Sunday, September 14, 2008


Unless you're a fan of Minor League hockey, you've likely never heard of Brandon Sugden, "Sugar" to his teammates. That moniker is a play on his last name, not a discription of the sweetness of his on-ice personality.

Nope, "Sugar" is a tough guy, an enforcer -- to some a "goon". He made his rep not by scoring goals or defending his Goal but primarily by pounding opponents into the ice.

Like it or not, fighting is an integral part of professional hockey. And Brandon Sugden is universally acknowledged to be one of the best there is at what he does. By all accounts, he'd have made the top rung of hockey, the NHL, long ago. But Life intervened. First there were problems with drugs and alcohol which he overcame, then a lifetime suspension from one Minor League for tossing a stick at a fan harrassing him about his former demons.

And then, Sugar's father was diagnosed with Cancer. And in the Sugden clan, family had always come first. They'd been there to support his dream and now he had to be there for them. Brandon played his last pro game in 2007, retiring to help run the family business.

Recently, however, Brandon's father was given less than a year to live and he decided to make a last run at his life-long dream, hoping to let his dad see him in one NHL game before he dies.

He went to back to the rink and last month won a ticket to the New York Islanders’ training camp.

But there was one small problem...

Because he retired, Sugden needed the approval of all 30 NHL teams to come back. And when the vote was taken, three teams (10% of the league) said "No" to his dream.

The names of the three dissenting teams remain anonymous and they are not required to give any reason why they vetoed his reinstatement. But it would surprise nobody if they're the teams in the Islanders' Atlantic Division who'd have to play him most often -- and would therefore have to deal with his enormous pugilistic skill.

For "Sugar" is a legend among fight afficianados and among the biggest draws to the many websites that feature hockey brawls. He's seldom been defeated, often has knocked opponents out cold and is noted for taking on multiple opponents at the same time or entire opposition benches.

This guy is a firey and formidable opponent. He's paid his minor league dues and doesn't deserve to have his last chance to play for his father taken away from him by some front office guys worried that their own players (or enforcers) can't take care of themselves -- or maybe want the Atlantic renamed the Pussy Division.

This week, "Sugar" will take his appeal to the offices of the NHL and the NHLPA. And you can help him get a hearing and maybe a chance to play. Sugden's supporters have started and online petition you can sign here. And you can get the whole story, plus links to his fights and how this whole thing will turn out here.

Here's Sugar at work (in the dark jersey) -- and I'm sorry, but this is gonna hurt a little. Hey, give the kid a shot! And enjoy your Sunday.


The NHL has finally cleared Brandon Sugden to play in the league.

1 comment:

Riddley Walker said...

What I think I love most about that clip (and what put a huge and unexpected grin on my face) was that, right at the end, the guy in the light jersey patted Sugden on the head, almost as if to say “That was a laugh, wasn’t it? You okay, mate?”.

Hope his appeal works.