Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tony Twist

While he was never considered to be the undeniable toughest man in hockey like Bob Probert or John Feguson before him, Tony Twist was reputed to be the heaviest puncher of his time. However an offseason motorcycle accident in 1999 would mean that Twist would miss the following season and ended his career

The 31-year-old left wing was hurt Aug. 9, 1999 when his motorcycle rammed a car that cut him off. The other motorist was cited for failure to yield and driving with a revoked license. Twist suffered a broken and dislocated pelvis, broken toe and bruised left knee. The critical issue was internal bleeding that threatened his life and delayed pelvis surgery for nearly four days and pushed a detailed knee exam back a week.

Twist was flipped off the bike and landed several feet away, feet first. Police say that a normal human being would have been injured much more severely than Twist was, and credited Twist's incredible strength and tree-trunk-like legs with limiting the blow somewhat.

What made matters worse for the popular St. Louis player known as "Twister" is that just hours earlier the Blues management informed him that they would not be renewing his contract this summer. He was an unsigned unrestricted free agent at the time of the accident. The Blues graciously paid all of his medical bills.

Twists initially vowed to return to hockey, but that never happened.

The son of an RCMP officer, Twist was born in Sherwood Park Alberta but grew up in Prince George, British Columbia before leaving home to join the WHL's Saskatoon Blades. He played two years in the WHL, scoring just 1 goal but piling up 407 PIM which got him drafted by the Blues 177th overall in 1988.

It was as a youth he learned he actually enjoyed fighting, not a trait shared by all NHL tough guys. Twist prepared for each game (right through his NHL career) by punching a concrete floor for 15 minutes. He did this to condition his knuckles for what laid ahead.

Twist made an impression in his first NHL training camp in 1988. He and veteran NHL tough guy Todd Ewen seemed to really have a rivalry going. Tony also met Kelly Chase, who played pretty much the same role as Tony. Both wanted Ewen's job, and both of their careers would follow the other's. Despite the spirited camp Twist was sent to the minors to develop as a player.

"Chaser and I both knew we had to do something to establish ourselves, so I said that I was going to go out and fight in every game. In the first six exhibition games, I had three fights and our coach Wayne Thomas said "what are you doing?". I said "Wayne, new league, I've got to establish myself". I probably fought thirty-five or thirty-six times. It was a good year."

It certainly got Twist some notice, and after another fight filled training camp in 1989, the Blues gave Twist an opportunity to play. He split the year between the NHL and IHL, playing in 28 games with the Blues, and racking up 124 PIM, and no points, by the way.

Twist's first game was something he'll never forget.

"My first NHL game is extremely memorable because it was opening night at Chicago Stadium," Twist told NHLPA.com. "It was in my second pro year. Todd Ewen was suspended from the year before, so I got the call for Opening Night. Just to be in that arena when the national anthem was being played, if you've never experienced it, you can't understand the adrenaline rush. It was unbelievable. My first game, Chicago Stadium, I had tears in my eyes! Wayne Van Dorp was the resident heavyweight for Chicago at the time. Of course I didn't play much, although I did play long enough to fight Wayne! It was a good fight, and I think I got the best of him without a doubt. That game is definitely one of my most
memorable moments."

However Twist finished the year in the minors, and started the following year in the minors until a trade took him to Quebec. Oddly enough he was traded for Darin Kimble, an old sparring partner of Twist's from the WHL days.

Twist was happy about being moved to Quebec.

"I got a chance to play. It was a great move for me. It was a tremendous opportunity for me because Pierre Page gave me the chance to be something. I didn't play a lot, but whether I played or not, I was on the ice an hour before practice and an hour after practice. Like I said, I didn't play a lot, but I was on the ice for hours and hours and hours with the assistant coaches like Clement Jodoin, Don Jackson and Jaques Martin. Those guys made me a better hockey player and in the long run, I was able to extend my career because of the situation."

Twist especially enjoyed the Battle of Quebec games between the Nords and the Montreal Canadiens. Twist was their heavyweight, and lo-and-behold who ended up in Montreal as their heavyweight? Todd Ewen.

"I went after Todd, but he wouldn't fight me, and when I wasn't looking, he jumped me from behind. We started fighting and I gave it to him and I was happy to do it! I wasn't at all pleased with him suckering me from behind. It was a re-ignition of our rivalry and a great game to be a part of, the rivalry between the Nordiques and the Canadiens!"

Twist played three and 1/2 seasons with the Nordiques before becoming a free agent in the summer of 1994. Oddly enough there was interest through out the league for Twists services. Oddly enough because while he was one of the league's top enforcers, he had never scored a goal and only had 7 assists while playing sparingly in parts of 5 NHL seasons.

Twist elected to resign with his old team, the St. Louis Blues.

"First, I really enjoyed the city of St. Louis. It is a city that really showed me a lot of respect. Second, Mike Keenan. I knew he had a good relationship with his tough guys. I knew he'd give me a chance to play as well as do my job, and even reward me for doing my job. That's exactly what the case was."

Twist would remain with the Blues until his motorcycle accident 5 years later. He even scored 10 goals in that time, an average of 2 goals a season. His first NHL goal came against Vancouver and was during a Hockey Night In Canada telecast! It came in his 181st game, the longest stretch an NHLer had to wait from the start of his career at that point!

"Twister" became a very popular player in St. Louis. His charity and community work were the as much a passio for him as hockey or motorcycles, and helped to make him almost as popular a personality as superstar Brett Hull was in the Missouri city.

6 comments:

Anonymous,  June 22, 2010 at 8:25 PM  

TONY WHERE IN THE HELL ARE YOU?

RICKETTS IN PEORIA

Bill Ricketts,  June 22, 2010 at 8:30 PM  

If you can get this info to Tony...have him contact Bill R in Peoria via JEC1KDR@hotmail.com.

Anonymous,  October 15, 2011 at 10:10 PM  

Tony is still in St. Louis. He own the "Twisters Iron Horse Salon" in Imperial, MO about 20 mins south of downtown St. Louis.

Garry Dunn

Anonymous,  January 6, 2013 at 5:49 PM  

Just met Tony Twist...what an amazing man! Hope to get to his Salon soon.

Michelle -IN

Anonymous,  March 17, 2013 at 6:55 AM  

i know Tony and he now owns missouri windsheild in st louis.

Anonymous,  April 16, 2015 at 1:55 PM  

Tony was so popular here in Qu├ębec City. We the fans were behind him. Great guy we will never forget.

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