BY SCOTT HADDOW
On Friday, March 3, Sudbury hockey fans attending the 2006 Cambrian Foundation Fundraiser dinner better keep their heads up or else they could have them knocked off.
The dinner this year features legendary NHL tough guys from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s.
The headliners include former Montreal Canadiens scrapper John Ferguson Sr., former Philadelphia thug Dave 'The Hammer' Schultz, former Chicago
Blackhawks bad boy Al Secord and New Jersey Devils knock-out king Troy Crowder. The latter two both hail from the Sudbury area, giving fans a local flavour to savour.
Ferguson was considered the hardiest fighters of his era and helped keep the stars of the team safe from harm.
The mere mention of Schulz's name, even when said to people who never seen him play, conjures up images of crazy hair, a big moustache and wild flying fists. Most remember Schultz's savage beating on New York Ranger Dale Rolfe in the 70s.
Secord was a classic combination of brawn and skill. Secord piled up 273 career goals along with over 2,000 penalty minutes in 723 games.
Crowder stepped out of minor obscurity during the 1990-91 NHL season when he absolutely pounded Bob Probert, who was considered the reigning heavyweight champion of the league and arguably the toughest pugilist of all time.
Crowder then went on a streak of rag-dolling foes before meeting Probert two more times in an epic series of rematches at the Joe Louis Arena later on in the season.
"We ran a Toronto Maple Leafs theme in year one and a goalie theme in year two, so we went with a tough guys theme this year," said Shawn Poland, executive director of the Cambrian Foundation. "We're looking to provide local hockey fans with diversity and provide them with a northern connection. We've done that by having Secord and Crowder involved."
Once again, fans will be able to mingle up-close-and-personal with the rugged players and ask them questions about their careers.
"Hearing first-hand anecdotes from well-known players is something fans can relate to and appreciate. It provides some unique perspectives on the game."
Schultz is thrilled to be coming back to Sudbury.
"I was in Sudbury with the Sorel Black Hawks in 1968-69," said Schultz. "We played the Sudbury Wolves on the road to the Memorial Cup finals. They didn't like us too much because we beat them pretty good."
Schultz relishes the intimacy with fans.
"I love it," said Schultz. "I am sure there's some Flyers fans in Sudbury. It's a lot of fun meeting different people, especially hockey fans."
Schultz lead the NHL in penalty minutes four times in his career, and still holds the record for penalty minutes in one season, with 472 in 1974-75.
Eating knuckle sandwiches for a living wasn't easy.
"You always had to be ready," said the Saskatchewan native. "The role wasn't fun, but the rewards and being recognized by everyone was."
Schultz lists former Boston thug Terry O'Reilly as one of his toughest foes.
"He was ready to go all the time and was a major leader."
Schultz doesn't enjoy the new NHL, especially with the curb on fighting and not allowing players to protect teammates.
"They should get rid of the instigator rule," said Schultz. "Too many guys are getting injured due to cheap shots. Nobody can do anything about it because they get penalized harder for going after those guys who do that. They wouldn't have got away with it when I played. I had one, slight
concussion in my career. "
The evening kicks off at 6 pm at the Cambrian Foundation. All proceeds are matched dollar-for-dollar by the Province of Ontario's Trust for Student Support program, which is used to create a permanent bursary endowment for Cambrian students.
Last year's event raised $44,000.