The toughest guy I ever knew hardly ever spoke above a whisper.
You'd find Colin Chaulk sitting in his corner stall on all those winter nights, and you'd turn on your tape recorder, and some space of minutes later you'd be back in the press box, earbuds jammed deep, straining to make out what he said over the blare of the postgame locker room music.
It was worth the effort most nights, because the man always had something worthwhile to say. He always spoke his mind, and he never had to raise his voice to get his point across.
That point today, sadly, is this: Colin Chaulk is hanging up the skates, at the age of 36.
The news will catch no one by surprise who knows what he's been going through these past few months. Plagued first by a foot infection, he developed nerve issues in his neck, a condition that was causing the muscles in his left arm to atrophy and sapping his wind and his energy. And yet still, until he absolutely no longer could, he tried to play through it.
Like I said: Toughest guy I ever knew.
Toughest guy and best team captain and, oh, yeah, a winner, having skated on five Cup-winning teams in Fort Wayne. You'll see his No. 91 hanging in the rafters one of these days, and no number will have more earned that place of honor.
Me, I'll remember the morning in 2005 when he handed me the quote that would late become something of a watchword for the whole Komets organization. It was right after practice, with the Komets depleted by injury and down 3-1 against Rockford in a playoff series Fort Wayne would eventually win in seven games. Because they were so severely shorthanded, Chaulk was logging incredible amounts of ice time, leading by example as always. Almost literally he had put the team on his back.
I asked him about that. And he looked at me with something almost like contempt.
"Tired's for losers," he snarled.
But quietly, of course. Quietly.