I played with Mel in Belfast, Northern Ireland and I can tell you those quotes from NHL/IHL players and coaches were spot on. Even at our level (EIHL) he was dedicated to his craft and a great guy round the rink.
Fans would come up to us after the game and ask why the coach wouldn't let him fight and we'd have to explain that he'd ask their guys but nobody would go. Most of the time, he'd grab a match day programme before warm-up, check the PIMs stats to find out who their enforcer was and offer them a fight later that night. They almost always said no. They didn't need to consult the programme to find out who he was. We have a local expression that applies here; 'kittens don't **** cats'.
In that season, it took the NHL to go on strike and Eric Cairns
to sign for London in our league for Mel to get some competition. When Mel heard Cairns was coming to London he laughed and said 'Well this is the first time I've been sent down to fight an NHL tough guy'. Mel let his intentions be known from shift 1 when he kept calling Cairns and Scott Nichol
'scabs'. Hilarious stuff. When they eventually did go, it was the longest fight I've ever seen. A chess match with each guy teeing up a knock out blow (think Probert v McSorley, the one featured on Don Cherry's RESE Hockey). It finished a draw, with both guys landing blows that would've caved my head in but they seemed fine. Except Mel's helmet was cracked along the top
I remember seeing the two of them in the hall after the game chatting away with like old army buddies.
What a class act he was!!!