Knuckle sandwich graduate

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:49 AM ET

When the last team on your resume is the Quebec Senior league, a biker-driven gong show where only two things matter - beer in the stands and blood on the ice - it's hard to be taken seriously.

Any player trying to make the jump from the Fleur-de-lis Cementheads to the NHL might as well wear clown shoes and a seltzer-squirting tie into training camp.

But nobody's laughing at Guillaume Lefebvre after the two-fisted effort he turned in Wednesday in his preseason debut with the Edmonton Oilers. The 27-year-old winger showed everyone he's quick enough to get to his hits, tough enough to answer the bell and good enough with and without the puck to warrant a further look.

"I know who he is now, after seeing that," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish, who watched Lefebvre light a fire under the Florida game with an intense, physical effort that included a pair of fight wins over Janis Sprukts and Tanner Glass. "It was pretty impressive. He handled the puck well, he can skate and he knows when to get involved. And when he drops the gloves he knows what he's doing. He's worked his way into the mix somewhere."

Likely the minors, but it's still uplifting news for the Amos, Que., native, who came here on a tryout basis with no contract. He's living day to day here, and now he lives to fight another day.

"I'm on a tryout right now, so every time I step on the ice it's important," he said, adding he knew he had to shed the Quebec Senior league stigma as quickly as he could. "After two years in that league, I know coming here that nobody is going to give me anything. I'm trying to play as hard as I can every night."

While the last two years were spent toiling on the knuckle sandwich circuit, it's not like Lefebvre is coming out of nowhere. He did play 38 games in the NHL with Pittsburgh and Philadelphia between 2002 and 2006, before moving to Quebec and putting up 105 points and 292 penalty minutes in two seasons with St. Jean (not to be confused with Charlestown) Chiefs.

"I'm just 27 and I know what I need to do to get back to this level," he said. "I've been here before and I'm more mature this time. We'll see what happens."

His experience in the goon league, where line brawls off the opening faceoff are regular fixtures - is one he won't soon forget.

"Sometimes there were five or six fights at the beginning of the game - I don't even know if it was hockey anymore," he grinned, adding he was a top-six forward on his team, so he didn't actually have to do a lot of the slugging. There were like, six heavyweights on my team who took care of business, so I didn't have to fight very much, maybe 10 times a year. I'm not the kind of guy who's going to fight off a faceoff, but if it happens during a game, I can do my part."


Videos

Photos