The Stockton Record
STOCKTON, Calif. – Landon Bathe remembers holding a hockey stick in his hands as a young child while he watched his father skate across the television screen. He would sit there and dream.
He would dream of the day he would be a rugged NHL player like Frank Bathe, who was one of the tough guys on the Philadelphia Flyers’ famed “Broad Street Bullies” a quarter of a century ago.
Landon Bathe isn’t in the NHL yet, but he’s proving he’s got the skills and the fighting spirit to succeed in the family business.
The 23-year-old is a bruising forward for the Stockton Thunder and the only one who currently has a contract with the team’s NHL affiliate, the Phoenix Coyotes.
And he has the distinction of getting into the first fight in team history.
But despite his participation in the Thunder’s inaugural brawl, he said he doesn’t usually go looking for fights. He just does his job, and sometimes people get upset.
“It’s my job to disrupt the other team’s offense, to pester their shooters and deliver some hard checks,” Bathe said. “It’s not that you are always looking for fights. But if I’m doing my job, there’s going to be fights.”
Bathe did start his first fight with Stockton. He traded blows with Scott Rozendal of the Fresno Falcons in Stockton’s season opener on Oct. 22 after the Thunder fell behind early and he wanted to change the tempo of the game.
But his main purpose is to pester the other team’s top scorers and protect Stockton’s shooters.
The 6-foot, 218-pounder is suited for his role in size and temperament, and Thunder coach Chris Cichocki said he’s the hockey equivalent to a power forward in basketball.
“He does the dirty work in front of the net,” Cichocki said. “You need some guys that will go through people instead of around them, and it can be a thankless job.”
His talent has impressed the Coyotes, who signed him to a contract last season.
“Landon has a bright future, and he’s grown up in the game and understands what it takes to be successful,” said Laurence Gilman, the Coyotes’ assistant general manager who is in charge of minor league operations.
Landon learned from someone who understands how rough hockey can be. Frank Bathe would do whatever he could to help his teams, and he had his share of skirmishes on the ice during his 10-year NHL career. He spent most of that time with the rowdy Flyers, and when Landon was young, he brought him into the locker room to meet famed players such as Bobby Clarke.
“Landon was too young to really remember it, maybe 3 or 4 years old,”Said Frank Bathe: “I guess in many ways he’s turned out to be the same type of player I was, but he’s a much better skater than I ever was, and he’s got a nice hard shot.”
Landon Bathe may not remember much about meeting the Broad Street Bullies, but he remembers those days in front of the TV.
“I was really young, but I’d have a stick in my hand, and I’d look up and see Dad,” Bathe said. “I remember thinking that I’ve always wanted to play hockey. It’s just always been there for me.”
He got plenty of advice from his father and spent his spare time engaging in physical one-on-one games against his brother, Lincoln, in the driveway of their home in Scarborough, Maine.
Lincoln is eight years older than Landon, and he didn’t take it easy on him. Often, Landon would end up getting slammed into the garage door, courtesy of a check from his big brother.
“He would check me hard, and then we’d start fighting about it,” Landon Bathe said. “It’s just the way I learned to play.”He started playing when he was 2 or 3 years of age and moved through the junior ranks and into the pros. Along the way he learned how to be tough but smart.
“You have to be careful about when you fight,” Landon Bathe said. “There’s times when you have to do it, and there are other times when getting into the penalty box is going to hurt the team.”
Bathe is dedicated to helping Stockton win this season, but the ultimate goal is to be playing in the NHL, ideally for Wayne Gretzky in Phoenix.
If he does get to the NHL, there’s little chance Landon Bathe is going to let anyone push him around.
“I don’t think you ever have to worry about that,” Cichocki said. “This is a tough kid.”