MACON, GA — The fans watched as his skates hit the ice. The unmistakable sound of the blade gliding over the surface. It’s pre-game warm-up time. The speakers are blaring with music to get the players pumped in the arena. The fans are cheering and beating the glass. The smell and chill of the ice permeate the air along with the scent of nachos and hotdogs. His arms raised over his head, stick in hand, as he stretches first to the right, then the left. He’s focused. And for the next three hours, he clears his mind of everything but the game. He has neither bills nor obligations at home. Nothing except what’s ahead of him on the ice.
He grew up loving sports like most other boys in Lindsay, Ontario. The only boy at home beside his stepfather, he and his sisters played sports. He didn’t start playing hockey until he was 13, a late age in comparison to his peers. He was popular in school, yet inwardly insecure, but you’d never look at that young boy and think he was ever uncertain now. He doesn’t watch hockey when he goes home, he’d rather play it. But, he does love to watch his nephews on the ice.
A thick beard graces his strong jaw. No pads cover his upper body, they only get in the way. He is fiercely loyal to the team he plays for, and its players. His contemporaries describe him as a warrior, opinionated to a fault.
Here is Dennis Sicard, in his own words.
I loved hockey pretty much all my life. I was unable to play, just because it was so expensive. Times were tough, and I had to play the regular sports like soccer, and baseball – stuff that didn’t involve too much equipment. My parents knew nothing about hockey, but they found out I truly loved it when I’d go watch my one buddy play. For years I would watch him play. I’d be in the stands with his grandpa, just kinda sitting there. His grandpa just turned to me one day and said, “Would you like to play hockey?”
I’m like, “Yeah, I’d love to play hockey!” He was like alright, so he decided to get me started the next year. I actually started when I was thirteen years old, so I started late. I was skating when I was younger, just on ponds, and whatever rink they had. But, there were no lessons, no nothing. I had to just jump into it. My friend’s grandpa actually bought all of my equipment. My friend’s dad, guided me, got me all the right stuff.
My parents, they are amazing people. It just wasn’t in the budget to really get me going with it. I know they felt pretty bad about it. But they saw how much I enjoyed the game. So, they were willing to jump on board and help out any way they can.
These men, Wallace Scott and Gus Scott, they really pushed me. They got me into it, and my parents did take over later on. Saved money, paid for it, did all that stuff. But that’s my true love. That day, right when I started, that’s what I said, ‘I love this game.’
It was a blessing in disguise for sure, to be able to play. You know, I lived a tougher life. My real dad left when I was like four years old. That’s tough. I have three older sisters, too, so he just left us all. But, I have a great stepdad. He came into our lives and really took on the roll. He wanted to make us happy. So, hockey was what made me happy, and he just really jumped on board.
My sisters were more into track and field. They pretty much did it all. My oldest sister, she was really smart, so she kinda went that direction. She actually struggled a lot too, with arthritis when she was younger. She really struggled with rheumatoid arthritis. When she got older, it just went away. Now she’s a massage therapist. It’s kinda funny, she owns her own business. She’s been a big influence on my life. She and her husband have been there for me for forever. My other sisters are parents and enjoying life. They look and me, and they actually said to me years ago, “You gotta get your life on track. You know hockey is not always gonna be there.” I go, “well, I’m gonna do what I love.”
I probably figured it out three or four years ago, I just want to have fun. That’s the thing, people take their life so seriously, and I see the stress in them. I’m not saying kids are stressful, but the stresses that come along with them. Like taking them to their sports and all that. I’m just like, I just don’t know if that’s for me at this point and time. Playing hockey is what makes me happy. It’s being around a team and feeling that bond. Maybe I’m looking for something, or searching for something, but I’ll find it at some point. I do certain things, I live on the edge a little bit. Like skydive and bungee jump, because that’s what makes me happy. And I think that’s what leads to fighting. It’s an adrenaline rush for me. I think I need that.
In high school, kids are always trying to find ways to fit in. I was insecure, but I was popular. I was always trying to impress people. It didn’t help me at all, but I did gradually make friends with everyone in school. Then there were times when you had to be the tough guy, and act tough to an extent. I always stood my ground, was decent to people. But the insecurities along with high school, I held them in really tight, so people didn’t really see it. I think that was one of my big things. That could have been from years before with my childhood and stuff. But, I was really good at coping and dealing with what I had to. I think I turned out to be a half decent person, based on of my surroundings and the people that influenced me.
In playing hockey, I could be myself. I was that kid that was in between an introvert and somebody that was outgoing. I was that kid. But, on the ice, I was free from any troubles, any form of stress I ever had. And I think that goes along with why I play now. Nobody wants the stress in life. Being out there, on the ice eliminates anything I stress about in life for two straight hours. It’s one of the best feelings to have that adrenaline rush with it. Because I can just put all of my energy into that, it creates the perfect storm for me. I really hope that the fans see that I put myself out there. If they like it, they like, it. If not, I’m fine with that also.
The one thing that I do is treat the fans with respect. I appreciate them, and I know that other guys (players) do, but, I take it to a whole other level. Because being a kid, and knowing what I went through, I see these kids out here. I have no clue who they are really. I have no clue where they come from, or what they’ve experienced. But, I know it could be something crazy, like even more than what I’ve gone through. And I say to myself, “Give them the time of day. You know, just go out there, and get to know them.” Even if it’s an adult, just get to know people. Because you know what, you just don’t know the change that you can make in their life. You may not make a change in their life, but if there is that one person, then ya know. I’ve received a lot of letters that I don’t share with people, I just kinda keep them in my little bin. It’s really cool to see that I have changed someone’s life. It makes me feel like playing hockey has a purpose. I’m playing semi-pro hockey, we’re not making crazy amounts of money, so why not leave a stamp on someone’s life.
I used to have to go out an hour and a bit earlier just to try to work on something. I never became a really skilled player. But, what it allowed me to do is work on my skating; I was faster. Now I can get to the net quicker, score goals. So, it’s not about just having the stick handling skills. It’s about the skill to get from one point to another. There are always guys that are willing to put themselves out there. You can respect somebody for that.
When I went into AAA Hockey, it wasn’t long after I started hockey. Triple-A is big in Canada, it’s kind of a top thing before you go to Junior Hockey. I was on a line with two skilled guys. My coach put me out there, and I really shouldn’t have been out there. But he put me out there and said, “Just kinda look after them, make some space for them.” I was like, alright.
So, once I’m making space for them, I’m hitting people, doing what I do.
Now I get into a fight.
Oh! Here we go.
I really didn’t have the skill to be fighting, but all of the sudden it just became pretty natural to me. Just gotta throw punches. Right when I got on that line with those skilled guys, I had to stick up for those guys.
And that’s what I’m here for.
So I realized that early on, and when I went to Junior Hockey. I took that from Midget Hockey to Junior Hockey, and it just went on from there.
Fighting is in you. I think that the leagues are making so many rules that it kinda makes you veer off away from it because you don’t want to get in trouble. There are so many rules, so that’s why fighting has stopped a little bit. But, then people find their true self in it. Like, “I need to stick up for this guy.” You know? So, it’s like, “No, this is going to happen. I am going to be a man, and go out there and stick up for my teammates.” And the league is trying to scare you away from fighting, but it’s never going to work. Because you know what? People are made differently. Some people are crazy, and other people are just so calm.
We’re warriors. I hate to use that word because I’ve heard people be called warriors that weren’t, and I hate it. It’s like, some coaches are like, “That guy’s a warrior,” and I’m like, “That guy’s not a warrior.” A warrior is a guy that is gonna go out there, put his face, his fists, out on the line, and stick up for his teammates. That other guy would never do that.
To be honest, I do classify myself as a warrior. But I’ve never had coaches say anything because it’s always expected of me. Guys like David Segal back in the day, like just smaller guys, even big guys. You can be a guy like Brandon Blair. I know he’s tough. He said he doesn’t have a skill set, but he does. That’s the thing, you have to pull it out of yourself. If you are just focusing on fighting the whole entire time in your career, then you are never going to get better. Create something for yourself in practice. Make yourself better.
When I’m getting to ready to fight someone…I can tell you that you’re nervous. Because you’re excited. Your adrenaline is pumping, and it feels like you’re nervous, but really, you’re just overexcited. I always bring myself back to a calm. People say they don’t hear anything really, and once I start, I don’t really hear anything. But I always tell myself, I always say, “Oh just beat the crap out of him.” And then I’m like “No, no, be the fighter you are.” I always say this, “Be the fighter you are, and things will come out the right way.” That’s all I say to myself. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. But I always make sure I’m on a level, an even level with whomever I’m fighting. I don’t fight my best when I’m angry. I’m so all over the map because I’m a calm fighter. And everything gets in my head when I am angry at what they’ve done to another player or me. I don’t think about technique. I just take myself away from who I am. If you’re throwing wild, most likely you’re leaving yourself open to something you weren’t hoping for.
One guy that I think of, because we had so much respect for the game, is David Segal. We had so much respect for each other. If something is going down, just, hey, let me know. You were never really jumping the guy. We’ll do this and be done with it. I still talk to him. I see him, and you know, it’s fine. Because we knew who we were, and we knew our job. That is one guy I will always respect because we are similar, so similar. I love fighting him because you just never knew who was going to win that night.
Why do I do what I do? Just for the love of the game. If you don’t have the passion, you’re not going to do what we do. That goes to all fighters. If you’re not passionate about something, you won’t do it. When it comes to different teams, I come into my new locker room, this is my new family. The other team, no. I’m embarrassed to talk to my former teammates on the ice in warmups. They are the enemy now, kinda.
Thinking about it all from the beginning, I wouldn’t change anything. Not at all, because you can find skilled players in this world. There are tons of them. It’s actually harder to find a spot when you are a skilled guy. I believe that if you are a grinder or you’re just willing to fight, you can still put points up. Do you know how many are out there? Not many. There’s not many, so there is so much room on a hockey team for a guy like that. I’d rather have a bunch of them than just goal scorers for sure. But there are guys, if they are really skilled, they’ll make the NHL if they have the heart and desire to do it.
Because the heart gets you so far. Skill – I feel like you can just be replaced. If he’s not working out there, then get rid of him. That’s how it works. If I’m out there just busting my tail every night, they don’t have a reason to get rid of me. Then I try to work on other things to make me better.
That’s what I try to say to kids. You know what you’re good at, work on all the stuff that you’re not. Make yourself a whole person. Life is too short not to allow yourself to excel. Bloom. Be the best person.
With kids though, I had one last night come up to me. We lost the game four to nothing. I had a fight, and they are like, “Great fight! That was awesome!” I’m like, “Sorry we lost the game.” I kinda just change it over to a different topic because I really don’t want to talk about it. Especially with kids. I don’t care if it’s an adult, but with kids, I’m not promoting fighting. What I do, is I’ll say, “I’m glad you enjoyed it, sorry we lost, we’re gonna win the next game” just to get their mind off of it. We’ll start talking about the game. I don’t want to promote fighting. I do want to entertain them, and that’s what I do on the ice. When I get off the ice, I feel less of a person if I talk about fighting to kids.
I think being the tough guy on the ice is a natural thing for sure. I always think about the movie 300. Movies like that, and to put yourself out there, knowing that you could possibly be killed. I know it’s only hockey, but there is a possibility of major injuries and stuff like that. But to put yourself out there like that, you’re a man. I’m not saying these other players aren’t men. You’re a different form of man. You go above and beyond for your family, your teammates, all that stuff like that. Things like that, it just gets me excited. Watching those movies, I get so pumped up. Oh man, I would love to be in their situation. It’s a certain type of person that has that ability to do that.
Everyone has their own purpose in this life, and they may not be that aggressive style player or person. Be who you are. Don’t try to be something you’re not. That’s when you are going to fail. Create the best opportunity.
If I was to talk to my 13-year-old self, that kid, as the man I am now? I’m proud of myself because of what I’ve gone through and overcome it. Be happy with yourself, work hard every day. Be good to people, because you can change someone’s life.