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)

Comments (10)

  1. I think what gets me with all the fighting controversy is that these guys know that this is what they want to do to make it in the NHL. They do not HAVE to. They want to make big money and they cannot make it on skills alone, then that is what they do. Ultimately it is their choice. I for one, like fighting in hockey, when it is called for; sticking up for a player, policing the game, getting your team going. With that said however, I do not like goons. To me there is a difference between the two. Many people might not, but I love Chris Neal. The guy is not a liability on the ice and can fight. Guys like that are good for the game

    For me, it is hard to feel bad for players that makes hundreds of thousands of dollars, some millions, to do what they do, knowing going into it, that this is what can happen. I am probably in the minority here that think this.

  2. What happened to The Yablonski Rule for that goon Mirasty.??

  3. Gotta say, it would take some serious courage to want to go again after getting beaten down like that. Mirasty may not have won the fight, but he’s one tough SOB.

  4. I think that one reason more involved fans of the game (i.e. blog readers like us) value the pure fighters like Mirasty is because they are able to be 100% transparent in their intentions. We know going into a game that Mirasty wants his team to win but ultimately if he has a great fight and his team loses he still accomplishes a feeling of satisfaction (presumably) for doing his specific job well. We know this because of videos like this and comments from Myrasty and Gillies all about the fight. Nowhere in the roughly 14 minutes of this video do we ever learn the final score of the game because in a sense to these two it doesn’t really matter. What matters is having a great fight and hoping that someone scouting for a tough guy in the NHL likes what they see (I know scouts in the NHL already know a great deal about these two).
    I’d love to see this 100% transparency from all players. Imagine the honesty this situation: the Flyers play the Devils and lose 5-3 but Claude Giroux picks up 2 goals and assist and his post game comment is not… “bummer for the team we needed to sacrifice more” but instead is “rough loss, but I picked up 3 points and that’s what I’m here to do, pick up points to earn my paycheck at my job and thought we didn’t accomplish our team goal I can go home happy with my performance.”
    Just a crazy thought from someone who obviously has no chance earning any income in a team sport.

  5. Unfortunately, at 9:02 Mirasty was yelling to a real Sergey — the goalie coach Sergey Zvyagin, who might be his translator (HockeyDB lists Zvyagin as having spent most of the ’90s in North American minor pro leagues).

    The first line of the corresponding Russian caption says “Sergei! (yelling to Zvyagin)”.

  6. This line had me in tears:
    “Part of me hopes that Mirasty is being the most Canadian hockey player ever and calling all his Russian teammates Serge”

    As for these two fighters, as human beings I can’t imagine going through what they do (especially when Mirasty is in the lineup). And could anybody else get Yablonski’s blood pressure by just looking at his head vein?

  7. Watching/Listening to stuff like this, definitely makes the whole thing feel even more like a side show. Like, at what point do they just wheel these guys in during intermission to go toe-to-toe and keep the crowd entertained.

    I’m not against fighting in the sport. But to echo some other people’s comments, I think fighting should be more of a last resort, police the ice, type of situation. If somebody clearly steps out of line, then yeah, stand up for your team. But having these behemoths, coordinating their own separate event on the ice seems pretty ridiculous to me. Talking about jumping guys is crazy talk. Clearly, if he’s not fighting, he’s not earning his pay check.

    fuck this shit.

  8. For those interested in this stuff i’d highly recommend a book by Ross Bernstein called “The Code: The unwritten rules of fighting and retaliation in the NHL”. It’s all about this stuff and goes deep into the fight culture. It’s got tons of great stories and commentary from all the game’s greats from the fight game between the 70′s and early 2000′s. One guy kind of summed it up like Justin did……….imagine being a kid that at 3pm every day would have to fight the biggest and baddest bully in school, but also in front of the entire student body. Guys wouldn’t be able to sleep before games and would live in almost constant anxiety about what was to come. I feel really bad for those guys actually, not the way i’d like to live. Those guys are wired differently than we are.

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