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Marc Laforge still fighting.
Sun. Nov. 8, 1998. By Ken Campbell, Toronto Star Sports Reporter.

Eleven years to the day after he was suspended for life from the Ontario Hockey League, Marc Laforge holds no grudges. In fact, if he were in Dave Branch's position, he probably would have done the same thing.

Laforge is a father now. He's half a year away from getting his psychology degree from Laurentian University. He's 30 years old, has more than 3,000 penalty minutes as a professional hockey player and is sitting in his hotel room in Topeka, Kan., waiting for the bus to take him and his San Antonio Iguana teammates to Wichita for another Central Hockey League game.

He's in the backwaters of the minor leagues and tonight he'll probably have to do what he estimates he has done at least 200 times before.

`I have never, ever met one guy who likes doing this. You're sitting there before the game and you know you're going to fight'
Marc Laforge

Fighting is a job for him now and he'll make about $70,000 (U.S.) doing it. He still packs a punch, but the fighting spirit has waned.

``When you think about it, it's pretty stupid,'' Laforge says, ``fighting over a little black piece of rubber.''

But the only regret Laforge has in hockey is the night he circled the ice surface of the Sudbury Arena like a lunatic, sucker punching and mugging kids half his size while they were being held by teammates. He received a lifetime ban from Branch for his thuggery - the first of six the OHL commissioner has handed down.

``It was obviously the dumbest thing I've ever done,'' he says. ``I have no excuses.''

At the time, Laforge was a 19-year-old defenceman for Sudbury and a second-round pick of the Hartford Whalers. He played only nine games for Hartford and another five for the Edmonton Oilers, while the rest of his career has taken him on a tour of 10 cities and four minor leagues. Even though he missed the rest of that OHL season, Laforge doesn't think anything would have turned out differently even if Branch hadn't suspended him.

But things might have been different had Laforge not decided early in his junior career that fighting would propel him to the NHL. He never fought once before joining the Kingston Canadians in 1985, but when he got into his first fight he earned a standing ovation.

``I thought it was the only way I could get ice time,'' he says, ``so that's what I did.''

And he has never stopped. Since that night in Sudbury, he has 3,070 penalty minutes in 649 games. And even though he maintains the game has been good to him, he calls his job the worst in hockey.

``I have never, ever in my career met one guy who likes doing this,'' he says. ``There are a lot of sleepless nights. You're sitting there before the game and you know you're going to fight, you know it's going to happen, but you don't know who. You're just waiting for it. It isn't easy.''

Laforge has a piece of advice for Jeff Kugel, the latest player to be banned for life by Branch.

``I'd probably tell him, `What's done is done, you can't turn back the clock. Just find a place to play and get back playing as soon as you can,' '' Laforge says. ``Oh yeah, and don't do it again.''