Saluting a true enforcer: Dave Semenko

By , October 31, 2010 11:27 am
Doing what he does best - instilling fear

Doing what he does best - instilling fear

Jim Matheson did a good article about Matt Clackson’s dad, Kim. Matt Clackson is the guy that Sheldon Souray recently broke his hand on fighting. Kim Clackson was a pugilistic warrior, himself, having gone against the likes of Dave Semenko in an epic battle that just didn’t seem to ever end (they fought 3 times in the same altercation). Here’s an excerpt from Dave Semenko’s autobiography, Looking Out For Number One, on the events that transpired:

All hell broke loose one night when Clackson cut Gretzky, who’d been cruising through the crease. I was away from the play but Mark Messier was in the neighborhood, so he went right after Clackson. The linesmen had them separated and Clackson was in the penalty box when I got into it with Russ Anderson and we were sent off, too.

The fights were still going on out on the ice. I sure wasn’t prepared to just sit there in the penalty box like a statue, so I said to hell with it and hopped out of the penalty box, turned around, and invited Clackson to come out. Now here I am, standing at the door to their penalty box, trying to get at him. But while I’m throwing lefts at Clackson, Anderson’s trying to grab my arm. The two of them were both trying to get hold of me and drag me into their penalty box.

Meanwhile, though I didn’t realize it, a brawl was breaking out behind me. Anderson saw it and went to find someone to fight. That left Clackson and me all alone. He wasn’t going to back down, so we went at it. The first thing I did was get his helmet off so I wouldn’t hurt my hand at all. I managed that and we thrashed around a little more. Then the linesmen came in and broke us up.

At that point, nobody was bothering me and everything seemed evenly matched, so I just watched the fight. But about a minute later Clackson wanted a rematch. He’d found his helmet, strapped it back on, and damned if he didn’t come right back after me. I got the helmet off him again and got on him pretty good until the linesmen came along and separated us a second time.

So I figured it was over. But guess who’s got his helmet strapped back on, looking for another piece of me? Clackson. We went at it a third time. Three times during one fight. That had to be a record.

My hands were sore from hitting this guy on the head, though you’d never know it from looking at him. He looked so innocent, with that baby face of his that almost impossible to mark. I had one good fight against him in Winnipeg when I got a lot of punches in and thought I’d rearranged a few features rather drastically. Yet when we lined up to play the next game, there’s Clackson without a mark on his face!

Semenko taking care of business This to me is what an enforcer is all about. I miss those days. Semenko didn’t ask questions first… he just pummeled. He knew Gretzky was cut, and he knew Clackson was involved, even though unintentional. He knew that something had Mark Messier riled up too. That was how things were done back then – punch first, ask questions when you’re retired.

It may sound brutish to some, but to me, I feel that it’s too bad the game has changed the way it has. It would be a different world without the instigator and allowing players to police themselves. I’ve talked about this recently here, but I feel that today’s enforcer is a completely different player. If you can’t play the game as good as the average player, you’re not going to see any ice time. That might not be such a bad thing, I suppose, but those kinds of guys generally aren’t willing to risk being out of the lineup in order to keep order.

The heavyweights are generally a sideshow and have very little to do with keeping things in line. To me, the proof in that is when Andrei Kostistyn was train-wrecked by Kurt Sauer. Georges Laraque invited him to dance, and Sauer declined. Tom Kostopolous ended up fighting him in what was a good battle, but not any sort of lesson for Sauer at all (sorry I bring this one up a lot, and it may speak a bit more to Laraque’s inability to enforce these days due to being too nice of a guy). If this were the 80s and the Oilers had the same players then as we do today, along with Dave Semenko, Semenko would have jumped anyone that looked at Eberle, Hall or Paajarvi wrong, let alone allowed these guys to get hit from behind (which Eberle has), hit in the head, or hit hard (all 3 have been cranked pretty hard). I have no doubts MacIntyre would have done the same in that era too though. I have no bones with him, it’s where the game itself has gone that I take issue.

You can read what Jim Matheson wrote on Kim Clackson here.

13 Responses to “Saluting a true enforcer: Dave Semenko”

  1. zackman35 says:

    Great read Racki, great read.

    I wish I could have witnessed more of the “Old” NHL because I grew up in the 90′s and even though I was a die hard fan as a kid growing up, I never really started getting into the actual game until I was probably fourteen/fifteen (04/05).

    The changes of the game to bring you the “New” NHL seem quite simple. To increase your audience interest of the game, “making the game more entertaining”, bring in more skilled/fast players.

    Q:How do you bring in more skilled players?
    A:Take out the less skilled players.

    Q:How do you take out the less skilled players?
    A:Identify who they, single them out, and penalize them.

  2. Racki says:

    Haha, yes, you could be right on what they’re trying to accomplish. I personally loved the old game.. but you know who they’re appealing to… guys that didn’t watch in the 80s and back! I still love the game, don’t get me wrong.. but I wish the enforcer had more of a role today.

  3. Mr.Majestyk says:

    Its fun to think back to the good old days isn’t it?

  4. Racki says:

    Sure is. I think the hockey itself is a lot better today (i.e. the players are better, the game is faster). But I do miss the thuggery of old school hockey.

  5. chucker says:

    You really hit the heart of it for me. I loved the intimidation factor and the fact that there was not instigator and guys would fight multiple times, in one shift, before the linsemen even dared to separate them.

    Say what you will, but there’s something for a guy being able to go out and pummel a guy who’s being a dick. You didn’t see concussions back then. Guys didn’t even where helmuts. There was respect, and yeah it was fear, but it worked. It’s no coincidence that Dave Brown and Semenko are two of my favorite players of all time.

  6. Racki says:

    Dave Brown writeup also coming in the very near future ;) Big, big fan of his too. We’ll talk more on him when I put that post up.

  7. chucker says:

    Racki: Dave Brown writeup also coming in the very near future Big, big fan of his too. We’ll talk more on him when I put that post up.

    Yeah, I’m sure that you have seen some of the Youtube clips on Brown. Dude was amazing. Also, I liked the old days when they would just pull start guys once they were on the ice. Brown didn’t let up in those days.

  8. Old Skool says:

    Good read…..Big fan of Super Dave and his kind. People don’t realize where these guys come from originally. Semenko was the captain of the Brandon Wheat Kings once upon a time. Kordic was the captain of the Portland Winter Hawks…Kordic at one time was considered the best defenceman in Midget AAA in Edmonton when he was here. These guys were often “pigeon holed” as goons after a few people watched them do well in a scrap from time to time…..not unlike what Storitini is going through now. Not the same class but the same situation.
    Simply put they were tough and smart enough to know what they had to do to play in the NHL and exploited for it. Nowadays the NHL teams all want Wendal Clark / Cam Neely / Bob Probert type enforcers, which would be awesome….unfortunately there just aren’t enough of those kinds of players around.

  9. Racki says:

    Yah those types definitely are rare.. we’d all love to have one on our teams. I like Stortini, because he can at least play hockey. Not the best at it, but for an “enforcer” (is it OK to call him that? :P) he is pretty capable and not prone to too many mistakes at all. But having a Carcillo / Lucic / Neil type would be nice!

  10. chucker says:

    Funny you should mention Neil. I think he’s the ideal style of player for this role in the new NHL. He can play minutes effectively when not throwing them. Same with Lucic.

    It’s funny how guys in those days, more so than now I think, got put into a role by the scouts and GM. Even Kypreos was a goal scorer in junior with big PMs. Lowe was an offense first defenseman, but they wanted him to be a stay at home guy because they got their hands on Coffey. Lots of people don’t know the pedigree of a lot of players and how they came to be.

    Storts was the captain of his team in junior I believe. Also scholastic player of the year.

    I think in the other topic you’re seeing this on the discussion of Dustin Penner. The guy is big, but he’s more of a finesse type player. Kurri was a big guy two (not saying DP is Kurri) and he was notorious for shying away from the corners and being a guy who wanted nothing to do with the scrums. So I guess to an extent, there is still some pigeon holing of players these days.

    Good topic.

  11. Racki says:

    I don’t know if I’d call Kurri big at all. But yah nonetheless on the other points, yah it’s interesting I guess how players are pigeon holed.

  12. chucker says:

    Racki: I don’t know if I’d call Kurri big at all. But yah nonetheless on the other points, yah it’s interesting I guess how players are pigeon holed.

    Not Penner big but he was 6’1″ and 195-200 when he played. Pretty decent size, but yeah, not massive.

  13. Old Skool says:

    I have little to no respect for big players that don’t use that advantage to it’s full potential. For instance…I disliked the way Lemieux would whine all the time about guy’s holding him or his stick etc….At 6’6 you should be able to overcome that. Conversely I really liked how his winger Jagr (another big man) would break for the net with two defencman hanging off of him and still fight through it and would score, and never complain about it. He just used his size to his advantage. Something Penner does not do often enough.

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