by: William Overin
San Diego's Enforcer
Chad Wagner can seen on the ice making his mark by
hard hits. He is also a man that the team calls upon to
set another team straight once one of their players steps
out of line. Chad has led the league in penalty minutes
the past couple of years and is criticized by some
sectors as flying off the handle when the team least
needs it. Few fans, however, realize Chad's strong
commitment to community involvement. He spends many off-ice
hours helping out needy kids and visiting children in the
hospital. Chad sat down with me discussing his future and
his views on fighting's role in hockey.
William Overin: How did you start playing hockey?
Chad Wagner: I started skating when I was three, and I
just got into it from there.
WO: Who else in your family played hockey?
CW: My father played over in Europe off and on - actually,
he didn't play there until later in his career. My dad
just grew up playing Juniors and all that.
WO: Where did you play Juniors?
CW: I played in Lloydminster (Lloydminster Blazers) of
the Alberta Junior Hockey League - same one as the Shmyrs
- both Jason and Ryan.
WO: You're from Calgary - so I assume that you are a
CW: No, I hate 'em.
CW: It's not that I hate them, they're just not one of my
WO: What teams are your favorites?
CW: The Rangers.
WO: The Rangers, why?
CW: A guy like Gretzky.
WO: Were you an Edmonton fan then?
CW: When I was growing up. When I was little I liked
Calgary, but now I don't like them.
WO: Especially now they got rid of Theo Fleury.
CW: Actually it's good for Colorado.
WO: Are you a Colorado fan at all?
CW: Yeah, I like Colorado.
WO: What about other sports when you were growing up?
CW: I played baseball and that was it.
WO: What sort of things do you like to do when you
aren't playing hockey?
CW: I don't have too many hobbies - I like to play video
WO: Like what games?
CW: Sports games - hockey.
WO: What type of music do you like?
CW: Rap, Hip-Hop.
WO: Really... is that it?
CW: I mean I like everything but country.
WO: I'm kind of surprised at Rap - that's not what I
expected. What groups do you like specifically?
CW: Outcast - and in the Rap category LL Cool J. I like
WO: What about before a game?
CW: I like to listen to a lot of Rap, but the guys in the
dressing room don't really appreciate that too much. I
run the stereo, so I have to blend it - a little of
everything for them. The only Rap the guys like I think
is Will Smith - that Miami song. They let me play it a
WO: Let's get to something else here. How do you
mentally prepare yourself for a game?
CW: I visualize a lot. Like what I'm going to do out
there - like if I'm gonna go out and bang and make some
big hits. You know if there's someone tough from the
other team - I'll kind of think about it... but I try not
to think too much about it.
WO: What about the fighting?
CW: About the fighting - no. I just think about it for a
second, who the guy is, who they have, and that's it.
WO: Are you ever afraid to fight? What I mean, is
there anything that makes you hesitate?
CW: All the time. Before the games, I get butterflies.
WO: How would characterize your style of play then?
CW: I'm a banger, I guess you could say. If I'm not
hitting, I'm not doing my job. If I get points, then it's
really for the team. I'm really just the kind of guy that
goes out and takes care of business - opens up the ice
for the Hachborns and St. Jacques - they can all handle
themselves, but I'm there.
WO: What do you think about San Diego and the fans
CW: I love it. When I go out on road trips...you can see
it by my stats. All of my points come here at home. All
of my fun comes at home. I love the fans here; they're
great to me.
WO: What do you think of some of the team changes that
happened earlier this season - especially the big shake-up
CW: Stephane St. Amour and Clark Polglase - well I played
with Clark for four years and Stephane for three and a
half. It shocked me. I hated to see them go. We were
going through tough times, but they (the team) had to do
something. We were all kind of complacent here with the
team. When Marty did that, it kind of put things back in
WO: Look at you guys now, you're the hottest team in
the WCHL with an ten game winning streak.
CW: Yeah it's kind of weird after one more shake up that
brought back Steph (the February trade with Bakersfield
that brought back Stephane St. Amour for Sandy Gasseau.)
We're that much better again.
WO: Who do you think is the best enforcer in the NHL?
CW: It's hard to say. I've always loved Probert. I say
that combo of (Kelly) Chase and (Tony) Twist (St. Louis
Blues) - that combo there is pretty scary.
WO: Besides you of course, who do you think are the
best players or enforcers in the WCHL?
CW: I'd say Simon. For an older guy, he's pretty good.
Mailhot - he's pretty tough. I've had some trouble with
him. He's been around a lot longer than I'll ever be in
WO: What was your greatest hockey moment?
CW: It was either my first goal. I scored that against
Fresno and still remember that. Also winning the Taylor
Cup three times. Nothing can top that - three rings and
playing with a great bunch of guys.
WO: What was your worst hockey injury?
CW: Knock on wood here, but I've never really had a big
one. A few cuts on my face and that's it.
WO: I'm gonna feel bad if something happens, and I've
jinxed you. I hope you don't come looking for me. Do you
remember your first hockey fight?
CW: Juniors - It was against Jason Shmyr. I wasn't
originally a fighter. It wasn't much of a fight. He had
the upper hand.
WO: That must have been interesting then becoming
CW: It took us a while to realize who each other were. I
have a picture at home of us fighting each other.
WO: What types of things do you do to keep yourself in
hockey form or fighting form?
CW: Boxing really helps in the off-season. We, Ryan Shmyr
and actually all of the guys, we'll jump on the ice and
we'll scrap just for fun. Mostly me and Ryan, before that
it was Shoebottom. We practice our techniques. It's kind
of like sparring in a way.
WO: Can you tell me what exactly is a Chad Wagner
penalty? I've heard it happens sometimes when you're just
skating on the ice - is that your interpretation?
CW: Why that happens is I'll be out there. They'll see me
trying to check or get something stirred up with another
player. They'll see me hit another player, and they'll
think I'm getting a little too rowdy. Sometimes I'll be
trying to play my game, and they'll give me one for no
WO: With only six games left in the regular season, do
you think that you'll maintain your lead in the penalty
CW: Believe it or not, that wasn't one of my goals this
WO: I guess it's hard when you get an instigator
penalty like when someone like Mike Larkin attacks you as
you skate past Fresno's bench (in a game against Fresno
WO: Let's get back to that. In the game against Fresno,
Larkin came after you as you were being led off of the
ice. What do you remember of that incident?
CW: He was doing something - making fun of me. It was a
long fight, and Mailhot had the upper hand. I didn't like
his actions, and I just looked at him. His gloves came
off, and he just started hammering me. It was the dumbest
thing. He wouldn't fight me the next game - it shows you
who's got the guts there.
WO: I like to ask all the fighters what they think of
other fighters and get their reaction.
WO: Iannique Renaud (of Phoenix)?
CW: Strong but not too smart. No technique. He's not in
very good shape. I don't think anyway. Last year he was
all right; I thought that he was one of the tougher guys
in the league. This year he comes up, and he's stronger
and packs a good punch. That's about it.
WO: Chris Droeske (of Bakersfield)?
CW: I don't even classify him as a fighter. I have no
respect for that guy. He had to jump Renaud to get him to
fight I heard. He's just a clown.
WO: Chad Richard (of Tacoma)?
CW: I haven't played against him yet this year.
WO: What about in the past?
CW: He hasn't really done anything.
WO: Wade Brookbank (of Anchorage)?
CW: He's a big kid. I fought him once. Big, lanky, and
WO: I know you talked a little about him earlier, how
about Jason Simon (of Colorado)?
CW: Been around. He's a smart fighter. Any move that I'm
going to make, he knows it. You've really got to outsmart
WO: What about Jonathan Shockey of Idaho who you've
faced up against a couple of times?
CW: He's not much to be weary of. It's like he doesn't
want to fight half the time. And when he does, like last
night (March 19) for instance, he could have had me if he
was strong enough. I got a cramp in my hand and couldn't
move it. He doesn't hit very hard. I don't find him all
WO: You already covered Jacques earlier. How about
some of your teammates - Ryan Shmyr?
CW: He's young and strong and willing. He works out
really hard and wants it really bad.
WO: How about Courtemanche (one of Chad's closest
CW: I've fought women bigger than him. (laughs) No really,
that's a guy I don't think I could fight. He likes to
pull you in. He's pretty quick, and you don't want that.
WO: How about an old teammate, Jason Shmyr (now with
the Manitoba Moose in the IHL)?
CW: It's tough because I hear all these things about him
now. He was tough, but he never gave me any trouble.
WO: How about Shoebottom?
CW: He's a friend of mine. You get mixed feelings there.
Tough guy - tough as nails. It's just age caught up with
WO: What about the whole role of fighting itself? The
Hockey News has had extensive cover recently of the whole
fighting debate. I know there are fans here in San Diego
that don't like fighting.
CW: Oh yeah, for sure.
WO: What do you think is the role of fighting in
CW: I think that sometimes it gets out of hand, like last
night (March 19 against the Idaho Steelheads where in the
first period both teams combined for four fights and
three game misconducts) especially that little scuffle
that ended up down here (pointing toward the lower third
of the ice near where the Gulls come off to go to the
WO: Can you describe for me what exactly you're
talking about - what do you remember about what happened?
CW: Well Jason was in a fight. I saw him skating off (after
receiving a misconduct) and then (John) Batten came up
and started sticking him. That right there calls for
something. Maybe not as crazy as it got. (Chad ended up
going after Batten and ultimately ended up in a two-minute
fight with Jonathan Shockey of Idaho. Following this
melee, Batten, Shockey, and Chad received ejections.) Jay
can handle himself, but it's just that he had the
linesman on him.
The fighting part shouldn't be banned from hockey. I
think you need it because of crap like that when it
happens, otherwise guys take liberties with other guys.
It's bad enough in our league as it is. I know the NHL is
a different story, but here there is a lot of stick work.
You need that. We've lost two guys (Defenders Darren
Perkins and Frederic Jobin) this year with parts of their
pinkies cut off because of slashes - two of our top
players. That just shouldn't happen.
WO: What would you like to say to the fans that don't
CW: I know it gets carried away, but it's part of the
game. You have to look at the good side of it. Myself, I'm
just out there to help protect the other guys.
WO: What would you like to say in response to the fans
that accuse you of taking penalties when the team least
needs it - as if at times you are a burden to the team?
What do you think of that?
CW: I don't agree. If you go and look at the books, all
of my minors are double minors for roughing. I never take
any stupid penalties. (I take the odd one every once in a
while.) The team has only been scored on twice during any
of my penalties this year. That's pretty good for all of
the penalties that I take. I'm in the top five in minor
penalties. I think that's pretty good because I keep
track of how many times the teams been scored on. I don't
like to get them (penalties), but you go into a fight and
they give them to you - it's just my name.
WO: Especially when the refs feel like giving away
Chad Wagner penalties.
CW: It's just the way the puck goes.
WO: I guess it's good to have Hakan Jansson here. We'll
have to create a new category called a Hakan Jansson
CW: His aren't stupid penalties. He just hits. You finish
your hits and Marty isn't going to get mad.
WO: Don't get me wrong, I don't think he takes stupid
CW: No I understand. The fans in the stand might not
understand. The Coach will take a hitting penalty any day
of the week - if it's a legitimate hit.
WO: It almost seems to me that where as the refs watch
you when you come on the ice, they are doing the same
thing to Jansson?
CW: Yeah I know.
WO: He may not do anything. I've seen players fall
down when they are near him, or he just barely touches a
player and draws a penalty?
CW: He's also a very strong kid though. I remember him
hammering me a couple of times when he played for
Colorado. He's a pretty solid kid.
WO: Kind of like a younger Ulf Samuelsson - he's got a
CW: (laughs) Yeah.
WO: You said earlier that when you started playing -
when you were in juniors, you weren't a fighter?
CW: No, never until I came here and it just happened.
WO: Was it difficult to adjust to this role?
CW: Not really, I had good teachers. (Gulls' Coach) Steve
Martinson and Bruce Shoebottom. I learned a lot that way.
WO: What are you doing to improve your game?
CW: Just a lot of staying late after practice. There are
four or five of us that are always on before and after
the rest of the guys. We just stay there and work on our
game. A lot of shooting. I don't get to take too many
shots, and when I get to take them I fluff them a lot.
WO: You had a nice set-up earlier this year. You
looked like a slower Hachborn, where you drove up around
the net and set up a goal.
CW: (laughs)Yeah Marty gets us doing a lot of stuff like
- me and Ryan.
WO: How much longer do you see yourself playing hockey?
How much longer do you want to play it?
CW: In this league, I can't see myself playing much more
than one more season. Hopefully I'll end up anywhere in
the I or the American Hockey League. Next year will
probably be my last if things don't work out for me.
WO: What are you going to do then?
CW: I heard McDonalds was hiring. (laughs) Courtemanche
has got an in in a Connecticut McDonalds for me. I'll
probably go back to school.
WO: Next year, if you don't move beyond this league,
are you really going to get out of hockey?
CW: If I'm going to play anywhere, it's going to be here.
It's just tough. I want to go up so bad - I don't want to
be always playing at this level.
WO: Is anything going on with Vegas (the Las Vegas
Thunder of the IHL where Chad spent twenty-two games
during the 97-98 season)?
CW: I don't know. They tell you things and you don't hear.
I haven't a clue.
WO: What do you mean exactly?
CW: Basically I got called up twice this year. They've
got Dean Ewen and "Killer" Kevin Kaminski he's
up there. They're a pretty tough team as it is and when I
got called up it was because Dean Ewen was out. So
basically there was no need to bring me up. They already
have all these guys that can do the job and can play.
They've been around a lot longer than I have, so they
have a lot more skill than me.
WO: Do you hear from other team scouts?
CW: Oh yeah - I've been talked to a few times. It's just
like Vegas, they've talked to me and nothings worked out.
It's just the way things go - you've got to wait for your
WO: Any thoughts on what would you study if you did go
back to school?
CW: No idea. I haven't thought too much about it. It's
just one of those things. I'd like to go back to school.
It's just one of those things you think about...
WO: What should we expect from you tonight (March 20)?
CW: A couple of goals tonight.
WO: How many are you going to finish with?
CW: I don't know, how many do I have now? Three I think.
Maybe four or five.
WO: You going to throw another one of those slower
Hachborns skating around the back of the net and setting
the other guys up?
CW: Slower - I thought it was a little faster (laughs).
WO: Maybe I had one too many drinks and the play
CW: Too many cocktails huh? No - you never know.
WO: What about in the playoffs. What should we see
CW: I'd like to see myself come out of there with a
couple of points. There won't be as much fighting if any.
Everyone will step it up a notch, and hopefully I'll get
a chance to help the team out by adding a point or two.
Otherwise, I'll just take the two points for the win.
WO: What about predictions for you guys this year as
far as a four-peat for the Taylor Cup?
CW: Like I say every year. We're not gonna win.
WO: You don't like to make predictions?
CW: No - so when we win, it's that much sweeter.