This months interview is with the
player who many consider to be the
heavyweight champion of the NHL, Tony Twist. This interview took place during
the game between the Islanders and the Blues.Tony did not play due a severely
damaged knuckle he incurred during a fight with Scott Parker of Colorado.Tony
has achieved his status as one of the games elite enforcers like few have,
with a minimal number of fights. While one can make an instant reputation by
challenging the Blues strongman, one could also find themselves in the
hospital if one is not careful. A terror on the ice, the "Twister" is a kind and
giving man off the ice. He gives his time to numerous charities, not the least
of which is the Head First Foundation. I thank Tony for his time and his insight.
FD-When did you start playing hockey?
TT-I started at about four or five years old.I started in Saskatoon,
Saskatchewan and then moved to Prince George, B.C.
FD-You played on an extremely tough team in Saskatoon.What kind of
relationship did you have with the other tough guys, and did playing with all
those guys make the game more fun?
TT-We had A LOT of fun! It was a great team to play for, just for that
reason.We had myself, Kerry Clark, Kelly Chase, Kevin Kaminski and Brian
Glynn, who at that time, was one of the biggest guys in the league.We had an
extremely tough team.We would go into any building and play rough and tough
and those teams HAD to play rough and tough.We had a good running rivalry with
Prince Albert, who had guys like Reid Simpson and Darin Kimble.We had a good
club too.We got beat out two years in a row by Medicine Hat.One year, the
Tigers won it all, the other year, the Tigers went to the finals and they had
some big draft picks that year.
FD-Who were some of the other heavyweights in the WHL at the time?
TT-Let's see, there was Link Gaetz, Tony Horacek, Darin Kimble, Kerry Clark,
Kelly Chase, Reid Simpson, and a guy named Gary Grant who played for Seattle,
just to name a few.
FD-You fought guys like Darin Kimble and Link Gaetz a lot in the WHL. Was it
anything personal, or was it just guys doing their jobs?
TT-You know what, Kimbi and I got along great off the ice. It was just a case
of when Saskatoon and P.A. played, the signs would come out "Hey Kimble, let's
Twist again!" it was kind of neat. Sure we had a running battle, but off the
ice, and this goes for most of the tough guys off the ice, we have a good
relationship.Sometimes it's tough to go out and fight a guy who you have a
good relationship with, but sometimes the job warrants it. It is more than
likely that the guys you know off the ice are the guys you wouldn't fight just
for the sake of fighting. There has got to be a reason for it, and when the
time comes, let the best man win. When it's over, it's over. With Link, it's a
little bit different. We had a great fight in Spokane, I'll call that one a
draw, and then we fought in Saskatoon and he pretty much fed me my lunch! I
watch the tape now and I laugh. Just one shot after another. After that fight, I
said to him "Link, the next time I see you, we're going". It was two years
later, I was playing for Peoria and he was playing for Kalamazoo. We squared
up, and he pulled my jersey over my head and started giving it to me and I
said to myself "no no, we'll have none of this"(laughs). We started going at it
and he switched up at the wrong time, and I knocked him out. He was sitting on
his helmet. In the penalty box, he yelled to me "hey, are we even?', I said
"yeah, we're even".
FD-What was your reaction to being drafted by the Blues?
TT-My mom and dad walked into my room and said "son, wake up. You've been
drafted in the 9th round." I rolled over and said"good one, shut the door, I'm
sleeping!" My mom said "no son, you really got drafted, in the 9th round by the
Blues". I said"yeah alright, I got drafted, I'll be down in a minute". Well,
about a half hour later I wandered out for breakfast and sure enough, I was
drafted by the Blues!
FD-Talk about your first training camp with St. Louis. Is this where the bad
blood between yourself and Todd Ewen started?
TT-The first training camp was neat because Chaser and I both came in at the
same time and we both had the same job. At the time, St. Louis had Todd Ewen,
Herb Raglan and Perry Turnbull was there, but on his last legs. I knew what I
had to do, and Todd and I went at it a few times. I did the "chicken dance" at
him once. The first time we fought, it was a good fight. I got cut above the
eye. We were in the dressing room and they were getting ready to take me to the
hospital to get stitched up, (Todd was right there)and I said "no forget it,
just throw some butterflies in there because him and I are going again!". Todd
said he didn't want to fight because his hand was sore. I said "well that
doesn't matter, I got a cut here that I'm getting looked at later, you can do
the same for your hand." Anyway,he went to the hospital, and I went back,
finished the game and got stitched up later on. The second game, Brian Sutter
put us against each other, so I started whacking him, saying "let's go, let's
go." He turns to me and says "I'm not fighting you!" The puck drops and he two-
handed me! If I didn't duck, it would have decapitated me. Chaser came across
from the other side and two-handed Todd across his head, all the gloves
dropped, but it ended up being a no-fight. That was the last time we played
against each other that camp. The next year, it wasn't any better, same running
FD-Tell me about your first year pro in Peoria. You went from playing against
boys to playing against men. Did you have to establish yourself all over again?
TT-Without a doubt and looking forward to doing it! Chaser and I both knew we
had to do something to establish ourselves, so I said that I was going to go
out and fight in every game. In the first six exhibition games, I had three
fights and our coach Wayne Thomas said "what are you doing?". I said "Wayne,
new league, I've got to establish myself". I probably fought thirty-five or
thirty-six times. It was a good year.
FD-Talk about your first NHL game.
TT-My first NHL game is extremely memorable because it was Opening Night at
Chicago Stadium. It was in my second pro year. Todd Ewen was suspended from the
year before, so I got the call for Opening Night.Just to be in that arena when
the National Anthem was being played, if you've never experienced it, you
can't understand the adrenaline rush. It was unbelievable. My first game,
Chicago Stadium, I had tears in my eyes! Wayne Van Dorp was the resident
heavyweight for Chicago at the time. Of course I didn't play much, although I
did play long enough to fight Wayne! It was a good fight, and I think I got
the best of him without a doubt. That game is definitely one of my most
FD-In 1990-91 , you started in Peoria.Why not St. Louis?
TT-Who knows? They still had Ewen there, and I'm not going to kid anybody, my
skills had improved, but not to the NHL level. The first year that I stayed in
St. Louis until February and got one or two shifts a game may have hurt me. For
the time I was in St. Louis, I really didn't play at all.I practiced, but I
didn't play. The following year, they moved me up to wing and wanted me to
improve my skills, which was a good move. So I worked down there, and then they
traded me after an incident with a goaltender. I had an eighteen game
suspension, ALL against Milwaukee. Imagine that, eighteen games against one
team, I mean how many games do you play against one team? So anyway, the Blues
moved me off to Quebec and I got a chance to play.It was a great move for me.
FD-Do you think St. Louis gave you a fair chance to make their team?
TT-Of course they did.Let's not kid ourselves, I didn't have a ton of skill, I
was a role player. In todays game, if I came out of the WHL with the skill
level I had at the time, I wouldn't have any shot. The game has graduated into
a different game. There is a lot more money, a lot more competition. With the
skills I had at the time, I would never get a shot in the league.
FD-What was your reaction to being traded to Quebec? Many players don't welcome
trades to Canada because of the monetary situation.Was there anything that you
didn't like about the trade?
TT-I liked everything about it. For me, it was good. The Blues had plans for
someone else and they moved me for Darin Kimble. They wanted Kimble to come in
and do the job, so I said "good, if you don't want me, send me somewhere where
they do". It was a tremendous opportunity for me because Pierre Page gave me
the chance to be something. I didn't play a lot, but whether I played or not, I
was on the ice an hour before practice and an hour after practice. Like I said,
I didn't play a lot, but I was on the ice for hours and hours and hours with
the assisstant coaches like Clement Jodoin, Don Jackson and Jaques
Martin.Those guys made me a better hockey player and in the long run, I was
able to extend my career because of the situation.
FD-Talk about your first game with Quebec.
TT-This is another memorable moment because it was against Montreal, which is
where Todd Ewen was playing. On my first shift, I went after Shayne Corson and
Shayne said "I'm not fighting you", so I went after Todd, but he wouldn't fight
me, and when I wasn't looking, he jumped me from behind.We started fighting
and I gave it to him and I was happy to do it! I wasn't at all pleased with
him suckering me from behind. It was a re-ignition of our rivalry and a great
first game to be a part of, the rivalry between the Nordiques and the
FD-In some of your early games with Quebec, you played against Vancouver, who
had Gino Odjick. Is this where your dislike for Odjick began?
TT-That stems back from when I was in Peoria and he was in Milwaukee. It was my
second year and his first. I had gone after a couple of guys and had been on
the ice for a few minutes when he comes fresh off the bench, drops his gloves,
and starts fighting. I was just too tired at this point, so I'm just holding on
and holding on, probably for about twenty seconds while he is just swinging
away. He might have hit me three or four times, but no big deal. As soon as I
got my breath back, I leaned back to throw a big bomb and he turtled on
me.Fuck was I sour! So I got changed real quick and actually chased him down
the hallway to his bus.
FD-In Quebec, you played with legendary enforcer John Kordic. Explain your time
with him and also, just how troubled was he from an ex-teammates point of
TT-John Kordic was a very unique individual. He was a tremendous man one on
one. He displayed very quick wit and was very charismatic. If you got John in a
group, things kind of went awry. He was a good guy.I enjoyed John.We worked out
together and spent a lot of time together in general. He had a lot of problems
to address and I guess he didn't address them in the best way.
FD-Talk about the fight in Quebec with Mike Peluso of New Jersey.
TT-Mike's style is all offense, no defense.I don't think I've ever seen Mike
hold on in my entire life. He was all lefts, and all or nothing.I caught him
with one, and he was on his way down. I had already wound up for another one
and I tried to hold up the best I could, but I caught him again and I hit him
on the chin and then his head hit the ice. I was worried because he couldn't
get up.I really felt awful. The second punch might have done more damage than
the first.He was in our dressing room, on our medical table, and when the
period ended, I went in to say that I was sorry. He said "don't worry Twister, I
woke up thinking I could speak French!" At least he still had his sense of
humor about it. He spent the night in the hospital. The next morning, I went to
visit him before practice, but he had already been released.
FD-In Quebec, you played with Chris Simon. Did you two ever play on a line
together and how much potential did you see in him at that age?
TT-Sy has a great set of hands, as he did back then. We did play together on a
few occasions and it was good because there was two of us. He played one wing
and I played the other. Because we are two legitimate heavyweights, there
wasn't much going on when we were out there together. Basically, when they
brought Sy in, I was grooming him to take my job. I didn't have any problems
with that, didn't have any hard feelings. The following year, after Sy had been
around for a full season, Pierre let me go. I didn't have any problems with
that either. Chris was a better hockey player. He's got good hands and good
skill.His potential is unlimited, although his injuries have limited his
performance. He's down again with another injury to the same shoulder. This
could be the demise of him. He's got a tainted past that he's had to deal with,
and he's done real well with that. He's had some issues that he's had to deal
with, and he's dealt with them in the proper way. He has become a great hockey
player and a great "tough guy". I just hope he can escape being injury prone.
FD-When you were a free agent,why did you choose the Blues?
TT-There were a couple of reasons. First, I really enjoyed the city of St.
Louis. It is a city that really showed me a lot of respect. Second, Mike
Keenan. I knew he had a good relationship with his tough guys. I knew he'd give
me a chance to play as well as do my job, and even reward me for doing my
job. That's exactly what the case was.
FD-Talk about the fight with Rob Ray.
TT-It was one of those fights where he ended up on the wrong end of it, but he
stood in there. He is a tough character in that respect.We were in the penalty
box, and I yelled to him"Hey Rayzor, does this mean you're not going to ride
with me on the Tour?" and he said"no no, call me, we'll ride". He was out for a
while with the cheekbone injury. We still talk all the time, he is a really
FD-Talk about your first NHL goal.
TT-It was in Vancouver and of all the guys who could have assissted on it, it
was Vitali Karamnov! It was neat because it was on Hockey Night In Canada with
Don Cherry. After the game, I'm in the dressing room with half of my face
shaved and in comes Don Cherry.He says "where is that Twist?". I said "right
here". I'm standing there without a shirt on and half my face shaved. He
said "let's go for an interview". I replied "let me finish shaving". He said"no
come on, you're a westerner, let's go!", I said "let me throw a shirt on", to
which he said "no shirt, come on, let's go!" So there I am, on Hockey Night In
Canada with no shirt on and half my face shaved! Talk about a highlight!
FD-Who was the first coach to acknowledge that you could do more than fight?
TT-Mike Keenan. He gave me a chance to play.I might have only played five or
six minutes a game on average, but sometimes he gave me the opportunity to
play ten or eleven minutes. He gave me the chance to do my job as a role
player, and also gave me a chance to expand my role as a hockey
player. Ultimately, he gave me my shot back in the NHL and made me what I am
FD-How did you develop your fighting style?
TT-Let's not kid each other here. I'm six feet tall and two hundred forty five
pounds. I can fight with my right and I can fight with my left.I prefer to
stretch you out, wheel you around, and unload with my right hand. I'm not into
the wrestling and the grappling.I think you fight for a reason, and that is to
win. Let's get busy and see who is the last man standing.
FD-Does the word "goon" bother you?
TT-God forbid you say that word in front of my mother, if she heard you,she'd
cuff you one! I despise the word.If you look the word "goon" in the
dictionary, you'd understand why I despise it. I think"role player",
"aggressive forward" are correct in describing the job these days. If you go
down, and look at the guys who fill the role, we are the most charismatic and
easiest to get along with out of all the hockey players. I think that says a
lot, so I don't think the word "goon" is applicable for our job description.
FD-What is the biggest misconception that the media and the fans have about
TT-The media is learning that the guys who have this job are really good
guys. We do a lot in the community and are very strong family men. The fans are
misguided in that they think we're out there for one reason and one reason
only. We're not. We're out there to do a multitude of things and I think we
accomplish that. Fighting is just one part of that. Fans have come up to me in
St' Louis, and they have a pretty good concept of what we do. I've also been
approached by fans who think we're nothing but idiots.We're not idiots. We
speak very well and we have a strong sense of what's going on.
FD-You are generally regarded as "the guy" right now when it comes to
enforcers.Talk about the player who has been "the guy" for so many years, Bob
TT-Bob Probert is by far and away a legend. He has been the measuring stick for
so long. He continues to be a measuring stick through today. All these young
kids coming up have watched Bob Probert play, and when they come up, they want
to fight him because of his stature. This guy was in an All-Star game during
his days in Detroit. He is another player who has had some personal issues to
address, and I think he's done great at it. He's married now and has a great
family. I feel sorry for him in this respesct; he is making 1.6 million dollars
now, he is more than a fighter. He's got good hands, he's excellent in the
corners, yet he continually has to fight everybody and his dog just because he
is Bob Probert.
FD-When did you get serious in terms of lifting weights?
TT-I got real serious after my second year in St. Louis, actually right after
I was traded to Quebec. I knew there was only one way for me to stay in this
league because guys were only getting bigger. I couldn't get any taller, but I
could get wider and stronger. I had always lifted, but I was never as serious
as I was at that time.
FD-When you were a kid growing up in Saskatchewan, did you ever think the
"Tony Twist Phenomenon" would happen? You are amongst the most popular players
in the league, and a cult hero of sorts. Comment.
TT-Not at all. Like I said, when I got drafted, all I wanted to do was
sleep! You've got to be kidding me, I never thought this would amount to much. I
went after an education. While I was in Saskatoon, I attended University there
and got in a couple of years. I saw pro hockey as a chance to make enough money
to finish college. Things just happened, and happened for the best.
FD-If you could do it all over again, what would you change?
TT-Absolutely nothing! The way things have happened are the way things have
happened, and I'm happy with the way things have turned out for me.
FD-Have you ever heard of situations where an opposing teams coach has told
his players not to fight you unless absolutely neccessary? What is your
reaction to that?
TT-Every game dictates itself, so it would be hard to fit that quote into a
particular game. When I hear that, I say "great, I'll go out and play some
hockey." I have other skills that I can contribute to my team, and situations
like that give me a chance to show that aspect of my game. Ten years ago, I'd
be looking to fight anything that moved, now, I do it when I have to, and
other than that, I just work on my hockey to keep myself in this league.
FD-Have you ever boxed, and does your bulk in your upper body hinder your
skills in that area?
TT-I've boxed and kick-boxed for years and I enjoy the hell out of it. You can
apply some technique to fighting on the ice. You can learn how to throw a
straight punch, you learn weight transfer, how to properly use your torso. With
the kick-boxing, I've sometimes had to stop myself as I've felt my knee coming
up. Boxing is far and away one of the most demanding sports as far as getting
in shape, and it can really get you in shape to play hockey.
FD-You are in a similar position to Bob Probert in the sense that, the veteran
enforcers may not challenge you as much, but the younger guys grew up watching
you, and they know they can make an instant name for themselves just by
fighting you. How do you feel about that?
TT-I don't mind at all.I know what my job is, and I'll do it every night. If
they want to try me, that's fine, I won't turn them down. There may be a
certain time though, when if they want to go just for the sake of fighting, I
may say to wait until it means something.
FD-Talk about some of the "Young Guns" coming up, guys like Matt Johnson, Ken
Belanger and Scott Parker. Do any of these na,es get your attention?
TT-All those names catch my eye. These are three young, strong kids who are
going to be the heavyweights from the year 2000 and beyond. Look at Scott
Parker. He is a big strong kid who is very willing. He knows what he has to do
to make it in the NHL. He is going to have to work on other things to keep his
job.The hardest thing to do is to stay in the NHL. A guy like Ken Belanger is
doing his job. He is fighting and getting a chance to play.Look at a guy like
Matt Johnson, he's got good wheels and is a great fighter. These guys are
amongst the heavyweights for the years to come.
FD-You are like Probert in one respect, that you are the guy who a guy could
fight to make an instant reputation. Unlike Probert, you don't get challenged
nearly as much. Is that a credit to your reputation?
TT-I don't know if that's the case or not.I enjoy it, being that I don't have
to fight as much. My style is different than Probie's. I think I can throw a
pretty hard punch and I can hurt you. That may be a deterent in some way,
shape, or form. Look at Joe Kocur in his prime. He could really punish you, and
he did.Like I said, the game is changing. Ten years ago, fighting was a bigger
part of the game than it is now.It is still a part of the game, but you don't
see it as often. In order for a player to be an enforcer in todays game, he has
got to do other things besides fight. A lot of us are realizing that and are
working on other parts of our game. The kids coming up are bigger, stronger,
and better hockey players. They are going to take over the role because they
can do more than just fight.
FD-Talk about Twister's Iron Horse Tour.
TT-The Tour is to benefit the Head First Foundation. It was all about kids
putting on their helmets, tying their shoes, putting on their seatbelts,
etc. The age group I work with are kids ages four to ten. In order to be on the
"Head Fist Team", you must sign a contract that costs a dollar. Your contract
states that you will put on your seatbelt everytime you get in a car, and you
will not ride with anyone who is not wearing their seatbelt. Everytime you get
on a bike, rollerblades, or a skateboard, you must wear a helmet. You can't
play with anybody who is not wearing a helmet. This is encouraging kids to
think of their head first. It doesn't take much to end up in a wheelchair.This
foundation has been around for ten years. The Tour is trying to take it to the
next level.We have 300,000 kids who are part of the Head First Team, we want
3,000,000. With this tour, we are distributing a video to a lot of elementary
schools in the U.S. and Canada. We had a good start, we raised about
$150,000.When we get this video out, that should bring this foundation to
where it should be.