Chad Wagner
March, 1999

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 Flames fan?
CW: No, I hate 'em.

WO: Really?
CW: It's not that I hate them, they're just not one of my favorite teams.

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 games.

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 just anything.

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 lot.

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 here?
CW: I love it. When I go out on road 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 with...
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 perspective.

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 this game

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 teammates.
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 apparent reason.

WO: With only six games left in the regular season, do you think that you'll maintain your lead in the penalty minutes?
CW: Believe it or not, that wasn't one of my goals this year.

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 in November)
CW: Yeah.

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 young.

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 him.

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 that intimidating.

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 friends)?
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 him.

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 hockey?
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 locker rooms.)

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 like fighting?
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 penalty.
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 penalties.
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 similar style.
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 turn.

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 looked slow.
CW: Too many cocktails huh? No - you never know.

WO: What about in the playoffs. What should we see from you?
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.


chad wagner

DOB: 11/12/74
HEIGHT: 6'3"