Thursday, September 15, 2011

Goon Verot tries out in Třinec, draws Jágr's wrath

A pair of Canadians made their first appearances at the morning practice of defending national champion Oceláři Třinec, and a few eyebrows were raised over one of them.

Defenceman Rob Davison of St. Catherine's, Ontario and left winger Darcy Verot of Radville, Saskatchewan were both on the ice. Though the league isn't overwhelmed with Canadians, their appearances are no longer novel. Bryan McGregor of Niagra Falls, Ontario is returning to the team for a third season, and Davison's presence attracted little attention. Verot, however, was a different story.

Darcy Verot (left) and Jaromír Jágr have a history. Photo:
Verot, 35, has made his life in hockey with his fists, starting with the Weyburn Red Wings in the Saskatchewan Junior League. He's played professionally in the now-defunct Western Professional League, the ECHL and parts of eight campaigns in the AHL. He also had a 37-game stint with the NHL's Washington Capitals in the 2003-04 season, where he recorded 0 goals, 2 assists and 135 penalty minutes.

In 2007, Verot went to Russia and joined Vityaz Chekhov. With the club over the past four seasons, the left winger has scored a mere 6 goals but has amassed an amazing total of 1,235 penalty minutes in 125 games. An average of 10 minutes per game, this would be the equivalent of getting 820 minutes in an NHL season; the record is Dave Schultz with 472 in 1974-75. Perhaps his most notorious incident in the KHL occurred on January 9, 2000 when his club hosted Avangard Omsk. The game degenerated into a bench-clearing brawl, which was allegedly triggered when Verot intentionally shot the puck at Omsk's Lasse Kukkonen.

"I doubt that Třinec really knows what kind of person he is," said former Omsk player and, briefly, Washington teammate Jaromír Jágr. "I know what this guy is capable of. Forgive me, but he's an asshole."

During the infamous brawl game, Jágr and Verot had a couple of bouts with each other, the second one coming when both players left the penalty box as both benches cleared.

The next time the teams met, Verot squared off with Omsk's Joshua Gratton after only six seconds of play, which started another brawl. Both players were questioned by police afterward.

Of course, even players who drop the gloves from time to time have been accepted in the Czech Extraliga over the past few seasons. Nobody made much of a fuss in 2009 when Doug O'Brien arrived in Plzeň and Adam Pineault in Pardubice. Both players even became popular in their respective adoptive cities for their toughness, which included squaring off against each other.

But compared to Verot, they are both choir boys. Over two seasons in Pardubice, right winger Pineault has recorded 34 points and 127 penalty minutes in 79 games. He is returning to the club for a third season. O'Brien, a defenceman, played one year in Plzeň and another for Sparta Praha, recording 15 points and 169 minutes in 94 games. Tough players, to be sure, but more than just fighters and useful to their teams while the puck is moving.

A player with Verot's reputation has never played in the Extraliga before and Jágr expressed concern over what it could mean to the league. "I'm worried that the Extraliga won't react until the moment something happens," he said. "We had a chance to deal with it before something happens." Owner of the newly-renamed Rytíři Kladno, Jágr emphasised that he has no intention of signing a goon to play for his team.

Of course, there is no guarantee that Verot or Davison will play in the league this season. Třinec spokesman Ivo Pullman stated, "The Extraliga starts on Sunday, and it will be decided before then whether or not they remain."

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