Sugden's attempt honours ailing dad

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:44 AM ET

He hugged London Knights assistant coach Pat Curcio, who he has known "forever from hanging around in minor hockey in Toronto."

He got a big hello from John McInerney, whose son Eoin played with him on the Knights a dozen years ago.

This was the first step in former Knight tough guy Brandon (Sugar) Sugden's second shot at an NHL career and he couldn't have been happier that it happened in London. He skated for the Islanders in a 4-0 preseason loss to the Philadelphia Flyers before an announced crowd of 7,706 last night at the John Labatt Centre -- a rink he had never been in before.

"It was awesome -- when I played here, we were at the Ice House and we never really came downtown," the 30-year-old Toronto native said. "I couldn't have asked for more. My parents were here (in Section 313).

"This sure isn't the Quebec league."

Sugden has been through a ton of battles in his hockey career.

He played for the 1995-96 London Knights, the 3-60-3 team infamous for being the least successful in major junior hockey history.

After departing Columbus' American Hockey League affiliate in Syracuse, he suited up in a professional league in Quebec known for its fisticuffs where he and 12 of his teammates had more than 100 penalty minutes each.

Along the way, he overcame alcohol and drug dependence.

Having already filed his pro retirement papers, he had to fight to get reinstated when he opted to take another crack at the big leagues in honour of his father Travis, who is battling cancer.

Four NHL teams blocked his re-entry in what had to be a unanimous decision, but two weeks ago those voices of dissent rescinded.

Still trying to get his feet under him, the six-foot-four, 220-pounder accounted well for himself in trying to make a huge jump. He dished out some body checks, made a nice back pass that resulted in a scoring opportunity, fought and nearly had a heavyweight tilt with Flyers policeman Riley Cote.

"We got started but the net got in the way (and they fell on top of it)," Sugden said with a grin.

But there was little disappointment about starting over and trying to beat the odds.

"It was just great," he said. "I had a blast."


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