The best Garet Hunt fight might be over who his biggest fans are.
The Vancouver Giants faithful would stake a claim. Hunt, the fire-hydrant winger with furious fists, still can draw ovations showing up at the Pacific Coliseum some four seasons after his final WHL contest.
Stockton Thunder boosters could also throw down on the topic. A Maple Ridge Home Town Hero and a Westview Secondary graduate, Hunt has earned or shared the Thunder's most popular player award three years running. When he's involved in any sort of personal appearance in the California city, the lineups are like "Disneyland," according to Thunder play-by-play man Mike Benton.
Thunder brass say that they once had a fan shell out $2,500 in an auction for a Hunt game-worn jersey. On ebay.ca that kind of cash puts you in line for game worns like a 1990 Doug Flutie B.C. Lions or a 1988 Fernando Valenzuela L.A. Dodgers.
"I'm getting spoiled again," Hunt said over the phone earlier this week. "I've been spoiled in both places that I've gotten to play. We had the best fans and the most fans in Vancouver and we've got that here, too.
"I do get stopped every now and then when I go to the mall, but it's mostly by younger kids. It's still awesome. It's fun."
As much as his game is becoming more refined, he still plays like he's somebody else's stunt double. If he's not making bones and boards rattle with a check, he's making heads hurt with chatter. Or, he's dropping the gloves, despite being all of 5-foot-8 and 190 pounds.
Going into last Tuesday's slate of games, he led the ECHL with 22 fighting majors.
Among his combatants have been Utah Grizzlies defenceman Nick Tuzzolino (6-foot-6, 225 pounds), Alaska Aces defenceman Benn Olson (6-foot-4, 215 pounds) and Colorado Eagles forward Liam Huculak (6-foot-5, 225 pounds).
He's all heart and chutzpah, part brave and part crazy.
"Guys like him are hard to find, because he plays with such a level of enthusiasm," said Giants general manager Scott Bonner.
"I'm not surprised that he's become a big deal in Stockton. It's the same town that Nick and Nate Diaz, the UFC fighters, are from. I'm sure it's a blue-collar town. They'll come to the games but they want to see some action, they want to be entertained. Garet would fit right in there."
Stockton has even more reason to favour the feisty underdog right now. The city is on the brink of bankruptcy after getting side-swiped by the U.S. housing meltdown. Forbes magazine has labelled it as America's "most miserable city," twice in the last three years.
The Thunder, though, provide a welcome distraction. In league action on Tuesday, they were third in attendance at 5,746.
"The guys like to give me a hard time about running for mayor," said Hunt.
He insists that he's never had a concussion, although "I've been hit in the head pretty hard."
"You can't get worried," said Hunt. "I'm past that point.
"The more you fight, the more you learn when to cover yourself up and keep your-self safe. Every fight, you have to something to learn. ... As long as I'm showing up and learning, that's the important thing."
@ Copyright 2013