By Mike Griffith
Californian Staff Writer
November 11, 2003
Copyright © The Bakersfield Californian
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – With a surname of Mirasty and a reputation built on dropping the gloves and engaging in fisticuffs on the ice, it’s natural that “Nasty” emerges as a nickname for Jon Mirasty.
It’s a nice rhyme, but Mirasty is far from an ogre. In fact, he smiles a lot. Even when he’s fighting.
That was evident Saturday night at Centennial Garden. Three separate fights broke out three minutes into the third period, and long after the other two had run their course, Mirasty and Alaska’s Keith McCambridge were still skate-to-skate, each with a handful of jersey and a free right hand.
Mirasty’s helmet had come off. McCambridge’s, complete with the mandated visor, was still on his noggin. And the two were exchanging powerful right hooks. All the while, Mirasty had a huge smile on his mug.
How about Smiling Jon “Nasty” Mirasty?
The tilt, and the rookie’s smile, made an impression on coach Paul Kelly, who wanted to add a measure of toughness and did so with Mirasty’s signing.
“His fight against McCambridge, who has fought some pretty tough guys at the next level … When you see a young kid stand in there against someone like that, it’s something,” Kelly said. “And it sure looked like he was smiling during the fight. It shows you this is a tough kid and he’s enjoying himself.”
Mirasty, flashing a broad smile as he spoke following Tuesday’s practice, said smiling just comes naturally.
“I tend to do that,” he said of smiling while fighting. “It’s one of my trademarks. I like to smile when I fight and it gets the other guys mad, so it helps me.”
At first glance, Mirasty, 20, doesn’t appear to be an imposing figure. Standing just 5 feet 10 inches tall, most players are taller. Few, however, have the upper-body strength of Mirasty, who weighs in at a cut 220 pounds.
And few have the boxing background.
Raised on the Flying Dust Reserve on the outskirts of Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan — about three hours northwest of Saskatoon — Mirasty started boxing when he was 13.
“My dad put me in boxing to be able to protect myself out there (on the ice) and keep me out of trouble,” he said. “I boxed for five years and and was a Golden Gloves champion in Saskatchewan.”
His fighting skills came in handy as soon as he reached juniors.
“I went to my first junior camp (at age 15) and I fought,” he said. “It became my role.”
It’s one he relishes.
“It just naturally came and it was something I was good at,” he said. “If you’re good at it, you might as well do it.”
Even though he was good at his job in juniors, Mirasty wasn’t planning on playing pro hockey.
“I had a kid (during the offseason) and was going to take a year off and try to get an education,” he said. “I kind of missed the game and doing what I love, so I came back.”
Connections led him to Bakersfield. Leon Delorme played one game for the Condors last season and hails from the same reserve as Mirasty — Flying Dust. Delorme recommended MIrasty to associate coach Marty Raymond and the deal was made.
“We had a couple of issues we needed to address,” Raymond said. “One was toughness, the other scoring. Now that we’ve addressed the toughness, we can work on the scoring.”
But the mere presence of toughness itself can be a catalyst for increased scoring.
“One of the most important parts of our game against Alaska (a 6-4 win) was our eagerness to go pound-for-pound against their toughness,” Raymond said. “(Jason) Courtemanche pounded a guy in front of their net and that led to the winning goal.
“It’s a big difference. Other teams won’t take liberties anymore and it’s going to be a different game.”
Kelly had hoped “team toughness” would eliminate the need for a specialty role, but it quickly became apparent the Condors needed the impact players like Courtemanche and Mirasty bring to the ice.
Still, Kelly wants Mirasty to get as many regular shifts as possible. Mirasty did just that on Sunday as he kept the gloves on.
“We’re working hard on his skills so when he’s in that situation he’s better prepared,” Kelly said.
“We have to let him play. Sunday he worked hard, moved the puck and tried to be physical. That’s what we need out of him.”