By Chris Umpierre
ESTERO, Fla. – Brad Herauf doesn’t fit the hockey goon stereotype.
He’s not tall — he’s listed at a generous 5-foot-11. He doesn’t have muscles jutting from his body or an intimidating presence off the ice.
But don’t let that mislead you. Herauf is one of the ECHL’s toughest enforcers, a man who led the league in penalty minutes during the 2005-06 season.
The Florida Everblades’ forward, whose team will kick off a six-game homestand Wednesday, reinforced that reputation last month when he fought 6-8 Riley Emmerson of Texas. Blades forward Jon Lehun couldn’t believe that his teammate took on such a behemoth.
“There’s a nine-inch (size) differential and he’s fighting the guy!” Lehun recalled.
Here’s some more shocking news: Herauf won the fight. He landed a punch on the Goliath’s mug before officials intervened.
“I’m not going out there to fight,” Herauf said. “It just comes to me with the way I play. That’s my reputation. I’d rather have guys come after me than one of our top goal-scorers.”
Herauf leads the Blades with 30 penalty minutes in 10 games but said he’s matured into a more disciplined player. He said he takes smarter penalties and will sometimes wait a few periods before settling personal vendettas.
Herauf, 25, said it doesn’t matter if he wins or loses a fight.
“It’s more about how my team responds,” he said. “If guys respond with energy then I did my job. But if the guys are dead then did it really help our team?”
Herauf said his younger brother, Michael, helped turn him into a scrapper. The duo fought myriad times growing up in Saskatchewan, Canada.
“He was the test dummy for a lot of things,” Herauf said.
Michael, 23, often pushed his brother to the brink.
“Like most younger brothers, he usually took a beating,” Herauf said. “But he always came back. He never took no for an answer. If he lost, he’d get right back up and come out swinging. That really helped me in hockey because I always had an equal rival.”
Those battles taught him about boxing, too. Herauf said that he’s never been injured during an on-ice fight.
Blades coach Gerry Fleming has been more impressed with his scoring ability. Herauf has five points (two goals).
“I would match his work ethic against any hockey player I’ve ever coached,” said Fleming, who mentored Carolina Hurricanes forward Chad LaRose.
Herauf won’t stop taking on giants anytime soon. He said he loves his role.
“I have a lot of buddies back home who don’t enjoy their jobs,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how tough my job is, I’d rather be doing this. If that means fighting a guy 6-foot-8 once in a while, then fair enough.”