If Tyrell Goulbourne and Joe Mahon’s fight had been depicted in a comic book, there would have been a POW! and a KABOOM! in little bubbles above the photo.
When you watch the fight (and 127,619 have on YouTube), Kelowna’s Goulbourne clearly had the upper hand on Portland’s big man, despite giving up six inches and 15 pounds.
“Joe’s a tough kid,” the 5-foot-11, 195-pound Goulbourne said of the Feb. 8 bout in Kelowna. “He doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. It’s his first year in the league and I’ve only seen him lose once or twice.”
It was the 18th fight of the season for Goulbourne, who makes sure games stay on an even playing field for the Rockets. Enough so that he was voted Toughest Player in this year’s Best of the West poll.
“He’s so much more than an enforcer,” Rockets coach Ryan Huska said. “You can’t really call him an enforcer, that left when the game changed. He has a valuable role on the team as a penalty killer and he blocks shots. We didn’t really have anyone who would block shots, but he will do what he can for us to have success. You have to be brave to block shots.”
A native of Edmonton, Alberta, Goulbourne, 19, was never one to drop the gloves until he got to the Western Hockey League.
“When I was 16, I came up and I got pummeled by Chase Souto (of Kamloops),” said Goulbourne, who also has contributed eight goals and 10 assists this season. “I didn’t want that to happen again. He’s my buddy now.”
The two had a little skirmish in the preseason, but they have not seriously gone toe-to-toe since that Jan. 2, 2011, fight.
Souto may not be on Goulbourne’s fight card, but many others are, including Everett’s Lucas Grayson and Tri-City’s Lukas Walter, who Goulbourne said are two of the toughest guys he has fought.
“Walter and I had a good fight,” Goulbourne said.
“He’s a good fighter for a young kid,” Walter said. “We have the same kind of style. We went at each other with rights. It was a good fight — I may have got the better of him.”
Goulbourne said he never looks for a fight, but there are times when it’s justified.
“There are a lot of reasons to fight,” he said. “There’s intimidation, getting your team and the crowd pumped up, and protecting your teammates. I could have 30 fights or I could have five. I do what I have to.”
Though Goulbourne embraces his role on the team and his dad Mark understands, his mom Georgia has her reservations.
“My dad has been supportive of it,” Goulbourne said. “My dad grew up playing soccer and he knows what I have to do to contribute to the team. My mom and grandma are a little shaky about the fights, but they don’t cry about it anymore.”
They leave that to his opponents.