Call it a rite of passage for Slap Shot's famous fighting family as Christian Hanson engaged in his first NHL scrap on Tuesday night.
Hanson went nose-to-nose with Ottawa Senators' Brian Lee late in the game, dropped the gloves and came away with a close victory. Hanson scrapped twice in his rookie year with the AHL Marlies, but in 31 big-league games, had not yet emulated his famous father Dave, who earned himself cult status in the penalty box and box office with seven seasons of 200-plus penalty minutes in the minors and World Hockey Association. Dave's 33 NHL games included 65 minutes.
"I imagine my mom will be more excited about this than my dad," Christian said. "I expect I'll be hearing from him (on the phone) very shortly tonight.
"We've had the talk every once in a while. Don't go looking for it, but it's bound to happen and you have to be sure you are ready to protect yourself and put a beating on the other guy.
"It felt pretty good. I'm not looking for it, but it was a chippy game and tempers flare when you get down (5-0) like that. A couple of words were exchanged and we just went into it."
As part of a better off-season conditioning program, Hanson has spent more time in the gym this past summer. He finished last season as the Leafs' hottest scorer with his first two NHL goals in Game 82 against Montreal, but the team brought in several third and fourth liners in the offseason. Hanson hopes to at least hold the fourth-line centre's role, but being tougher won't hurt his cause in general manager Brian Burke's eyes.
"I felt more comfortable from being in the weight room. Not just working on my strength, but with my balance. Some people don't realize that with fighting, a lot of it is balance."
With his Frat Pack line dissolved, Hanson is trying to find a home somewhere among the forwards. He'll have to do it without roommates Tyler Bozak and Viktor Stalberg, with Bozak awaiting his chance to centre the first line later this week and Stalberg traded to Chicago in June.