Before this season, Wilkes-Barre-Scranton Penguins winger Bobby Farnham had only been in one hockey fight.
That occurred over the summer in a recreational game in Boston when he matched up against New York Ranger forward Brian Boyle.
Other than that, Farnham's hockey career was spent playing for prep schools and in college where fighting isn't allowed.
But since he joined the Penguins earlier this season, Farnham has been making up for lost time. His fight against Hershey's Kevin Marshall on Thursday was his tenth bout of the season. On a team stocked with tough guys such as Steve MacIntyre, Zach Sill and Alex Grant, Farnham leads the way with 10 fighting majors while he is tied for ninth in the AHL with 100 penalty minutes.
Despite his lack of fighting experience elsewhere, Farnham knows that his role as agitator means that he will have to drop the gloves on occasion.
It just comes with the way I play, Farnham said. They kind of come after me sometimes.
Not that Farnham is one to shy away. In fact, through his first 19 games this season he's shown a willingness to fight literally anyone.
Take Thursday's game for example. After the whistle blew early in the first period, Farnham said, he was hit from behind. He ended up throwing punches with Marshall, and it wasn't until later that he realized it was Hershey's Garrett Mitchell who threw the hit.
Just go with the flow, he said.
Farnham's fight card this season is extremely diverse. It includes tough middleweights such as Albany's Tim Sestito and St. John's IceCap Dean Arsene, along with a couple players known more for scoring, such as Hershey's Jeff Taffe and Portland's Andy Miele.
The bouts against the tougher opponents, Farnham said, are the result of those players taking exception to his play or vice-versa. The fights against Taffe and Miele, he said, are just a part of his job.
It's important for a guy like me to go after some of those skilled guys like Taffe and Miele. It takes those guys off the ice for five minutes, Farnham said. It's basically part of my role to go after their best players. If they're thinking about this little kid flying around the whole game, then they're not going to be doing their job which is scoring goals.
Still, despite the diverse fight card there is one constant – in all but one bout Farnham had the size disadvantage. At 5-10, 180 pounds he knows there won't be many nights when the opponent is smaller, which is fine. The bigger the opponent the greater the respect, he said.
You don't really get a lot of respect for going after guys smaller then yourself, not that there are many smaller than me, Farnham said. It's important to let those guys know that even if they're bigger than you, you're still going to come hard.
While it's still early in his rookie season, Farnham has made strides in his development as an agitator. He's cut down on the bad penalties and has learned when to annoy and when to back off.
He has also improved his play along the walls and with getting the puck deep on the forecheck – both of which are crucial to maintaining his ice time.
It's about making the decisions at the right times, said head coach John Hynes. He still has some work to do in certain areas, but he does have a good understanding of what types of situations he needs to get into or refrain from.
Through 10 games in November, Farnham earned 46 penalty minutes, including 13 minors. As of Dec. 27, he has only two minor penalties out of his 54 minutes for the month. The rest have come in the form of fighting majors or misconducts.
Limiting bad penalties is a huge thing, especially in my first year as a pro, Farnham said. There are times when your team needs a spark, and there are times when things are going well and you want to stay out of it a bit more and be a bit smarter.
Farnham joined the Penguins on a tryout and has impressed enough to earn a deal for the rest of the season. He feels he has found a niche for himself on the team and admits to having a blast playing an agitating style.
He also doesn't mind a few fight here and there, either.
The most important thing for me is playing on the edge and getting opponents off their games, Farnham said. If I'm doing my role the right way, I'm sure I'm going to get in quite a few fights.
As of Dec. 27:
Nov. 7 vs. Binghamton's Shane Prince – It was a tie game and we seemed a bit lifeless out there. It was my first game and I was really trying to make an impression. A puck went to the net and I hit (goaltender Robin) Lehner and he flopped. (Andre) Petersson came flying in and I didn't see Prince come in too. We just dropped the gloves and away it went.
Nov. 9 vs. Hershey's Steve Oleksy
Nov. 16 vs. Bridgeport's Mike Halmo
Nov. 17 vs. Hershey's Jeff Taffe – (Matt) Clackson had just gone after Joe Morrow. He's the tough guy on their team and had no reason to go after one of our skilled defensemen. They go after one of our skilled guys so I went after one of theirs. I wanted to get under Taffe's skin anyhow as he's the best player on their team. I gave him a couple slashes and little cross-checks and finally we dropped them.
Nov. 17 vs. Oleksy
Nov. 25 vs. Albany's Tim Sestito – I kind of initiated it. I knew he was a tough kid. We were already up in that game and I gave him a little cross-check. He wanted to go right away.
Dec. 1 vs. St. John's Dean Arsene – It was in response to a cross-check on me. I gave him one back to let him know I wouldn't back down. Just in retaliation to his hit.
Dec. 8 vs. Portland's Andy Miele
Dec. 12 vs. Albany's Darcy Zajac
Dec. 27 vs. Hershey's Kevin Marshall