Never underestimate the little guy.
You have probably never heard of Gavin Morgan, a 5-foot-11 former hockey player who made it to the NHL for six games, but spent most of his pro career in the AHL. Regarded as a tough guy to play against, Morgan regularly scored between 30 and 40 points and twice ended up with more than 200 penalty minutes in a season.
Today, he might best be known for a fight he had with Colby Armstrong during the 2002-03 season. At that time, Armstrong was fresh out of major junior and getting his first taste of pro hockey with the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins. Morgan, who was six years older than Armstrong, was a member of the Utah Grizzlies and on his way to a 244 penalty minute season.
During a game in Utah, the two guys became engaged in a fight — and it’s one of Armstrong’s favourite stories to tell.
LISTEN: COLBY ARMSTRONG AND GAVIN MORGAN RECALL THEIR EPIC FIGHT
“I never really liked to look at the game notes and check out who the other players were,” Armstrong said on the Andrew Walker Show on Tuesday. “I had a few good games in a row as a young guy I was like OK I got this ritual where I didn’t look at the game notes I was like ‘Oh, scored a goal the game before not looking at the game notes, better keep that up.’ “
Turns out, Armstrong probably should have looked at the game notes to see who Morgan was.
As the story goes, the two became engaged during the play and Armstrong got his stick up high on Morgan, hitting him in the chin. Morgan then threw a punch, which Armstrong dodged. “I’m like owning him right now,” Armstrong says.
The two got coincidental minors and went to the box. But to Morgan, this incident wasn’t over.
“He comes by the [box], on one leg in his Captain Morgan’s pose and the biggest WWF throat slash like he’s gonna get me,” Armstrong recalled.
The two kept yelling at each other in the box and at one point Morgan even threw a water bottle at Armstrong, but hit the woman running the score clock in the head by accident. When the guys left the box, they skated back to their benches without a word, but they both knew a fight was coming up. Armstrong could see it and was confident he was going to pound the “little guy.”
“I look down, the trainer’s unscrewing his visor and the guy’s just sitting there staring at me. He’s sitting on the bench but leaning back and we make eye contact. And he’s just hammering his wrists with white stick tape. I’m like, I’m going with this guy for sure.”
When they got on the ice again, Armstrong put Morgan on his butt once more with a shoulder check. When Morgan got up, he challenged Armstrong to the inevitable fight, and Armstrong was happy to oblige, thinking he was about to fight a Johnny Gaudreau type.
“I drop the gloves. He drops his gloves, just grabs me ‘whack whack whack whack’ like four straight upper cuts to my face, it’s over,” Armstrong said.
What made this particular re-telling of the story on Tuesday so great was that Armstrong was surprised as Morgan was invited on to the radio show to recall it with him for the first time.
“The reason I was wearing a visor was because I had taken a shot in the face with a slap shot a couple nights before so my face was already banged up,” Morgan said.
Morgan is currently in his sixth season as an assistant coach with the University of Alabama-Huntsville Chargers.
If this story teaches you anything as a hockey player, it’s to never underestimate the little guy.
And, as Alexandre Daigle told Armstrong after the fight: “Check the game notes, kid.”