Bad news for forwards skating against the Syracuse Crunch: Tyson Nash leaves reminders of his physical style even on players he likes.
Just ask Syracuse forward Rod Stevens. When Stevens and Nash played against each other in a midget league as 15-year-olds in Canada, Nash slammed Stevens' face shield so hard that it gave Stevens a scar above his left eye that is still noticeable.
Stevens thinks it was a late hit.
"Aw, (it was) before the whistle," Nash countered. "I dropped him."
Since that time, Stevens has played with Nash on two teams in Kamloops of the Western Hockey League that won the Memorial Cup, the overall championship for junior hockey. He learned to appreciate Nash's game.
Just like Crunch fans are starting to.
Nash, a rookie forward, had the Onondaga County War Memorial crowd roaring in the opening game Friday night with his version of bumper hockey. If someone is wearing a different color jersey, Nash will find and drill him.
Nash finishes his checks, plunges into the middle of the action and draws or takes penalties with equal fervor. After one prolonged tangle Friday, Nash's helmet flew off and his long hair draped across his face, giving him even more of a reckless look.
"That's the way I have to play," said Nash, who was selected by Vancouver in the 10th round of the 1994 draft. "It's either that, or I sit in the stands. As long as you're not on the other end of the hits, it's fine."
Nash's aggressiveness is reminiscent of Scott Walker, last year's Crunch bulldog who is now with Vancouver. At 6-foot, 180 pounds, Nash is a little bigger than Walker but is not nearly the agitator or fighter Walker is.
Nash was Kamloops' Grinder of the Year last season, an award given to the player who works hardest at the least glamorous chores of the sport. He was part of three Kamloops Memorial Cup winners overall, success that taught him "once you get in the game, you don't take any shifts off."
"He just runs around, doesn't care," Stevens said. "He gets the best of them most of the time. That's what the Americans seem to like, physical play."