Shawn Thornton didn't have much choice in the matter.
He was a young player in a preseason camp when he was told he would be a forward, not a defenseman as he had been his entire career. Lined up against a more established tough man in a scrimmage, Thornton soon found himself dropping his gloves.
"It was a good fight," said Thornton. Like that, an enforcer was born.
"I kind of got thrown into that role," he told CSNNE's Carolyn Manno. "If I wanted to move on and not go back to my hometown and go to community college, it was 'Do what you have to do.' It's been like that ever since."
Fifteen years after his first camp, Thornton has established himself as the muscle for one of the NHL's best teams, the Boston Bruins. Still, after all the fights, his role doesn't come naturally.
"I drink a boat load of coffee and put my head in a different space," he said. "I have to put my head in a different space to be able to do it."
He also has to be in exceptional physical condition, which has taken more work as the rounds of his career draw on.
To keep up with the league's younger pugilists, he trains -- predictably -- at a boxing gym in downtown Boston. The workouts last for an hour and go at a breakneck pace: three-minute intervals, with one minute of rest in between.
"Boxing's one of the toughest workouts around," said Thornton's trainer, Tommy McInerny, who also works at Sports ClubL.A. in downtown Boston. "He gives me 140 percent every time."
"Our coach can put him on the ice for 10-12 minutes a game sometimes," said Bruins president Cam Neely, "which is unusual for some other players in that particular role."
In July, Thornton received a two-year contract extension to remain with the Bruins. He likes his team, and though he didn't choose it all those years ago, he likes his job.
"I feel good where I am," Thornton said.