Mar 20, 2003
The British Ice Hockey Superleague currently contains five teams: Sheffield Steelers, Nottingham Panthers, Belfast Giants, Bracknell Bees and the London Knights. The season started with seven teams, but two went out of business, due to financial mismanagement.
The ISL has a similar style to a North American league. Roster sizes are small, usually around 18 players. There is a wage cap of £400,000 (roughly $626,500US) to ensure that all teams are relatively equal in terms of skill. The majority of the players in the ISL are from North America, with some ex-NHLers present, for example Paul Kruse, Scott Levins and Dody Wood.
The rules that concern fighting are as follows.
1) If a player receives two fighting major penalties in one game, he will be ejected from the game, on a game misconduct penalty.
2) If a player takes six fighting major penalties in a season, he will be fined and suspended for one game. After another three fighting majors, he will be fined again and suspended again, and the same will happen after another three, and so on.
Dennis Maxwell is currently nearing the end of his first season with the London Knights in the ISL. Dennis was drafted in 1992 by the Tampa Bay Lightning, but never played a game in the NHL. He has played on seventeen different teams in twelve years, including St John's Maple Leafs and more recently Jackson Bandits in the ECHL. During the regular season "Max" scored nine goals and seven assists, and in the playoffs has 6+3. He has fought six times since joining London.
Maxwell has become a fan favourite in London. I caught up with Dennis after his team had beaten the Sheffield Steelers 3-2 in overtime, with Maxwell getting a goal.
Graham: Could we just start with how and when you first
got into the fighting side of things?
Dennis: Well, it just kinda came on, I was playing Junior B and I started getting pushed around a little bit so I wanted to take up some boxing and maybe protect myself. You know I never really consider myself a tough guy, just a guy who can handle himself.
Graham: So you took boxing lessons?
Dennis: Yeah I took them when I was about 17, 18, and it's pretty good for the summer time…but apart from that it was just to protect myself.
Graham: What's your strategy going into a fight?
Do you look for a quick knock-out or do you like a longer fight?
Dennis: I probably can't throw as hard as some of these guys can in this league, so I try to out-smart them a little bit, maybe like you said, drag the fight out a little longer if I can and tire a guy out. Maybe take him at the end of the fight.
Graham: What kind of emotions do you go through as you
get into a fight?
Dennis: It's hard to say, sometimes you're just mad and you're just fighting mad, but I try to fight under control. There's times when you go into a game and maybe the score is getting out of hand, or somebody's getting picked on, but some of the emotions are just hoping to get out of there alive (laughs) and not get hit with too many.
Graham: Is it ever personal?
Dennis: Oh yeah, there's personal! Probably a lot of times, but it depends. After the game I think you can shake the other guy's hand and say “Hey, good tilt” and just go on your way.
Graham: Any memorable fights from your days in the minors?
Dennis: Ah, you know, I can't even remember…maybe Jovanovski in Junior, there's a guy who plays in the “show”. A guy I fought coming up in the minors was Paul Kruse, he's a tough guy and I was happy to just get out alive (laughs).
Graham: What about hockey heroes for you? Guys you looked
Dennis: Mark Messier and Wendel Clark. I like to think that they could both play the game, but they were pretty tough at the same time.
Graham: Before this season, did you know anything about
Dennis: I had talked to Belfast and a few other teams before, a couple of years ago and I knew a few guys were over here, but I didn't know much about it. I heard it was kinda a North American style, so I thought it would fit me good.
Graham: Did the number of North American players over
here help you decide to come over?
Dennis: Yeah, yeah that was a big factor…that…and probably that no other teams would take me in Germany or anything! (laughing hard) But it's worked out for the good.
Graham: Is it a different experience, getting so much
ice time, and not having to fight as often?
Dennis: Yeah, it really is, I think other tough guys in this league would say the same thing. You only carry ten forwards, everybody plays and when there are injuries you're down to six, seven forwards and you can't afford to fight. The guys in this league, like your Woods, and your Krusers and Shultes, these guys have the reputation and they'll back it up, but they don't have to fight as much. If they wanted, they could go out and fight every night, but they don't have to.
Graham: Who's the toughest guy in the ISL?
Dennis: I would probably say, for all around toughness in my eyes, Wood and Schulte. Paul Kruse, but he doesn't fight as much now, and he doesn't have to, but for who can take a punch, throw a punch, those two guys would be the two toughest.
Graham: Do you have a favourite moment from this season?
Dennis: I dunno, maybe the playoffs, they're working out good for the team, because the regular season wasn't too good for us.
Graham: Are you happy with your own performance?
Dennis: Yeah, I am. I was happy with my performance in the first six games, but the last five I haven't been very good out there, but I'm feeling better so hopefully we can carry it into the final four.
Graham: What do you think of the fighting rules in this
Dennis: I believe that you need the fighting, because if it wasn't there, there'd be a lot more stick work. I don't believe in all the fines that they throw around and there shouldn't be a five-fight limit. Then guys are challenging you, who maybe shouldn't be ‘cause you have five fights and you don't wanna get suspended. I think they should [have that], maybe raise the fight limit to a few more fights.
Graham: How do you see as your role on the team?
Dennis: I think I can give a little room to some of the finesse players and let them play their game. I contribute, and I can skate and just be a little bit of a presence out there in case we do get pushed around.
Graham: Have you got any close friends on the team?
Dennis: Oh yeah, I get along with all the guys. Sessa from Sheffield is a friend of mine, but on our own team guys like Rushforth. It's been a good experience to come over here and meet other guys.
Graham: Do you ever talk about fighting with the guys
before the game, who you might come up against and so on?
Dennis: Not really, you know who's there just in case…
Graham: Not even against Nottingham?
Dennis: Well, we all know (laughs) everybody knows that they got a pretty tough team. Basically sometimes we just say, don't get them riled up just keep it a calm game, ‘cuz obviously they have more muscle than we do.
Graham: Would you consider playing here next season?
Dennis: Yeah, definitely, it's treated me great so I can't complain.
Graham: For London or any team?
Dennis: Well, any team. Obviously I'd like to come back to London, the fans have treated me unbelievably, the city's great and if London is back next year, I'd come back here for sure.
Graham: What's been the highlight of your career?
Dennis: Definitely getting drafted to the NHL…
Graham: To Tampa right?
Dennis: Yep, Tampa…and probably playing my first exhibition game. I never really got a chance in the “show”, but playing my first game in the Toronto Maple Leaf jersey was good.
Graham: Do have any regrets from your career?
Dennis: Yeah, I wish I would have taken care of myself a little better. When you're young you make a few stupid mistakes, and I wish I could turn back, but you know what? Life goes on, so you have to make the best of what's out there.
Graham: If you could fight one guy, at all, who would
Dennis: I'm not a big fan of Dion Darling, he's probably that guy. It's just that there's the code for tough guys, that I don't think he has. That's my personal opinion. I think he's a really good player, and it hurts his team sometimes when he fights, but other than that I don't like how he goes about it.
Graham: You guys were talking on the ice tonight, what were you saying?
Dennis: Well, he's telling me “Da, da, da, da, talk talk talk” and I'm saying “Well what are ya gonna say, are we gonna fight or are we gonna talk?” He's probably one of the only guys that I don't really like.
Dennis proved to be a classy guy off the ice, like he is on it.
Maxwell is a great scrapper who can score goals and make plays. Hopefully he
will come back next season, no matter what form the ISL takes.
I'd like to thank the London Knights for their help in setting up the interview, and of course Dennis for taking the time to talk, after a hard game.
Your own opinions can be expressed in the message forums.
Editorials are opinions of the author, not this website, the owner of this website or any of its members.