The Goon Syndrome

By Jessica Haskin

I had the opportunity and privilege of talking with Jeff Crouse and Adam Smallman, two goons of the Bay County Blizzard, the most penalized team in the Continental Elite Hockey League.

The two players are good friends who met when Crouse was traded to the Blizzard after he’d requested a trade from the Downriver Bombers.

“How’d we become friends? Just through the hockey and just hit it off right away” Crouse said.

“But we get along with everyone on the team,” Smallman quickly added.

“Yep, the whole team gets along pretty good,” Crouse agreed.

“Your styles are similar,” I say.

“Oh, yeah!” Smallman replies.

Their style isn’t the finesse play of a Steve Yzerman or Sergei Fedorov, but would come closer to the crashing and banging of a Derian Hatcher or Tie Domi.

It’s the Goon Syndrome.

A goon in this case fits under the description of someone who’s been hired to intimidate the opponents. A player, who isn’t afraid to get his nose dirty, often accused of dirty plays. If they’re on your team you love them, if they’re your opponent you love to hate them.

Smallman, who is not a small man at 6-foot-3, 225 lbs., a native of Elmsdale, Prince Edward Island, has been nicknamed “Moose.”

Crouse hails from Oshawa, Ontario, and stands 6-foot-2 and weighs in at 205 lbs. Crouse’s main nickname is Crouser but is also know as the “Bounty Hunter.”

Crouse and Smallman rank 2nd and 3rd respectively on their team for most penalty minutes. Crouse has a total of 185 penalty minutes while Smallman has 174, which places them at 3rd and 4th rank in the league.

“Should we start sending your mail to the penalty box?” I ask them.

They both laugh.

Crouse looks at Smallman and says, “That’s us, eh?” and they both laugh again.

It’s the Goon Syndrome.

“I figured it out the other day, Jeff’s averaging 9, almost 9 and a half penalty minutes a game,” I tell them.

“Who, me?” Crouse questions.

“Yes,” I reply.

“What?” Smallman asks.

“Nine and a half a game,” Crouse tells him.

“Oh, really? I got 8 today!” Smallman enthusiastically replies.

“I got 16 or 18 today,” Crouse counters.

It’s the Goon Syndrome.

I ask them who influenced their game the most.

“Tie Domi,” Crouse answers immediately.

“And Coach,” Smallman says.

We all laugh.

“He’s earning brownie points,” Crouse says still laughing.

While we’re speaking of the Blizzard coach, Kurt Walsten moved Crouse from defense to forward a few months ago. Did Crouse like the move to forward, did he like it better than playing defense?

“Yeah, definitely, definitely like it more, more hitting and I play a lot more!” Crouse says.

He didn’t like moving to forward for the fact that he’s scoring more now? No, he gets to hit more up front.

It’s the goon syndrome.

“You guys were 4 minutes apart going into tonight’s…” I begin.

“Really?” they say together.

“How many minutes did you get tonight?” Crouse asks Smallman.

“Eight”

“I had what, two, four, six and I got a ten minute misconduct?”

“I’ll get you though,” Smallman states matter-of-factly.

“You’ve got a ways to go to get Wilkens though,” I tell them, completely forgetting where I was going with the original question.

Matt Wilkens is their teammate who leads the league with 239 penalty minutes.

“Yeah, I know, I got to get Wilkens,” Crouse says.

“You have to sit a game though, don’t you?” Smallman asks Crouse.

“Nope, just got a ten minute,” Jeff defends himself.

They have a nice long ride on the bus back home to debate it.