Byline: JASON SCHNEIDER
Chris Kovalcik doesn't flinch when he has to face down another team's enforcer. Kovalcik has dealt with much bigger, nastier and smellier animals than hockey goons.
The Jacksonville defenseman spent seven years riding bulls and made it as high as the International Professional Rodeo Association (think AHL to the Professional Bull Rider's status as NHL) before choosing to pursue hockey full time.
So no matter whom he has to take on, he's already challenged something much more dangerous.
"A fight isn't as scary as getting on the back of some bull," said Kovalcik, whose nickname, Cowboy, is a reference to his bull-riding days. "It doesn't matter who you're fighting. The worst that can happen in a fight is that you get a concussion. There are lot worse things that can happen with a bull."
Kovalcik didn't get a chance to show off his fighting skills Friday night, seeing limited action because of an injured shoulder, as Jacksonville beat Huntsville 4-1 at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.
There are few similarities between hockey and bull riding and few transferable skills, Kovalcik said. The one similarity is that both sports require the athletes to have strong legs. Bull riders use their legs to hang on to bulls while skating at full speed for several minutes during a shift is one of the more exhausting exercises in sports.
Both sports can take their toll physically.
While playing hockey Kovalcik has broken his nose a few times as well as suffering a couple of broken fingers. His worst injury came while riding. After being thrown from a bull, the animal stepped on his left calf, gouging out a chunk of flesh. Kovalcik spent a few days in the hospital after an infection set in.
"Both [sports] can hurt," Kovalcik said. …