You have probably heard the old joke from Rodney Dangerfield “I went to a fight, and a hockey game broke out!”… Ah the hockey fight. Love it or hate it fighting is still part of the NHL hockey game. While fighting is still part of the NHL game, there has been a shift in how many fights we see in an NHL game over the past decade. In recent years, fighting has been working its way out of the game of hockey. A report form Forbes in June of 2022 suggested that fighting in the NHL is down 65% over the previous decade. To illustrate further, in the 2000-2001 NHL season there were 1,354 total fighting majors, in 2019-2020 there were 388. So we have seen a seismic shift in the physicality of the hockey fight in the NHL and other leagues.
As a lifelong hockey fan who has played the game, officiated the game and has children in minor hockey, I am ok with fighting going away. I have to admit though, when I was younger I, like many hockey fans, loved a good ‘dustup’ on the ice. In fact, my first autograph from a hockey player was from none other than Dave Semenko of the Edmonton Oilers. For those that may not know, Semenko was referred to as the “bodyguard” of Wayne Gretzky when he played for the Oilers in the eighties. He was a fan-favourite in Edmonton, an although I was seeking an autograph from Wayne Gretzky on that day, getting a signed pic from Dave Semenko was still a highlight of mine.
It’s certainly a great debate as to whether fighting belongs in the game of hockey. In the past, fighting was just “a part of the game”, but is it really necessary in today’s game? We are seeing so much creativity and speed in the game today. Old school hockey folks will continue to suggest that fighting belongs in the game, but really the game is so good that old school altercations simply do not occur anymore. When is the last time you witnessed a line brawl ore even more rare a bench clearing brawl. You can still play physical and set the tone physically if and when needed without a scrap.
There are many reasons why fisticuffs occur in hockey:
- Hockey is a contact support (at many levels) so we get it, tempers rise, and fisticuffs can follow.
- Fighting can be used as an intimidation factor (see the 1970’s Philadelphia Flyers or Boston Bruins)
- Fighting has been used to police players and reduce “cheap shots” from happening on the ice
- Fighting has been staged and used to get the crowd into the game
- Reactionary: Fighting has been used to “get back” at an opponent when a player or team feels that they have over-stepped their boundaries or gone against the “hockey-code”. At one time there was so much stick work in the Quebec league that fighting was almost necessary to eliminate a lot of the cheap stuff that was going on out on the ice.
- Hockey fights have been used to crack a lineup and earn roster spots.
At times in history, hockey fights were necessary to set the tone, change momentum or issue payback in a certain situation. However, if you ask any hockey tough guy most say that they always hated fighting in the game. The stress of it, the always having to look over your shoulder, the threat of incurring serious physical harm. Especially in the modern era where, players earn great money but if you are a marginal player, suffering a serious injury as a result of a fight could end your time in the show. The average NHL career is not that long at what four years or less? Do you want your earning potentially to be compromised by threat of an injury (see Brantt Myhres) or suspension (see: Marty McSorley)?
The topic of fighting in hockey has actually become a bit taboo. Old school hockey fans love a good donnybrook. Up-and-coming players are focusing on the skill and creativity as opposed to the sheer brutality and intimidation factors of the game. There was a time when fighting was a necessary and at times a momentum shifter in a game, I’m not so sure if it is in this day and age.
Ever notice the crowd reaction at a hockey game when a fight breaks out? I’m not going to debate the reaction of hockey fans, but a good old tilt still tends to bring fans out of their seats. Society is in a strange place. Recently there seems to be a disturbingly increasing trends of fights breaking out in the stands, not only at hockey games but at many sporting or music events. Technology and the Internet means that we are on 24/7 so it’s difficult not to be exposed to a fight one the ice at a game or even in the stands.
The NHL is still the only major North American sports league to not automatically eject players for fighting during games. Does fighting still belong in the game? It’s a debate that will no doubt continue until the ultimate decision to ban fighting in hockey becomes reality. That time may come sooner than we think.
It is the above caveat that we present the top 100 NHL pugilists of all-time.
Top 100 NHL Fighters of All-Time
We should preface this list that a more appropriate title for this post might be ‘Top 100 NHL Enforcers of All-Time’ as a number of the players on our list were not just fighters but could play the game and contribute on the scoresheet as well.
Our list was not based on who had the most NHL fights (although volume of fights and toughness of opponents were a factor). The National Hockey League has seen its fair share of tough guys over the years so this list could easily be the Top 500 tough guys of all time, but we tried to focus on the past 50 years of NHL players. Of course, there are some exceptions but you won’t see players such as Toe Blake, Red Horner, or Black Jack Stewart on our list. Focus for the most part was on players form the past 50-60 years.
100. Dennis Bonvie – while he only played 92 games in the NHL, Bonvie put up 311 penalty minutes. This guy fought his way to the NHL. While playing with the Hamilton Bulldogs (farm team of the Edmonton Oilers at the time) in 1996-97, Bonvie put up 522 penalty minutes in 73 games. Yes, you read that right.
99. Torrie Robertson – had 24 fights as a member of the Hartford Whalers vs. the Boston Bruins alone. Finished second in the league in penalty minutes in 1985-86 with 358 PIMs (behind Joey Kocur’s 377).
98. Jim Kyte – 1,342 penalty minutes in 598 regular season games. Jim Kyte put up 100+ PIM seasons with the Winnipeg Jets, Pittsburgh Penguins, Calgary Flames, and San Jose Sharks.
97. Shawn Thornton – Thornton did most of his damage as a member of the Boston Bruins where from the 2008-08 season until 2011-12 season he posted penalty minutes totals of 100+ PIMs each year. over 100 tilts as a member of the Boston Bruins with some classic battles with Eric Boulton, Colton Orr and Jody Shelley.
96. Matt Johnson – Over 1,500 PIMs over ten seasons in the NHL. Johnson would throw down with anybody.
95. George Parros – big, strong and educated. Parros was a solid fighter in his time, however ended up retiring due to concussion issues.
94. Cam Janssen – a decent scrapper with the New Jersey Devils and St. Louis Blues, Janssen only played in 386 NHL games but put up nearly 800 minutes in penalties.
93. Al May – still leads the Washington Capitals in all-time number of fights with 91.
92. Lou Fontinato – Fontinato was a tough, rugged defender and the most feared enforcer of his time. He’s still one of the all-time PIM leaders for the Rangers with 940. Fontinato was the first player in league history to record over 200 minutes in penalties in a season. His most famous fight might very well be the one he lost to Gordie Howe.
91. Garth Butcher – wasn’t necessarily the greatest fighter but he sure got into a lot of them. Had 94 scraps in his career as a member of the Vancouver Canucks.
90. Milan Lucic – never scared to drop the gloves, Lucic has already amassed nearly 1,300 penalty minutes in his career.
89. Ronnie Stern – added 39 fights as a member of the Vancouver Canucks.
88. Rudy Poeschek – all-time leader in fights for the Tampa Bay Lightning with 44.
87. Jay Miller – hailing from Wellesley, Ma, Miller had 87 fights as a member of the Boston Bruins and 74 as a Los Angeles Kings. He fought Gord Donnelly 13 times, Dave Brown nine times and Montreal’s John Kordic and Chris Nilan six times each. More on Jay Miller.
86. Garry Howatt – with 173 career fights, including 29 in 1973-74, Howatt was one of the NHL’s most active fighters in the seventies and early eighties. He threw down with other 70’s scrappers including Dave Schultz (five times), Tiger Williams (four times), Paul Holmgren (four times) and Terry O’Reilly (three times). More on Garry Howatt.
85. Louie DeBrusk – Throughout the nineties, DeBrusk had over 100 tilts in the NHL, including scraps vs. Marty McSorley, Gino Odjick, Jeff Odgers, and Randy McKay. Here’s Lou exchanging greetings with Stu Grimson:
84. Shayne Corson – Shayne Corson was tough. He had 14 seasons in the NHL with well over 100 PIMs. He finished with 2,357 in his NHL career. Corson had over 130 scraps during his time in the NHL. Here’s a clip of Corson going with Cam Neely:
83. Dan Carcillo – 324 penalty minutes in 57 games with the Phoenix Coyotes in 2007-08 says it all doesn’t it?
82. Warren Rychel – Over 1,400 PIMs in just 406 NHL games. Rychel had back-to-back 300+ penalty minutes seasons with the Los Angeles Kings in 1992-93 and 1993-94.
81. Forbes Kennedy – in his second last NHL season in 1968-69, Kennedy put up 195 PIMs in 59 games with the Philadelphia Flyers. He finished up with 888 PIMs in just over 600 NHL regular season games. He also fought in playoffs and still holds the record for most penalty minutes in one playoff game with 38. Ouch.
80. Gord Donnelly – Gord Donnelly was one tough customer. Here is a classic from the Battle of Quebec when Donnelly was a member of the Nordiques vs. John Kordic from the Canadiens.
79. Shane Churla – Churla put up 2,300 PIMs in 488 NHL regular season games. Over 140 NHL fights.
78. Chris Simon – Chris Simon put up over 1,800 penalty minutes in the NHL and then went over to the KHL and put up another nearly 600 in six seasons in Russia. Simon fought notable opponents including Tie Domi, Dennis Vial and Darcy Hordichuk.
77. Lyndon Byers – The name “Lydon Byers” just sounds tough doesn’t it? In only 279 NHL games, Byers put up 1,081 penalty minutes and had 86 NHL fights. Tough kid out of Nipiwan, SK.
76. Sandy McCarthy – 66 fights as a member of the Calgary Flames.
75. Eric Boulton – Boulton had over 140 fights over his NHL career as a member of the Atlanta Thrashers, Buffalo Sabres, New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils.
74. Erik Cairns – a solid fighter during the early 2,000s with the New York Islanders.
73. Randy McKay -Over 1,700 career penalty minutes, McKay was one of the toughest New Jersey Devils on a team loaded with toughness in the 1990’s. McKay fought a who’s who of NHL tough guys in the 90’s including: Mike Peluso, Cam Janssen, Craig Berube, Time Domi and Mick Vukota. All of whom McKay fought at least four times each during his career. Here’s a clip of McKay going with Wendel Clark:
72. Randy Holt – led the NHL in Penalty minutes in 1982-83 with 275. Had over 1,400 PIMs in just 395 regular season NHL games.
71. Dennis Polonich – listed at 5’6” and 165 pounds, Polonich had 85 fights as a member of the Detroit Red Wings including three against Lanny McDonald and two against Darryl Sittler.
70. Andre “Moose” Dupont – one of the original Broad Street Bullies. Dupont fought 54 times as a member of the Flyers.
69. Glen Cochrane -1,556 PIMs in 411 games. Sheesh.
68. Bob Nystrom – 1,248 Penalties in Minutes (PIMs) over 900 career regular season games. One of those tough New York Islanders from the 70’s and 80’s.
67. Peter Worrell – coming in at 6’6” and 230 pounds Worrell patrolled the ice for the Florida Panthers in the late nineties and early 2000’s. He had 33 tilts during the 2001-02 season.
66. Darren Langdon – In 1996=97 Langdon had 23 scraps that season which included tilts against Chris Simon, Stu Grimson, Tony Twist, Randy McKay, Bob Probert, Dan Kordic, Tie Domi, and Gino Odjick just to name a few.
65. Todd Fedoruk – with a nickname like “The Fridge” you know that you’ve got a player with some size to them. Fedoruk battled other NHL heavyweights such as Rob Ray, Eric Godard, and Wade Belak just to name a few.
64. Ryan Reeves – 56 fights as a member of the St. Louis Blues. Here’s a clip of Ryan Reeves mixing it up with Evander Kane:
63. Krysztof Oliwa – 6’5”. 245 pounds, Oliwa had his fair share of NHL fights. Here he pops Jody Shelley and the scrap is over quickly.
62. Mike Peluso – 62 tilts as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks. Peluso fought all of the NHL’s heavyweights at the time.
61. Joel Otto – as a member of the Calgary Flames, Otto had classic battles with Edmonton Oilers rivals including Mark Messier, Marty McSorley, Kelly Buchberger and Shayne Corson. In 1985-86 Otto participated in no less than 16 NHL fights.
60. Jarome Iginla – Iggy could play the game but he could also scrap including a great tilt with Vincent Lecavalier of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals. 1,300 points and 1,040 PIMs in 1,554 NHL regular season games.
59. Jody Shelley – a tough scrapper of the early 2000’s, Shelley put up over 1,500 PIMs in 627 games.
58. Colton Orr – Orr was Toronto’s main enforcer for five or six years from 2009-2015. He put up 1,186 PIMs in only 477 games. He had a number of good tilts with Brian McGratton:
57. Dale Hunter – Dale Hunter was a pretty skilled player with the puck and earned 1,020 points during his career. However Hunter was also known as a super-pest and at times dirty player who also finished with 3,565 penalty minutes.
56. Mick Vukota – another one of those tough Saskatchewan boys. Vukota fought 182 times in his NHL career, 160 of those with the New York Islanders including 31 tilts om 1991-92.
55. Ken Baumgartner – the ‘Bomber’ threw town with the league’s heavyweights from 1987 through to 1999. He fought Tie Domi on six occasion, Stu Grimson five times and Todd Ewen five times. A number of them classic NHL scraps.
54. Lyle Odelein – with nearly 150 NHL fights (85 of them with Montreal), Lyle Odelein was another strong Saskatchewan farm boy who protected his teammates on a regular basis. His opponents over the years included Matthew Barnaby) on seven occasions), Mike Peluso, Craig Berube and Bob Probert.
53. Brian McGratton – here’s a clip of McGratton and Oilers’ Steve McIntyre going at it in another installment of the Battle of Alberta.
52. Keith Magnuson – according to hockeyfights.com, Magnuson had 66 fights while a member of the Chicago Blackhawks. Talk to old school hockey fans and they will say that Keith Magnuson was one of the toughest players of his era.
51. Jay Caufield – if you fight Dave Brown nine times you deserve to be on this list. Caufield had 285 PIMs in 58 games in 1988-89.
50. Paul Laus – all 169 of his NHL fights were as a member of the Florida Panthers including 39 during the 1996-97 season. Laus fought Rob Ray on nine occasions.
49. Kelly Chase – had 123 fights as a member of the St. Louis Blues (second all-time for the Blues)
48. Todd Ewen – Hailing out of Saskatoon, SK, Todd Ewen amassed a staggering 1,911 PIMs in 518 games. He had 146 career fights and went toe to toe with Bob Probert on six occasions.
47. Wade Belak – tough, tough player (God Rest his soul). Don’t take our word for it, check out this clip where Belak drops Donald Brasher with a stunner.
46. Chris Neil – Neil played all of his 1,031 NHL games with the Ottawa Senators putting up 2,522 penalty minutes with 176 scraps.
45. Stan Johnathan – another one of those Big Bad Boston Bruins
44. Brian Sutter – had 157 scraps as a member of the St. Louis Blues, a Blues record that still stands today.
43. Brendan Shanahan – I bet you didn’t know that Brendan Shanahan had nearly 2,500 penalty minutes along with over 1,300 points in his NHL career. He had 17 seasons with 100+ PIMs. A good Irish lad who was a very good fighter in the NHL. According to hockeyfights.com, Shanahan had over 90 fights in his NHL career.
42. Nick Fotiu – still a fan favourite of Rangers fans.
41. Mark Messier – The “Moose” was as tough as they come. Probably should be higher on the list, but he didn’t fight that often… he didn’t have to. 1,887 points and 1,910 penalty minutes in 1,756 regular season games puts Messier amongst the league’s elite in all categories.
40. Basil McRae – on three different occasion McRae posted penalty minutes totals of more than 350 PIMs in a single season.
39. Scott Stevens – the man that ended the careers of Eric Lindros and Paul Kariya. Nearly 2,800 penalty minutes in the NHL and 908 points in 1,635 NHL games. Stevens hit hard and was not always clean. When called upon he would not hesitate to drop the gloves (contrary to what Tie Domi says).
38. Donald Brashear – not a personal favourite of this author, but regardless Brashear was big, tough and could fight.
37. Kevin McClelland – McClelland had nearly 2,000 PIMs in 588 NHL regular season games and 98 playoff games most of those with the Edmonton Oilers. McClelland could fight. His 281 PIMs for the Oilers in the 1987-88 season are second highest in Oilers history behind only Steve Smith’s 286 during the same season. In fact, McClelland holds three of the top five single-season penalty minutes totals in Oilers history. 91 fights as an Edmonton Oiler. Check out this Kevin McClelland Chris Nilan tilt as the Oilers and Canadiens engage in a bit of a line brawl from 1985:
36. Paul Holmgren – nearly 1,700 penalty minutes in only 527 NHL games says it all. He had 306 PIMs in 77 games with the Flyers in 1980-81. Another tough Philadelphia Flyer and later coach.
35. Ken Daneyko – man the Devils had some tough players in the late eighties/early nineties didn’t they? Daneyko played his entire NHL career with the New Jersey Devils where he amassed over 2,500 penalty minutes. Those in the know suggest that Daneyko actually enjoyed beating up people.
34. Bob “Hound” Kelly – another Broad Street Bully on the list. With 1,453 penalty minutes in 837 games, Kelly wasn’t even the main fighter of the Broad Street Bullies as that distinction belonged to Dave “The Hammer” Schultz.
33. Cam Neely – why oh why did the Canucks ever trade Cam Neely? As a member of the Bruins, Nelly did nothing but scire and keep opponents honest. As the story goes, if you are in Boston and you ask anyone who they’d want on their side of a brawl, they would say Cam Neely.
32. Al Secord – 2,093 PIMs in 766 NHL games including 303 penalty minutes in the 1981-82 season. A year later Secord had a 54-goal season and 180 PIMs during his third season with the Chicago Blackhawks. His 92 fights as a member of the Blackhawks are second only to Bob Probert’s 96.
31. Craig Berube – during his NHL career Berube fought (and beat) notable scrappers including Bob Probert and Tie Domi. Hailing out of Calahoo, Alberta Berube had over nearly 250 scraps in the NHL. He was as good a fighter as many have ever seen. Case in point check this tilt out vs. Eric Cairns:
30. Derek Boogaard – 240 penalty minutes in 33 games with the Louisiana Ice Gators of the ECHL in 2002-03. Derek Boogaard was one of the NHL’s toughest fighters of the mid-2000’s. The ‘Boogeyman” was pretty scary at 6’7” and 270 lbs. More on Derek Boogaard.
29. Dan Kordic – while he only played 97 regular season games, all with the Philadelphia Flyers, Kordic put up nearly 600 PIMs and fought everyone from Donald Brashear to Stu Grimson, Paul Laus and Eric Cairns.
28. Tim Hunter – from 1986-87 through 1988-89 Hunter had three straight seasons with north of 300 PIMs. Hunter was an active participant in the Battle of Alberta. 3,146 total penalty minutes in 815 games.
27. Dave Semenko – the original policeman? Semenko was a huge man and when he wanted to take you out for a “canoe ride” you knew that you were in for it. Semenko played for the Oilers, Hartford Whalers and Toronto Maple Leafs. His scraps with Tim Hunter are legendary. Dave Semenko vs. Bob Probert anyone?
We remember Dave Semenko as an Edmonton Oiler so we would be remiss if we didn’t share this clip vs. Joel Otto of the Flames:
26. Gino Odjick – I can still hear Canucks fans chanting “Gino”, “Gino”. Just ask Pavel Bure how important Odjick was to the Canucks. In 70 games in 1996-97, Odjick put up 371 penalty minutes). Here’s a clip of Gino going with Ken Baumgartner:
25. Dave “Charlie” Manson – Dave Manson might be as tough as NHL player as there ever was. He could fight. In 1988-89 Manson put up 352 penalty minutes and 54 points. Pretty decent numbers especially considering that he played defense.
24. Rick Tocchet – With nearly 3,000 penalty minutes and almost 1,000 points, Rick Tocchet is one of the original power forwards of the game. Here’s a clip of Rick Tocchet and Brendan Shanahan settling their differences:
23. Darren McCarty – McCarty was a player who just seemed was a natural at the fisticuffs. With nearly 1,500 PIMs in only 758 games, McCarty was Detroit’s enforcer when they were winning their Cups in the late nineties and early 2,000s. The Avs / Red Wings battles during this time were legendary.
22. Marty McSorley – another one of Gretzky’s bodyguards, McSorley threw down with the best of them. He was such a part of Gretzky’s game in the late 80’s that Wayne requested that McSorley be thrown in with his trade to Los Angeles in 1988. 3,381 penalty minutes in 961 NHL games. As good of enforcer as there ever was in the game. Marty McSorley stats. Here is a good tilt between Marty McSorley and Dave Brown.
21. Willi Plett – Willi Plett was one of the toughest players (and fighters) to play in the NHL in the seventies and the eighties. He broke into the NHL with the Atlanta Flames and had a 38 goal season with the Calgary Flames in 1981-82, a season where he also had 288 penalty minutes.
20. Stu “The Grim Reaper” Grimson – in his second last NHL season with the Los Angeles Kings Grimson had his highest penalty minute total with 235. The Grim Reaper was another player who fought anyone and everyone.
19. Bobby Clarke – the Broad Street Bullies were a tough team. Flyers captain Bobby Clarke had great skill, intimidation and could fight when called upon.
18. Behn Wilson – players hated to play against Wilson. This man personified tough. Check this clip out of Behn Wilson battling Oilers tough guy Dave Semenko in a 1985 playoff tilt:
17. Clark Gillies – hailing out of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Gillies was one of the toughest players to ever play the game. In 1973-74 while in his last year in junior with the Regina Pats, Gillies put up 112 points and 179 penalty minutes. Nearly 700 points and over 1,000 penalty minutes over 14 seasons (12 with the Islanders and two with the Sabres). In 1975, Gillies destroyed Dave Schultz in a tilt to earn the distinction as the NHL’s top fighter.
16. Larry Robinson – Robinson was arguably one of the toughest players to ever have played in the NHL. There is a reason why fighters and hard-nosed players like David Schultz and Mark Messier didn’t want anything to do with Robinson. The ‘Big Bird’ was known to keep opponents in line when he needed to. Watch this clip of the Flyers vs. Canadiens from 1974 at about the 1:30 mark Larry Robinson starts giving it to Dave Schultz.
15. Gordie Howe – no one else has a hat trick named after them. A Gordie Howe hat trick is when a player scores a goal, adds an assist and gets into a fight all in the same game. Mr. Hockey was a lovely man off of the ice, and is arguably the game’s greatest all-around player the game has ever seen. On the ice, he made his own space and even threw an elbow and slash on his friend Wayne Gretzky.
14. Eddie Shore – according to reports, one of the meanest men on the planet. Shore played with the Boston Bruins in the 1920’s and 1930’s and amassed 1,037 penalty minutes in a mere 553 NHL games. He was mean, at times dirty and just a tough SOB.
13. Tony Twist – another tough guy from Saskatchewan, Twist threw fought some of the biggest fighters in NHL history. Had 64 fights as a member of the St. Louis Blues. Here’s is a classic vs. Georges Laraque:
12. Rob Ray – 241 NHL fights. Rob Ray fought Tie Domi thirteen times. In 1995-96 Ray had 27 fights in the regular season. Here’s one of the many scraps Rob Ray had with Paul Laus:
11. Wendel Clark – hailing from Kelvington, Saskatchewan, Wendel Clark could do it all. Score, fight you name it. His fights were epic. His tilts with Marty McSorley are classics. Nearly 2,000 career penalty minutes in the NHL including 271 in his second year in the league with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Clark also scored 367 NHL goals.
Top 10 NHL Fighters/Enforcers of All-Time
Here is a look at whom the Hockey Fanatic lists as the top ten NHL fighters of all-time.
#10. Joe Kocur – Kocur had 217 NHL fights. He had 377 penalty minutes in 59 games in his rookie season. His 165 fights as a member of the Detroit Red Wings are still a team record. Kocur threw every ounce he had into his punches. Arguably the most devastating puncher to ever lace ‘em up. One half of the “Bruise Brothers” that suited up for the Red Wings. The other member? Bob Probert of course. In 1986-87 Kocur squared off 30 times including multiple times vs. Glen Cochrane, Shayne Corson, and Gary Nylund. Here’s a battle between Kocur and Buffalo’s Rob Ray:
#9. Tie Domi – finished up with over 330 fights in this career. His legendary battles with Bob Probert are epic. Probably was the NHL fighting champion for a short time. He even attempted to ‘detain” a fan who fell in the penalty box during a game vs. the Flyers. In addition to fighting Rob Ray thirteen time, Domi also fought Bob Probert nine times, Donald Brashear seven times and Sandy McCarthy seven times. In six different NHL season, Domi had 20+ fights. Teams don’t even have that many in a single season these days. Here’s the one that started it all. Tie Domi vs. Bob Probert. This has been rated as one of the best NHL fights of all time.
#8. Chris “Knuckles” Nilan – with over 3,000 penalty minutes, Nilan averaged more penalty minutes per game than any other player in NHL history and also holds the record for most penalty minutes in a single game (42). When they nickname you “knuckles” you know that you are pretty tough. Check out this action as Nilan mixes it up with Jay Miller of the Boston Bruins:
#7. John Ferguson – my dad always said that John Ferguson was the toughest hockey player he ever saw. 1,214 penalty minutes in 500 games with the Montreal Canadiens. Known as the NHL’s first enforcer, Legends of Hockey quotes Ferguson, saying he wanted to be “the meanest, rottenest, most miserable cuss ever to play in the NHL.”
#6. Terry O’Reilly – squaring off against notable tough guys Dave Schultz and Tiger Williams in the seventies, O’Reilly was one of the toughest Boston Bruins ever to lace them up. All 150 of his hockey fights were as a member of the Boston Bruins. His favourite opponent in addition to Schultz and Williams was Torrie Robertson. Here is a classic as O’Reilly tangles with Dave ‘The Hammer’ Schultz:
Here is another as O’Reilly gets the best of Tiger Williams:
#5. Dave “Tiger” Williams – the career penalty minute leader in the NHL with 3,971. This record may never be broken. Tiger Williams had six seasons with more than 300 PIMs and another three where he had 294, 298 and 299 penalty minutes. Williams finished his career with 246 total fights and had a great rivalry with the Bruins Terry O’Reilly over five fights. Speaking of which:
#4. Dave Brown – Dave Brown was one of those guys who punched to hurt. He had legendary tilts in the battle of Alberta and in particular with Stu Grimson. Did Dave Brown ever lose a fight? His 113 fights as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers are the most by a Flyer ever. Here’s a clip of Dave Brown, then with the Oilers going toe to toe with Bob Probert.
#3. Georges Laraque – Laraque may arguably be one of the toughest players and hardest punchers to ever play in the National Hockey League. Big, strong and could chip in some goals too. Laraque ended the careers of a few NHL fighters including Stu Grimson. Rob Ray was a pretty decent scrapper right? Well he never faired well vs. Georges Laraque:
#2. Dave “The Hammer” Schultz – billed out of Waldeim, Saskatchewan, Dave Schultz racked up 2,292 PIMs in 535 NHL games. In 1974-75, Schultz put up 472 penalty minutes in 766 games. In 1977-78 he put up 405 PIMs. Only four times has an NHL player put up more than 400 minutes in penalties in a single season. Schultz did it twice. Here is a classic Dave “The Hammer” Schultz vs. Keith Magnuson tilt from the 70’s:
#1. Bob Probert – Hailing from Windsor, Ontario, Probert fought anybody and everybody. He could also play the game. In 1987-88 with the Detroit Red Wings, Probert scored 29 goals and added 33 apples for 62 points while putting up 398 penalty minutes. He had 136 fights as a member of the Detroit Red Wings and another 96 as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks which is still a team record for the Chicago Blackhawks. Probert’s opponents he fought the most? He fought Stu “The Grim Reaper” Grimson on 13 occasions, Tie Domi nine times and Donald Brashear 8 times. He also had his fair share of tilts with Jeff Odgers, Todd Ewen, Craig Berube and Tony Twist. Here is one of the many Probert vs. Domi tilts from the early 90’s:
A pretty interesting list hey? Of course, if you are a hockey fan who likes the physical altercations you are most likely familiar with https://www.hockeyfights.com/. However, for those curious about the state of fighting in the game, below you will find some interesting reads on the state of fighting in the game of hockey.