Gary Rissling was a smallish hockey player who could stir up a hurricane of fuss, usually in the form of fights that seemed to swell well beyond his modest physical stature. Whereever he played, a cloud of ice chips was sure to follow.
He played his junior hockey for the Edmonton Oil Kings and Calgary Centennials and Wranglers of the WCJHL from 1974 to 1977. He then turned pro with the Port Huron Flags of the IHL. With the Flags, Rissling scored 63 points and picked up 341 minutes in penalties in his only season with the club.
In 1978, he signed as a free agent with the Washington Capitals. Over the two seasons that followed, Rissling split his time between the Hershey Bears of the AHL and the Caps. In either locale, he played it the same, cutting a swath of penalty minutes across any and every rink.
In 1981, Rissling was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins. By then his scared face was said to resemble Gerry Cheevers' goaltendering mask, except that Rissling's scars were real. The Pens, however, didn't bring him on board for his looks but rather for his pugnacious behaviour to add some life to the Pens' dispirited lineup. The idea worked with mixed results as Rissling hung on for parts of five seasons in Pittsburgh. He usually spent part of each season in the AHL and was then brought up to the parent club to provide an annual infusion of frenetic bile.
But in spite of his spirited play, he tended to be somewhat of a defensive liability that lead to his final demotion to the minors in 1985. He finished out his pro career with the Baltimore Skipjacks of the AHL in 1987.