Last kick at the cat

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:26 AM ET

Darryl Wolski wasn't 30 seconds into our phone conversation yesterday when he had to put me on hold.

"Had to sign a cheque," the Brandon-based promoter said when he got back on the line.

Yes, Wolski agreed, that's been typical of his life the last 18 months or so.

"There's been lots of cheques going out," he said. "Not a lot coming in."

Such is life when you come up with a concept so radical nobody knows how to deal with it.

Wolski's brain child came kicking and screaming into this world in late 2003. He named it Hockey Gladiators, but a year and a half later the thing still hasn't walked.

Today, at a news conference in Toronto, he'll turn the spotlight on his creation once again, convinced that, this time, he's got it right.

'WON'T BE STRIKE THREE'

"This is our last kick at the cat," Wolski said. "It won't be strike three."

After jumping through more hoops than a circus tiger, the man they call Beef says he finally has his paws on a fool-proof agreement to stage his goon show.

Minneapolis, Winnipeg, Philadelphia, Boston and Montreal, just to name a few, might have been leery of the concept of hockey fights without the hockey, but Wolski has found a willing dance partner in Prince George, B.C.

Re-named Hockey Enforcers, the event will see 16 tough guys square off for $140,000 in prize money.

Confirmed for the brawl, to be shown on pay-per-view TV and preserved for posterity on DVD, are a who's who of hockey tough guys, including Winnipegger Frank (The Animal) Bialowas, Link (The Missing Link) Gaetz and former Manitoba Moose John (The Reverend) Craighead.

"We've been fully cleared by the Prince George Athletic Commission and the city of Prince George," Wolski assured.

That, in itself, should earn Wolski a medal for perseverance, because most people would have bailed out long ago.

First, he was dumped by the Target Center in Minneapolis, despite selling some 5,000 tickets the first day.

"We can't even talk about it, due to legal reasons," Wolski said.

Next up, Winnipeg Arena, where 2,100 seats were filled before someone suggested hockey players dropping their gloves and going at it might be illegal.

Meanwhile, ultimate fighting challenges are being held all over the place, and nobody blinks an eye.

BLOODIED

Bloodied, but unbowed, Wolski and his partners quietly began meeting with athletic commissions from Massachusetts to California.

Every time they thought they had a deal, something backfired.

In Oklahoma, for instance, everything was a go -- except for the part that resembled hockey.

"The problem they have is the ice," Wolski said. "Their legislation says you have to fight in a ring. And their referees aren't hockey referees, so they've never been on skates."

Finally, Wolski found a friend in ex-Winnipegger Phil Beaulieu, a former Jets employee who runs the rink in Prince George.

Beaulieu isn't a particular fan of hockey fights, but he knows a hot ticket when he sees one -- and he's convinced this thing will sell.

"I hooked them up with the athletic commission and they spent a couple of months working it out between them," Beaulieu said. "This type of event will bring people to Prince George from all of B.C. and from Alberta."

If that happens, Wolski may finally see his investment -- he says he and his partners are in for well over $1 million -- start to pay off.

Until now, all he's generated is a whack of publicity, including appearances on radio and TV across Canada and the U.S. and a column in Sports Illustrated.

"To be here a year and a half later, obviously people believe in it," Wolski said.

He should know soon enough.

Assuming nothing goes wrong.


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