the penalty box. And I grinned still more after getting out and going over to our bench, where the guys were yelling and laughing and throwing friendly punches at me.
Not until then did I realize the little finger on my left hand hurt like hell. This was curious, because one of the effects of my skull fracture had been paralysis of my left side, including my arm and, with it, numbness in my hand and fingers. Actually, even that long after the injury, I couldn't write easily or clearly, and—as is still the case—I had no feeling in the tips of the fingers of my left hand. I looked down and saw the little finger was crooked. I tried to move it and almost yelled with pain.
Then I smiled—smiled like a crazy man. I thought God, I broke my finger throwing punches! Imagine, I belted him so hard I broke my finger—and on my left hand! I studied my hand again. Except for the little finger, it was fine. I found Frosty Foristall, our assistant trainer, and eased over to him.
"My finger's sore," I said. "I've got to keep playing tonight, so fix it up."
"It looks broken," Frosty said.
"It probably is," I said. "Do something."