By Dan Saevig
Toledo Blade Staff Writer
He’s what’s known in hockey circles as a tough guy, a policeman. Those are his terms of endearment.
Not so nice are the other names that come with the inevitable engagements – goon and thug.
Andre Payette, from Cornwall, Ont., has spent much of his six-year professional career fighting, to make sure that opponents don’t feel free to rough up his teammates.
But the injured Toledo Storm left wing spent this week battling for an animal that couldn’t fight for itself.
His right hand wrapped and throbbing from a broken thumb suffered in the second of two fights Sunday against Cincinnati, Mr. Payette was driving to practice at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday when he saw what he thought was a dog lying near the intersection of Crabb and Telegraph roads in Temperance.
He continued for three or four minutes, then stopped and turned around.
“If it’s an animal in trouble, I had to make sure for myself,” said Mr. Payette, whose own dog was hit and killed by a car last year in Utica, N.Y. “I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself if I didn’t stop.”
Mr. Payette found a collarless, black male pit bull whining and shaking in a pool of blood, its well-kept, 2-year-old body almost frozen to the ground.
Without a means of communication and with light snow falling, the 26-year-old stood by the side of the road next to the animal, one wounded battler watching another.
Twenty-five minutes and many cars passed as Mr. Payette and the dog shivered in the cold.
“I don’t know if I looked imposing,” Mr. Payette said. “Maybe people were scared of me.”
Finally, a woman stopped and offered the stranger her cell phone.
Moments later, an electrical-utility truck pulled up and its driver bounded over to the 6-2, 219-pound hockey player.
His name was Troy, a 30-something father of two.
“I wish I knew his last name,” Mr. Payette said. “He said, ‘Hey, you’re Andre Payette. Hey, great game Sunday. You really gave it to that guy.’”