Q&A session with Coventry Blaze enforcer Benn Olson.
Benn Olson started making a name for himself as an enforcer in the WHL. He fought some tough guys while in the WHL some who are now big names in the NHL as tough guys and enforcers. Milan Lucic, Matt Kassian, Frazer McLaren.ect.
Benn then only 21 and in his 1st Pro year took on some of the toughest guys in the minors like Jon Mirasty, Jeremy Yablonski. The following few season Olson bounced between the AHL / ECHL putting on some exciting memorable fights along the way against the Likes of Jeff Szwez, Joel Rechlicz, Ryan Schnell. Olson's open style making him a fun fighter to watch in both leagues.
Olson then joined the EIHL at the start of the 2012/13 season and quickly showed he was one of the best fighters in our league by scoring some good wins over tough guys like Devin Didiomete, NHL lock-out Tom Sestito, Panthers tough guy Gui Lepine, plus Jeff Smith, Drew Fata to name a few.
Olson was also involved in a few of this season's talking points including an altercation with a Cardiff Devils fan who tried to get at Olson as Olson left the Ice in Cardiff. Olson was also at the center of a few good brawls in the EIHL this season.
We caught up with Benn just after he had been jointly voted as best fighter in the EIHL this season by followers of @EIHL_Hockeyfights , and he kindly agreed to do this Q&A session.
Q1. Benn you played in the WHL as a Junior from 17-20 years of age for a couple of teams, Kamloops Blazers & Seattle Thunderbirds. While in that league you had a good rivalry going with a certain Boston Bruins player Milan Lucic on a number of occasions.
Could you tell us a little about those fights.? and did you think back then that Milan would become the player he is today.?
Benn.... Lucic was a strong/dominant player in Juniors. It was always a good battle between us. I always thought that he would have a chance to make the NHL, but I never thought he would make it at such a young age and have the impact that he has had, so early on in his career.
Q2. From Juniors straight into the AHL as a 20 year old and fighting top veteran tough guys like Jon Mirasty, Jeremy Yablonski and the like. What kind of experiences was it having to face those kind of enforcers so early in your career.? Having watched the Mirasty fight you handled it very well for a young kid in his rookie season.
Benn... It was mentally tough at the start of my professional career, having to fight men, instead of boys. Trevor Gillies was on my team, my first year pro, and a few years later. He has helped me out immensely, on how to prepare for different fights and helped me learn how to become a strong technical fighter. The Mirasty fight was the most nervous I have ever been before a fight. He was having some words with our goaltender, at center ice, during warmups. I went up to him and asked him to have a shot at the title and he said "first shift, we are going." So I had half an hour to think about how this fight was going to happen and what I should do. I just had my head down, buried in a towel, before the game. It was nice to get it out of the way, first shift, and do as well as I did.
Q3. You have had some quality fights in your career to date. Some that I can think of are Garet Hunt in the WHL 08, ex Belfast Giants forward Jeff Szwez in the AHL 09, Ryan Schnell who you fought in the ECHL in a few good fights, and your fight last season 2011 with Joel Rechlicz which was another cracking scrap in the AHL .
What would you consider to have been your most entertaining fight to date.?
Benn... It would have to be my fight with Jeff Szwez. That fight was at least one minute long and toe to toe, the entire fight. It took me the entire intermission to catch my breath.
Q4. Benn you started this season with the Coventry Blaze in the EIHL. The Blaze put together a very physical team from the start of this season with you the main go to guy on the team. But through out the term they have also had tougher guys like Mike Egener,Matt Belesky, Bryan Jurynec, Derek Campbell, Gerome Guidice all dropping the gloves at some stage as well.
Is it important for rosters to have team toughness though out the squad.?
Benn.... I like being on a team that has team toughness and not just one guy on the roster that is tough. It showed this year that we never got pushed around, by anybody.
Q5. In your first game in Pre-season against the Cardiff Devils you got into a fight with their tough guy Devin Didiomete. This would be the first of 3 decent fights between the pair of you in the UK, before Deeds left to return to the ECHL. Did you enjoy your battle with the Devils tough guy.?
Benn... Devin and I had fought once, our first year pro. I didn't really know him too well, before I came to Coventry. I enjoyed our fights because they were honest/respectful fights between us. Nothing dirty or late happened. Just a lot of respect between the two of us, for doing what we do. I think we both knew how to entertain the fans, every time we went at it.
Q6. Talking about you battles with Deeds, that was a decent brawl after the buzzer between the two teams in the BBT on the 28th Oct.
What was that like to be involved in.? and what is your recognition of the Devil's fan going after you as you left the ice.?
Benn.... It was the first that I have ever been involved in a fight where every player was on the ice. During the handshake, the previous night, Cardiff's coach had said something threatening to one of our young guys, that I really didn't appreciate. So during the handshake the next night, I said a few things to their coach, to make sure he never said something threatening like that to one of my teammates ever again. That's when their Coach started swatting at my stick. Deeds saw that, stepped in, and things kicked off from there. It was good that we were the main attraction and that everyone was watching us, because if everyone had started fighting, that's when players can start getting hurt. As for the Devil's fan that came at me, I had just finished my fight with Devin as I had stepped off the ice. The fan came at me, shouting profanity, with his hands up. He grabbed me around the top of my jersey and scratched my neck. That's when I threw a punch to gain some distance between us, as nobody was too quick to step in (although Simmsey was a hero). I then headed straight to the locker room, as he called the police. I know I am a professional athlete and should not have hit a spectator, however people need to understand that my adrenalin was pumping from the deeds fight and I felt threatened by this man. You never know what kind of crazy things a spectator can do, in any sport. The most shocking thing to me was the fact that although I decided not to press charges, which the police asked if I wanted to do, the man was back to threatening me on Twitter, not even 24 hours later. Easy to do from behind a computer
Q7. Another team the Blaze battled with this season was the Sheffield Steelers. You fought and beat a few of their guys early in the season. Then the Steelers brought in Philadelphia Flyers lock-out tough guy Tom Sestito, who's now an enforcer with the Vancouver Canucks, and a guy you had already fought while the two of you played in the AHL.
Did you know coming up to the next Steelers v Blaze game that the fans from both sides were expecting a fight between the two of you.?
Benn.... I don't know if the fans were expecting a fight between us but I think that they knew there was a good possibility that it might happen.
Q8. There was also an incident with yourself and Steelers agitator Shawn Limpright on September 15th when the two of you swapped slashes late in a game. Limpright looked to connect quite high up on your body with his slash and you went down to the ice. Is this why a few weeks later you went after Limpright who refused to fight you.? and why in the end you no choose'd him on January 19th in Sheffield.?
Benn... That game in September, he got his stick up in my face and then in January he cross checked me after the whistle, while I was going for a line change. That was the final straw for me and why I went after him, in a game that we had already lost. He turtled and Fata had to fend for him.
Q9. I'm a Belfast Giants fan and I've watched you quite a few times this season either in Belfast or via the Coventry Blaze webcast. A lot of the games have been very physical and yourself and Adam Keefe had some good battles this season. What did you think of your games with the Giants this season.?
Benn.... Our games with the Giants, the fans have always been entertained. They are always physical and hard fought games, between us. I think the emotion got the best of us in a couple of games, where we took too many stupid penalties, and gave a few games away to them. Adam Keefe is a warrior and always shows up to play and will fight anybody. He is one of the toughest pound for pound guys, that I have fought.
Q10. Another guy you fought 3 times this year was Nottingham Panthers tough guy Gui Lepine. The 1st time the two of you fought on the 5th of December you clearly got the upper hand in that fight. But in the remaining two fights they turned into non events. I remember reading a tweet of yours about Lepine not wanting to make a fight of the two remaining contests, which a lot of neutral fans agreed on. Why do you think Lepine choose to fight that way, when in previous season's he's been a open fighter.?
Benn.... I can't speak for another player and tell you why they fight the way that they do. I haven't seen Gui's fights in previous years, so I don't know a whole lot about him. Fans love to joke about our hugging episodes. I think they are all just jealous and wish we were hugging them instead.
Q11. You got to fight Hull enforcer Ryan Hand just the once this season. I've seen the fight but the camera misses the start of it. Can you tell us a little about what the camera misses.? it's a shame that Ryan was in the other conference as I'm sure the fans would of loved to have seen the two of you battling more often this season.
Benn.... The fight with Ryan, he came at me after I hit one of their guys. We both threw a couple of punches and he went for my pant leg, lifted it up, and went for the take down. "And then Ryan called his dad"
Q12. Having fought all the other tougher guys in the league this season who in your opinion is the best fighter you have faced in the UK. ?
Benn.... I have to say Adam Keefe but only because I never got a chance to fight Mike Egener.
Now for some quick fire questions to finish with.
Q13. Would you like to come back to the EIHL next season.? Yes
Q14. Were you disappointed that Mike Danton was not allowed to play for the Blaze.? Yes
Q15. Who's the toughest guy you have fought in your career to date.? Jeremy Yablanski
Q16. Who's the toughest guy playing hockey today.? Steve MacIntyre
Q17. Which EIHL team had the nosiest fans when the Blaze played away from home.? Nottingham but the penalty box officials there were always nice to me.
Q18. Is the EIHL social media policy a good or bad thing.? No comment. I am afraid to answer incorrectly and get fined.
Thanks again Benn for doing this Q&A session. No problem. Hope you all enjoy.
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