SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers test-drive bruiser

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:44 AM ET

The league was as advertised: tough, wild, at times outrageous and full of fights. Lots of fights.

In his year and a half with Saint-Hyacinthe of the Quebec-based North American Hockey League, Sean McMorrow racked up an eye-popping, knuckle-bruising 693 penalty minutes.

He had 87 fights in 48 games last season, and is now trying to earn a job with the Edmonton Oilers.

"My first year of pro, I played with the Rochester Americans and I lead the AHL that year in fights with 41," McMorrow said. "I never thought I would get more than that.

"Last year was a great life experience for me. It was a completely different mentality than any other league. I was on the first-place team and was the No. 1 tough guy on my team, so everyone was gunning for me all year. I never got a game off, never got a period off. I tried to represent my team as best as possible and never backed down."

Obviously.

Averaging nearly two fights per game, McMorrow, 26, wasn't selective about his dance partners last season.

His numbers caught the attention of the Oilers who brought him in for a tryout. He's one of a number of enforcers invited to camp looking to possibly fill a void with the club.

"He just said he wanted another opportunity to get back into pro hockey," said Oilers assistant general manager and vice-president of hockey operations Kevin Prendergast. "That scenario we had going for us not having that major enforcer, he fits the bill size-wise and minutes-wise. It's an opportunity for Sean to come in and show the coaches what he can do."

The six-foot-four, 225-pound Vancouver native played with seven different teams in the Ontario Hockey League over three seasons and was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the eighth round (258 overall) of the 2000 NHL draft.

McMorrow played one game with the Sabres, spending four seasons with their American Hockey League affiliate in Rochester before ending up in Quebec.

The league was formerly a semi-professional circuit brought into the national consciousness by the documentary Les Chiefs, chronicling the escapades of the Laval Chiefs.

'SAME MENTALITY'

"It's turned into a pro league since that movie came out," McMorrow said. "It's the same mentality the way the fights happen as they do, but they're trying to get the league a lot more respect now. It's along the same lines, but it's not as bad as you see in the movie."

McMorrow scored a goal and added four assists last season with Saint-Hyacinthe. He was one of a number of enforcers on the team. It's not uncommon in the league to see a club go with three tough-guys on their fourth line and have another on the blue-line.

"When I first got there, I couldn't believe some of the stuff that I saw," he said. "But after a couple of weeks, you just get used to it and you become adjusted to it. But when I first got there I could not believe the kind of things that were going on."

McMorrow cites the bench-clearing brawl that occurred in his second game with Saint-Hyacinthe.

Having fought former Western Hockey League enforcer John "Nasty" Mirasty twice in the contest and getting thrown out of the game, he watched in shock as the benches cleared later in the contest.

"When grown men are out there and everybody is fighting, it gets to be a little scary and you never know what's going to happen," he said. "It only happened a handful of times but every time we played Laval in their barn there was a bench-clearing brawl because we were the first-place team.

"And me being the big name on our team, they just wanted to kill me every time they saw me. I think what that did for me was help my character and strengthen me because I'm pretty much prepared for everything now."

Yesterday, McMorrow went through fitness testing along with the rest of the Oilers rookies. He'll practice with the team today, although it's unlikely he'll play in the rookie tournament in Camrose against the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks rookies.

Putting an enforcer in the lineup for the two exhibition games goes against the spirit of the tournament according to Prendergast.

However, he will be free to prove his worth at the Oilers' main camp starting next week.

'WITH A BANG'

"I'm going to do whatever I have to do," McMorrow said. "If I get to play exhibition I'm going to represent the Oilers with everything I've got. With the year I've just come off of, I've pretty much seen everything and I'm going to use that to my advantage and go out there with a bang."


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