Growing up in small-town Saskatchewan, Dennis Polonich was a rough, tough kid who fought frequently with his brothers and other kids in the neighbourhood. And yet, on the ice, as an all-star midget player, he won an award as a "most gentlemanly player."
But as he moved into the junior ranks, Polonich had difficulty scoring goals against players whose size differential was rapidly expanding beyond his 5' 6" frame. To impress the pro scouts he redefined himself as a troublemaker for the opposition -- a sort of firey little spark plug.
His plan was confirmed successful when the Detroit Red Wings selected him 118th overall in the 1973 Amateur Draft. As an experiment, the club's management farmed him out to England to play for the London Lions for one season. He then joined the Virginia Wings for some minor-league seasoning in 1974-75. Polonich threw leather at everything that moved. He fought, hit and cajoled his enemies at every turn. His strategy was again timely. The Wings were in a mood to get tough and Polonich became their modus operendi.
Over the next five and a half seasons, he became the Wings' fevered little madman. Being very outgoing, he constantly talked to the opposition, trying to distract them from their game. He also prided himself in his willingness to fight anyone, no matter how big the opponent. He figured that if he won the fight, he'd accomplished what he wanted and, if he lost, then the outcome kept him from getting overconfident.
In 1978, Polonich was at his irritating best when he got way under the skin of Colorado Rockies' Wilf Paiement. Paiement smashed him across the face with a stick. The incident provoked a lawsuit that brought Polonich what was then an astronomical settlement of $850,000 in 1982. At about that time, The Dennis Polonich Show had fallen off in the Red Wings' ratings. As such, he was demoted to Adirondack of the AHL where he played most of the five seasons that followed.
He then jumped to the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the IHL where he ended his career after two campaigns in 1987.