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Fight in hockey's youngsters

Flames prospect Carter Bancks fights Sharks prospect Ben Thomson in Penticton, B.C. (JEFF...

Flames prospect Carter Bancks fights Sharks prospect Ben Thomson in Penticton, B.C. (JEFF BASSET/QMI Agency)

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:56 AM ET

PENTICTON, B.C. - Curt Gogol paid for his couple of fights during the 2010 Young Stars Prospects Tournament.

The San Jose Sharks hopeful, who hails from Calgary, took a hit in the pocketbook.

“I told my mom, ‘I want to fight because I want to show them what I’ve got,’ ” recalled Gogol. “She said, ‘For every fight, you need to buy me a present.’

“I think my fighting takes a bigger toll on her than it does on me.”

Gogol, who’ll turn 20 later this month, doesn’t have the makings of a professional enforcer at 6-foot, 185-lb. He is an energy player, who will relentlessly skate and hit and get under the skin of opposition players.

But Gogol, whose WHL resume includes time spent with Kelowna, Saskatoon and Chilliwack, has quick fists.

According to Hockeyfights.com, the winger who signed a free-agent deal with the Sharks after last year’s camp, has been in 48 WHL scraps, plus another few during Prospect Tournament action, including one this week.

It’s a part of the game under scrutiny, especially after the deaths this past summer of Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak, who all did their share of scrapping during their NHL careers.

The impact of those fights on those players — be it concussions or depression — has created a lot of navel gazing in the hockey world.

“I wouldn’t say I’m scared or worried about concussions right now,” said Gogol, who added he’s suffered one concussion as a result from landing on the back of his head in a fight.

“Maybe after my career, I’ll look back and say, ‘What was I doing?’ But it’s part of the game to me.”

Scrapping while on the blades runs in the family.

His father, Brent, holds the record for most penalty minutes in a WHL season — 511 during 1977-78. A ninth-round pick of the Minnesota North Stars in 1978, he also had a 441-penalty minute season in the IHL in 1978-79.

“I think with him he loved to do it and wanted to do it. He’d still want to do it, and he’s 53 years old,” Gogol said. “But I understand some guys having a tough time if it’s their designated role.

“I asked to be traded in junior because I was doing it every night and it was taking a toll on me. It wasn’t mentally. It was physically — I couldn’t hold a pop can.”

The push to ban fighting in hockey is gaining momentum, and those deaths — even if there were other mitigating factors — have added credence to their voices.

Troy Ward, head coach of the AHL’s Abbotsford Heat, top farm team of the Calgary Flames, said fighting has evolved. The days of heavyweights hitting the ice to duke it out is disappearing.

Currently, Ward is in charge of the Flames prospects at this year’s Young Stars five-team tournament being held in Penticton, B.C., and said the organization made a point not to have that kind of player here.

“When I was in Houston (the Minnesota Wild’s farm team), we used to have a couple of knuckle-draggers — if you want to call them that — in Traverse City (an eight-team pre-season prospects event in Michigan),” Ward said. “The difference between Traverse City and this tournament is huge. I know some of the coaches in Traverse City and was talking to some, and they said there’s been a lot of fighting … more than I’ve seen in the two years I’ve been here in Penticton.”

Before fighting is banned at the NHL level, it’s more likely to be KO’d in the junior ranks and at prospects tournaments.

Ward said he’d be fine if fighting was outlawed at next year’s event.

“It’s an individual question, but I’m an offensive coach wanting to build with speed and go on the attack,” said Ward, who was the chief disciplinarian for the ECHL for one season.

“We’ve made an organizational decision coming into this camp that having a fighter was not a priority.”

Through the first couple of days at the Penticton tournament, there were fewer than 10 fights in four games.

Carter Bancks of the Flames was one of those combatants.

Having issues down the road is in the back of his mind, but Bancks, who missed much of last season due to a concussion caused by an elbow to the face, doesn’t intend to shy away from a fight.

“Since my concussion, I’ve been healthy. I played 11 games at the end of last season and had a great summer. No symptoms or anything, and I’ve taken some smacks,” Bancks said. “It’s in the back of your head, but I keep my fingers crossed.

“I have to play the way I do or else I’m not very good.”

Ward admits he worries about his players being hurt when they fight, mainly when they fall to the ice.

But he believes fighting will remain a part of hockey.

“I’m not a proponent of fighting, but I still think it’s part of the game,” Ward added. “Putting two heavyweights out there to fight and entertain us is going by the wayside quickly.”


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