NASHVILLE -- Richard Clune is trying to describe what it's like to be in an NHL fight. The description comes out in little torrents, as though in his mind he is seeing it all but can't quite get the words to match the images.
Maybe it's like climbing a mountain or surviving a car crash or skydiving. Until you've actually been there with the crowd screaming, the adrenaline rolling through your veins as flesh contacts flesh, no words will properly do it justice.
"Definitely your senses are turned on probably the most out of anything you'll do. There's not too many things you could do in life [that compare to a hockey fight]," Clune explained.
"It's the way we're designed, right? Fight or flight."
We are sitting on a couple of folding chairs not far from the locker room after a Nashville Predators practice.
The 26-year-old Toronto native is just 5-foot-10, 188 pounds, but he is built solidly. He has fought six times in 16 games this season, according to Hockeyfights.com, along with three exhibition season bouts. Last season he fought a combined 26 times between the AHL and NHL after he was acquired by the Predators on waivers from the Los Angeles Kings. The year before that he dropped the gloves 25 times between the regular season and playoffs in the AHL.
Tattoos roll down his shoulder and his hands look as if they could belong to a construction worker or an oil rig worker.
Clune's last bout was a couple of weeks ago against big Sheldon Brookbank of the Chicago Blackhawks. It wasn't something Clune was particularly looking for but frankly much of this season has gone against script, even though the Predators ended up clobbering the defending Stanley Cup champs in the game in question.
"That was my first shift of the game," Clune said.
"I've had a bunch of fights this year, but I really haven't been looking for it. It's been a bit of a struggle. We've got a lot more forwards this year. I've been in and out of the lineup and it's been a change from last year and I've really been trying to, when I get in the games, play and get some minutes under my belt ... I don't even have a point yet this year, I've been in a slump."
So the last thing he was looking for was to tangle with the 6-2, 211-pound Brookbank.
"That fight with Brookbank, if you watch the whole shift, we had some great pressure offensively and I was going after a puck in the crease and it just slipped off my stick or else I would have probably buried it. He kind of came in, I was leaning on their goalie a bit, and he came down and grabbed me. You can't hear anything from the stands, but I could hear I was saying 'no, no.' The guy just ripped my helmet off and that's when the switch went and then I just dealt with it the way I usually do. I wasn't looking for it. I think it was more he was looking for me," Clune said.
Clune didn't fight much in major junior hockey. He figures he might have thrown maybe 10 punches total in four years in the Ontario Hockey League. But he was an agitator, often starting skirmishes but rarely finishing them. When he was drafted by the Dallas Stars, he was told that if he kept up that behavior his chances of making the NHL were slim.