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Mild-mannered Pouliot gets in punch line

There was a backstory that fans didn't know about, regarding the fight involving Derrick Pouliot of the Portland Winterhawks in Game 5 of the Western Hockey League playoff series against Victoria.

Because there was another fight ensuing while Pouliot and Victoria's Joe Hicketts quarreled, Pouliot and Hicketts both faced game misconduct penalites had they engaged in a fight. So, Pouliot hesitated. The 5-8, 185-pound Hicketts hit the 6-0, 205 Pouliot with several punches, until the Portland defenseman had enough. With one punch to the jaw, Pouliot ended Hicketts' night, and solidified his reputation as one tough hombre not to bother.

Pouliot, who had a bloody nose from a sucker punch by the notorious Steven Hodges, doesn't like to fight, but Hicketts pushed him too far. So, Pouliot, who possesses great strength and big hands to go with a youthful face, busted loose.

"The guy's a little bit smaller than me. And, I'm not really a fighter," says Pouliot, a Pittsburgh Penguins prospect. "I didn't want to fight the guy, but I'm going to defend myself."

After the punch, Hicketts grasped onto Pouliot's jersey and looked disoriented, like a downed soldier in a battle scene. Pouliot felt bad. "You never want to see a guy knocked out like that," he says. "As soon as I saw him fall to the ice, I told the ref that this guy needs some help. You never want to see that happen, but I'm going to defend myself, if someone is coming after me."

Could opponents be lulled into thinking that the mild-mannered Pouliot, known as an "offensive" defenseman, doesn't have toughness, because he doesn't like to engage them?

"Yeah, maybe. It's not something I look for," he says. "But every fight I've been in I've done fairly well in. I wouldn't like to say I'm one of the toughest guys out there, but I can hold my own, I think."

Hodges and teammate Brandon Magee dealt out some cheap shots in Game 5, and they and Victoria are paying for it. Magee received a 12-game suspension (for his well-publicized hit on Nic Petan, among other actions) and Hodges five games (he also punched Pouliot in the back of head among his many transgressions), and the WHL fined the Royals $10,000 — a huge amount for on-ice conduct.