Although Mark Janssens
enjoyed a long, prolific and successful career as an NHL enforcer, he almost never made it to the NHL, in fact the man very nearly DIED on the ice. How did this happen? From what I can piece together, Janssens was involved in a scrap in Juniors with a guy by the name of Martin Simard
. They had a pretty good fight, but in the process Janssens was knocked to the ice very heavily and ended up hitting his head on the ice pretty hard. Janssens immediately began seizuring and going into convulsions, and apparently he also had swelling on his brain. The story goes that the team doctor ran onto the ice and had to use the butt-end of his scissors to break some of Janssens teeth in order to prevent him from swallowing his tongue. There is an old issue of "The Hockey News," that details this injury and further elaborates on this story. Janssens ended up scoring two goals upon his return to the lineup. Kerry Clark was bang on when he spoke about the toughness of Janssens!
Here's what Janssens had to say about "the incident:"
"I don't remember the game at all. I remember waking up in the hospital with the absolute worst headache of my life. I had tubes down my throat because I had cerebral hemorrhaging (bleeding on the brain) and I had to be monitored for the next six or seven hours. I remember every time I swallowed that I could feel the tubes and it would make me gag. It was extremely uncomfortable and when I found out I had to remain that way for the next six hours, I just wanted to die. Every time I moved, I threw up. It was pretty serious but looking back, I don't think I realized how serious it was at the time. The guys from Salt Lake came to see me. Stu Grimson
was there and Martin Simard
visited as well. As far as Simard, things happen. I've never held a grudge in my life. Thankfully, I recuperated well. I was off the ice for three months and really didn't show any ill-effects when I came back."
first entered the NHL during the 1989-1990 season and immediately made an impact by taking on "The Little Ball of Hate," known to the hockey world as Pat Verbeek
in an entertaining scrap which I scored a draw. When asked about whether or not he remembered the scrap, Janssens replied:
"No I don't. That must be a result of cumulative concussions!"
Janssens got into a few other minor scarps that season before he famously became involved in an altercation with New Jersey Devils
netminder Sean Burke
. My memory is fuzzy as to what exactly started the whole affair, but I do remember that they went at each other pretty good with each guy dropping the gloves before the zebras came flying in to break up the fight. Perhaps what was the most surprising thing was that none of the other Devils players went after Janssens after he mugged Burke. I wonder why - Does anyone have any information on this matter?
Later that season Janssens ended up getting into a pretty good tussle with New Jersey power-forward Brendan Shanahan
. Janssens dropped the mitts, then proceeded to drop Shanahan after hitting him with 3-4 solid shots... Shanahan went to his knees from Janssens punches, then the linesmen come in to save Shanahan. In the process Janssens gets piled on and Shanahan gets loose and throws a couple cheapies while Janssens is down, but Janssens gets the win with a borderline TKO. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this fight was that it was one of the few fights that ever occured during an Overtime period!
Perhaps the most important brawl that the Rangers were involved in that season occured against the Islanders in the playoffs on April 5, 17 years ago now... Earlier in the game, Rangers defenseman James Patrick
had caught Pat Lafontaine
in the trolley tracks with a devastating hit and the Islanders were looking for revenge; Thus with only a couple of seconds left in the game, and with the game already decided, Al Arbour
sends out the goons, putting Mick Vukota
, Ken Baumgartner
, Gerald Diduck
, Gary Nylund
and non-fighter Bryan Trottier
out for the draw. Roger Nielson the Rangers coach, countered with Chris Nilan
, Mark Janssens
, Kris King
, and Jeff Bloemberg
. Off the draw the Islanders are looking for blood, and the Bomber is skating around in circles, looking like a shark circling a helpless victim. The puck is dropped and Vukota makes a bee-line for Bloemberg and proceeds to beat the piss out of him... Baumgartner ended up with Kris King
and beat him, and King looked like he didn't want any part of the fight, doing the standing turtle for the majority of the entire event... the two goaltenders Mark Fitzpatrick
and Mike Richter met up and exchanged a few punches then set back and watched the entire show... Nylund and Nilan had a go and Nylund appeared to land a good shot on Nilan before the camera cut away to focus on another fight. Later on they cut back to Nylund-Nilan and Nilan is on top of Nylund and trying to feed him some punches but since I didn't ever see the whole fight its hard to award a winner... Whats surprising was that during this melee that Janssens never went after Trottier or ever really got involved with anyone. Janssens had this to say about this brawl:
I remembered it was an odd pairing. (Being paired up with Bryan Trottier
) I obviously had a lot respect for him and our roles were quite different at the time. It would have been better had I paired off with someone else, but that's just the way it happened. I don't remember the hit but I remember it was a big deal. We had a pretty tough team at the time, but anytime you're facing off against Mick Vukota
and Ken Baumgartner
you always have to have your head up.
Anyway here's a clip of the brawl -
In Janssens second season in the NHL, he started off with a bang, in an absolute slugfest with Philadelphia Flyers
big defenseman Jeff Chychrun
. This one started off with Chychrun getting the advantage and feeding Janssens a few punches. Janssens took all that Chychrun could give then came back with a vengeance popping Chychrun a couple times then with one absolute dandy that would have TKO'D him for sure if he hadn't been held up by the boards. Chychrun fell back hard but recovered and threw a couple more punches but Janssens with the clear win. It was a very entertaining scrap as well...
Later that season, Janssens was involved in what many considered to be a "Fight of the Year" candidate, with Darin Kimble
. This was an all out toe to toe slugfest. One of those very rare fights which only occur once a season where you step back after watching and say to yourself "holy ****, did I just see, what I thought I saw?" There's no other way to score this fight but as a draw IMO. I believe it was also featured on one of Don Cherry's "Rock em Sock em" tapes. Great scrap.
He also had a fight with Yves Racine
that wasn't much but since there is a video out on Youtube of it, I thought I'd provide it:
YouTube - MARK JANSSENS
VS YVES RACINE
As the 1992-1993 season approached the "Mark Janssens" era with the Hartford Whalers
began. Janssens centered a line that featured Kelly Chase
and Stu Grimson
on each side. Thats not a bad line eh? Much better then Jan Bulis or No Panic Yannic Perrault... Here is how Janssens described those teams:
"We had a lot of tough players. I was the fourth line centerman and I always had someone with me who was tougher than I was which was nice. I also played with Nick Kypreos
as well. I think at that time every team had three or four fighters so there was always enough work for everybody. Unfortunately, we never had great teams in Hartford, so when a team is down 3-0 after the second period, you know something is going to happen in the third. I fought a lot in Hartford and I think many of those were because we struggled as a team."
In 1992-1993 Janssens had a very big year fight wise as he went out and had wins against competition like Scott Stevens
, Stephane Quintal
, Rob Ray
(Who he also drew with in the same game), and Steve Leach
. Along the way he took losses to Mario Roberge
, Mike Lalor
and Dean Kennedy
in the same game against the Winnipeg Jets
, and paired off with Terry Carkner
during the brawl where Jim McKenzie
pounded Dimirti Yushkevich, but the fight didn't amount to much... Janssens had two excellent fights that season that were potential fight of the year candidates. One was against Cam Russel that was an absolute slugfest which left Russel bloodied at the end... Imgaine Cam Russel bleeding after a fight? What are the odds? The other was against veteran blueliner Bob Rouse
. This one was a great give and take fight with Janssens dominating the fight early while Rouse came on to take the second half of the fight... I'd call it a draw, perhaps edge Rouse. Either way those were two very entertaining fights and the fight with Russel certainly deserved consideration for Fight of the Year that season.
started the 1993-1994 season with a beauty against the legendary Marty McSorely. They went toe to toe early with a very even give and take exchange. In fact Janssens caught McSorely with a bigtime left that clearly hurt McSorely but McSorely kept up the onslaught, dishing out some shots of his own. Janssens caught McSorely with another big time left which clearly hurt him and stunned him a bit more then the first one but he still kept on punching, doing enough to get the narrow win in a very entertaining scrap. Janssens did very well against a guy many people have in the their all time top 10.
Janssens had another beauty in his second fight of that season when he became involved with the "Bomber" Ken Baumgartner
. The technically sound Baumgartner got the win in this fight but Janssens tagged him with one really solid left and made it a respectable fight. Win Baumgartner.
Later that season Janssens dropped the gloves with Sabres tough guy Brad May
. In this bout they bout did some shadow boxing before coming together... May threw a couple of shots, one which landed for sure because he bloodied Janssens. Janssens responded with a couple of shots of his own, one which sent May down to the ice to get the TKO win. I always thought that Janssens had underrated power in his left and this demonstrated that he had the ability to drop guys.
Later that season Janssens fought New York Rangers
underrated tough guy Jay Wells
and fared pretty well. I find this is a fight that is very tough to score because there were so many punches thrown and the camera work is a little suspect. Either way both guys threw some punches that had some mean intentions behind them. I thought Janssens landed 3-4 VERY good left hands, but Wells absolutely tagged Janssens with at least two good rights as well, and drew blood. I'll let you guys decide for yourselves. Here's the clip:
YouTube - JAY WELLS
VS MARK JANSSENS
In 1994-1995, Janssens started off the season with a win against Devils forward Randy McKay
, then tied up Habs defenseman Lyle Odelein
in a nothing fight. However he was involved in one of the greatest hockey fights ever, and the fight that I considered was easily the best fight of that particular season with Chris Tamer
of the Pittsburgh Penguins
. Tamer had been recalled that afternoon by the Penguins, and he went after Janssens because Janssens had elbowed Len Barrie
off the draw. They dropped them and Janssens started quickly and landed 5-6 shots before Tamer got going. Tamer lands a huge shot which bloodies Janssens immediately and both guys land some great punches in an all out war of attrition... Give the edge/win to Tamer, but it was a tremendous fight. After it was over the crowd gave both guys a standing ovation.
Perhaps that fight took more out of Janssens then he knew because in his next scrap he was TKO'd by Brantt Mhyres. I couldn't find a clip of this on the net, but if there's one out there I'd appreciate it if you could let me know so I could add it to this post. Thanks.
started off the 1995-1997 campaign with a bang when he took on Devils enforcer Reid Simpson
in another battle which doesn't often get mentioned when discussing great hockey fights, although I think it deserves some mention. It was a very nice action packed toe to toe slugfest with Janssens landing the better shots and jerseying Simpson at the end of the fight. Very nice action packed fight which doesn't get talked about much around these parts.
Janssens also had a beauty that season with Kevin Sawyer
which he got the best of and then met up with the much maligned Jimmy Kyte for another epic battle between two warriors. It looked like Janssens went looking for this fight as after Kyte hit him with a harmless looking body check he went right after the big dman and kept pushing him and jabbing him... Kyte wasn't going to take that so off came the mitts and they have a really nice fight. Janssens got a few nice lefts in before Kyte grabbed the left and tied it up then they both threw a couple of shots, Janssens with the lefts and Kyte with rights, then Kyte switched to the left for a bit before going back righty... They had a nice toe to toe exchange and then grappled shortly then went toe to toe again after... Really good fight that I called a draw. Here's the clip:
Later that season Janssens renewed his rivalry with Marty McSorely and they engaged in another outstanding fight. They went toe to toe at first with Janssens going with the lefts early and really tagging Marty with some decent shots that knocked McSorely's helmet off in the process... Marty landed one, possibly two punches, and Janssens jerseyed him but he continued throwing punches anyway. They threw a few more punches, about 3-4 each and McSorely's stamina begins to take effect and he tags Janssens with a nice shot flush to the face which hurts. Janssens attempts to rally but his left falls short of the mark and the zebras came in... I called this a draw. Another great Mark Janssens
Later in February, Janssens became involved in a scrap with the legendary Tim Hunter
and got the best of the fight after getting a fast start... Hunter was extremely pissed off and from all reports attempted to go after Janssens in the dressing room after the fight. Here's how Janssens described the incident:
"I think I got the better of him and I think I may have surprised him and I think he took exception to that. I don't recall if I started the fight, maybe I did? For some reason, something went off in him. I remember someone saying that Hunter tried to get into our dressing room and I was shocked since I thought it was over. We fought and got sent to our dressing rooms and that's that. I think I may have started the fight and got the first couple in which were point blank shots. I think I got him good and he may have felt that I took advantage of him, which I may have. Things happen. I'm sure he's done the same thing in his career."
I love the last line of that quote...
When asked if anyone ever agitated him, the way he agitated Hunter that night, Janssens replied:
"Theo Fleury made me lose my mind. Darcy Tucker
made me lose my mind. That is a compliment to them. They played their role in fantastic fashion. When we played Montreal, Denis Savard
really got under my skin. Tyson Nash
was another one. They all do a great job. It's easy to get me off my game, but when you get the really good players off their games, that's a true talent."
In Janssens last fight of the season, he got involved with a prime Tony Twist
who was on a major path of destruction that season. In their scrap, Janssens never really got going and Twist dominated, manhandling Janssens and catching him with a shot that put him to his knees and a couple more hard rights... By all reports he also broke Janssens orbital bone. This was the same season that Twist had broken Rob Ray
's orbital bone as well...
Perhaps that shot really affected Janssens fight game because at the start of the 1996-1997 season, Janssens was going through some tough times. He took a few bad losses at the start of the season, including losses to: Ken Belanger
, Ed Jovonovski, and Jeff Odgers
. Then he tried Alex Stojanov and really had him on the ropes, outlanding him at a two to one ratio before Stojanov came back with two huge right hand bombs that dropped Janssens clean... Up to that point Janssens was feeding Stojanov but you have to give big Alex credit for fighting back and getting the TKO. Great short fight to watch.
Janssens then had two more entertaining scraps losing a close decision to the hard-punching Paul Laus
, and beating Todd Harvey
in a very entertaining bout... Janssens then fought Chris Simon
twice in two separate games and got the better of him each time. In the first game Janssens caught Simon with a solid left and put him down to the ice. Simon got up and threw a couple punches that came up short, while Janssens ketp landing his shots... In the second fight Janssens switched hands a couple of times and landed the better shots IMO to get the win. Here's what Janssens said about fighting Simon, Jim Cummins
, and Marty McSorely:
"A fan sent me a picture, something like a 15 x 20 picture of me fighting Simon. I always liked fighting Simon because we were the same size and I'm a natural lefty and I believe he was predominantly a lefty as well. I don't why but I always did well against him. A lot of fighting is just instinctive, you just go. Once you start thinking, you're done. Cummins was different. He threw with both hands and was a lot quicker. He was all offense and I'd like to think I was all offense as well. If you're going to fight, fight. Don't waste your time. Cummins was very strong. I'll throw one more at you. You know who always seemed to find me? Marty McSorley
always seemed to find me. I don't know why. There was always a bit of fear with him because you didn't know what he was going to do. I fought him a few times and on my part, they were always defensive fights. He was strong so I always just tried to him inside. I learned a lot from Kelly Chase
. Chase wasn't the biggest guy so he relied a lot more on technique and he would take me aside and show me certain grabs and shifts that he would use. I learned to get inside and when I would fight guys where maybe I was a little tentative, like McSorley, I'd get inside. A guy like Simon would be toe to toe, which I liked."
Later on that season Janssens fought Paul Laus
again and after landing a couple of right on Laus, Laus got his right free and smoked Janssens with a beautiful uppercut which dropped Janssens to the ice for the TKO win. Janssens also took on Donald Brashear
and got the worst of that fight. Brash had just thrown one of the Ducks basically into the bench and Janssens went after him and landed a couple but Brashear got the win. That was the same game that Gino Odjick
simply destroyed Peter Leboutillier
In 1997-1998 early on Janssens took on Doug Zmolek
and was getting the better of him in a toe to toe exchange and like in the Stojanov fight, Zmolek came back on and dropped Janssens. Later on Janssens fought Dean Malkoc
in an entertaining bout... It started off with both guys in tight and Malkoc doing a nice job of tying up big Janssens. Then they got some separation and Janssens looked to land the better shots to get the win but judge for yourselves, here's the clip:
Later that season Janssens fought Jim Cummins
on a couple of occasions, and if you have the opportunity to watch these two fights, then I urge you to do so... Two of the best hockey fights you'll ever see... The first fight between these two guys has to merit some serious consideration to be in the top 5 fights of all time... Amazing toe to toe action with both guys throwing and landing some bombs. I gave the edge/win to Janssens but I wouldn't argue anyone calling that scrap a draw either as it was such an epic war. The second scrap was much the same although Janssens was the clear winner in the second fight putting Cummins down with a shot and landing the better punches. Great mini-series.
Janssens then tried my other underappreciated guy, Terry Carkner
, in a very good scrap. Janssens got a few in at the beginning, then Carkner landed some solid shots, and Janssens came on again at the end of the fight. I gave the edge to Janssens but wouldn't argue a draw either. Again judge for yourselves:
The last fight of this season was another of my all time favorite scraps and it was between Janssens and another underrated guy in Chris Murray
. The camera gets there and Murray is throwing bombs with the right and looks to be taking it to Janssens. Janssens weathers the storm and comes back hard, landing some great shots with the left, while Murray continues to throw with the right. Janssens lands one ****ing beauty of a left that would have dropped any other fighter in the NHL with the possible exception of Tie Domi
, but Murray with the chin of granite isn't fazed and keeps on punching. Both guys land some great shots and its a awesome give and take fight, but Janssens picks up the win. Here's the clip:
Janssens finished his career a couple of seasons after this scrap and he was entertaining right to the end. He took some tough losses to guys like Ed Jovonovski, Georges Laraque
, Krszytof Oliwa, Matt Johnson
and Paul Laus
, but he also had wins against competition like Patrick Cote
, Chris McCallister, Brantt Mhyres, and Ronnie Stern
. He was a warrior who fought wide open for his entire career and it took its toll on his body - Hell he almost swallowed his tongue after being TKO'd but he never changed his style, and he was always an honest, entertaining fighter. I think that he doesn't get the recognition that he deserves from this board, and I wonder what are some opinions, thoughts, and stories that anyone has to share about this underappreciated tough guy... Please share them... Mark Jansses was a warrior and researching this post made me realize how much I miss having this guy (and guys of his ilk) in the NHL today.