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For Washington Capitals' Donald Brashear, Fighting's a Way of Life

The Washington Post's Mike Wise joins youth hockey players on the ice with Capitals' enforcer Donald Brashear in Southeast, D.C. Video by Atkinson & Co.

"All you could hear was the garbage bag crinkling and Donald crying all night," said Danny Roy, now a police officer in Montreal. "I hear him crying still in my head. I kept thinking how hot and scared he must have been in there. He must have been 7, I guess. It still haunts me."

Danny is the only blood relative with whom Brashear feels any personal connection.

Brashear also had trouble tying his shoes. Roy would stand over the boy and humiliate him, Gauthier said, as he tried unsuccessfully to get the laces right. "He would be yelling and yelling at him," she said. "And he kept making him do it over. I couldn't stand making the child go through that. I wanted him to be safe."

She finally decided to send Donald to Quebec's foster-care system, as she had been as a child.

"I did it because he had the mental problems from all the trauma he had," she said. "And he wouldn't speak with me; he just kept saying you're not my mother. There's nothing I could do with him. There's no way I could help him and I could see he was going to endanger himself. His father had really done a number on him."

During one visit to see her son, she said she was told by a social worker not to return because Donald became too aggressive with his foster family after seeing her. Pregnant and with three other children at home, she never went back. Donald was 7. He would have no contact with her again until he was 18.

Years later, when she found out he had made it to the NHL, Gauthier said she was "gloriously proud" of Donald and that she was not surprised he had became an NHL enforcer.

"What else would he be?" she said. "He has all this aggression. In all his games he's known as the fighter. Instead of fighting back the people that hurt him, he fights the people on the hockey."

Gerard Roy, reached by telephone, confirmed he had Donald sleep in a separate room with a plastic bag around his waist, explaining, "It saved a mattress." He denied that any racism by him or his immediate family played a part in his and Nicole's decision to either not take Donald as a toddler or give him up to foster care as a young boy. He said that it was Donald's insistence, as a child, that his mother couldn't be his natural mother because she was white that led to the intervention by social services. As for his own racial views, he said, "red, black, white, yellow -- I love everybody."

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'I Didn't Want To Be Like Him'

On Feb. 21, 2000, while with the Vancouver Canucks, Brashear was involved in one of the NHL's most blood-curdling moments when Marty McSorley of the Boston Bruins swung his stick and hit Brashear in the head. Brashear lost consciousness and suffered a grade 3 concussion when he fell backward, his head ricocheting violently off the ice. A jury found McSorley guilty of assault with a weapon in October 2000, for which he received 18 months' probation and the longest suspension in NHL history. McSorley never played another NHL game, and Brashear never accepted his telephone calls of apology.

Today, Brashear maintains his own Web site that documents his fights. It includes videos of many of them, including one entitled, "Don Delivers A Beatdown," a malicious free-for-all in a semi-pro game. "That's not who I am," Brashear said, adding that he is taking steps to remove it from the site. "I didn't want to fight any of those guys, but managers [of teams] paid them money to fight me. They just kept pushing me and pushing me."

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