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Harry Twist turned pro as an eighteen-year-old shortly after moving from England to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. He quit the sport altogether about five years later, after killing a man in the ring on two separate occasions.
"In those days, they didn't have the proper matting under the ring," says Stan Twist, Tony's father and Harry's son, who chose a career in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. "One guy, he hit the mat too hard, and another guy [fell] out of the ring and hit his head on a theatrical prop, for God's sake."
Tony Twist was born in Saskatoon and spent most of his childhood in Prince George, British Columbia. "It was simple living, I can tell you that," he says. "We had hockey night at someone's house every day of the week. All the dads would try to outdo themselves, of course. Tie the lights up, and the next thing you know one of them is shoveling a friggin' penalty box out of a snow bank. We'd have the national anthem before every game."
Twist says he fought regularly as a young student. "If you didn't fight when you were in Catholic school, you weren't doing well." He says he was no bully, however, but an athlete and a standout student. His father notes that his son one year won a junior hockey team scholastic achievement award.
"I say this about Twister a lot: He's the type of guy that's smart enough to run a bank, but lot of times I think he'd rather rob it," says Kelly Chase, Twist's former teammate both on the Blues and on their Saskatoon junior-league team.
Chase calls Twist a "rugged" and "hard-to-handle" young man, prone to missing curfews. One time, when Twist was eighteen, he waited in the garage of Jocelyn's ex-boyfriend, a man Twist believed was harassing her.
"The guy popped the garage door open, closed it, got out of his car, and then, 'Uh-oh,'" remembers Chase. "Two-hundred and twenty pounds of mountain standing there. [Twist] didn't beat him up. He just grabbed hold of him and scared the shit out of him, and that's where it ended."
The NHL allowed Twist to harness his aggression constructively. But almost immediately after his hockey career ended, he started whaling on civilians according to his accusers, anyway.
In December 1999 Soulard residents Christopher O'Neal and his girlfriend, Christina Beffa, each filed orders of protection against Twist. He "struck me in the face [and] threatened my life" during a Christmas day incident, claimed Beffa, according to court records. O'Neal said Twist "[p]hysically attacked me on four separate occasions in one night [....] He knows where I live and said he would find me and kill me."
"It was a very aggressive verbal altercation, but there were no punches, no anything," counters Twist. "Why would you threaten to kill someone? If you're going to kill somebody, you don't threaten them."
O'Neal and Beffa dropped the charges in January 2000.
In 2003 Imperial's Vincent Ventimiglia accused Twist of beating him up at the Havana Cigar Room in Arnold. According to court records, Ventimiglia fingered Twist for "knocking me down," "mauling me" and "pulling my shirt over my head and punching like he does in the hockey ring." After the city of Arnold threw out his criminal case, Ventimiglia sought $1.5 million from Arnold and Twist in a civil case, which was also dismissed.
Twist denies punching Ventimiglia in the face and says the incident occurred after Ventimiglia called April and her mother "cunts."
"If I would have beaten him like I did in hockey, he would have marks on his face and would have never gotten up."
In February former Twister's Bar and Grill manager Steven Blakeney also sought an order of protection against Twist, claiming Twist threatened to kill him after he quit the saloon in January. Twist refuses to discuss the incident. April says her husband never threatened Blakeney and, further, that Blakeney was fired for inappropriate contact with female waitresses.
None of the three people who filed orders of protection against Twist could be reached for comment for this story. Blakeney, however, denied April's allegations to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter. In March he dropped his order of protection request without explanation.
Twist laughs at the idea that an anger-management class might do him some good. "Just because you're accused of something," he says, "doesn't mean you did it. If there was any merit to any of it, I would have been punished."
"He's a big, intimidating guy, and I think when he growls a little bit, people get scared," speculates Kelly Chase. "Plus, he's not the type of guy to massage the situation. Maybe he doesn't always handle things in the right way, but a lot of times people overreact. Smart people don't go and get in his face for no reason, unless they're looking for trouble."
Exurban ChicWith its steel tread-plate walls, tables made out of giant Red Bull cans, and signed Goodfellas, Sopranosand Casino posters, Twister's Bar and Grill is designed very much in its namesake's image and tries, with mixed success, to appeal both to a beer-chugging college crowd and the fine-diners from distant St. Louis suburbs.