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Tales of Violent Gentlemen: Micheal Haley

 

Photograph by Dave Courtney

 

Following his junior career, Micheal Haley went undrafted. After a final season with the Toronto St. Michael’s Majors of the Ontario Hockey League, where he put up 30 goals and 174 penalty minutes, the hard-nosed forward turned pro and joined the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL). Although the NHL was a long way from “the Coast,” as Haley calls it, he remained determined to break into the league one day.

In 2007, the pugnacious center signed with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the New York Islanders’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate. After a solid training camp where he recalls recording at least six fights in a handful of exhibition games, Haley and his former junior teammate, Tyler Haskins, received word at their hotel that they needed to meet with the head coach. When they arrived in Jack Capuano’s office, he said, “what are you guys doing here?” It turned out that they had intercepted a message that was actually for their roommates. Nevertheless, despite the awkward start to the encounter, Capuano informed Haley and Haskins that they had both made the team. Elated by the news, Haley went back and told his family and friends about his promotion. But when he showed up at the rink the next day, Haley found out the Islanders were sending two forwards down to Bridgeport and, just like that, he was bound for the Coast.

Although Haley was initially disappointed, after playing hard and slugging it out with the Utah Grizzlies in the ECHL, he was recalled by the Tigers. After spending three years in the American League, Haley made his NHL debut with the Islanders on April 10, 2010. As he continued grinding it out in the AHL, he gradually got more opportunities in the NHL until he became a full-time regular with the Sharks in 2016-17.

This year, Haley is with the Panthers and is building on the success he found in San Jose. Although fighting is down in the NHL, Haley leads the league in fighting majors, but he has also found other ways to endear himself to Florida head coach Bob Boughner, who has put Haley in the lineup for 71 games this season, a nice career high.

Violent Gents caught up with Haley by phone on March 21, the day after he logged nearly 15 minutes in a blowout victory over the Senators, in which he picked up an assist and spent some time on the penalty kill. He talked about his role in the NHL, being a father, and his red-hot Panthers.

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Did you know you were going to get into a fight in your first NHL game?

MH: I would have found a fight regardless. I didn’t know if I was going to play another NHL game ever again, so I made sure I got on that game sheet some way.

 

Speaking of getting on the game sheet, on February 11, 2011, you scored your first NHL goal in a game against the Penguins and got into three fights, including one with goaltender Brent Johnson. How did all that happen?

MH: I didn’t actually get to fight him. I would’ve loved to, but [Eric] Godard jumped off the bench, so they were both fighting me at the same time. In the beginning, I thought I could keep going for a few seconds and someone would grab Godard, but he’s a big boy and after I felt one or two in the back of my head, I decided it was probably better to go down.

Johnson broke Rick DiPietro’s face the game before when they had fought, but I didn’t go into that one thinking I was going to fight him. It just so happened that I got off of [Maxime] Talbot and there were no refs around me and he [Johnson] was sitting at the blue line, so it just kind of happened. It was one of those crazy games. That game was actually my third NHL game and my first NHL goal. I had three fights and got kicked out of the game, but I remembered my goal the best. 

 

Where do you see the role of fighting in today’s NHL?

MH: I don’t think they will ever be able to say there’s no fighting. I think that with what they’re doing in junior and the minors, they’re limiting fights and that’s their way of slowly trying to weed it out, but I don’t think it will ever be gone. I, obviously, don’t want it to go. I think it’s a huge part of the game and necessary. I don’t think they’re going to take it out, but with all these new rules, it will slowly diminish the type of fights you’ll see and they’ll be different.

Even in today’s game, if you don’t have someone who can defend your teammates or stick up for guys, you see that there are players who will notice that and try to make that extra big hit. They don’t have to fight, but I think you still need to have someone who will make players think twice. I think that should always be in hockey. 

 

Did becoming a father change your approach to your game at all?

MH: It didn’t change me. If anything, it made me more determined. Now I’ve got to provide. I’m living my dream here in the NHL and like I said, it’s part of hockey, so I don’t look at it as a negative or anything like that. My oldest son, he knows that I fight. He’s not old enough to think that I am just a fighter, but he knows I play hockey and in hockey there are fights.

 

You have two sons, knowing what you know now about concussions and their long-term impact, how would you feel if they wanted to follow in your footsteps with the type of game you play?

MH: That’s a tough question. When I’m talking about my own health, it’s different than your children’s health. I would never willingly want them to do anything that could be bad for them in any aspect, but by the same token, you can get hurt doing anything in this world. You can get hurt walking across the street. I think as long as you take the necessary precautions, but if that’s what they want to do, that’s what they do. But, obviously, as a parent, I would love to steer them away from my type of punishment. My oldest son loves hockey and he’s a pretty good little player, but I’m not breeding him to be like me. I would much rather he be like [Aleksander] Barkov or [Sidney] Crosby.

 

 

Photograph by Dave Courtney

 

You’ve reached a career high this season with the Panthers in games played. What do you think has contributed to your banner year in Florida?

MH: I think coming in here, Bob Boughner getting the head coaching job helped a lot. He coached me in San Jose. We had a good rapport, he knows me well, and I know the style he likes to play. Coming into Florida, we have a pretty young team, actually a young, skilled team. Those first couple lines especially with Barkov and [Vincent] Trocheck, they’re super skilled. I think that after Thorty [Shawn Thornton] retired, they wanted that same kind of player. They didn’t want to get pushed around and run out of buildings.

The first couple months there were some growing pains, but now we’re on a roll and I think we’ve built a culture here where we’re all in it together. Having that physical presence every night has really helped with that. I think even as a team now, we’re leading the league in fights by a lot. Obviously, if you take me away, we don’t have prototypical fighters, but we’ve built that whole ‘you mess with one, you mess with us all’ type attitude. I think that’s been the biggest thing here.

 

Following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, your goaltender, Roberto Luongo, gave an impassioned speech before a game. Do you think his address galvanized the team and brought it closer to the community?

MH: I live in the same neighborhood. Him doing that speech and the tragedy in our community, any time you have the ability to deflect some of the pain, even for that short little bit, and give them something to rally around is important. It was a touching speech and definitely was an important game for us as well. I think that happening not only brought our team together but also the community. It just goes to show how we can all rally around each other. We’ve just kept the ball rolling and hopefully, we can give them something more to cheer for.

 

The postseason is in sight for the Panthers. How do you feel about potentially playing in a playoff game for the first time in five years?

MH: We don’t want to look too far ahead. We focus now on every game and getting those two points and it’s been working. Hopefully, as long as we do our job and keep winning as many games as we can, all the chips will fall where they may and we’ll be going to the playoffs. For us, right now, the playoffs is our goal, but we’re trying to focus on staying within us and making sure we’re ready every game. Obviously, with San Jose, we went all the way to the Cup Final there, but I didn’t get to play in any of the playoff games. So, it would be a good feeling and exciting time if we made the playoffs and I could get into some of those.

Photograph by Dave Courtney 

*Since Micheal Haley Spoke with Violent Gentlemen, the Panthers have gone 2-3-1 and are now in jeopardy of missing the playoffs. Haley drew into the lineup for three of those contests, including Florida's game against Boston on March 31, in which he fought Adam McQuaid in a 5-1 loss. 

Tales of Violent Gentlemen: Colton Orr

Colton Orr didn’t learn how to skate until he was 11 years old. Growing up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, you would think that that would have put him at a disadvantage in hockey when many of his peers had been on the ice since they were in diapers, but that wasn't the case. Despite his late entry into the sport, Orr discovered he had a knack for it, particularly when it came to dropping the gloves.

After playing four years of junior in the Western Hockey League, where he racked up 570 penalty minutes, 30 times the number of goals he had scored, Orr went undrafted in the NHL. Nevertheless, after signing with the Boston Bruins organization as a free agent, Orr made his NHL debut against the Pittsburgh Penguins on January 8, 2004.

Following the 2004-05 lockout, after being waived by the Bruins, Orr was claimed by the Rangers and established himself as a full-time NHLer with the Blueshirts, holding his own against heavyweights like Donald Brashear and Brian McGrattan. After three years on Broadway, he signed a four-year deal with the Maple Leafs and played six more years of professional hockey in Toronto before he officially retired in 2016. By the time Orr hung up his skates, he had played in 477 NHL games, accumulated 1,186 penalty minutes, and scored 12 goals. Quite the professional hockey career for a guy who had only picked up the sport in his adolescence. 

Today, Orr is still involved in hockey. When he’s not nurturing his daughter Charlotte’s burgeoning interest in the game, he’s hitting the ice with the Rangers’ alumni and doing some broadcasting work with his former teams in New York and Toronto. Violent Gentlemen spoke to Orr by telephone about his NHL career as an enforcer, where he sees fighting in the NHL today, his big screen cameo, and his future aspirations.

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Someone once tried to tell me that you can’t be a violent gentleman because the concept is inherently contradictory. What do you make of that?

Colton Orr: The way I look at it, and you always hear guys like heavyweights and enforcers talking about it, we had a code and we tried to carry ourselves a certain way. Yeah, we were fighting and it was bare-knuckle – pretty much street fighting on the ice – but there’s still respect for the other guy and what he was doing. We always tried to be pretty honest for the most part. We kind of left it all on the ice. There were never any hard feelings. I’m buddies with half the guys I fought, I talk to a lot of them now. The way I look at it, we always tried to keep a code and try not to let that define you. Yeah, we were fighters and we fought, but that doesn’t make me some lunatic that thinks he needs to fight off the ice or anywhere else. It’s what we did as a job and that was our role. That was something we took pride in. We kept our team safe, but we still kept some sort of ethical code where we didn’t want to cross the line and make it dirty or cheap. That’s just the way I’ve always looked at it.

 

Looking back on your NHL career as an enforcer, who was the toughest opponent you ever faced? 

CO: The one who always gave me the most trouble was Donald Brashear. He was big. He was 6-foot-4 and had a big left. When I was with the Rangers and he was in Washington, we had quite the battles. He just always seemed to get the upper hand. I always had to be ready for him. But there were so many big guys like that who were fighting. I wasn’t a big guy, I was 6’2” and some of these guys I was fighting were 6’5.” George Parros and Brian McGrattan were both 6’5,” they were big men. So, for me, Brashear, Parros, and McGrattan all come to mind as the toughest.

 

 

Fighting has declined significantly since you retired, where do you see the role of fighting in the NHL today?

CO: What I like about the game now is that all the fights are usually for a reason. They’re usually spur of the moment to take care of a guy for a cheap shot or for another reason. It’s not just an enforcer, there are skilled players fighting. There are a lot more random fights that you wouldn’t expect because of how the game has changed and how much faster it’s gotten.

I think it’s always going to be part of the game. You always need to answer to somebody when you cross the line. Being able to find a guy who can play like that is important. If you look at Tom Wilson in Washington, for example, he’s a guy who can play on the first line, but he’s a pretty tough kid who can take care of himself and his teammates. So, you look for guys like that who can play, but also can take care of fighting and intimidation when needed.

 

Knowing what you now know about CTE and the long-term effects of concussions, would you change anything about your hockey career? 

CO: The way I look at it, I played in the best league in the world. I got to play in the NHL. For me, to be able to have that opportunity to make the NHL and play 10 years in that league and 14 years as a pro, that was a dream. To have that opportunity, I was willing to do what it took. But having that knowledge now, and having a son, that’s not something I’d want him to be doing. I definitely wouldn’t want to see my son put in those situations, especially with what we know now.

But I wouldn’t change what I did. I enjoyed what I did and I have always taken pride in protecting my teammates and making sure I gave them more room on the ice. It was a role I really enjoyed, but you do think about the shots you took and what it’s going to be like. Hopefully, they continue to do research moving forward to make sure they are protecting the players properly because it is such a big issue. 

 

If you were Head of Player Safety, what would be one thing you would do to make the game safer? 

CO: First of all, I have to tip my hat to George [Parros]. He’s been doing a great job there. It’s not an easy role to do. For me, to make the game safer, it’s along the lines of what they’re doing now. You need to eliminate unnecessary headshots. The targeting of the head and blindsided late hits are not needed. Especially now when there’s not as much of an intimidation factor because maybe they don’t have to deal with fighting someone now. So, when the league comes in, being strict is very important because they don’t have that deterrent there as much. Coming down on them harshly is the only way to go about it and make sure everybody on the ice is safe.

 

You had the chance to drop the gloves on the silver screen when you landed a role in Goon 2: Last of the Enforcers, how did that come about?

CO: I just received a call from one of the producers and he asked if I’d like to be a part of it, so I jumped on the opportunity. I really enjoyed Goon. My brother was an extra in it and it was filmed in Winnipeg. So, as soon as the producer called me and asked me if I wanted to be in it, I was in. I had no idea that all those other guys like George Parros and Georges Laraque were going to be involved in it. So, it was pretty fun to get there and see all those guys I’d be working with. In between takes on set is where I really got to know George Parros well. We were there trying to get this ten-second scene and we’re in our gear for two full days, so that’s where we really got to know each other. It was cool to see the other side of this guy who you had fought for years.

 

What’s your favorite hockey movie?

CO: I’m old school, I’m Slap Shot all the way. I like the Goon movies, obviously, but I’ve always been a Slap Shot guy. You still go into the dressing room and always hear quotes from Slap Shot.

 

You played your last NHL game in 2015, but you’re really involved with the New York Rangers alumni and playing benefit games with them, can you talk about some of those activities?

CO: I’ve been doing a lot of games since last year. We’re playing up in Brewster [February 24th], the area I live. We’re playing in support of this new high school girl’s hockey league that they’re trying to build here. The alumni have done some great work in the communities to support youth hockey and making it more affordable for the kids. We’ve done a lot of these alumni games for that and have raised over $600,000, which is pretty amazing for those programs.

 

Do you do any other youth hockey work outside of those Rangers’ alumni games?

CO: I’ve been doing a lot with the Rangers’ Learn to Play program. My daughter, Charlotte, she’s five now and she’s actually in the New York Rangers Learn to Play program in Brewster. She’s loving it and that’s why I really wanted to help out women’s and girl’s hockey because my daughter is just starting to play and eventually I’d like to see her, if she wants to, have leagues for her to play in.

 

You played most of your NHL career with the Rangers and Maple Leafs, now you’re doing some work in the media covering both those teams. What’s it like to watch them from the other side? 

CO: It’s been great to see the Leafs since I’ve finished playing and how they have been able to transition and rebuild so quickly. Getting that organization on the winning path has been a lot of fun to watch. That young talent is just so fun to watch. They have so many young stars in [Auston] Matthews and [William] Nylander. I was able to play with both William and his Dad. I played with Michael in New York and then I played William in Toronto. So, it’s pretty cool to see some of these young kids you watched grow up become NHL superstars.

Seeing that kind of gives hope for New York. They’re going to go through their own rebuild now and you look at models like the Maple Leafs and teams that have turned it around pretty quickly. New York had a pretty good run, but now they’re going to switch gears and trade off some guys and make that youth transition that a lot of these teams are doing. 

 

Do you see broadcasting as something you’d like to do for the long-term or could you see yourself transitioning into a role behind the bench or working in an NHL front office?

CO: I am definitely enjoying both sides of it. Doing the media has been a lot of fun. When I played I didn’t like speaking to the media too often. Now being on the other side of it, I can see the frustration of when you get a player who really wants to use clichés and the hockey rhetoric you always hear over and over. But I also do enjoy working with young players as well. I like working with youth programs and helping young players who are in that pro area make the jump from junior to pro. I’m very lucky to be able to do both right now, so I’m not really focusing on choosing what way to go just yet. 

 

The Maple Leafs have certainly turned a corner the last few years. Do you think players are starting to see Toronto differently, especially when it comes time for free agency? 

CO: You just need to look at the talent. You see the winning culture there and the management that they have with [Lou] Lamoriello, [Brendan] Shanahan, and [Mike] Babcock. All these guys who they brought in on the management side to work together has been enough to change the whole culture and make it a place that guys will look at more strongly. If you look at any organization that has talent and a winning record, that’s a team where people want to go. I know that one of the biggest deterrents about Toronto can be the media and how hard they can be on you when things aren’t going right. So, that’s still something that’s considered when going to Toronto is the media and how hard they can be on you, but when things are going well it definitely takes some of that pressure off.

 

Hockey’s a rough sport. Tempers flare and things can boil over even with the league’s most skilled players. With that in mind, who among Toronto’s Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Mitch Marner gets into a fight first?

CO: I would have to say, Matthews. I could see him being the guy because he plays with an edge and he’s got that fire to his game and he’s so competitive. He’s a strong kid, too. He would be my pick for who would drop them first. I think the organization might freak out because you don’t want to see a guy going into a fight and break a hand on a helmet or something, but he plays so competitively. He’s a strong player and he’s not afraid to go into the corners and get the puck and hold onto it. I like his competitiveness.

 

He certainly demonstrated that when he blocked a shot late in a game against the Panthers, as much as that was nerve-racking for Maple Leafs fans. 

CO: You’ve got guys to block shots for you. There are certain guys who get paid to block shots. I remember when I was in New York we had Blair Betts. That guy was one of the best defensive guys I had ever seen. He was so good at faceoffs and blocking shots. That’s why you get players like that so you can take the pressure off your star players from having to do it.

 

We’ll close out with a question from one of our readers on Twitter. Ryan Lancaster wants to know if there was any pressure in Toronto about wearing #28 and if you had ever talked with Tie Domi about it?

CO: It’s funny because Tie played in Winnipeg and I was always a big Jets fan growing up. It was never something I thought of when I went to Toronto because I had worn it with the Rangers. I wore it in Kamloops in junior, it was always just a number I had liked because I had associated it with tough guys like Domi, but I never felt any pressure that I had to live up to expectations in Toronto. But when I did get to Toronto, I did talk to him and I ended up going out to dinner with him and my wife. We just sat down and talked about being in Toronto and the way he played and everything he had done. It was kind of a mentor type thing and I still talk to him today. It was just a nice thing because he reached out to me. To have a guy who you watched as a kid reach out to you when you sign in Toronto is pretty cool.

Violent Gentlemen Presents Miracle: The Recap

 

In the months leading up to this year’s Winter Games in PyeongChang, a persistent itch to have another event arose. With the absence of the NHL at this years games we decided we needed a dose of nostalgia. We went with the only logical choice...inviting all of the VGHC family to watch Miracle with us in a theater. 

(A bunch of blue-collar boys defeating the world’s hockey superpower was most definitely the way we wanted to get pumped for this year’s games.)  

 

As the day of the event crept closer and closer so did the rise of our excitement. We pride ourselves on building a sense of community with Violent Gentlemen so getting to hang out and interact with fans and supporters gets us juiced. In the blink of an eye, the night came and we made our way to the venue to prep. To no surprise, people were already trickling in before we arrived, and before we knew it the line stretched down the sidewalk.

We set up our small merch table with a few items from our “For Love of Country” Collection, made sure the movie was ready to roll and then opened the doors to let the crowd in.

 

The ping of tickets being scanned and the smell of fresh popcorn tickled the senses as people filled the lobby. The line to get in soon became the line to load up on movie snack essentials. After making stops by both concessions and our merch table people filed into the theater to find the proper seat to enjoy the movie.

A fact that people in attendance didn’t know was that we had some special guests in attendance. Actors from the film Patrick O’Brien Demsey (Mike Eruzione), Sam Skoryna (Steve Janaszak), and Nate Miller (John “Bah” Harrington) were in attendance. Patrick was nice enough to give us an introduction to the film before the lights dimmed and the projector blasted the movie on the screen.

Whether it was the first time or 10th time seeing Miracle it didn’t disappoint, especially seeing it in a theater on the big screen. After the movie concluded Patrick, Sam, and Nate were more than happy to do a Q & A for all of those in attendance.

On the way out of the theater, those in attendance made sure grab their complimentary exclusive Miracle VG x Oxford Pennant.

 

Events like this aren't possible without the VG faithful coming out to support. So a huge thank you goes out to everyone that took the time out of their day to come hang out and enjoy a hockey film with us. We're already looking forward to the next one! 

Special thanks to Paddy, Sam, and Nate for reaching out to us and making this event a special one! Last but not least a ginormous thank you goes out to The Frida Cinema for being great hosts! We hope to do more events in the future.

-DJ 

Violent Gents Q&A: Getting Inked with Luke Wessman

Luke Wessman has been getting tattooed for over a quarter century. He got his first piece at age sixteen and never looked back. In the years that followed, Luke has been tattooed around the world by more than 50 artists. He has so many tattoos now that he’s actually lost track of how many adorn his skin. When people ask him how many he has, Luke usually just says he has one big one. He hopes to count them one day, but for now it’s just easier to say one.

After getting into tattoos at an early age, it wasn’t long before Luke was on the other side of the chair. He entered the industry as a 19-year-old and began honing his skills as a tattoo artist. While Luke practiced traditional tattooing, he was influenced by the gangster style – from his roots growing up in coastal California – and he soon began incorporating the two techniques into his work. After years of mastering his craft, Luke has established himself as one of the premier tattoo artists in the United States. Following stints at shops that were featured on the television programs Miami Ink and NY Ink, Luke returned to California in 2015 and opened the Summertown Inn studio in Orange County.

Luke’s connection with Violent Gentlemen runs deep and he was kind enough to share his time with us to talk about his humble beginnings, the world of tattooing, and discovering hockey.

 

Violent Gentlemen: First things first. Your Twitter bio says you were born on a hippie farm in Tennessee. Can you tell us the story behind that?

Luke Wessman: My parents were old-school hippies and they lived on this farm in Tennessee that was all about organic living and living off the land. My parents actually got kicked out of the farm because they thought it was too structured. They were really trying to be free hippies. At the time, my mom was pregnant with me and after they left, they went traveling around through Chicago. When I was close to coming out, they went back to see if they could have the baby there because that place was famous for midwives. So, I was born there and when I was healthy enough to leave, they hitchhiked all the way to California. I don’t even think I was there a year. I didn’t grow up there at all, I was just born there and then I grew up around the California coast.

 

VG: You got your first tattoo at a young age, what was it?

LW: The first one I got was my last name across my back. It was “Wessman” in Old English. It was kind of the gang neighborhood standard. You’d see a lot of the gangsters with it. So, as a young skinny kid, without going too deep into it, I used to get tattooed to look a lot tougher. That was my first one.

 

VG: You have received a lot of tattoos over the years, can you pinpoint a favorite piece?

LW: I don’t have one that stands out to me as a favorite. I have a few that I just think are really beautiful and I have a few that are very meaningful. I have one for a dear friend who died. Some can mean the most and some can be the prettiest or the most artistic. It’s hard to pick one. It’s hard to pick your favorite child.

 

VG: Can you tell us about the style of tattoos you specialize in?

LW: The style I focus on is primarily traditional. I guess you could say it’s close to a “Sailor Jerry” style or Don Ed Hardy, where it’s a classic pin-up and bold and solid. I was also influenced in my early days by Los Angeles street culture, so I did really like the fine-line black and grey. Throughout my career, I‘ve implemented a little bit of that to create an interesting mix of that gangster style and the traditional style. I worked with Miami Ink and LA Ink, so we had clients coming from all over the world, asking for all types of work, so I think 15 years of that kind of work helped round me into being able to do most styles really well. Traditional is my favorite. I think it’s the voice of tattooing. I think it’s the foundation of what tattoos look like in my opinion.

 

VG: What advice would you give to someone who doesn’t have a tattoo yet, but is considering getting their first one?

LW: It’s a tough thing because the first few, especially the first one, are so important. It’s really a big leap of faith and a big jump. I find doing as much research as possible and getting an eye for quality of technique is important. From there, it’s all about finding the style you like. It’s really difficult because there are so many variables and so many different styles of artists out there. I think you need to do as much research as you can. Any good tattooer can make a great tattoo of any idea, so you just have to do your research and find a great tattooer.

 

VG: Can you tell us about your connection to Violent Gentlemen?

LW: Brian Talbert, one of the founders – I call him my brother, but we’re not blood – he and his mom took me in when I was a kid. So, I grew up with Brian and have been really close to him since my early teens. We basically took care of each other. I know him very well, he’s a very dear friend and more than that, a brother. Even when I moved away to Miami and New York, we just always stayed in each other’s lives. Now, I’m here, and as available to him and his company whether its artwork or promotion, I’m his number one fan.

 

VG: What does Violent Gentlemen brand mean to you and how does it relate to the way you live your life?

LW: I definitely see a lot of the things I live by in them. We kind of grew up together so we have a lot of the same opinions on life, respect, and honor. I see a lot of that in hockey, too, which I love. Growing up in southern California, I didn’t really catch any hockey until my brother [Brian] started working in it, so it’s been really amazing to see and learn about it. My first ever game was in Montreal, it was the Maple Leafs against the Canadiens. So, I felt the proud spirit of hockey right away. There’s a lot of correlation in hockey with being tough guys and having honor and carrying yourself with a lot of respect. I’m a huge fan of the sport and I thank Violent Gentlemen for bringing me in because it opened up a whole new sport for me.

 

VG: The “Great One” tattoo-themed painting you did for Violent Gentlemen is incredible. What’s the story behind that?  

LW: I did that painting for a Violent Gentlemen art show. They had some tattooers and different artists do some hockey-themed artwork. So, I painted that Gretzky painting and had the original sitting in my studio. Sheldon Souray, who had become a great friend and client over the years, came in one day and saw the painting. He saw it and said, “I’m going to go play golf with Gretzky, do you want me to bring that and have him sign it?” I said, “yeah, sure,” but then I thought I may never see this painting again just because he’s a busy guy and if Souray takes this, I don’t know when I’m going to see it again. But, I said, “go for it.” Sure enough, a month later, he brings it back and it had Gretzky’s signature in the top corner. Now I keep it at my home.

 

 

VG: Your longstanding relationship with Violent Gentlemen introduced you to hockey, what team do you cheer for?

LW: I’m a Ducks fan by default, but I kind of have some roots in Chicago, so I have some Blackhawks love and some Kings love because I lived in LA. I’m just trying to be a big fan of the sport and learn about it. I’ve tattooed some of the players across the league, so I like to follow them and cheer them on.

 

VG: Do you have a favorite player on the ice?

LW: Actually, I just met him recently in Ottawa with Nate Thompson. Erik Karlsson. He was hanging out when I went up to do a big tattoo on Nate and he came along and we got to talking and hung out a bit. So, I’ve been following him, but I didn’t know he was such a hotshot. I spent some time with him before I realized he was such a big dude in the game. He’s been exciting to watch. I always watch Nate and look for him. Matt Beleskey, he went down to the American Hockey League, but I was watching him pretty closely and cheering him on. He and I became good friends over some long tattoos I did on him.

 

VG: Many players are coming into the NHL now with significantly more tattoos than their predecessors. Do you have any insights as to why hockey players are becoming more prominently tattooed?

LW: There could be a couple reasons. One could be an athlete’s awareness to build his following and brand. Another reason could be to express their individuality. When they’re all in their pads, they just have their skill and their attitude, so tattoos can really help them stand out by adding some uniqueness to their personality. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but I think it helps the individual player feel like an individual because when they’re in their uniform, they’re just in there with everybody else. It gives them a little piece of their own voice as far as style goes. But, obviously, it has to do with trends too. If you see another guy with a tattoo, you might think about wanting to get one too. I know all the guys in Ottawa, all of them seem to have one sleeve. It felt like it was almost a requirement at this point. But, it’s mostly covered up when they’re in their gear and in their suits, so it’s just a little way for them to express themselves.

Nate Thompson, Ottawa Senators 

Ryan Kesler, Anaheim Ducks 

Matt Beleskey, Boston Bruins 

Sheldon Souray, 13 yrs in the NHL

 

VG: What’s the best hockey tattoo you’ve ever done?

LW: I’ve done some really cool Blackhawks ones and some pinup girls with the favorite team, but not necessarily one in particular. I’ve done some tattoo events with the Violent Gentlemen and I tattooed a lot of hockey fans at one time. Doing little Stanley Cups or even little Violent Gentlemen so the fans can show their support and loyalty to the company. The event as a whole with tattooing gives these loyal hockey fans a quick excuse to show their pride.

VG: Outside of tattooing, you're also a Master Mason. What spurred your interest in Freemasonry?

LW: I came into tattooing at a time when it was really a tough, rugged industry and career. The guy I ended up working for and learning from, Dave Gibson, was one of the classiest tattoo artists I ever met. He was just a gentlemen tattooer and he was a mason. So, as a young guy and looking up to him and working at his shop, and seeing the interactions he had with other masons who came in, I was just drawn to it. I was intrigued by it early on and knew it was something I wanted to be a part of. At the time, all the things it was about were in line with what I was about. Everything it’s founded on, the symbolism, the honor, the self-reflection, the charity, and community, really made me want to be a part of that. I made my way in there and I’ve been a Mason for almost ten years now.

 

VG: We’ll close out with a question from one of our readers. @TechnoDaddyD from Twitter wants to know what’s the best advice you’ve ever received?  

LW: I have a few creeds and mottos, but one thing I always refer to is, “if you’re not doing it today, you’re not doing it.” As an artist, if I’m not actually working, then I’m not doing it. So, it’s always been an affirmation to keep working hard and keep it up. Another one of my favorites is, “you can’t win today’s game off of yesterday’s home runs,” and that one just motivates me to keep going and not revel in my accomplishments. Keep pushing.

AID's 20 Creatives in 18 Minutes Podcast

The Adventures in Design Podcast and Violent Gentlemen became close buds in 2017. Our very own Mike Hammer co-hosts a segment called Hammer Time every month with the wordsmith Mark Brickey and friend of the Gents, Gustavo Jaimes of Torch Tattoo. 

To make sure 2018 is starting off on the right foot AID interviewed 20 creatives for 18 minutes about looking back on their 2017 and looking forward to a better 2018. Their professions range from art, design, tattooing, fashion, broadcasting, nutrition, and psychology. A couple of those creatives so happened to be two of our co-founders Brian Talbert and Mike Hammer. Find out what they learned from 2017 and what they plan on bringing to 2018 to keep pushing Violent Gentlemen forward. Links to Episode 01 of AID's 20/18 as well as a link to their website can be found below.

iTunes: Episode 01
SoundCloud: Episode 01
AID's Website: aidpodcast.com
Non Subscribers Can Purchase The Three Episode Collection: Here

Follow Adventures In Design on Twitter & Instagram: @AIDpodcast

Buffalo Pop-Up Shop the Recap

Since the inception of our brand, we’ve always essentially had two hometowns. Orange County, California, and Buffalo, New York. Wildly different places but we seemed to find common ground and goals with the people of this city.

We were first introduced to the city by good friends Every Time I Die. They tour the country 9 months out of the year risking life and limb to bring a little Buffalo to the world. Bless their hearts. After years of knowing these guys, visiting Buffalo, and NUMEROUS collab shirts we decided it was time to bring VG as a brand to the city.

We met up with Dave from Oxford Pennant months ago at a trade show in Las Vegas. He mentioned the idea of us coming to his town of Buffalo to do an event in which we told him that this was our dream. The following months produced many Slack messages, emails, texts, calls etc between our teams trying to get everything perfect. This pop-up shop would unofficially be deemed “the buffalo brotherhood” as we were so excited to do a pop up IN Buffalo with Every Time I Die AND Oxford Pennant.

We decided that the annual ETID Christmas show would be the perfect thing to center this around. The band celebrates the cities loyalty by doing these rowdy and wild shows every December that really have more of a friends only house party vibe than concert.

When you plan events like this it's a bit scary wondering if anyone will ever show up. (Spoiler alert: everyone always shows up) This was our first time doing an event where a snow storm was scheduled to start at the same time. To our amazing surprise, we still had a line when we opened doors at 5 pm. Turns out a little snow will not keep the good neighbors of Buffalo away from what they love.

Our opening night included our full crew out in full force, a fantastic photo booth from the Victory Gardens, dogs, donuts, and of course a meticulously laid out showing of beautiful goods from ETID x OXFORD x VG.

It’s easier to just show ya...




We would love to show you how many times we ate with all the Buffalo good boys (Mighty, Jim’s, Ted’s, LA NOVA,) but we’re not a food blog so we’ll continue to the main event.

TID THE SEASON

This year we decided to make something really special for this show and just sell one thing. We made our very first ETID hockey jersey. It was pretty heartwarming walking around the show seeing so many people tossing it straight on.

The gig was warmed up by Andy Williams bringing in a barrage of pro wrestling animals. This included many of the highlights of the evening for us like the Pythons absolutely crushing these purple dorks.



Let’s get on to the main event here. ETID selflessly brought in an unreal lineup for the gig. This included Bungler, Vein, Knocked Loose, Frank Iero & The Patience, Reggie and the Full Effect, PUP, Eighteen Visions, and of course ETID.

We were too busy ripping to take many notes while the boys hit the stage but it did not disappoint. In typical ETID fashion the show included but was not limited to Andy ripping his pants, a guitar engulfed in flames, Jordan wearing the jersey we gifted him before throwing it to a lucky fan, annnnd 30 something hits from the classics to the new jams. We highly suggest you make it out to TID THE SEASON next year. As a matter of fact, they already started selling tickets! We will 100% be back to party with you animals next year.

Due to some people spoiling the fun of our pop-up we're releasing the remainder of our pop-up shop exclusives online. Get it at before its gone. Shop VG Buffalo Exclusives Here!

 

Deke the Halls with The Violent Gents

With the holidays fast approaching, Violent Gentlemen wanted to get into the Christmas spirit. We asked our team to take some time out of their busy schedules to answer a few questions about some holiday classics and what they hope to see on the ice from their favorite NHL team in the New Year. We hope you have as much fun unwrapping this holiday Q&A as we did putting it together.

 

Who would be a better hockey player, Santa or the Grinch? 

Andy Boice, Designer: The Grinch 100%. The guy seems like a scrapper, he's just got the attitude.

Wes Chacon, Production: Although Santa is the golden boy of the North Pole Hockey Club, while the Grinch is the big green machine from Mount Crumpit of Whoville. I’m not much of a fan of golden boys so I’m gonna go with the Grinch, sometimes you need guys who are selfish and are just willing to shoot the puck. 

Mike Hammer, Co-Founder: The Grinch seems like he would be a real rat of a player. He would be a great asset on any team, but Santa has a Dustin Byfuglien vibe. Big body on the ice, great vibe in the room, natural leader. I would build my franchise around Santa.

Hunter Talbert, Warehouse: Santa would for sure be a better enforcer, but the Grinch most likely has better puck control and accuracy!

Mike Haydis aka Dad, Operations: Depends on your idea of “better.” I think Santa is an attention hog. He’s all about the flashy plays and showboating as he heads back to the bench. The Grinch is all about laying down for shots, clearing out the front of the net, and getting dirty in the corners.

DJ Harris, Marketing: That’s a tough one, but I feel like they’d be two different styles of players. The Grinch would spend a bit more time in the sin-bin for sure.

Brian Talbert, Co-Founder: Santa!

Chewey Molina, Warehouse: No doubt the Grinch, he seems more aggressive.

 

Who would spend more time in the penalty box, Marv or Harry?

 DJ: Harry. He can be a hot head sometimes.

Andy: I'd like to see them battle it out for that title.

Hunter: Harry would definitely spend more time in the box, Joe Pesci is an animal.

Wes: Harry Lime is one of the legendary instigators of Winnetka, Illinois, so I’m going to go with Harry.

Mike: I’m thinking Marv. Harry is sneaky. He’s slashing and slew footing behind the play. He’s gonna get caught every once in a while but normally you just look behind the play and see the opposing forward on the ice not moving.  He knows how to get it done when the refs aren’t looking. But you know Marv is getting caught every time. He’s hooking the guy on the breakaway and taking a penalty. Swinging his stick and getting double minors for drawing blood. He’s just not smart enough to know any better and is going to be there in that box all game.

Brian: Marv for sure. He does Harry's dirty work.

Hammer: This is tough! They seem pretty tight and would be those teammates constantly getting into shit together. If Marv sees Harry getting into a scrap he’s grabbing someone and throwing blows too.

Chewey: For sure Marv, short-tempered.

 

Who works harder leading up to the holidays, Santa's elves or the Violent Gentlemen crew preparing for shopping and sales?

Hammer: The elves have an easy life. They don’t have to do customer service AND their boss is gone a lot. Who’s even running that shop? The real Christmas heroes are in our warehouse.

 DJ: Santa’s elves give it a good run, but considering the ratio of elves to VG employees, we take the cake.

Hunter:  I would have to say our crew here works harder than any other crew around. We spend days and nights making sure each customer gets what they ordered in a timely fashion and to answer any questions they have.

Andy: Chewey might be the only elf around here, but he's been impressive. Hunter has sweated through at least two tees a day so he was busting ass. Wes aka "the Dolphin" had an enjoyable run with plenty of R&R and extensive lunch breaks. Deej shredded emails & tore up the snack selection. The holidays put some hair on Dad's head so that's just all around great for everyone. Scalp as bright as the sun. Management kept it all together, it was a wild ride.

 Mike: VG crew every time. This team hustles. Everyone is prepping leading up to the crazy and then when those orders start to flow, everyone is pulling orders and we work nonstop every day and night until it’s done. Those little elves have nothing on this team. We go all day every day. Elves do a month of busy work and coast the rest of the year.

 Wes: When called upon for warehouse duties during our sales, I can pack an order like you wouldn’t believe. This old guy (soon to be 32) can still show the young rookies (Chewey and Hunter) a few things, even if I’m still a cotton headed ninny muggins.

 Chewey: Obvi the VG Crew.

Brian: The VG crew. Every year we grow and every year they go hard. Much appreciation to them.

 

The NHL hasn't played a game on Christmas since 1971. Meanwhile, the NFL and NBA both play holiday matchups. What do you think about the idea of the NHL bringing back Christmas contests?

 Andy: I'm all for it. As long as there's no overlap with the football game we're set.

 Wes: Let the boy’s spend time with their families. 

 Mike: Terrible idea. I don’t watch sports on Christmas really. Too busy. And While I love watching America’s team play on Thanksgiving every year (Go Cowboys), I love that the NHL takes a break for Christmas. Players get to see their friends and family and have a little break.  As the VG dad, I think spending time with family is super important. Plenty of time for hockey at other points in the year.

Hammer: No fucking chance. Let the boys enjoy their family, friends, and not having to worry about being traded for a few days. I think this is a huge thing that separates our sport (sure, I said OUR) from the others.

Hunter: I feel like with so many things going on that day a Christmas game wouldn’t be the best idea. I bet NHL players like having a day off to spend with their families.

 DJ: I like the idea of players being able to spend time with their families on Christmas. I’m fine with no Christmas contests.

 Chewey: I support it.

Brian: I would love to watch hockey on Christmas, but I understand why they don't play. Let the boys hang with their families.

 

What's your favorite holiday song? Or which holiday song are you least repulsed by?

 Mike: So, my mom ran me over when I was in fifth grade. Total accident, but she broke my leg. I was on crutches leading into Christmas and then the kids at school sang “Michael got run over by his mother” for a while. So I kinda like that song about grandma getting run over by reindeer. 

 Andy: They're all pretty migraine-inducing but if I had to pick one, some good old fashioned “White Christmas” by the Drifters. It's pretty romantic if you want to set the vibe.

Hammer: Bruce Springsteen's "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" is UNREAL. In perfect Bruce fashion, it starts with some great stage banter and then ends with a great time. 10/10.

Hunter: "White Christmas" is easily my favorite holiday song!

Brian: This year it's Michael Bublé's "All I Want for Christmas is You."

Wes: Can I go with the song I’m repulsed by the most? “Little Drummer Boy,” sorry Jesus. 

Chewey: Adam Sandler’s “The Hanukkah Song” is my fav.

 DJ: Throw on some Michael Bublé Christmas jams and I’ll be in the holiday spirit.

 

Eggnog or not?

Andy: Fuck Eggnog.

Hammer: I love eggnog but I had to switch to a healthy version this year.

DJ: Meh. I’ll take some hot cocoa.

Chewey: Yes, all the way.

Brian: Eggnog is pretty whatever. I usually pour a glass, take a sip, and then forget about it.

Hunter: Nah.

Wes: Eggnog Donuts from Sidecar Doughnuts located in Costa Mesa, CA. Shout out to Sidecar Doughnuts, sponsor me.

Mike: Eggnog latte is a guilty pleasure I get my wife to order for me. Eggnog with cookies is amazing. Eggnog spiked if that’s an option. I love it. But I have to limit myself to one glass a day and only during December or I could probably drink an entire gallon every time I bring it home. I love that stuff. 

 

Can you remember first Christmas gift?

Hunter: The first Christmas gift I can remember getting was a puppy name Zorra. My dad went through a lot of trouble getting me that dog. I named her Zorra because she was all black and we couldn’t name her Zorro.

Andy: Cooper hockey stick. I Still have it.

Wes: I probably won’t even remember filling this out, no way I’ll remember my first Christmas gift.

Hammer: First? Of course not. Best? Easy. I remember my first skateboard like I was holding it right now. Birdhouse Willy Santos pro model with the frogs on it... *bails on remaining questions to search for it on eBay*

DJ: No, but I do remember getting an N64 for Christmas. That was a solid year.

Mike: No. I remember the first bike and big events where we went cool places for the holidays.  We have had some fun years, but I can’t remember any gifts that just blew me away or that first one.

Brian: Nope, but I do remember getting the Ewok tree fort base, which was awesome.

Chewey: I don’t, but I remember getting Power Rangers when I was small.

 

Have you ever used mistletoe?

Andy: Not a big fan of foreplay.

Chewey: Every year

Wes: Don’t need it to get some holiday smooches.

Hammer: On a daily basis, even off season.

Brian: Nope, but maybe this year.

Hunter: I actually haven’t, but I will most likely get cute with my lady and take a picture underneath one this year.

Mike: There was a high school party where we had it once. I can’t remember ever having it out again. Kind of embarrassing, but the girls brought it so it wasn’t me.

DJ: I have never used mistletoe. Ok, maybe like once.

 

Is Die Hard the best holiday movie ever? Yes, or yes?

Brian: Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker!

Chewey: YES

Andy: I'm never going to hear the end of this, but I have never seen Die Hard.

Hammer: Although I’ll agree it's a holiday movie, I won't sign off on BEST.

Wes: Just Friends is the best holiday movie ever. Ryan Reynolds will teach you a lot about a solid slapper in that movie.

Mike: No. Great movie but not my favorite holiday movie. In my house, the tradition is Elf starting on Thanksgiving once the Cowboys play. It comes on like clockwork and gets watched a ton. Then we watch Home Alone, A Christmas Story, and the Santa Clause on repeat as well.

Hunter: It's a Wonderful Life is the best Christmas movie ever made! 

DJ: I’ve been watching a lot of Brooklyn Nine-Nine lately so I’m going to answer as Jake Peralta and say yes.

 

 

What should your favorite hockey team's New Year's resolution be?

 Andy: Bring back the Russian Five!

 

 

Wes: Fire Blashill, fire Ken Holland, and give me a winning team again. Bring back Stevie Y.

Brian: Stop getting hurt and stop making d-zone turnovers.

Hunter: To keep on winning so my dad's happy. Go Kings Go!

Mike: Ducks need fewer injuries. Maybe we could figure out a way to get guys off the IR. Oh, and no more OT losses, please.

Hammer: Get healthy.

DJ: My favorite team’s New Year’s resolution should involve staying healthy.

Chewey: To go for a three-peat!

 

If you could give the NHL an early Christmas present, what would it be?

Brian: Third jerseys, for the fans.

Andy: Let's drop those beer prices & get the emotions unleashed in the stands. Crowd participation is key.

Wes: Goalies are fair game when they skate out for a puck. How great would it be to see some good ol’ Donny Brook’s again?

Hammer: Well NHL, you’ve really toed the line this year between naughty and nice. For all of our own good, I’ll be putting a new club in Seattle.

Hunter: The best gift I could give would be to raise salaries. These guys play one of the hardest sports on earth but don’t get paid like it.

Mike: I wouldn’t mind seeing Olympics with NHL players. I know that’s kind of a dead horse I’m beating, but I can’t tell you how much my house loves watching them. You end up rooting for players you normally hate. It’s fun.

DJ: If I could give the NHL a Christmas gift this year it would be third jerseys or invite a west coast team to do an outdoor game on the east coast.

 

Any holiday message you'd like to share with the Violent Gents family around the world?

Hammer: We genuinely appreciate the VGHC family. Family might sound like a weird word to use, but we genuinely feel it. We hear countless stories of new friendships from a simple “hey, nice hat”, new relationships made at our events (or on our social media haha), and this is something we’re most proud of. Aside from gifts, holiday parties, and bullshit, I just wish that everyone in the VGHC fam is happy, and exactly where they want to be or on the road to it.

Andy: Thanks for the support, you guys make this all possible. Cheers to 2018.

Wes: Thank you xoxo

DJ: Thanks for all the support. We’re excited to see what the New Year brings.

Chewey: Thanks for all the support and love.

Hunter: Thank you so much for all your love and support! You guys have no idea how awesome it is to walk around and see our gear everywhere we go! Sorry if it took me awhile to email you guys back!

Mike: Pretty simple...thanks to everyone for the support and being a part of the VG family. Our Gents family is amazing and they are so passionate about the brand. We appreciate it. Take some time to slow down and enjoy your family. Also, don’t eat yellow snow.

Brian: We appreciate all of our VG team and family, and hope everyone has a great holiday. Remember to always go hard to the net and that good things happen when you put pucks on net as well.

 

Happy holidays to you and yours! Thanks again for all the love and support. All the best in 2018. Check back into the blog in the New Year as we continue our Q&A series with some of your favorite NHL players.  

Buffalo, NY Pop-Up!

We are headed to Buffalo for a week to get rowdy with the Nickel City faithful. Our pop-up shop will be set up from Dec. 15th-23rd at 731 Main St. Buffalo, New York 14203. 

December 15th & 16th

The pop-up shop hours for December 17th-23rd will be 12p-8p 

We teamed up with the local boys at Oxford Pennant and Every Time I Die to bring Buffalo the collab merch it deserves. Here is a look at some of the merch we're bringing. You can look forward to these products and more from Us, Oxford Pennants, & ETID. 

All of the items are exclusive to this pop-up and will only be sold in Buffalo. If you can't make it you're probably going to want to break out the Rolodex and find someone who can help you out. 

See you in the City of Good Neighbors!

 

 

Tales of Violent Gentlemen: Matt Martin

One of Matt Martin’s colleagues referred to him as the prototypical enforcer. Although fighting – the duties typically associated with that type of player – is declining in today’s NHL, Martin is viewed as someone who can still contribute to his team in other ways than simply fisticuffs. Last season, Martin racked up 300 hits with Toronto. Only Ottawa’s Mark Borowiecki recorded more collisions.

While Martin logs the least amount of ice time among Maple Leafs, he tries to make the most of the opportunities he is given. In a deflating loss to the Hurricanes earlier this week, Martin registered four shots on net, won a faceoff, and picked up an assist. With three points under his belt this season, he’s already a third of the way to matching his offensive production from last year.

His impact, however, cannot just be measured on the ice. Since arriving in Toronto in 2016, Martin has assumed the role of older brother and father figure for the team’s younger players, particularly Mitch Marner. Their chemistry on and off the ice has been well documented, including their most recent plans to dress up as Dr. Evil and Mini-Me for Halloween. They almost pulled it off, until their girlfriends got wind of their costume ideas and put the kibosh on them.

Before the Maple Leafs head out of town next week to start a Western Conference road trip, Violent Gentlemen caught up with Matt Martin by telephone on his way home from practice. Although our interview was cut short due to technical difficulties, we still had the chance to talk to him about playing in Toronto, having Mitch Marner as a linemate, and how he’s continuing to evolve his game. 

 

This is your second season with the Maple Leafs. Walk us back through what drew you to Toronto when you signed with the club in 2016?

It was my first experience with free agency. I was trying to figure out where I wanted to play and where I’d have an opportunity. I actually got a call from the Leafs the morning of July 1st. At around 10:00am, I got a call from Lou and I talked to him and then I talked to Babs. They gave me the whole run down on why they thought I’d be a good fit there. So, I talked with my family and my girlfriend. Obviously, it’s a great city, it’s a great place to play. It’s an Original Six team. They had just drafted Auston Matthews, so there’s some upside there with not only him but with William Nylander and Mitch Marner. These guys that are the future of the team. I thought they were moving in the right direction and I thought it would be a great opportunity to win a Cup.

 

What’s your favorite part about being a Maple Leaf?

Every time you put the sweater on, it’s a special thing. The fans here are very passionate. You know, you’re in the centre of the hockey world. Last year in the first round of the playoffs, they had Maple Leafs Square packed with people and on opening night it was packed again with people watching on the big screen outside. You don’t get that everywhere. It’s a passionate fan base, they haven’t won the Stanley Cup since 1967. They’re starving for a winner, so hopefully we can bring that to them.

 

Mitch Marner had been playing on your line recently. When he was assigned to you and Dominic Moore, was there anything in particular you tried to do to help him out with his game?

I don’t think there’s really anything to do. You just try to keep him positive and keep his confidence up. He’s a pretty positive guy in general and he knows how good he is. He understands that guys are going to have ups and downs throughout the course of the season. It happens to everybody. Obviously, he was going through a bit of a tough time early on, but the last few games he’s kind of back to himself and carrying the puck through the neutral zone and playing with the best of them. It’s pretty easy with him, I think he kind of took the demotion - or whatever you want to call it – in stride and understood that it’s obviously not where he wants to be but he can still get some positives out of it. Like I said, from the first shift he said what he wanted to do and he’s been really effective over the last few games in generating a ton of chances and we were able to get a few goals so hopefully we keep that up.

 

In our Q&A with Nate Thompson, he called you “a guy who will fight anybody but plays a lot of quality minutes and usually leads the league in hits every year.” How do you view your role in the league?

I played a little bit with Nate for a few games on the Island, he was actually one of my first fights in the league when he went to Tampa Bay. He’s a great guy and a hell of a player. For me, I try to approach the game the same way and try to be physical. There’s a time and place for fighting and standing up for your teammates. But the game is definitely changing and you have to evolve with it or you won’t stick around. You try to evolve every day and I think there’s less and less staged fights, I think it’s more emotional. For better or worse, the game is definitely moving in another direction and as a player, you have to continue to evolve and continue to improve your game. Especially as you get older in this league, there’s all these young guys coming up, so you’ve got to bring more to the table than just fighting. You try to work at it every day and make an impact on the game in more ways than one.

 

You’re on a two-game point streak right now. What do you have to do to keep that going?

Just have to continue to play well. Right now, it’s Moore, Marner, and myself, and we have a good understanding of how we want to play right now. I think Mitchy is an elite player and he kind of uses our strengths to his advantage. He’s willing to dump the puck and let me go get it by using my physicality when it will benefit him. He understands the way to play the game effectively. A lot of times elite players want to carry the puck in all the time or don’t necessarily like the dump and chase game, but from the very first shift Mitchy was with us, he said, ‘if I’ve got the puck and I don’t have a lot of space, I’ll dump it into your corner and you go do what you do and I’ll be there support.’ Then I just try to get the puck right back to him. We’ve been able to generate a couple goals over the last few games and hopefully we can continue to do that and have a positive impact on games.

 

There’s a viral clip going around right now of you and Mitch Marner using smelling salts before a game. How did that routine start?

That’s just something we do every game. I think I started using them in junior or in my first year of pro hockey, I can’t really remember.

I’ve always done it and one day I just sort of reached over and put it under his nose and he did it, then we started doing it multiple times and then all of sudden we had a handshake. It just kind of grew from there. It’s just something we do every game now, it’s part of our routine. A lot of guys around the league use smelling salts, I think it just kind of gives you a little wake up and makes you realize it’s game time.

 

Who’s the toughest opponent you’ve ever fought?

That’s a tough question. I always have a hard time answering that. But George Parros, someone you’re really familiar with, I squared up with him once. I was pretty young when I fought him and he controlled the whole fight. He was definitely in charge of the way the fight was going.

He was throwing punches, but I thought I did a decent job of handling it because I never really got hit. It certainly didn’t feel like I controlled the fight in any way at that point in my career, but I think that’s because he was that much more experienced than me and he’s a smart fighter. It felt like it was a cat and mouse situation. For most of the fight, I was just trying not to get hit as opposed to controlling the fight itself. I didn’t take much damage in that fight thankfully. It was early in my career and he gave me a pat on the head at the end of it.

But there’s been fights where I’ve been tagged and hit hard. Ryan White broke my nose pretty clean one year fighting in Philadelphia when I was with the Islanders.

 

For your money, who is the toughest guy in the league right now?

There’s a few guys out there. I still think [Zdeno] Chara when he’s really angry, he’s scary. I think [Milan] Lucic has got to be up there. Ryan Reaves is another guy that’s up there. Those are three guys that come to the top of my mind.

 

This next question comes from Twitter. Michael wants to know what’s your favorite part about living in Toronto?

There’s a few things I love about Toronto. There’s a lot of great restaurants, but there were a lot of great restaurants in New York but similarly, in Toronto, you can go to a lot of different places to eat unbelievable food. On top of that, as big as Toronto is as a city, it’s much smaller compared to New York and you can get everywhere pretty quickly. When you live on one end of town, it doesn’t take an hour and a half to get to the other end, you can get there in 25 minutes. That’s kind of one of the perks about it, I think. There’s also a lot of pride in Toronto. The passion for the sports teams. They love their sports and all the three teams were really good last year. Toronto FC went to the Finals, the Raptors have been good for a few years with guys like [DeMar] DeRozan and [Kyle] Lowry sticking around here, and the Jays were having a good run up until this past year. It’s an exciting place for sports and they’re passionate about sports. I think there’s a lot of pride from being in Toronto. It’s just really cool to be a part of the vibe here. The fan support is second to none.

 

Some Maple Leafs fans have pointed out that you sometimes protect opponents from the boards at the tail end of an icing call. Can you tell us why it’s important for you to do that?

At the end of the day, you never really want to hurt anybody. When I first came into the league, you tried to chase down icings and touch the puck first. That was all part of the touch icing rule. Now that that’s changed, when the whistle goes, you try to protect the player from going into the boards.

I’m a physical guy, I’ll hit you if it’s clean…

 

*Reader note: Since speaking with Matt, it has been learned that he will sit out the Maple Leafs' Saturday evening game against the Flyers due to injury

My Detroit Chapter By Wes Chacon

Growing up in California, hockey was never in the limelight. I remember growing up and lacing up my first pair of skates around the age of 6 when my cousin Joey got me into hockey.  After that first time on the ice, hockey was all I ever thought about.  I was lucky enough (or cursed, depending on how you look at it) to become yet another poor soul that rooted for the Red Wings because of my Dad.  He would always tell me that someday we would go to Joe Louis Arena together, but it never happened. So, when he passed in 2013 to cancer, I told myself that I was going to work my ass off, save my money and make a trip to Detroit happen in memory of him. So on March 6th, 2015 I did just that and caught the Wings play against the Calgary Flames. Then I went again on October 12th, 2015 for the home opener against the Maple Leafs.

So of course when I heard that Detroit was going to get a new arena, I told myself that no matter what it took, I was going to attend the home opener. Actually, I think my first response was, “SERIOUSLY that’s what they’re going to call it!!??” Of course, there were a ton of f-bombs in there when I found out what the new arena was going to be called. Then I moved on to figuring out how to get there for that first game.  Being a part of the Violent Gentlemen team is pretty special as there aren’t many people in the world that are lucky enough to get time off work to go to a hockey game with the full support of the company they work for.

I won’t bore you with the details, but we had to hit Green Dot Stables for some tasty sliders before heading to the game for the red carpet entrances of the players and to pass out our new Detroit Chapter HC tee and stickers to the Red Wings faithful. I was so stoked to meet a lot of other fans and spend some time talking about this upcoming season. When I finally got to walk into the new arena, I could feel that a new chapter for Detroit had officially begun.  As much as management denies that Detroit is rebuilding, that is clearly what is happening to this franchise, but at the same time, it’s a bit of a breath of fresh air. The 25-year playoff streak ended last year along with saying goodbye to Joe Louis Arena.   

When you walk throughout the concourse of the new arena there are so many things to see and do, that you almost forget that there’s a hockey game to watch. The new arena is something that architecturally will leave you in awe and while the name might drive you a little crazy, it's easy to forget what it’s called when you’re there and immersed in the game (and with your people).

Getting to see your favorite team when they’re in another state is tough so I was intent on making the most of this game.  I walked the entire concourse looking for some more food to rip into before taking my seat and ran into so many other VG fans. It felt like I was home!!  When it was finally time to find my seat, the first thing you noticed is ridiculous scoreboard that’s oh just about - 13,500 sq. ft. with 16.5 million LED’s. There were times during the game I caught myself watching the screen instead of the game below because it was just that clear and stunning.

There were, of course, a couple Minnesota fans that had made the trip but the best part was seeing all the Red Wings faithful laughing, smiling, taking selfies and taking pictures of the arena and just taking it all in. 


As Red Wings fans we’ve been pretty spoiled these past couple years with a couple of Stanley Cup championships, tons of winning seasons, President’s trophies (otherwise known as “the kiss of death” for most teams), Hall of Fame players and owners who adore the fans and give so much back to the city of Detroit.

I am also sneaking out to Las Vegas to see my Red Wings take on the Golden Knights Friday the 13th and hope to see more of the Red Wings faithful out there.  Below are some of the highlights from the game – the first time I saw the arena, the concourse, our VG faithful, and of course that first goal at home!!!



View from the seats, what an upgrade from The Joe, not one bad seat in this barn.
That scoreboard though.
Player intros, these photos don’t do this arena justice!



Fun fact because we all enjoy a pretty sweet picture of a back printed T-shirt. These letters were actually the ones used at the old Olympia Stadium, For those that don’t know the Olympia stadium was where the Red Wings played between 1927 until 1987 when it was demolished and they moved into Joe Louis arena.


Good to see my buddy Tim who shreds on the guitar for Fit For An Autopsy, huge Islanders fan but came out to hang! Still waiting on my Ralph Macchio bobblehead Tim!


Intermissions call for hangs with some fellow Gents!

After she managed to drop my delicious beverage all over the floor, Emma was too excited to care and needed to get a pic in of her Detroit Chapter tee!


Good times with great people, till next time Detroit! Vegas you’re up next. See you on Friday, October the 13th!
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