According to Syracuse Crunch beat writer Lindsay Kramer, the Hartford Wolf Pack have offered notorious enforcer Brandon Sugden a professional tryout contract. The 30-year old Sugden made news last month when he challenged the NHL’s retirement rules in order to gain permission to attend New York Islanders training camp on a tryout basis.
The Toronto native, who put up 754 penalty minutes in 164 games spanning parts of four seasons with the Syracuse Crunch between 2003 and 2006, signed retirement papers with the Crunch’s parent club in Columbus in November of 2006 in order to return home to be with his pregnant wife and help with the family business while his father battled cancer.
Once retirement papers are signed, NHL rules state that a player must sit out an entire season of professional hockey in order to qualify for reinstatement. But in each of the past two years Sugden has played — well, fought — for the semi-professional St. Jean Chiefs of the LNAH in order to supplement his income, making him ineligible for reinstatement.
No stranger to controversy, the 6 foot, 4 inch, 230 pound tough guy received a lifetime ban from the ECHL in 2001 after he threw his stick into the stands, hitting a fan. That ban stood until 2003, when it was overturned by an arbitrator.
The NHL’s collective bargaining agreement does allow for the 1-year rule to be waived, provided all 30 NHL teams agree. Four teams objected, including the New York Rangers, who had no interest in helping to strengthen the rival Islanders. But Sugden’s story — his father’s cancer is now considered terminal — and an online petition which yeilded 1,000 signatures, ultimately convinced the four holdouts to soften their stance. And so the former Toronto Maple Leaf 5th round draft pick joined the Islanders training camp on a tryout in mid-September.
His bid to stick with the NHL club ended on Sunday when he was released by the team.
Now, he’ll try his luck in the AHL with the Wolf Pack, who saw their heavyweights — Frankie Lessard, Mitch Fritz and Josh Gratton — all sign elsewhere over the summer.
“I don’t hold that against them at all,” Sugden told Kramer of the Rangers initial decision to block his way. “They thought maybe if I was playing against them, it wouldn’t be good. I was ticked off, but I understood it wasn’t personal, it was business.”
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