Good lord, look at that picture of Trevor Gillies above. It’s not enough that he’s a naturally big guy, or that he lifts weights to make that body stronger, or that he trains to fight for a living, but he’s also got the kill switch flipped. And he’s a lefty. Zoinks.

His opponent, Jon Mirasty, is no slouch either. The stories of “Nasty Mirasty” in the ECHL threatened “Oglethorpe” levels during my own playing days, and he’s been plying his “craft” over in Russia the past couple seasons. None of that was enough to avoid a worst-case scenario type ending for him in his tilt with Gillies though, with him knocked out, jersey over his head, Bambi-legged.

All fighters know that a loss doesn’t make you any more or less of a warrior willing to put yourself on the line, and that gets you respect from your fellow fighters. The crazy part is, “you’re only as good as your last fight” is sort of a thing. In fact, it’s sort of an embarrassing thing if your last fight saw you fail to enter the penalty box without almost falling over backwards.

The clip below features some interesting stuff starting around the 9:00 mark (if the autoplay doesn’t work), and includes a mic’d up Mirasty and Gillies deciding to fight, and a few interviews – first a Russian gent, then Jeremy Yablonski, then Mirasty, then Gillies. But by far, the most interesting sound bite and reason I’m writing this post is because of the illuminating conversation between Mirasty and Gillies on fight culture. As I mentioned a moment ago, being put to sleep on the ice is not how fighters like to go down.

At around 12:07 they cut to a seemingly lucid Mirasty explaining that they’re going again. Below is a little running diary from the 9:00 mark to the end – I find their comments super-interesting.

THE BUILD-UP

9:02 – Mirasty’s team, Astana Barys, has just scored, and you can hear him explaining a basic rule of fighter code to some dude named Sergei on the bench (odd – I couldn’t find a Sergei on Astana’s roster. Part of me hopes that Mirasty is being the most Canadian hockey player ever and calling all his Russian teammates Sergei): you don’t fight after your team has just scored, you have momentum. Goals come in bunches, so don’t allow your opponent to slow the game down and change its course with a tilt.

9:17 – A gong sound effect. Like a real, non-ironically used gong (I think).

9:24 – The two enforcers line-up against one another. Without even needing a reason, they know what they’re paid to do. The conversation kind of highlights how aware they are of being a side-show, actually.

Gillies: “We doing this?”

Mirasty: “Nope.”

Gillies: “What?”

Mirasty: No.”

Gillies: “No? We gotta square off later.”

Then Gillies backs off to show he’d be willing to go, and Mirasty is apparently thinking “Well fuck, I can’t look like a punk here…and they’re off.”

THE FIGHT

9:43 – Mirasty, frustrated Gillies hasn’t engaged yet, makes an unfortunately showy motion while saying “You come to me, you come to me.”

9:59 – In a fight that lasts almost exactly 10 seconds, Gillies KO’s Mirasty, who has some trouble getting up, but…this isn’t about the fight. The end is kinda tough to watch, actually.

THE INTERVIEWS

10:40 – Jeremy Yablonski and his visible head vein sing the praises of Trevor Gillies, a brother in arms of sort.

11:05 – Mirasty says “he’ll be ready to go again, and hopefully have a better outcome next time.” These men live a different life from you and I.

11:16 – Yablonski: “Yeah, I’m pretty sure he was knocked out there at the end, but y’know, if you don’t get knocked out from time to time, you’re not fighting the right guys.”

That logic seems backwards to me.

11:41 – Gillies says that he didn’t sleep before the game, and “I didn’t say it before the game, but Jon’s a killer.” Man that must suck. Every pre-game nap is like sitting in class knowing you’re gonna go fight a kid after school.

FIGHTER CULTURE

12:07: This conversation happens post-fight in the penalty-box:

Mirasty: “Hey, we’ll go again. Hey!”

Gillies: “What?”

Mirasty: “In the third, we’ll go again.”

Gillies: It’s unclear what he says, but the gist is that he says something about being in the line-up, and appears to decline.

Mirasty: “Okay, well I’m going to jump someone then.”

As in, you got the better of me, you owe me a shot at redemption. This is crazy talk.

Gillies: “What?”

Mirasty: “I’m going to jump somebody then.”

Gillies: (Completely reasonable and respectful, gets Mirasty’s point) “Okay, we’ll go, just let me get a couple shifts in.” Then I’m 90% sure Gillies says something like “You owe me one then,” for giving him the shot to save face.

Mirasty: “Kay.”

Gillies: Something about Mirasty being a warrior.

How insane is that conversation? “I’m going to jump somebody then” works (so much for not negotiating with terrorists…)? “Just let me get a couple shifts in” is a reasonable plea for putting off the next round?

The fighters truly exist under their own set of rules, and it’s hard on these guys. As much as many fans would like to see these guys eliminated from the game, they do entertain, they become fan favourites, and they know their roles. Whether they’re serving a purpose for their team or not (judging by the fact that killers like these two can’t crack the NHL full-time, you be the judge), there they are, night in, night out, doing what it takes to call themselves professional hockey players.

Below is the video. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

(Stick-tap to @Sean_Leahy)