Driven by those mentalities, neither Smith nor Keith stepped away from a fight Saturday and exchanged a handful of punches before being separated in the final minute of a scrimmage at Notre Dame.
Neither player explained what triggered the fight, but they didn’t think it was a big deal.
“Nothing [got into me,]” Keith said. “I’m just a competitive person. That’s how I play the game. … I don’t know what to tell you. It’s just part of the game. I’ll do anything. I don’t care.”
Smith saw the fight in the same way.
“Yeah, it happens,” Smith said. “We’re competitors. We’re out there to compete and work hard. I know for me I’m trying to win a spot here. Just one of those things, part of the game, just happy neither of us got hurt there.”
A season ago, Smith wasn’t so lucky. While playing with the Rockford IceHogs in the AHL, Smith suffered a hand injury in a fight on Jan. 11. He missed more than a month because of the injury, and it may have caused him a shot at making the Blackhawks’ roster after the NHL lockout. According to hockeyfights.com, it was the only fight of Smith’s career.
Keith also isn’t one to normally drop the gloves. He’s been in six NHL fights since 2005, according to hockeyfights.com.
Despite rarely getting into hockey fights, Keith said he has occasionally been involved in street fights.
“You don’t watch me,” Keith said. “I fight off the ice sometimes. But nobody cares about that, though. I’ve been in a lot of fights when I was younger, too. Just because you see me fight on the ice, it doesn’t mean I don’t fight off of it. Me and my buddies used to get in fights all the time, and nobody cared about that.”
Keith said he had no problem with Smith, but he hadn’t talked to him after the fight.
“I don’t know what there is to say,” Keith said. “He’s a competitor, right? It’s hockey. I’m not going to hold it against him. Why would I? It’s just hockey. It’s just a fight. I don’t know what else there would be to say about it.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville summed it up in similar terms. Quenneville didn’t see the fight because he was preparing for a practice that followed the scrimmage, but he was also fine with it.
“Things like that happen,” Quenneville said. “It can be a practice or a scrimmage. I’ve seen more fights than just one in a camp in the past. Some days you see several. It’s all part of it.”