Tommy Muir wouldn’t describe himself as an enforcer, but that won’t stop the 30-year-old from answering the bell and standing up for his team mates.
The Fife Flyers defenceman has been involved in his fair share of fights in the Elite League, his latest scrap coming against Edinburgh Capitals’ Ian Schultz in Sunday’s Forth derby at Murrayfield.
Fighting is an established tradition in ice hockey and is often used by players, mainly enforcers, to self-police games, settle scores and establish momentum.
It’s not a role Tommy particularly craves, but with no out-and-out enforcer as a team mate, it’s one he has often courageously stepped into whenever the situation has demanded it.
“I’m not the most skilful guy on the ice so it suits me to play a more physical style and maybe that’s why I find myself in these situations more than others,” he said.
“It’s not the first time it’s happened, and I wouldn’t say I dread it but equally it’s not something I go looking for. It’s just one of the parts of the game you have to deal with.
“When both teams are playing a physical game, tempers tend to flare, and these situations arise.
“It was quite a physical game, there had been a few hits and battles going on, and he’s probably one of the bigger guys on their team, so he was just doing his job and trying to protect his players.
“As a team we weren’t going to be pushed around either and you just need a willingness to show that you won’t back down, or be pushed around.”
The debate over fighting in ice hockey is ongoing but most players, including Muir, believe it to be an essential part of the sport.
“It seems to be declining but it’s still part of the game, and the game is better for it,” he said. “The fight happened on Sunday and then the game settled down. If that fight didn’t happen that’s maybe when cheap shots and things start happening.
“It takes the boiling point off the game and lets it get back to hockey, which I think is important.
“It’s exciting for the fans too. Sometimes they can get pretty worked up and it can take something like that to take the edge off the crowd and let it settle down.
“Hockey is the kind of sport where fans become engrossed in the game and in every shift, and they are almost in there fighting it with you.”
Schultz spoke of his respect for Muir following the fight, and for the Kirkcaldy man, the feeling is mutual.
“Schultz has been in a few fights himself, so he knows the score,” he said. “It can be something as little as a slightly high hit and tempers flare.
“Afterwards you maybe think you over-reacted, but in the heat of the moment, these things happen. Everyone respects that, so there’s very rarely hard feelings between guys who fight on the ice, especially when it’s a spur of moment thing.
“You sometimes get a Frank-Nickerson thing, where there’s possibly some resentment between guys, but most of the time you have your battle, settle the score, and next shift you’ll tap each other on the pads and say, ‘good job’.
“You respect the other guy for fighting his corner and that’s why it’s such important part of the game – it keeps that respect there.”
While Muir may have helped his team to victory on Sunday, this season has been a frustrating one as he has often found his ice time limited.
“It’s been a tough season for the team, and for me personally,” he said. “We’ve had a big struggle with consistency, and that’s true of everybody.
“I’ve not played as much as last year, and that’s something that wasn’t part of my plan but, at the end of the day, it’s what’s best for the team.
“I know Chris Wands didn’t play much last year, and he’s come in and has been playing great this year. He had a few seasons hampered by injury, but he’s stayed injury-free this year and showed the potential he’s got. It’s just the way the league is at the moment and with roster spots as they are, playing three lines there’s only space for one British D-man and one British forward.
“I’ve no resentment at all. I think Chris has done a great job and deservedly taken the spot from me, for the moment. It’s up to me to lift my game and to try get that ice time back.”