As an undrafted 17-year-old list player, Tanner LeSann was a long shot to make the Swift Current Broncos out of training camp. LeSann himself admits he didn’t expect to stick with the Broncos this season.
“No not at all. I came up here just thinking I was just coming to a camp. I told all my buddies I would be gone for about three or four days. I barely packed any clothes,” said the Yorkton native.
But a closer look at his hockey bloodlines reveals that he may not be as unlikely a member of the Broncos as initially thought.
At 6'0'' 158-pounds, LeSann would seem an even unlikelier candidate to lead the team in fighting majors, but when you consider he is related to one of the franchise's most prolific pugilists, LeSann's 11 fighting majors this season suddenly make sense.
LeSann is a cousin of former Broncos enforcer Tony Mohagen, who played one season for the Broncos in 1997-98 when he compiled 299 penalty minutes, a total that stands third on the club's all-time list for penalty minutes behind Mitch Love (327) and Tiger Williams (310). Mohagen's heavy punches and brute strength - he played at 6’4'’ 220 lbs - enabled him to be drafted by the Anaheim Mighty Ducks before his professional career came to end early end due to concussions.
“Of course you always wanna follow in your cousin’s footsteps. I talk to him once in a while and he says fighting is not the most important thing, but if you have to do it go ahead and just try and protect yourself,” said LeSann.
“Mostly he has just said be safe and pick your spots and the right time to fight,” he added.
On the other side of LeSann’s family, he is a cousin to Aneroid’s Patrick Marleau, one of the most talented hockey players to ever come out of the Southwest.
Marleau racked up 229 points in 163 WHL games with the Seattle Thunderbirds before jumping straight to the NHL after being selected second overall in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. Marleau has since been one of the NHL's most consistent offensive performers and recently became the first NHL player in modern history to open a season with four consecutive multi-goal games.
“Of course growing up you are always watching your cousin and wanting to be like him. Pretty much he is living the dream that you want to do so you are trying to follow in his footsteps too,” said LeSann.
LeSann also had the benefit of plenty of time on the ice growing up.
“My dad ran the rink for about seven years. After school I would go to the rink for about three hours a day and weekends I was there all weekend.”
LeSann led the Yorkton Harvest with 25 assists and 42 points last season in 40 Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League games. LeSann attended the Brandon Wheat Kings training camp as a 15-year-old and skated in the Prince Albert Raiders camp last season.
He first made a name for himself in Swift Current during the annual Black & White game to conclude training camp when he seemingly came from nowhere to register a 'Gordie Howe Hat Trick' in the first period with a goal, assist, and a spirited fight with Sine Chadi during his three-point outing.
“I came here and scored a couple of goals and I made the intersquad game, that’s what I was hoping for when I came here. During intersquad I got a goal, two assists, and a fight. I think that really helped my chances out.”
He has been outweighed during all 11 of his fights this season, giving up an average of almost 40 pounds per fight.
He said there is no secret strategy to his tilts.
“Pretty much just go in there knowing I am going to get hit and try and hit him back just as hard.
“Someone has to take that role and I don’t mind doing it. Coach likes seeing it and there are lots of guys out there that fight. I just like to do it for the team and try and get the guys going,” continued LeSann.
Midway through his first WHL season, he now has a reputation as a willing combatant.
“It goes both ways. At the start it was mostly me because no one really knew who I was. Now that I got a couple fights under my belt some guys try and challenge me so it is good.”
LeSann’s hometown fans may not have been aware of his willingness to drop the mitts considering only three of his first nine fights came at home until he dropped the gloves twice at home this weekend, including a marathon against Moose Jaw’s Spencer Morse Saturday.
His breakout moment did come at home in his second WHL scrap when he went toe to toe with Seattle's Mitch Elliot on Nov. 2, 2012. LeSann gave up half a foot and 65 pounds to Elliot but dropped the towering veteran with a solid right hand that ended the fight.
“We were just battling behind the net and we each got a penalty. In the box we were chirping back and forth so we decided to go. As soon as we stepped out of the penalty box we went and it was a pretty good fight,” he explained.
LeSann, who has four goals and three assists in 45 games, has seen his role increase throughout the season as the team has battled injuries up front.
“I just tried showing the coaches that I can just go out there and play hard. There are lots of injuries right now and the coaches have said there are lots of opportunities for all the young guys and I am just trying to make the most of it.”
LeSann is most proud of his improved play in the defensive end during his rookie season.
“I started off on the wing and I have never really played wing before. So probably getting the puck out on the wall and just being aware defensively has been the biggest improvement.”