Twist, Walker to fight in hockey-themed brawl

Updated: December 18, 2003, 8:55 PM ET
Associated Press

BRANDON, Manitoba -- Two former NHL players are the first brawlers accepted for a hockey-themed fighting tournament that a promoter says he will stage next year.

Tony Twist and Kurt Walker will take part in the event, called The Battle of the Hockey Gladiators, promoter Darryl Wolski said.

"More players will be announced in the near future," Wolski said. "This thing has taken on a life of its own."

Wolski said 64 men will be selected from an anticipated pile of entries. Players will be dressed in hockey uniforms and punch it out on ice in a tournament next year during Labor Day weekend.

The last gladiator standing will pocket $50,000.

The Manitoba promoter had received more than 20 applications by Thursday afternoon. There is a $250 entry fee.

"The only people we're going to accept are people who have played or are playing hockey," Wolski said. "We won't take street thugs."

A panel of judges will determine winners of elimination bouts and former NHL tough guy Stu Grimson has offered to be one of the judges, Wolski said.

Not everybody thinks it's a good idea.

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Tie Domi dismissed the idea when he was asked about it, and Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson gave it a thumbs down. But there is little the national governing body of youth and amateur hockey can do about a project promoted by a private entrepreneur, Nicholson said.

"It certainly isn't something amateur hockey's governing body wants to promote," he said.

"(Nicholson) does a good job of promoting amateur hockey but this is only for those 18 and older," Wolski said. "Will it have a black eye on amateur hockey? Not in a million years."

Wolski said he's also not worried about harming the NHL's image.

"The NHL is at a standstill" with many clubs losing money, he said. "We've got more press in four days than the NHL has got in 10 years. This is a novel idea and people are running with it. People love it or hate it. There's zero middle ground."

Wolski said the 11,500-seat Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks was his original choice for the fight but "the North Dakota attorney general's office is steering us away."

Liz Brocker, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, said Thursday she was unaware of any recent contact with promoters of the hockey brawl. Secretary of State Al Jaeger, not Stenehjem, is in charge of regulating professional fighting matches in North Dakota.

Jaeger said he believed the contest would be akin to a "tough-man competition," which state rules do not allow. Hockey fights are usually bare-knuckled, no-holds-barred affairs.

"Just because these individuals have hockey gear on, is that any different?" Jaeger asked. "What is the difference between two individuals on ice fighting, and two individuals getting into a ring, without any rules?"

In hockey fights that take place during games, the linesmen usually move in to break up fisticuffs when one of the combatants falls on the ice. Jaeger said he was unsure what would bring the staged hockey fights to a conclusion.

"I don't particularly think the highlight of a hockey game is the fight, but people go for that," Jaeger said.

Stenehjem issued a legal opinion in July about a "mixed martial arts" event suggested for Engelstad Arena, in which combatants wear gloves and use judo, wrestling and boxing techniques.

Such an event is probably legal under state rules, but the final determination is up to Jaeger and an athletic advisory board, Stenehjem concluded.

Wolski said he is not concerned about finding an arena to host the event. "There are 100 places we could do it," he said.

Organizers expect everything to be in place by Feb. 1.

"That'll give us sufficient time to market the event," Wolski said.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press