Saturday, December 08, 2001

SULLIVAN: 'Bitter little man' played mighty big


Jersey to be retired tonight

By Tim Sullivan
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Don Biggs was a pit bull on skates. He was irritable and inexhaustible on a hockey rink, the kind of player coaches prize and opponents despise. He was a gamer, a grinder, a royal Canadian pain in the posterior.

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        “He's a bitter little man,” Paul Lawless said Friday, laughing at his long-time linemate. “You'd look at him and think, "Who (messed with) his cornflakes?' But that was Don Biggs. He was like that every day.”

        Biggs holds most of the meaningful records for the Cincinnati Cyclones because he never knew when he could afford to coast. He played as if each game were an audition and every shift a spotlight. When the Cyclones retire his No.22 between periods of tonight's game against Dayton, they will be recognizing not only Biggs' achievements, but his attitude.

        “I'm not the biggest guy in the world,” Biggs said. “My dad told me, "You're going to have to do everything well and some things better than everybody else.' I found you can outwork people. There are a lot of lazy people in the world.”

        Cyclone record-holder

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Don Biggs
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        Biggs played 15 years of professional hockey, nearly all of it outside the big time. Except for 12 games in the NHL, the bulk of Biggs' career was spent in the bushes, where a player sometimes struggles for incentive.

        “They tell you you're going down for conditioning,” Biggs said. “And 15 years later you haven't been back.”

        Biggs scored 137 goals for the Cyclones between 1993 and 1998 and was credited with 275 assists — both franchise records. He also logged nearly 11 1/2 hours in the penalty box during that span, an unusual amount for a skilled scorer. Despite his modest stature — Biggs is listed at 5 feet 8, but Lawless claims tonight's commemorative bobblehead is life-size — he didn't back away from many brawls.

        They play hockey for keeps in Canada. Growing up in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga, even Biggs' neighborhood games were documented in extraordinary detail.

        “We were nine or 10 and one of the older guys wanted to keep stats,” Biggs said. “We thought it was the coolest thing.”

        If hockey ever ceased to be cool, Biggs never let on. He drifted from Springfield to Nova Scotia to Hershey to Rochester to Binghamton before landing in Cincinnati in 1993, fighting discouragement with a resolve to make a maximum effort every evening.

        He started wearing the No.22 in 1987, in Hershey, and became attached to it after his oldest daughter, Ashleigh, was born on Christmas Day.

        The next night, Biggs had two goals and four assists. A day later, he scored three goals with two assists. When he joined Rochester in 1990, Biggs paid Dave Basseggio $100 to switch jerseys so he might keep No.22.

        His No.22 retired

        Sitting on the home bench after Thursday's practice, Biggs turned his head toward the spot where his jersey will hang.

        “I don't know too many guys who appreciate the experience till it's over,” he said. “But when someone puts your name up in the rafters somewhere — whether it's high school, grade school, whatever — that's special.”

        Figuratively, if not literally, no one has played any bigger for the Cyclones than Don Biggs.

        Contact Tim Sullivan at 768-8456; e-mail:tsullivan@enquirer.com.

       

       



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