August 29 2009 12:00PM
The nickname “Huggy Bear” has plagued Zack Stortini since he entered the NHL because of the style with which he fought. Lined up against men like Derek Boogaard and Andrew Peters – rather huge, frightening men – Stortini often resorted to grappling and wrestling. Towards the end of last season, though, things seemed to change.
It would be a little time-consuming to review all 55 of Zack Stortini’s fights. Fortunately, hockeyfights.com tracks this sort of thing for us, and even has fans vote on who they think won the fight. Let’s look at Stortini’s record (win-loss-draw) over time:
- 2006-07: 1-4-2
- First half of 2007-08: 1-9-2
- Second half of 2007-08: 2-7-2
- First half of 2008-09: 0-5-8
- Second half of 2008-09: 5-5-2
First off: Zack Stortini has both a) an incredible ability to take punishment and b) a ton of courage for being as willing to fight as he is. I don’t think either of those statements are open to argument, and the fact that he keeps going into fights despite an atrocious win/loss record shows how badly he wants an NHL job.
The second point I have is that Stortini’s win/loss record to end the year was quite good. It’s especially good if you consider that over his last eight fights he went 5-2-1 – in his final eight fights of the season, Stortini won more decisions than he had in the previous forty-seven fights.
It wasn’t even that Stortini decided to take it easy and pick on light-weights; among the players he fought over those final eight games were Raitis Ivanans (win), John Scott (loss) and George Parros (twice – winning both of them).
Stortini (along with Steve MacIntyre) took some time this summer to train with Georges Laraque. Laraque has always been publicly enthusiastic about Stortini’s abilities, and this was no exception. He told Derek Van Diest that Stortini did very well, and that his role was to give “him a couple of tricks and pointers from a veteran on how to defend yourself and be aggressive”.
Stortini will be 24 by the time the puck drops this season – and unlike most enforcers, he was good enough on the hockey end of things to get an NHL job at an early age, so it only makes sense that it would take a few years for him to come into his own as a fighter. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Stortini vastly improved in the pugilism department this fall - fans might even be forced to retire the “Huggy Bear” moniker.