Ready to rumble

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:20 AM ET

Calgary's Mike Sgroi has every intention of violently beating his opponents into a bloody pulp to win the Battle of the Hockey Enforcers tomorrow night.

For that he makes no apologies.

But minutes after the former Flames hopeful finishes thrashing his final combatant he'll make good on a commitment he made in Orlando before he left.

"My mother made me promise I'd call her immediately after it's all said and done to let her know I'm OK," said the chiseled, 6-ft. 4-in., 220-lb. minor leaguer/mixed martial artist, admitting his parents were uneasy with his decision to enter the Prince George pay-per-view competition.

"They support all my decisions I make even if they don't agree ... especially my mother.

"Obviously they're always concerned for me. They wish I could've been a hockey player that scored a lot of goals but at 6 ft. 4 in. with limited skills, there's only one way for me to make it.

"They understand it's a lot of money for me."

Having spent the last five years bouncing around between six East Coast Hockey League teams, three AHL clubs and two United League organizations, the former midget triple-A Buffaloes forward makes no bones about why he's participating in the highly controversial on-ice fight card.

"I'll be really honest with you, I'm doing this for the money," said Sgroi, 27, who recalls the most he ever made in one year was $45,000 plus an apartment.

"It's $70,000 for first place and I'm looking at the cash.

"I don't have a whole ton of money -- I haven't made $70,000 in a season. That's a good year's salary for one day's work. Five one-minute fights ... That's very hard to turn down."

Especially when you're a regular participant in pro cage matches and no-holds barred bloodbaths who spends every Monday night during the off-season at an Orlando nightclub fighting in toughman competitions under an assumed name.

"I do like to fight but I'm not trying to make a statement or make anybody mad because I'm still trying to battle for the NHL," said Sgroi, who racked up one goal and 122 penalty minutes in 39 games for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre of the AHL last year.

"I know people are aware I'm fighting in this but I'm trying to stay low key because I know a lot of people disagree with it."

Will it hurt his chances at making it to the NHL?

"Nobody who has seen me fight the last couple years questions my toughness," said the heavily tattooed ultimate fighting machine who played one year of NCAA hockey after scoring 42 goals in Tier II junior.

"If anything, it could hurt me if someone got a lucky punch in."

The man they call 'The Reel Deal' doesn't anticipate that happening.

"I definitely don't want to sound too arrogant but I'll be disappointed if I don't take home first prize," said Sgroi, a part-time actor and pro poker player who says his toughness has "doubled" since he beat up monstrous John Craighead in his one NHL exhibition game with the Flames in 2002.

"Anything can happen in a hockey fight but the competition is not as good as what I've faced the last few years. There are no AHL guys and the NHL guys played a long time ago."

Event promoter Darryl Wolski said close to one third of the 6,000 seats at the CN Centre have been sold for the event, which attracted 500 applicants from as far away as England.

The 16 combatants to be put into four groups include former NHL psycho Link (The Missing Link) Gaetz, 36, and Lyndon Byers, 41, who'll face a list of United league and former junior malcontents.

Wearing full equipment, helmets and secured jerseys, players will be introduced and skate from one end of the rink to centre ice to meet their foe. Both will drop their gloves but will be wearing slightly padded martial arts gloves. Two linesmen and a ref will be on hand to supervise the fights while a panel of three judges will rule on the winner after a minute of mayhem.

The event, scheduled for 7 p.m. tomorrow, will be aired on pay-per-view.

"It's basically business as usual," said Sgroi.

"It's what I do."

Much to Mom's chagrin.


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