SI Vault
 
HARD TIMES IN THE ENDANGERED ZONE
AUSTIN MURPHY
November 07, 2011
The deaths of three enforcers within four months renewed the debate over fighting, but being a one-trick goon no longer punches your ticket to the NHL
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
November 07, 2011

Hard Times In The Endangered Zone

The deaths of three enforcers within four months renewed the debate over fighting, but being a one-trick goon no longer punches your ticket to the NHL

View CoverRead All Articles
1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Like many of his fellow pugs on ice, Lyndon Byers was a highly skilled player in juniors who realized that to stick in The Show, he would need to drop the mitts:

"My last year in juniors I had a little over a point a game. Not to toot my own horn, but I was a pretty skilled player. I was also a f------ maniac. I got to the NHL, and I don't think I loved the game enough. I had long hair, I rode motorcycles, I loved the social life. [Bruins great] Wayne Cashman was so impressed with me that when he retired, he gave me his number 12. I pissed all that away.

"My third year they sent me down to Moncton [of the AHL]. They basically were telling me to grow up. In Moncton, I told myself, 'You know what? I'm just gonna fight the three toughest guys on the other team for the next 10 games, and if I don't get called up, I'm gonna quit.

"Four games into it I'm losing my mind. After a fight I climb the penalty box glass to get a guy. I got called up the next day.

"One of my best memories of Moncton was playing on a line with Brett Hull and Gary Roberts. They went on to Hall of Fame careers. I went on to dating the hottest strippers and drinking in every bar in North America.

"This seems like a good opportunity for me to say I'm sorry to [former pugilist] Gino Odjick: Gino, I'm sorry for cross-checking you in the mouth and knocking your bottom teeth out.

"I couldn't beat the guy. I looked forward to beating him, but he'd punch my lights out every time. After the first time he punched me out, I said, 'O.K., I'm gonna tie him up, start righty, then go lefty.' He punched me out. The next time, I said, 'O.K., I'll drop my gloves before we agree to go, so I'll get a good head start on him.' So I did that, and he punched me out. I grabbed him from behind one time, and he punched me out. He'd beaten me, like, six times, when we went into Vancouver for a game. My parents were in the stands.

"That night he ran Donny Sweeney at the far end of the rink, and we met at center ice. This time I faked dropping my gloves, he dropped his, and I cross-checked him in the mouth. Pushed a couple of his teeth back, knocked one out.

"I got a couple good punches in, then he dialed me in and hit me with five or six lefts. My mom went from standing and yelling to sitting to hugging my dad to burying her face in his chest.

"I remember Gino standing there looking at me with his mouth bleeding when I finally tied him up. He was just shaking his head. He goes, 'Why would you do that?' I just said, 'I know. I know, I'm such a loser. Thanks for beating me up. Really.'"

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5 6 7