Brandon Dubinsky, Nate Thompson and Joey Crabb -- all from Anchorage and the three NHLers playing for the Alaska Aces during the NHL (No Hockey League) lockout -- can all take care of themselves.
Dubinsky, for instance, has fought 25 times in 393 career NHL regular-season games, and fought eight times in 71 games in the American Hockey League. Crabb has dropped the mitts four times in 144 NHL games, and thrown down 12 times in 299 AHL games. Thompson checks in with 13 fights in 265 NHL games and 23 fights in 216 AHL games (all that data courtesy of hockeyfights.com).
None of those guys fights for a living -- Dubinsky is a power forward and two-time 20-goal scorer in the NHL; Thompson is a checking-line center; Crabb, who hit the NHL full-time last season, is still defining his niche as a winger in the world's best league.
Still, it's worth wondering how the rest of the ECHL, the circuit on which the Aces compete, will treat these guys.
Will they get a free pass out of respect, meaning opponents will give them room and go lightly on the hitting?
Will someone try to make a name for himself by taking a run at one of the aforementioned Aces or straight-up force a fight?
Will they be treated as just another guy in an Aces sweater?
No clue, here, but Dubinsky, Thompson and Crabb are here primarily to stay fit and sharp. Granted, one of them may get in a fight -- hockey's hockey, and they can't be expected to shut down completely on a physical and emotional front, and they may want to send a message too, that they're not fresh meat -- but rest assured Aces coach Rob Murray doesn't want to find them having to fight regularly. Hell, not even semi-regularly.
And we all know the way this works, whether unspoken in the Aces room or not: Someone, or more likely several other Aces, will know one of the bullet points on their To-Do List is to keep the flies off Dubinsky, Thompson and Crabb.
For one, those three will obviously better serve the Aces on the ice than in the penalty box. Two, here's your PR mini-disaster -- one of the NHLers breaks a hand in a fight, the lockout gets solved and said player is on the shelf. Three, none of the three are what you would call Fight Club regulars at the NHL level, and they would be best served by being able to fully concentrate on skills other than the pugilistic variety.
Let's be realistic -- if Jimmy Nobody keeps taking runs at Dubinsky, for instance, Dubinsky well might respond. He's no wallflower. When he was a New York Ranger, if some opponent was going to continually hassle, say, Marian Gaborik, one of the Rangers' designated fighters or even a guy like Dubinsky might step in and drop gloves. With the Aces, though, Dubinsky equates to Gaborik, and that means teammates should be keeping a close eye on opponents.
So, we shall see -- starting with Monday night's Aces exhibition game against the Las Vegas Wranglers at Sullivan Arena. Dubinsky and Crabb will be in the lineup.
Generally in the ECHL preseason, fighters fight fighters (FYI, In the ECHL preseason, there have been more than 50 fighting majors in 18 games, so more than 25 fights). Be surprised if anyone takes a serious run at Dubinsky or Crabb tonight, but also be surprised if no one takes a run at the NHLers in the regular season.