DALLAS — Brandon Mashinter felt something trickling down his lower leg, felt his left sock starting to get soggy, but figured it was just sweat. Cutting firewood in heavy snow pants is tough work, after all. But after a short while, Mashinter took a closer look. His sock wasn’t sweaty. It was bloody. Completely soaked in blood, in fact.
Might have had something to do with the chainsaw that had kicked back into his leg, carving out a deep gash that nearly caught muscle, and just missed his kneecap. The same chainsaw that he yanked back out of his leg, nearly catching his uncle in the face. Yeah, that one.
“I was in such shock that I didn’t really feel it,” Mashinter said. “I just kept working.”
Mashinter’s left knee is a constant reminder of that chainsaw incident back at his parents’ lake house in Muskoka, Ontario, in the summer of 2010 — a misshapen mess with a thick scar splicing two swollen lumps. “The doctor didn’t do a very good stitch job,” Mashinter shrugged.
He kept working for a while afterward, before finally deciding to go to the hospital. He simply told his mom — unaware of the incident — that he was going into town. She decided to tag along and get some shopping done. It wasn’t until she was stranded at Walmart for about 90 minutes and started frantically texting Mashinter that she realized something was wrong.
Oh, and when he finally left the hospital and picked up his mom, he went right back to work that afternoon, putting down a cement patio.
Now that’s a tough guy.
It’s an unlikely tale from the unlikeliest Blackhawk. Entering the 2015-16 season, Mashinter was named captain of the Rockford IceHogs — an honor, yes, but usually a sign that the team expects you to be around all year. On the preseason depth chart, even with Joel Quenneville’s old-school love for guys who can fight, there were probably a dozen guys who seemed more likely to get called up than Mashinter — big-time prospects such as Marko Dano, Ryan Hartman, Vinnie Hinostroza, Kyle Baun, Tanner Kero, and many others. Yet all of those guys came and went. Mashinter — a 27-year-old minor-league journeyman with all of 23 NHL games under his belt with the Sharks and Rangers — was recalled on Nov. 11, and he’s the one who stuck.
Nobody saw it coming, not even Mashinter.
“In the back of your head, it’s definitely what you want to do,” Mashinter said. “You want to be here all the time. It’s what I’ve been striving to work on throughout my whole career. It’s definitely humbling, and even though I’m still here, I still feel like I have to earn a spot. I don’t have anything locked down.”
Maybe not, but he’s carved out a nice niche for himself on the fourth line, playing six to nine minutes a night. He’s got three goals in in 34 games, and has shown a good nose for the net, crashing the crease with his 6-4, 220-pound frame. He’s been defensively responsible, and has fought only twice. Even with the Hawks adding three forwards at the trade deadline, Mashinter was in the lineup Wednesday in St. Louis. And Quenneville plans to keep him in the mix down the stretch, even if a playoff roster spot is unlikely once Hossa and Marcus Kruger return.
“He’s been fine,” Quenneville said. “No matter who’s in and out down the stretch here, we want to keep everybody involved.”
It’s not an easy role to play — in and out of the lineup, playing limited minutes, never sure of your job security. It takes toughness — both mental and physical — and that’s something Mashinter has plenty of. Just look at the guy’s knee.
“I know I haven’t been known for that offensive ability, more for physical aspect down in the [AHL], Mashinter said. “I know I can do that. I’ve proven it with the points I’ve gotten. But to be able to do it up here, I feel like it’s starting to come for me. And it’s definitely nice being here.”