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In bad week for goons, Odjick doesn't help
Sun. Nov. 8, 1998. By Rosie DiManno, Toronto Star.

MONTREAL - THERE are enforcers . . . and then there are goons.

Gino Odjick falls into the latter category.

I don't give a damn about his two goals and three assists in 11 games this season, or the 103 points he brought into the '98-99 campaign, total offensive output for eight years in the National Hockey League.

What's more pertinent is this: 468 games in the NHL and 2,228 penalty minutes - 29 of those earned here last night, not counting a game misconduct with 11 seconds left in the third period - as the Montreal Canadiens dumped Odjick's New York Islanders 4-2 in an unlovely tilt between undistinguished teams. All four Montreal goals came on the power play.

In a week when a teenage junior hockey player got a lifetime ban from the Ontario Hockey League for reprehensible thuggery - an extreme penance, to my mind - it has become a little more difficult for those of us who are thus inclined to defend the pugilistic aspects of hockey.

After Odjick's asinine antics at the Molson Centre, berserk ferocity becomes just that much harder to excuse, if not directly condone.

The incident probably won't amount to much over the course of a career. But Odjick - a Mohawk Indian who hails from Quebec, and who has been much mythologized around these parts for his rowdiness - demonstrated the more unsavoury aspects of his specialty: fighting (five minutes), misconduct (10), roughing (two), high-sticking (two), misconduct (10) and that game misconduct, for yapping at the referee, at 19:49.

Brutal.

``Uh, I asked him if he gave himself a helper on the third goal,'' Odjick recounted afterwards, about his illicit conversation with the ref.

In fact, there were two referees working this game - Bernard DeGrace and Terry Gregson - but neither of them saw fit to eject Odjick back in the second period, when he really did deserve an instigator penalty rather than the four minutes he drew for roughing and high-sticking Trent McCleary.

It was a sucker play and a goofball fist-in-the-kisser that Odjick perpetrated against the admittedly annoying McCleary.

Never before do I recall an instance where a player picked his opponent up off the ice - it looked almost gentlemanly - for the express purpose of slugging him. This happened after McCleary had nailed Odjick with a clean but perhaps marginally late hit against the boards.

``McCleary got me going,'' Odjick admitted, in assessing his totally out-of-control evening. ``I was pissed off.'' Pause. ``But I'd sure like to have him on my team.''

Coach/GM Mike Milbury was unimpressed with his ``enforcer,'' who maybe felt he had something extra to prove on this night - in front of friends and family, and with fellow toughie Ken Belanger having been traded to Boston for Ted Donato just hours earlier.

``There are no excuses for undisciplined play, and we'll make none,'' said Milbury, who suggested he'd been unable to ``corral'' his players' emotions.

Milbury was particularly unhappy with Odjick's two-and-two offences against McCleary, especially the second half of that equation, which subsequently touched off a fight between Rich Pilon and Craig Rivet.

Earlier in the game, Odjick just about wiped the floor with Montreal's wannabe tough-guy, Dave Morissette.

Odjick looked a teensy bit abashed later, once changed into his civilian clothes.

But as for regrets, he had only one, and that related to his excessive encounter with McCleary.

``I should just have taken his number. For later. Or when we play them again.''