BY JAMES COOK
TRAVERSE CITY — John Scott is a guy most people don't want to get hit by.
Except maybe Bill Bustance.
The owner of Trigger Boxing in Traverse City has taken a few shots while training the hulking Buffalo Sabres defenseman this summer.
"I call him 'Vitali Klitschko on skates,'" Bustance joked, referring to the 6-foot-7 WBC heavyweight champion.
Scott actually stands an inch taller than Klitschko.
A bruising blueliner brought in by the Sabres to contend with fiesty teams such as the Boston Bruins, Scott makes a living as an enforcer. And that role often includes fighting.
"I tell him the only thing uglier than an MMA fight is a hockey fight," Bustance joked. "He's got a good nature. But he's patient like a boxer. He's got a good eye. We can even work with the same foot position so he can do it on skates."
The 270-pound Scott isn't out there for his deft scoring touch. In 146 career NHL games, he's scored just one goal and added four assists. But he's piled up 236 penalty minutes over four seasons with the Minnesota Wild, Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers before signing a one-year contract with the Sabres this off-season.
Scott is ranked as one of the top 10 fighters in the NHL as a result of several vicious beatdowns he's handed out in his four seasons in the NHL.
His most infamous fight came when he was with the Blackhawks. It was Nov. 27, 2010, and Scott destroyed Kevin Westgarth, who is no small man himself.
Even at 6-5, 241, Westgarth appeared dwarfed by Scott, who heaped punishment on the Los Angeles Kings forward. Westgarth tapped out to end the fight, which is somewhat unusual because both participants were still on their feet.
"It was just a bloody mess after the fight," Scott said. "I kind of broke his face a little bit."
And Scott has battled New Jersey Devils right wing Cam Jannsen on several occasions.
Ironically, Scott dislikes fighting smaller players, such as Janssen, who is 6-0, 210.
"I hate it," Scott said. "I would rather have a guy who is bigger who likes to punch, rather than a small guy who likes to hide. I don't like fighting Janssen. He's tough to fight. But if you've got a guy my size or a little bit smaller, then we just throw. That's what I enjoy. No defense; just go at it."
Scott has lived in Traverse City during the off-season the last four years after marrying Traverse City St. Francis grad Danielle McCabe, and the pair just bought a house here last week. The two met while students at Michigan Tech University, where Scott played on the hockey team.
"I'm not coming here just to learn how to box," Scott said. "I come here to train. It's a good work out. It breaks up the monotony of going to the gym every day and just lifting weights. I get a good sweat going, get a great workout and I learn how to punch and stay sharp.
"It's a lot different style. With boxing, there's a lot of footwork. But with hockey, you just kind of grab on and throw (punches). I work with Bill on throwing punches and generating power from my hips and shoulders."
The Sabres are bulking up for a playoff run, and adding Scott's size to the equation is part of that. They might have to go through the Bruins and another huge blueliner in 6-foot-10 Zdeno Chara — who Scott has never fought, but not for lack of trying.
"I've asked him a couple times, but he's never said yes," Scott said. "Not yet. He's a Norris (Trophy) winner so I don't see him fighting me, unless I really do something to make him mad."
The Sabres' season started fairly well last year, but was quickly derailed when Boston's Milan Lucic hit and injured goaltender Ryan Miller, who missed 21 games.
"I think they need someone like me," Scott said. "The division they play in is super physical with Boston and Toronto. And Montreal kind of beefed up a little bit. That's a huge reason — what happened with Miller last year. They've looked to get bigger. They got Steve Ott this year and a couple other guys who are bigger in size. I don't think we'll get pushed around this year. Not at all."