Hard working Gogol an unsung hero

Curt Gogol has never re-watched the fight, and doesn’t really want to.

Not knowing what he knows now.

Not knowing that what he did on Dec. 17 probably ended another player’s career.

Not that it was Gogol’s fault.

Certainly not.

Edmonton’s Jesse Pearson was chirping at him all through the pre-game warmup, and when Gogol jumped onto the ice for his first shift, Pearson got the green light from Oil Kings coach Derek Laxdal.

“We were short on D and I kept saying no to a fight, but he kept begging me and begging me,” Gogol recalled. “Finally I had enough of it. I switched up on him, going from rights to lefts and he really had no chance. I got lucky, caught him on the button and knocked him out.”

One of the most one-sided bouts in recent memory can be found online at YouTube (search Gogol vs Pearson).

Gogol didn’t know about Pearson’s concussion history at the time, but he has since heard that Pearson’s playing days are likely done. A regrettable, but not entirely unexpected, result for a player who lived by the fist.

“There’s guys who come in and that’s what they’ve got to do to stay in the lineup,” Gogol said. “He had to do that, and he was inexperienced at it. You’ve got to work your way up and not just throw yourself into the heavyweight category and expect to do well.”

Gogol has always had enough in his tool-box to not be that guy, although teams have tried to type-cast him that way.

“In Kelowna (2007-09) I found there was no one else doing that, so I had to do it every game,” he admitted. “I ended up doing it every game, to the point where my hands were hurting so bad I felt like crying. And I learned the hard way, because I don’t think I won my first eight fights. It’s a learning curve, and in Pearson’s case I think he learned too late.”

If fighting has its dark side it also has its purpose, and a veteran like Gogol knows when and where to drop the mitts.

How about a Nov. 26 home game versus mighty Portland?

The Winter Hawks are a skilled team, loaded top to bottom with National Hockey League prospects.

They’re also a big team, one that can beat teams with size as easily as they beat them with skill.

Gogol didn’t pick up any goals or assists in Chilliwack’s 7-2 win, but he likely had the play of the game when he challenged Tayler Jordan to a scrap 2:17 in.

“Jordan’s a guy I respect because I can ask him to fight at any time in the game and he’s willing to go,” Gogol explained. “We were in a bit of a losing streak there, and I wanted to show the guys that I was willing to fight a bigger guy for the team.”

Gogol (listed at six-foot-one and 188 pounds) looked almost comical taking on Jordan (six-foot-six and 203 pounds). But the 19-year-old Calgary native hung in there. He could barely reach Jordan’s face with his fists, so he settled for landing a dozen or so body blows.

In the process, he made the rest of his teammates play a few inches taller.

“We’ve got a lot of skilled guys on this team, and other teams were coming in here before I arrived and taking advantage of guys like (Ryan) Howse, (Roman) Horak and (Brandon) Manning,” Gogol said. “Those are guys you want on the ice, and not in the penalty box. So there was a need for me here, to take care of the guys who run around and try to intimidate. And I hope the guys played a little bigger after that fight.”

Bruins head coach Marc Habscheid often talks about players needing to define themselves — to know what they are as hockey players. Gogol has a good handle on what he is and what he needs to do.

He bristles at the idea that he is merely a fighter, knowing he has a lot more to offer.

After arriving from Saskatoon in a trade for 18-year-old forward Chris Collins, Gogol logged minutes on defence for a Bruins team that was running short on blueliners.

Prior to suffering a shoulder injury in Prince George Dec. 29, he had become a key penalty killer. He also saw time in front of the net on the power play.

Gogol had three goals in 20 games with the Bruins, the same total he had in 122 games split between Saskatoon (2009-11) and Kelowna (2007-09).

“My first year in Kelowna, I asked for a trade out of there because my role was limited to just fighting,” he said. “I wanted more, and I got it in Saskatoon. I was a penalty killer with the Blades, and coming to Chilliwack was a dream come true because Marc, Pat (assistant coach Conacher) and Enio (assist coach Sacilotto) expanded my role even more. I’ve played with Howse and Horak on the first line, and playing with guys like that gives me the opportunity to put the puck in the net more.”

A signed prospect of the National Hockey League’s San Jose Sharks, Gogol would love to be playing minor pro hockey next year. But as Habscheid continues to try and build a culture of hard work and accountability with the Bruins, a player like Gogol could be invaluable if he comes back as a 20-year-old.

“I’ve always been a captain or assistant captain, but even if I don’t have a letter I’ll do my thing,” he said. “I’ll be a leader on the ice and a vocal guy in the room, and if I’m back next year I’ll certainly embrace that role.”

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