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There are differing accounts as to what happened next.
Port Huron people say Henderson stopped a few feet short of Wild Willie, put up his fists and challenged him to a fight, whereupon Trognitz took his stick and creased Henderson across the forehead.
Trognitz and the Dayton people claim that Henderson charged Trognitz, and the startled Trognitz reacted with a fly-caster's wave of his stick that happened to catch Henderson on the forehead.
Port Huron people say Trognitz hit Henderson with a full two-handed swing.
Dayton's Flesch maintains that teammate Trognitz' swing was "a kiss. If he'd swung, he'd have gotten him on the head and fractured his skull."
Dazed, his nose mangled, Henderson staggered backward and retired to the Port Huron dressing room. Meanwhile, a Port Huron fan climbed onto the Dayton bench and punched Trognitz in the temple. Wild Willie fell back, and Polano chased the fan into the stands. Port Huron owner Morris Snider called the outbreak the "worst I've seen in 27 years." When it was over, Wild Willie had a record 63 minutes in penalties, and Henderson had eight stitches, a broken nose and a slight concussion. He spent the night in a Port Huron hospital.
"There's no question that what I did was wrong," Trognitz says. "I hit him on the head with my stick, and stick swinging can't be part of the game. But I'd already finished a game, I had had two fights and I was exhausted. This giant lunatic charges me, screaming, 'I'm gonna kill you,' so I reacted, figuring he'll never eat five feet of lumber to get at me. They told us before the game that Henderson was a bloody lunatic, and I was just trying to get him to stop."
Henderson, a pro rookie, arrived in Port Huron with a reputation as a player who shouldn't be messed with. In the previous two seasons, in which he played in only 99 games, Henderson spent 523 minutes in the penalty boxes of the rough Western Canadian Junior League—more than five minutes per game. While playing for the Victoria, British Columbia, Cougars last season, Henderson was charged with and convicted of assault for his actions in a game at Kamloops, B.C. Washington selected Henderson in the 10th round of the NHL's amateur draft last summer, and when he reported to training camp the Capitals roomed the tough rookie with alltime NHL penalty leader Bugsy Watson. In the Capitals' first three intrasquad scrimmages, Henderson had five fights.
Henderson, 20, is considered a solid prospect by the Capitals, who sent him to Port Huron for seasoning. On the other hand, Trognitz, 24, has always been regarded strictly as someone doomed to a career on buses, $3-a-day meal money and a Slapshot reputation as a box-office attraction in such towns as Dayton, Toledo, Muskegon, Saginaw and Port Huron. In his three-plus seasons in the International League, Trognitz has scored only 40 goals in 215 games. He has also accumulated 827 penalty minutes and two suspensions. In 1975 he took a 10-game unpaid sabbatical for jumping a referee in a runway in Toledo. In 1976 he got a two-game ban for high-sticking a Toledo player, although the Toledo coach, Ted Garvin, says it was "totally accidental."
"Willie was the league's gunslinger," says Washington's Billy Riley, who played in the International League for 2� seasons. "Every kid who came into the league tried to earn his spurs by fighting Trognitz."