Zack Stortini As A Fighter

Jonathan Willis
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.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 wiggs22
August 29 2009, 12:10PM
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First!!! just kidding : ) i too hate the people who have no life ( hugs self and cracks open beer and remember's my mom loves me) other than to be the first to comment. I'm excited to see what georges taught them and for the start of the season!!! Yay!

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#2 Colin
August 29 2009, 12:11PM
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Stortini is everything you want a fourth liner to be; heart, grit, fights and can actually contribute a little bit hockeywise.

I hope he has a long career with the Oil.

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#3 wiggs22
August 29 2009, 12:14PM
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Me too. For the first couple of seasons.. i didn't like him.. i thought he didn't have what it took ( and still think he has room to grow..when comparing him with georges)but last year he seemed to come into his own... he'll be hear for a while!

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#4 Gerald R. Ford
August 29 2009, 12:20PM
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He knows his role, he works his ass off, he's continuously improving, and he loves the Oil Drop. I'll take that. Forget about Georges, though. Tambo needs to bring in Dave Brown as a consultant to teach him "The Lawnmower".

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#5 roadrunner
August 29 2009, 12:23PM
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Stortini has definately made a believer and now a supporter out of me. As wiggs just said, I wasn't a huge fan but you can see how he has slowly turned the corner and is becoming an all around better hockey player. Sometimes it's more about the fight in the dog rather than the size of the dog in the fight. Stortini has a lot of fight in him which should keep in the lineup on a regular basis.

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#6 Racki
August 29 2009, 12:31PM
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First off, I think he's done a little better than hockeyfights.com's records suggest. Since this is based on fan-voting (very subjective) and a lot of people hate Stortini, I think he gets ripped off in that area ;) For example, he fought Asham a couple of years ago, and the votes say he lost. I give Asham a lot of credit for fighting a guy bigger than him, but really? Am I being a homer saying Stortini won that, or at least it was a draw? (Asham did very well off the start, but Stortini dominated at the end) That's just one example.

Anyways, I agree with a lot of what everyone has already said. I am a big Stortini fan, and love that he's on our team. He brings a lot of energy, heart, grit, and attitude to this team. Often when he's on the ice I'm on the edge of my seat waiting for him to do something crazy like lay a guy out behind the net. Major credit to the Zack Attack for winning many of his critics over.

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#7 Archaeologuy
August 29 2009, 12:40PM
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I have always like Stortini, the guy genuinely loves to play and sticks up for his guys. If the rest of the team played with his heart and determination last year we wouldnt have been so disappointed as often as we were. The kid fights, i know a guy like Buchberger will appreciate a guy willing to drop the gloves even though it's almost certainly against bigger opponents.

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#8 Librarian Mike
August 29 2009, 12:59PM
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While he may never be the fighter that Gentleman Georges was, I give Stortini full credit for the fact that he's willing and he can play too. For me it comes down to the simple fact that it doesn't matter how tough you are; if you can't play, you have no business being out there.

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#9 OprahsSandwich
August 29 2009, 01:17PM
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Brasher's nick name was huggie bear for a lot of years too.

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#10 mjsh
August 29 2009, 01:20PM
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In time, huggy bear will be the warm fuzzy name for Zac. I have always thought he was hockey player. If I remember correctly he wore a C in Junior as well. Could well be the second coming of Buchberger. Now if only Quinn and Renney can get some fire out of the rest of the team.

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#11 Tommy
August 29 2009, 02:17PM
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I too was critical of Zack at the beginning of his career and even cringed when he dropped the gloves, knowing it would be an embarassment. But I am impressed with the way he has improved and he has undoubtedly earned his spot on the 4th line.

I also met him a couple of times and have to say he is very polite and generally seems like a good guy. You can tell he is thankful for the Oilers giving him a shot. That is the best type of loyalty. I agree with mjsh, could be a new Buchberger.

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#12 Antony Ta
August 29 2009, 02:20PM
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If I didn't need to buy my Doug Weight, Tommy Salo, and Esa Tikkanen jerseys first, I would've bought a Zack Stortini jersey already.

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#13 Joey Moss
August 29 2009, 02:26PM
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good for stortini, i noticed an improvement in his game at the end of last season as well. he knows his roll and does it to the best of his ability. i wish more players had the same kind of work ethic and humility.

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#14 hemi
August 29 2009, 02:30PM
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I might as well own up too. Never was a supporter of Stortini for the most part. But as some of the other posters have pointed out, he does have grit and that is in short supply on this team. I will wait till we are a good way into the season to see if a Stortini jersey is on the Christmas list.

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#15 Edmonton1980
August 29 2009, 02:49PM
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Ive been loyal to Zack since the first day. I don't know how people can bash him. Aside from a short period of time where i started thinking he was taking beatings just to learn the fighting style better before eventually coming out and bashing people all over the league, Zack just needed time like any young NHL player. He fought big guys that some bigger guys wouldn't dare drop the gloves with. I mean, tell me who, other than 5-7 guys, would drop em with boo-gard? He didn't get it done on alot of nights, but he did his job. He is going to be the next tik/mclelland. He can annoy the hell out of you, score you a few points, and give and take like anybody else. Only this year he WILL bash people all over the league.

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#16 ronaldo
August 29 2009, 03:01PM
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I've always liked Zack and thought from the beginning that he was mislabeled/ marketed wrong as a heavy-weight. I look at him as agitator whose willing to drop the groves with anyone. The fact that he is getting better and better at fighting is only icing on the cake. Now he can make people eat their word- with his fists!

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#17 DangerMan
August 29 2009, 03:07PM
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The biggest thing that impresses me about Stortini is his willingness to constantly work on his game. Be it in the fighting category, or skating, so he can show up in time on the forecheck. At the end of the year he even started working on deflections. Kudos to him, and to him having a solid year on the 4th line, just keep bringing the pain.

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#18 jeanshorts
August 29 2009, 03:11PM
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Anyone remember when he scored his first NHL goal? I wasn't a staunch Stortini guy at that time, but I still jumped out of my seat and screamed to the heavens when that happened. Even when I didn't like him, there was something you had to respect about him. He's definitely grown on me a lot, especially last season. I'm starting to think he has the potential to be a Smyth/Homstrom type guy. Just stick him in front of the net, let him absorb some punishment and pack away some garbage goals. Obviously I don't see him putting up the point totals of those guys, but a boy can dream right?

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#19 jeanshorts
August 29 2009, 03:29PM
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Oh man I forgot what an awesome game dude had that night!

hxxp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tUDYiDBNJ8M

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#20 Garett
August 29 2009, 03:53PM
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Its guys like Zack Attack that in my opinion should have a letter "A" on their jersey. I am not joking, he is a leader in the community as well as on the ice. His work ethic is second to none. PDP could learn a lot from ZS, so here is a vote to get Zack an "A" on his jersey to be a leader on this team which badly needs new leadership!

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#21 OvenChicken8
August 29 2009, 04:08PM
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By the end of the season, barring injuries, I bet Stortini will be a full time 3rd liner and will be one of the best pests in the game.

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#22 Racki
August 29 2009, 04:19PM
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jeanshorts wrote:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=tUDYiDBNJ8M

Love it, thanks for posting that.

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#23 Robin Brownlee
August 29 2009, 05:03PM
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I was way too critical of Zack when he broke into the NHL and hopped on the Huggy Bear handle with great glee in chiding him for his style of fighting. Given my own background, I should have known better -- I wrote about that here at ON, but that's not the point.

I was SO wrong about Zack I apologized to him for what I wrote and said on the radio. That's a first. Zack was very gracious and, being aware I did the same job back in the stone age as a lacrosse player (and theoretically have a clue when it comes to fisticuffs), he said he appreciated the apology.

There's nothing about Zack not to like.

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#24 Wyseguy
August 29 2009, 05:03PM
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not only does he bring effort on the ice, but he's been Mr Public Relations off the ice. Gotta love it when your 2 fighters put themselves in every charity event representing the Oil. Even though that doesn't contribute on the ice, it shows you that they'll do anything to contribute to the team.

I had no use for him until the end of 07/08 when Glencross came in, and I think he really turned the corner there. The guy does whatever he can to help the team. Effort counts, Nillsson take note.

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#25 OilerFanInCalgary
August 29 2009, 05:03PM
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Yeah a lot of people were too harsh on Zack...he was always the middleweight fighting the heavyweights...Funny thing is though is that the people that were riding him for "hugging" certainly wouldn't have fought the guys he did. I'm not a small guy at all and I wouldn't fight the Boogey man!

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#26 Racki
August 29 2009, 07:14PM
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Lets not forget that game against the Sharks where he wrapped his leg underneath of him in a fight vs. Staubitz. Seeing that, I thought he was done for the season, but he misses a few games and then he's back after the All-Star break. If that were anyone else on the team, they'd be done for sure.

hxxp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pq0hRuy8mLk

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#27 Jonathan Willis
August 29 2009, 08:06PM
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Incidentally, if anyone's curious why Rob Schremp's been stuck in the minors, he does a pretty good job of explaining it today.

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#28 Zack Stortini As A Fighter
August 29 2009, 08:19PM
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[...] Random Feed wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptAug2912:00 pm Jonathan Willis 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 [...]

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#29 Sandra
August 29 2009, 09:14PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Incidentally, if anyone’s curious why Rob Schremp’s been stuck in the minors, he does a pretty good job of explaining it today.

Thanks for that Jonathan, great article, I hope Schremp makes it.

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#30 Librarian Mike
August 29 2009, 09:19PM
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@ Jonathan Willis:

Oh yeah! We're gonna see some 'Rob Schremp hockey' this year. Seriously, why do athletes talk about themselves in the 3rd person? It just makes them look like morons.

Frankly, it'll take more than some big talk for Schremp to impress Librarian Mike...

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#31 ronaldo
August 29 2009, 09:32PM
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@ Librarian Mike ronaldo doesn't agree. ronaldo thinks that if Schremp only ever referred to himself in 3rd person, that would be awesome. As a non-Schremp fan, ronaldo would dig him being on the team if this was the case, and ronaldo thinks Librarian Mike could get behind this too if he were as liquored up as ronaldo right now.

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#32 Racki
August 29 2009, 09:38PM
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Librarian Mike wrote:

@ Jonathan Willis: Oh yeah! We’re gonna see some ‘Rob Schremp hockey’ this year. Seriously, why do athletes talk about themselves in the 3rd person? It just makes them look like morons. Frankly, it’ll take more than some big talk for Schremp to impress Librarian Mike…

Because he's "Rob Effin' Schremp"!

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#33 Librarian Mike
August 29 2009, 10:27PM
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@ ronaldo: @ Racki:

Ronaldo and Racki have made LM laugh. ha!

I must admit though that I kind of like that Schremp has a bit of an attitude. At the very least it's refreshing to hear a hockey player actually have something to say. It would be nice however if he could have some results to back it up, other than "yeah, I'm kind of a big deal around London still..."

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#34 Shapeman
August 29 2009, 11:55PM
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"Jimmy's gonna get you Kramer!" hmm you have to wonder if he got it from seinfeld

On a hockey related note I really liked the way stortini played down the stretch last year and I think hes juat the tough guys we need. Altough i don't know what will happen to Big Mac now. I guess that's to be determined

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#35 Fiveandagame
August 30 2009, 06:34AM
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~I think Stortini will be our solution on first line LW. All they have to do is start calling him SCORTINI.

Hey it worked for Shawn "Scorcoff". ~

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#36 Craig
August 30 2009, 07:27AM
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Garett wrote:

Its guys like Zack Attack that in my opinion should have a letter “A” on their jersey. I am not joking, he is a leader in the community as well as on the ice. His work ethic is second to none. PDP could learn a lot from ZS, so here is a vote to get Zack an “A” on his jersey to be a leader on this team which badly needs new leadership!

I'll second this.

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#37 stan_the_caddy
August 30 2009, 08:32AM
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It took a while for him to grow on me, but I can't deny that he is our perfect 4th liner. Never looks outta place out there.

And I wonder if it's a coincidence that his fighting abilities improved when Strudwick joined the team? Nothing like some veteran advice to help improve your game.

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#38 BruceM
August 30 2009, 10:00AM
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Nice to read all the positive comments about "Zorg", who has long been a favourite of mine for his hustle, physical play, coachability, and work ethic. For a while there I felt like a lone voice in the wilderness defending him in my corner of the Oilogosphere against comments like this:

There can't be anyone out there who honestly thinks Zach Stortini is now or ever will be a serviceable NHL player.

... which I won't attribute today other than to say it's a copy and paste of a fairly typical comment from a discussion in 2007-08. He's come a long way since then.

I agree that in time Zack might be worthy of an "A" although I don't think he's quite there yet. Needs to play something approaching a full 82 first. He was, however, a rare two-year captain in juniors, so leadership is part of the package.

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#39 Bob Cob
August 30 2009, 10:33AM
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Stortini has the heart the rest of the Oilers need, just plain old grit and determination is what got him where he is.

That interview doesn't make Schremp look any better, I think, after listening to his answers, that he is an even bigger Douche Bag than I did before. He has no class, he's not humble, nor professional and that is the difference between him and Gagner. Regardless of skill, unless Schremp changes that selfish "Im Rob Schremp" attitude he can stay in the AHL for all I care.

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#40 Clarkenstein
August 30 2009, 11:14AM
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Librarian Mike wrote:

@ ronaldo: @ Racki: Ronaldo and Racki have made LM laugh. ha! I must admit though that I kind of like that Schremp has a bit of an attitude. At the very least it’s refreshing to hear a hockey player actually have something to say. It would be nice however if he could have some results to back it up, other than “yeah, I’m kind of a big deal around London still…”

If you guys don't quit talking in the third person The Warrior is going to show up in here!

*vomits in mouth at the very thought*

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#41 BigE57
August 30 2009, 11:24AM
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Good article but I have to take exception to hockeyfights.com won-loss records, listening to Rod Phillips on Oilers broadcasts over the years......no Oiler has ever lost a fight.

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#42 Archaeologuy
August 30 2009, 11:40AM
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BigE57 wrote:

listening to Rod Phillips on Oilers broadcasts over the years……no Oiler has ever lost a fight.

"And Stortini is PUMMELLING Boogard's fists with his face mercilessly. How can any one's fists take punishment like that and come back for more? I gotta tell you Bob, the Boogey man will be icing his hands tonight. He wont be playing the piano any time soon."

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#43 Librarian Mike
August 30 2009, 11:47AM
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@ Archaeologuy:

Haha! Hey, Stortini is well on his way, but nobody has ended more careers than Kelly Buchberger. I can't even count how many knuckles have been injured due to other players punching that big marble on his shoulders.

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#44 Milli
August 30 2009, 01:17PM
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I loved Storts right from the start. I think I was so tired of the Schrepish players, the ones who it is there god given right to play in the NHl. I love watching a guy who works his ass off, will do anything to help the TEAM. And that stretch run, Zack, Glencross and brods, WOW. That was a great 4th line.

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#45 Milli
August 30 2009, 01:43PM
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You know what, I just read the Schremp article, and ya, he sounds like a bit of a douche, but, he's being honest. He's not giving fake or prepared answers. I don't know if he'll ever make it, but I hope the kid can light it up one day. He definitley has passion, and poor judgement, but I hope his passion can win out, and maybe he will mature......

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#46 BigE57
August 30 2009, 02:32PM
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@ Archaeologuy:

You sure you don't work for CHED?

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#47 Archaeologuy
August 30 2009, 02:38PM
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@ BigE57: No, I can tell because I like JW's articles.

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#48 BigE57
August 30 2009, 03:10PM
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@ Archaeologuy: Well there are definetly 2 schools of thought, that which is preached through Oilers media outlets and everything else.

How's the thumb healing by the way?

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#49 Archaeologuy
August 30 2009, 03:27PM
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@ BigE57: Really well, i stopped wearing a bandage on friday. I think it will be at least 2 weeks before its 100% though.

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#50 Pouzar
August 30 2009, 03:59PM
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Librarian Mike wrote:

@ ronaldo: @ Racki: Ronaldo and Racki have made LM laugh. ha! I must admit though that I kind of like that Schremp has a bit of an attitude. At the very least it’s refreshing to hear a hockey player actually have something to say. It would be nice however if he could have some results to back it up, other than “yeah, I’m kind of a big deal around London still…”

LOL, I think he's going to be a 'big deal' in the Swiss Elite League next year...

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