Winger Jim Thomson came to the Washington Capitals' training camp with the intention of playing tough. But he had no idea how tough things would become.
Thomson was chased from the first scrimmage by Coach Bryan Murray, who became weary of Thomson's repeated attempts to punch defenseman Pat Beauchesne. Then, Thomson's participation in the second scrimmage ended abruptly when he was struck in the left eye by the stick of center Ian O'Rear.
"I was knocked out and, when I came to, I was scared to death because I couldn't see out of the eye," said Thomson, who needed stitches on the eyelid, as he watched the scrimmage at Mount Vernon yesterday. "I still can't see out to the side, so I couldn't go out there this morning, but I can skate in the regular drills with a visor and everything should be okay in a couple of days."
Thomson, 6 feet 1 and 205 pounds, produced some remarkable statistics last season. In 10 games with Washington, he collected no points and 35 penalty minutes. At Binghamton, the numbers were 13 goals, 10 assists, 360 penalty minutes in 57 games.
Thomson was involved in 41 fights, including a memorable brawl here with Montreal's Mike Lalor that left his right hand bent somewhat out of shape.
"Your hands get sore after a while," Thomson said. "I'm always asked if I like to fight. Well, does anybody really like to fight? I've always had a temper and when I get out on the ice something seems to come over me and I get involved pretty quick.
"A lot of times, you fight the same guy, like it's part of the game plan. I fought Jay Fraser of Rochester eight times last year. It got to be where he'd skate up and say, 'How are you, Jim?' and away we'd go.
"Then some guys suddenly challenge you that you never fought before, like they've got something to prove. You can't back down, so you fight everybody."
Murray, whose team's first exhibition game is tonight in Buffalo, does not object to Thomson's belligerence, not in a division that includes Philadelphia and the New York Rangers. He just wants him to be more subtle.
"I want Jim to be tough, but I want him to be smart, too," Murray said. "Obviously, the way this division is going, you need a tough guy, but you don't want him running around starting things for no reason."
Thomson's mother does not like the fighting at all, but Thomson feels it is his only path to the NHL, so he must continue, sore hands or not.
"When I left to come here, my mum told me not to fight, but I told her my game is to play the tough guy and I'm going to play as tough here as I can," Thomson said. "I've put in two years in the minors and, with 600 penalty minutes, I think I've paid my dues. I don't want to get sent down again knowing I didn't give it my best shot. If I play as tough as I can and they say it's not good enough, I can accept that."
As Thomson talked, Beauchesne left the ice and stopped by to ask about Thomson's eye. They spoke in a friendly fashion for a couple of minutes.
"You can't hold grudges out here," Thomson said. "I went after him and, give him credit, he didn't back down."
Despite Thomson's absence, there were two good scraps in yesterday's scrimmage: Dave Christian vs. Martin Burgers and Mike Ridley vs. Dallas Eakins . . . Clint Malarchuk and Cleon Daskalakis will share the goaltending duties in tonight's exhibition at Buffalo.