The referee dropped the puck and Tanner Glass dropped his gloves. Just two seconds into the New York Rangers’ home opener at Madison Square Garden, Glass—in his first year with the Pittsburgh Penguins and his sixth season in the NHL— found himself exchanging punches with the Rangers’ Arron Asham. As a sellout crowd of 17,200 roared its approval, Glass and Asham went fist-to-fist for the better part of a minute. Exhausted, they received appreciative applause as they skated to the penalty box, where they would sit for the next five minutes.
“I think I needed the full five minutes to recover from that one,” Glass says later with a laugh. “You’ve got to fight that guy smart, because he’s really strong and he’s been around a while. He’s pretty wily, knows what he’s doing.”
A brawl is hardly the first place you’d look for a Dartmouth grad with a history degree, but it’s a place in which Glass has grown comfortable. According to the encyclopedia of on-ice fisticuffs, hockeyfights.com, he’s among the league’s most frequent fighters. Glass finished No. 17 for the 2010-11 season and is featured in two of the site’s Top 21 fights from this year. The Craven, Saskatchewan, native and former Big Green captain engaged in 40 fights during his first five NHL seasons, battling everyone from fellow Ivy League grads Ryan O’Byrne (Cornell) and Darroll Powe (Princeton) to more conventional battlers from hockey’s “School of Hard Knocks.”
“I don’t really think about the specifics,” Glass says. “It’s kinda surreal sometimes, when you look down at your hands bleeding, but I like doing it. I’m really fortunate to be where I am in this life, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
As Glass recovered in the penalty box from his scrap with Asham, fellow Penguin Ben Lovejoy ’06 looked down in approval. Lovejoy, who came to Hanover from nearby Orford, New Hampshire, and preceded Glass as hockey captain, never saw his teammate drop the gloves at Dartmouth—fighting in college hockey is cause for suspension, after all—but he has a definite appreciation of Glass’ pugilistic prowess.
“You see a guy who’s really been able to step into a role and excel at it,” Lovejoy says. “In the NHL he fills the role of the new-age fighter. He’s tough, he can protect guys on our team, but he can also play the game. He can penalty kill, he can skate and he can hit. He’s not just a guy who’s playing two minutes a night as an intimidator. He’s a player who can also fight.”
Glass isn’t the first teammate from Dartmouth Lovejoy has played with in the NHL—Nick Johnson ’08 skated alongside Lovejoy on the Penguins before moving on to the Minnesota Wild and the Phoenix Coyotes—but he is the first one Lovejoy helped recruit to Pittsburgh. At Lovejoy’s urging, Glass signed with the Penguins on the first day of free agency last summer after leaving the Winnipeg Jets. Not much persuasion was necessary.
“The Pittsburgh Penguins speak for themselves,” Lovejoy says. “Guys want to play here. An hour after free agency started, Tanner’s wife [Emily Tracy Glass ’07] called my wife [Avery Eyre Lovejoy ’07] to make sure we liked the people and liked the city. I didn’t need to sell Tanner on the Penguins. It was really just our wives chatting and finding that Pittsburgh was a good place to be.” (In addition to being classmates, the wives share their own athletic histories from College days: Glass played soccer; Lovejoy squash.)
When the Glasses eventually got to Pittsburgh, the Lovejoys were able to provide another kind of assistance. “We were living in a hotel without a kitchen for the first three weeks,” says Emily. “They had lived in the same place so they lent us their hot plate. That was a huge perk of knowing them. We could cook a few meals in our room.”
With Glass under contract for two years and Lovejoy in the final season of a three-year contract, the reunited Dartmouth friends were ready to chase the Stanley Cup together. Their reunion, however, would be short-lived.
First, there was the 119-day NHL lockout, which wiped out more than 1,000 regular season games and caused fans to wonder if a season would take place.
“The whole team believed there would be a season,” Lovejoy says. “Most of us would have been shocked and disappointed if things didn’t come together.”
An unexpected benefit of the lockout was that Glass and Lovejoy—along with Johnson, Lee Stempniak ’05 of the Calgary Flames and David Jones ’08 of the Colorado Avalanche—were able to return to Hanover in December for a special NHL alumni night at Thompson Arena, where they saw a Dartmouth win and signed autographs. “That was so cool,” Lovejoy says of the nationally televised game against Vermont. “It was such a well-done night and such an honor to be there. Most of us haven’t been back for a game since we graduated.”
“It was really nice for us to be able to get involved with the team,” Glass adds. “We got to skate with the boys one day, and just to be around Dartmouth and around the rink again was really nice.”
Later in the month, with things looking bleak on the lockout front, Glass headed overseas to play for Banská Bystrica in the Slovak Extraliga, while Lovejoy worked out with teammates and participated in negotiations with the league. As 2012 gave way to 2013, the picture brightened, and—after six games, one assist and 75 penalty minutes—Glass returned home. “It was a lot of fun,” Glass says of his Slovakian adventure. “It was great seeing another hockey culture.” He returned to an unexpected development in Pittsburgh.
On February 6, less than a week after being interviewed for DAM, Lovejoy was traded to the Anaheim Ducks. The move has proved beneficial. He handed out six assists in his first 11 games with his new club while helping the Ducks take hold of the Pacific Division lead.
“It was really fun to see Tanner and Ben on the same team, even though it was a short duration,” says Dartmouth head hockey coach Bob Gaudet ’81. “The move for Ben is a good one.” As for Glass, his former coach isn’t the least bit surprised he has carved out a role for himself in the NHL.
“Tanner is one of those guys who has so much passion for the game of hockey,” Gaudet says. “For four years he came down to the rink with a big smile on his face. He loves to play hockey. It didn’t surprise me that he would do what he needed to do to make it in the NHL and that he’s willing to play that tough style. I absolutely love him. He was just a pleasure to coach.” Back in Pittsburgh, Glass has earned respect for more than his pugilistic prowess. His reputation as a smart, steady defensive player occasionally earns him ice time alongside reigning Hart Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin and makes him a regular on the Penguins’ penalty kill.
“He’s a good skating, physical, gritty guy,” Penguins
coach Dan Bylsma says, “but he’s very responsible defensively. He’s good away from the puck. He’s good on the penalty kill. He’s a real responsible player.”
When Glass was with Vancouver the Canucks made it to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals. “Getting that close and not winning it was tough to take,” Glass says. “That’s definitely what drives me, and I’m sure Ben [who was on the Penguins’ taxi squad when they won the cup in 2009] had the same feeling being on such a good team here and not being able to be part of a championship team and a contributor on the ice.”
Thanks to the February trade, only one of the two alums—at most—will be able to hoist the Stanley Cup, possibly at the expense of the other if Pittsburgh and Anaheim meet in the Cup finals. Until then, though, Glass and Lovejoy remain bound by that shared ambition—and their alma mater.
Elliot Olshanky has written about college hockey for the New York Daily News and several websites. His debut novel, Robert’s Rules of Karaoke, is available at TheWriteDeal.org.