Toughness has always been an essential part of NHL hockey. As the legendary Conn Smythe once said, "If you can't beat 'em in the ally, you can't beat 'em on the ice."
But there is more to toughness than just fighting and stick work. Sometimes, toughness involves hard, clean body checks or overcoming obstacles that would put most other players out of commission.
With that in mind, here is our list of the 100 toughest players in NHL history.
Any list like this is bound to cause controversy and differing opinions, but that's OK. Let the debate begin.
Bert Wilson came up to the NHL in 1974 with the New York Rangers. He never scored more than nine goals or 23 points in a season, but Wilson was all heart, throwing the body and never afraid to drop the gloves to protect a teammate.
He later played with the Blues, Kings and Flames. Despite weighing only 180 pounds, Wilson never backed down from anybody. He topped out with a career-high nine goals and 139 penalty minutes in 1978-79.
Wilson died of cancer in 1992 at the age of 42.
In three full seasons in the NHL, Zenon Konopka has certainly left his mark both in the penalty minute leaders list and on opposing players he has checked or punched.
Twice Konopka has led the league in penalty minutes. In his other year in the NHL, he finished third.
There is more to Konopka's game besides dropping the gloves. He is one of the NHL's best faceoff men, is responsible defensively and provides leadership in the locker room as well.
It's still early in Konopka's career, but he is fast establishing himself as a tough guy and could climb higher on this list before his playing days are over.
Brian Spencer was a non-stop ball of energy when he played for the Maple Leafs, Islanders, Sabres and Penguins in the '70s.
Spencer was never a big goal scorer, but he threw his body at anything that moved in an opposing jersey and was an aggressive forechecker. His energy and choppy skating style earned him the nickname "Spinner."
Spencer's effort made him a fan favorite wherever he played. He was one of the most popular players on the expansion Islanders, and Sabres fans adopted him as one of their favorites at the old Aud.
After hockey, Spencer's life spun out of control and he got involved in drugs. He was shot in a crack deal gone bad in 1988. A book and Canadian made-for-TV movie were made about his life.
Yvon Labre was one of the best players on the worst team in NHL history: the expansion Washington Capitals.
The Caps won only eight of 80 games in 1974-75, but Labre was a reliable defenseman and all-around tough guy who always gave 100 percent, even when he knew he was all but certain to lose nearly every time he took to the ice.
Labre topped the 100-penalty minute mark in a season four times during his career. He also served as captain of the Capitals and had the honor of scoring the first home goal in franchise history.
Labre remained involved with the Caps organization after he retired and had the honor of being the first Capitals player to have his number retired.
Owen Nolan played for seven different NHL teams after breaking in with the Quebec Nordiques in 1990-91.
Ten times during his NHL career Nolan topped the 100-penalty minute mark. He was also unafraid to mix it up in the corners or to drop the gloves.
Nolan also became a quality NHL goal scorer, topping the 30-goal mark six times. He later served as captain of the San Jose Sharks and was named to the All-Star Game on five occasions.
Whether it was taking a hit to make a play or battling for position in front of the opposition's net, Nolan was never afraid to engage in the physical side of hockey.
Winger Kris King was never a big goal scorer, but he was a tough customer in the corners and was never afraid to stick up for his teammates.
He finished his NHL career with 2,030 penalty minutes in 849 games, topping the 100-penalty minute mark 10 times and the 200-penalty minute mark on four occasions.
King was so respected in the locker room that the Winnipeg Jets named him captain in 1995-96. He also won the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and who has made a significant humanitarian contribution to his community.
King now works for the NHL front office.
In the 1990s, there weren't too many NHL players tougher than Ronnie Stern.
Stern was a middleweight in size, standing six feet tall and weighing 195 pounds, but he never backed down from the biggest fighters in the league.
He currently ranks 46th on the NHL's all-time penalty minute list with 2,077. In 1992-93, Stern scored a career high in both goals (13) and penalty minutes (338) while playing for Calgary.
After missing one season due to knee surgery, he finished his career with two tough and productive seasons for San Jose.
Eddie Shack was one of the most popular players in hockey despite the fact that he was never a huge goal scorer. He always played a hard-hitting style and often showed complete disregard for his own body.
His fiery style of play earned him the nickname "The Entertainer" and a popular novelty song entitled "Clear the Track, Here Comes Shack" reached No. 1 on the Canadian pop charts.
Shack was an important part of the checking line of four Stanley Cup-winning teams and even scored the Cup-winning goal in 1963, which he claimed went into the net off his rear end while he was just trying to get out of the way.
Shack retired in 1975 when his body could no longer take the pounding his reckless style of play required. After hockey, Shack devoted himself to campaigns to promote literacy campaigns in Canada.
Ed Hospodar was an intimidating force for the Rangers, Whalers, Flyers, North Stars and Sabres throughout the 1980s.
He earned his nickname "Boxcar" while playing in junior hockey because observers said his checks hit with the force of a boxcar.
Hospodar was involved in some very famous fights in his career, including one in 1981 in which Clark Gillies of the Islanders broke Hospodar's face. In 1987, the Flyers tough guy helped instigate a pregame brawl between his team and the Montreal Canadiens.
He finished his career with 1,314 penalty minutes in just 450 NHL games.
Bob Kelly is the first of the original "Broad Street Bullies" to make our list.
He was a tough grinder who earned the nickname "Hound Dog" for his tenacious style of play. Kelly made some of his best plays in the corners and never hesitated to throw his weight around to either win possession of the puck or intimidate opponents.
Kelly scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal for the Flyers in 1975, beating Sabres goalie Roger Crozier on a wraparound early in the third period.
He topped the 100 penalty minute mark eight times in his NHL career and finished with 1,454 minutes in the penalty box in 837 games.
Chris Neil has spent his entire NHL career with the Ottawa Senators, and fans in Ottawa fully appreciate what he brings to the table with his toughness and determination.
In addition to sticking up for his teammates, Neil is capable of pitching in offensively. He has reached double digits in goals five times in his 10-year NHL career and many of his goals are clutch. He also sees occasional power-play time and usually stands in front of the opposing goalie looking for tips and screens.
Neil often drops the gloves, but he is also a capable body-checker. He led the NHL in hits in 2006-07 and was a leader on the Ottawa team that reached the Stanley Cup final that season.
The Flesherton, Ontario native is presently 62nd all time on the NHL's career penalty minute leaders with 1,861.
Matthew Barnaby never backed down from anybody during his 13-year NHL career. While he weighed only 188 pounds, he often dropped the gloves or threw his weight around against opponents weighing much more than he did.
Barnaby had some hockey skills and recorded a career-high 19 goals for the Sabres in 1996-97. The previous season, he reached his career high with 335 penalty minutes in a season.
Barnaby often dropped the gloves but perhaps his most famous fight came in 1996 in a game between the Sabres and the Flyers. A brawl broke out during the game and Barnaby was lying on the ice and appeared to be injured. He quickly jumped up and started pounding on Philadelphia goalie Garth Snow, much to the surprise of everybody on the ice.
After his playing career ended, Barnaby worked as a broadcaster for ESPN, although he was recently let go by the network after an arrest for DUI.
Rob Ramage was a tough defenseman in the '70s and '80s for eight different NHL teams.
He opened his pro career with the Birmingham Bulls of the WHA before joining the Colorado Rockies of the NHL in 1979.
Ramage could provide offense and even scored 20 goals for Colorado in 1980-81, but over the course of his career, he was more known for his physical play and defensive ability.
He compiled more than 100 penalty minutes in a season 12 times and finished his career with 2,224 penalty minutes, which places him 39th all-time in NHL history.
Ramage was a part of two Stanley Cup-winning teams and played in four NHL All-Star Games.
Paul Holmgren was one tough customer during his brief NHL career. In nine full seasons in the NHL and one with the WHA's Minnesota Fighting Saints, the tough and gritty forward never accumulated less than 121 penalty minutes.
While he was best known for his toughness, Holmgren contributed offensively as well. His best offensive season came in 1979-80 when he scored 30 goals for a Flyers team that set an NHL record by going unbeaten in 35 games (25-0-10). They reached the Stanley Cup Final before losing to the Islanders.
Holmgren's career high of 306 penalty minutes came in 1980-81. He was a scrappy player who was unafraid to mix it up with anybody. Despite a relatively brief NHL career that lasted only 527 games, Holmgren stands 92nd on the NHL all-time penalty minute leader list with 1,684.
After retiring as a player, Holmgren when into coaching, serving NHL stints with the Flyers and Hartford Whalers. He is now GM of the Flyers, who he helped reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2010.
Nobody ever questioned Shawn Antoski's toughness. The only reason he is not higher on this list is that his NHL career was cut short by injury after just 183 games.
Antoski was part of the 1994 Vancouver Canucks team that reached the Stanley Cup Final before falling in seven games to the New York Rangers. He played on a very tough fourth line along with John McIntyre and Tim Hunter, a threesome that would give any opponent nightmares.
Antoski was traded to the Flyers the following season and also had brief stints with the Penguins and Mighty Ducks before a fractured skull suffered in a car accident ended his NHL career.
Antoski accumulated 599 penalty minutes during his all-too-brief stay in the NHL.
Darin Kimble never scored a lot of goals or played a lot of minutes, but he earned his spot in the NHL by being one of the better fighters of his day.
Kimble broke into the NHL with the Quebec Nordiques in 1988-89 and later played for the Blues, Bruins and Blackhawks.
He accumulated a career-high 242 penalty minutes in 1990-91, the season he was traded from Quebec to St. Louis, where he helped protect players like Brett Hull and Adam Oates.
Kimble finished his NHL career with a total of 1,082 penalty minutes in 311 games.
Garry Howatt was a rare breed in the NHL of the 1970s. At a time when teams were bringing in bigger and bigger players solely because they could fight, Howatt was an NHL enforcer who stood just 5'9" and weighed only 170 pounds.
As a result, the scrappy winger gave away height and bulk to nearly every player he fought, but he stood tall and earned the nickname "The Toy Tiger."
Howatt joined the Islanders during their expansion season in 1972-73 and stayed with the team long enough to play on two Stanley Cup winners. He finished his career with brief stints with the Hartford Whalers and New Jersey Devils.
Howatt could play hockey as well. He scored a career-high 21 goals in 1975-76 and totaled 50 points for Hartford in 1981-82.
His enthusiasm for dropping the gloves and throwing his weight around made Howatt a fan favorite wherever he played, and he proved that smaller players have a place in the NHL's all-time toughest player list.
Curt Fraser was a tough, steady player throughout his NHL career. While he topped the 100-penalty minute mark six times during his NHL career, he also added five seasons of 20 or more goals.
Fraser broke into the league with the Vancouver Canucks and later served as captain of the team. He was a part of Roger Nielsen's Cinderella squad that reached the Stanley Cup Final in 1982 before falling to the New York Islanders.
The Canucks eventually dealt Fraser to the Blackhawks, where he again enjoyed success both as a goal scorer and as a physical player.
A bad back forced Fraser to retire in 1990 at the age of of 32. He later went into coaching and was the head man for the Atlanta Thrashers for two-and-a-half seasons.
Fraser was diagnosed with diabetes in 1983 but did not let that slow down his hockey career. He remains actively involved in raising funds for diabetes research.
Jerry Korab was a big, tough defenseman who patrolled NHL blue lines for the Chicago Blackhawks, Vancouver Canucks, Buffalo Sabres and Los Angeles Kings from 1970-1985.
Korab stood 6'3" and weighed 218 pounds. His imposing stature and physical style earned him the nickname "King Kong."
Korab was intimidating in his own zone and was often called upon to clear opposing forwards away from his team's net, but he also contributed offensively, scoring as many as 14 goals in an NHL season.
"King Kong" was also part of three teams that reached the Stanley Cup Final: the Blackhawks in 1971 and 1973 and the 1975 Buffalo Sabres. He also played in a pair of NHL All-Star Games.
Nobody ever doubted why Ken "Bomber" Baumgartner was in the NHL. He wasn't the best skater in the league and didn't have great hands, but when he dropped the gloves, Baumgartner became a force to be reckoned with.
A forward, Baumgartner never scored more than four goals in a season, but in 12 NHL seasons, he racked up 2,242 minutes in the sin bin, good for 37th all time. He spent time with the Kings, Islanders, Leafs, Ducks and Bruins.
Perhaps his most famous fight took place in a playoff game between the Islanders and New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden in 1990. After Isles forward Pat Lafontaine was injured in the final minute of the game (Rangers fans allegedly blocked the ambulance and wouldn't let it leave the Garden), Isles coach Al Arbour sent out Baumgartner and fellow enforcer Mick Vukota for a faceoff with just a few seconds left on the clock. At the drop of the puck, several fights broke out and the game ended with a lengthy brawl.
As tough as Baumgartner was on the ice, he was very smart off it. He graduated from Harvard Business School after his hockey career was over.
Big Jeff Beukeboom was an imposing physical defender for the Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers during his 13-year NHL career.
Beukeboom was at his best in his own zone, where he could use his 6'5", 230-pound frame to intimidate opposing forwards who wanted to attack his goalie.
He was responsible defensively and both threw and received fierce body checks over the course of his career.
Beukeboom played on four Stanley Cup-winning teams—three with the Oilers and one with the Rangers. With New York, he was paired with Hall of Famer Brian Leetch, and it was Beukeboom's smart defensive play and intimidating style that helped give Leetch the freedom to take chances and join the rush offensively.
A sucker punch by Matt Johnson effectively ended Beukeboom's career when he was unable to shake the effects of yet another concussion.
He went into coaching after retiring from hockey and now works for the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL. His son, Brock, was drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2010 NHL entry draft.
How tough was "Terrible" Ted Green? Even major brain surgery didn't derail the Bruins defenseman's career, despite the fact that he nearly died after one of the worst stick-swinging incidents in hockey history.
Green's career can be broken down into two distinct stages. In the first part of his NHL life, Green personified the "Big Bad Bruins." He was a big, tough defenseman who regularly dropped the gloves and threw devastating body checks that easily intimidated opponents. Green topped the 100-penalty minute mark six times during his career. He also had good enough hockey talent to twice be named an NHL All-Star.
That all changed after an exhibition game against St. Louis in 1969 when Green was involved in a vicious stick-swinging incident with Wayne Maki. Both players took baseball-like swings at the head of their opponent, but the battle ended with Green on the ice convulsing after Maki fractured his skull. He was given last rites and required emergency brain surgery, but he managed to pull through. Green and Maki were both brought up on criminal charges for the incident but were acquitted.
"Terrible Ted" returned to action and played for the 1972 Stanley Cup champion Bruins. He wasn't as fluid a skater and had to curtail the fisticuffs, but he was still an effective defenseman.
He ended his career with the New England Whalers and Winnipeg Jets of the WHA before going into coaching.
Rick Tocchet was a true power forward. His type of player is rare these days in the NHL: a winger who can score 48 goals and earn 252 penalty minutes in the same season, something that Tocchet accomplished in 1993 with the Penguins.
Over the course of his NHL career, Tocchet was one of the few players to score more than 400 goals and accumulate more than 2000 penalty minutes. Tocchet finished with 2,972 penalty minutes, good for 10th all time.
Tocchet played for six different NHL teams and won the Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 1992. He scored 19 points in 14 games in the playoffs for Pittsburgh that season.
After his playing career, Tocchet went into coaching and eventually served as head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Bruins power forward Milan Lucic is known as being one of the toughest checkers in hockey today.
The 6'4", 200-pound Vancouver native has been a big part of the Bruins' recent success including their Stanley Cup win in 2011.
Lucic has delivered hard and often controversial checks during this career. He bowled over Sabres goalie Ryan Miller early in 2011-12. He was also suspended for a cross check to Montreal's Maxim Lapierre and a hit from behind on Philadelphia's Zac Rinaldo.
Lucic contributes offensively as well and has scored as many as 30 goals in a season.
If he continues to play this gritty and effective style, "Looch" will climb this list before his career is over.
You know a player belongs on this list when his nickname is "The Rat."
Ken Linseman was a very effective two-way center who was one of the more accomplished agitators in the NHL during his playing career.
Linseman was an expert at drawing penalties and taking opponents off their game. He annoyed opposing players into taking bad penalties and wasn't afraid to back up his agitation by dropping the gloves.
"The Rat" enjoyed his best individual season in 1981-82 when he finished with 92 points and 275 penalty minutes. Two years later, he was a member of the first Oilers team to win the Stanley Cup.
Linseman broke into pro hockey with the Birmingham Bulls of the WHA. In the NHL, he played for Philadelphia, Edmonton, Boston and Toronto, finishing his career with 807 points and 1,727 penalty minutes.
Chris Simon was an intimidating force for eight teams over the course of his 15-year NHL career, but at times he went too far and incurred some of the longest suspensions in NHL history as a result.
In his prime, Simon was more than just a fighter. He scored 29 goals for the Capitals in 1999-2000 and was capable of contributing offensively.
He used his 6'3", 200-pound chiseled frame to his advantage, racking up 1,824 penalty minutes in 782 NHL games.
Simon received two suspensions in 2007 that totaled 55 games for separate incidents that took place while he was with the New York Islanders. First, Simon had to sit out 25 games for cross checking the Rangers' Ryan Hollweg in the head with his stick.
Nine months later, Simon stepped on the back of Pittsburgh forward Jarkko Ruutu's leg with his skate and earned a 30-game ban.
Those two actions more or less ended his NHL career and after a brief stint with the Minnesota Wild, he headed to Russia to play in the KHL.
Simon was never afraid to drop the gloves and play a tough style of hockey. Sometimes, however, he didn't know where to draw the line.
Dennis is the first of the extended Hextall hockey family to make our list.
Although he only weighed 175 pounds, Hextall played a fearless brand of hockey that allowed him to stay in the NHL for 12 seasons.
Hextall never backed down from anybody and always seemed to be in the face of bigger, stronger opponents.
After a few partial seasons with the Rangers and the Kings, Hextall established himself for good with the California Golden Seals in 1970-71, leading the team with 21 goals and 217 penalty minutes.
He had his best seasons playing for the North Stars before moving on to the Red Wing and Capitals. Twice he represented Minnesota in an NHL All-Star Game while playing on their top line and still dropping the gloves whenever needed.
Six times the combative Manitoba native topped the 100-penalty minute mark in a season, and he finished his NHL career with 503 points and 1,398 penalty minutes in 681 games.
Earl Seibert has a unique place in NHL history. While his statistics don't stand out, the rugged defenseman holds a rare distinction: He is the only player that the great Eddie Shore was afraid to fight.
Seibert played for the Rangers, Blackhawks and Red Wings from 1931-1946. He won two Stanley Cups and was named to the first- or second-team All-Star team for 10 consecutive seasons.
In 1937, Seibert delivered a hard check to Canadiens legend Howie Morenz that broke Morenz's leg. He died a few weeks later of complications from that injury and Seibert took Morenz's death very hard.
Seibert only had 768 penalty minutes in his 653-game NHL career, but anybody who saw him play knew he was one of the hardest hitters and toughest players of his generation. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1963.
Bryan Marchment was known as a very tough hockey player, but many people felt he crossed the line from tough to dirty a little too often.
Marchment was one of the more hated players in the league and was suspended 13 times by the NHL, mostly for knee-on-knee hits that often sidelined star players. Mike Gartner, Pavel Bure and Wendel Clark were among the victims of questionable hits by Marchment that resulted in injuries.
In 15 NHL seasons, the Scarborough, Ontario, native scored just 182 points in 926 games and accumulated 2,307 penalty minutes. He also made enemies all around the league.
Saleski was a tall and tough winger who earned notoriety banging heads for the Broad Street Bullies in the mid-'70s.
Nicknamed "Big Bird" for his height and bushy hair that made him resemble the famous "Sesame Street" character, Saleski never backed down from a fight while playing for Philadelphia and later the Colorado Rockies. He was part of the Flyers' two Stanley Cup title teams in 1974 and 1975.
Saleski topped the 20-goal mark in a season three times and finished his NHL career with 629 penalty minutes, including more than 200 in his rookie season.
Mick Vukota was a tough, brawling forward for the Islanders, Maple Leafs, Canadiens and Lightning from 1987 until 1998.
Vukota burst onto the scene with the Islanders, taking on all comers and topping the 200-penalty minute mark for six straight seasons. He retired as the Isles' all-time penalty minute leader.
Although Vukota never scored more than four goals in a season and had only 17 in his NHL career (to go with 2,071 penalty minutes), he actually managed to score a hat trick against the Washington Capitals in 1989-90.
In the 1990 playoffs, the league suspended Vukota for his involvement in a big brawl at the end of Game 1 of the Isles' playoff game with the New York Rangers.
Stan Jonathan was a hard-nosed mucker who fit perfectly into Don Cherry's lunch pail-style Bruins team of the late 1970s. In fact, the undersized tough guy was one of Grapes' favorite players.
Jonathan stood only 5'8" and weighed only 175 pounds, but he earned his nickname of "Bulldog" for never quitting and always playing tough in the corners while dropping the gloves against players who were taller and bigger than he was. The old Boston Garden had a smaller ice surface than most other NHL rinks and players like Jonathan who could grind in the corners and drop the gloves were ideal for that venue.
While best known for his ability to fight, Jonathan could also contribute offensively. He scored a career-high 27 goals in 1977-78 and helped the Bruins reach the Stanley Cup Final in back-to-back years in 1978 and 1979.
Jonathan finished his career with a brief stint with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but he will forever be remembered as a vital part of a Bruins team that fought and mucked its way into the hearts of Boston's blue-collar fans.
Shayne Corson was also a rough-and-tumble kind of a hockey player who added both sandpaper and scoring to most of the teams he played for.
There was no questioning Corson's toughness. He topped the 100-penalty minute mark for the first 15 full seasons of his NHL career and was always at home in a good scrum.
He served as captain of three teams but was actually stripped of the captaincy of the Oilers by head coach George Burnett midseason.
Corson was a tough competitor who never liked to lose fights, and he once took it out on his opponent. In the tight playoff series between the Leafs and the Islanders, Corson lost a fight to Eric Cairns and then tried to kick the Isles tough guy after the scrum had concluded. He was suspended for Game 7 of the series, but the Leafs managed to win anyway.
Corson played for the Canadiens, Oilers, Blues, Maple Leafs and Stars and finished his career with 693 points and 2,357 penalty minutes in 1,156 games.
It was very difficult to figure out where to place Ulf Samuelsson on this list. It really depends how you define the word "tough," I guess.
Samuelsson took more than his share of penalties and was considered the most hated player in the league for the way he played the game. While his supporters said he played the game hard and physical, his detractors said he often crossed the line and deliberately attempted to injure opponents. Worse yet, Samuelsson would instigate but rarely follow through when challenged to drop the gloves.
His most infamous incident was a knee-on-knee hit against Boston's Cam Neely that effectively ended the Bruins star's season.
When Toronto's Tie Domi sucker-punched Samuelsson in another game and knocked him to the ice unconscious, it was said that the entire Vancouver Canucks locker room celebrated for joy when they heard the news.
Samuelsson was good in his own end and played a gritty, physical style of hockey. He won two Stanley Cups with the Penguins in the early '90s and also played for the Whalers, Rangers, Red Wings and Flyers.
Whether you considered him a punk or a tough guy, Samuelsson's 2,453 career penalty minutes still place him 24th on the NHL's all-time list and helped him earn a spot here as well.
The story of Derek Boogaard was a tragic one. The former Minnesota Wild and New York Rangers enforcer was found dead at the age of 28, apparently from an accidental overdose of medication and alcohol while he was recovering from a concussion.
While he was playing, most opponents feared "The Boogey Man," who fought his way through five NHL seasons in Minnesota and one in New York.
Boogaard was one of the strongest players in the NHL, and most players were afraid to fight him. He once shattered the cheek bone of Todd Fedoruk in a fight and Fedoruk required metal plates to repair the damage to his face.
In 277 NHL games, Boogaard scored three goals and racked up 589 penalty minutes.
Todd Bertuzzi was developing into the consummate NHL power forward when he savagely attacked Colorado's Steve Moore from behind, ending Moore's career with one cheap shot in March 2004. Bertuzzi was suspended by the NHL indefinitely for the incident and was not reinstated until August 2005.
That one incident often overshadows a very solid NHL career for Bertuzzi, who has scored as many as 46 goals and 97 points while racking up 144 penalty minutes, all in his career-best 2002-03 season.
Bertuzzi has impressive career totals, which include 303 goals and 1,436 penalty minutes in 1,093 NHL games.
He has been a tough player and a leader wherever he has played. NHL stops include the Islanders, Canucks, Panthers, Red Wings, Ducks and Flames.
Phil Russell was a big, physical defenseman who toiled for more than 14 NHL seasons with the Blackhawks, Flames, Devils and Sabres.
Russell was never a big offensive contributor, but his ability to play well in his own zone, drop the gloves and play the body kept him in the NHL for more than 1,000 games and sent him to three NHL All-Star Games.
He finished his career with 2,038 penalty minutes and helped the Blackhawks reach the Stanley Cup Final in his rookie season of 1972-73.
At 6'9", Zdeno Chara is the tallest player ever to play in the National Hockey League, and he's not afraid to use his size to his advantage. He regularly throws devastating body checks that are hard for opponents to forget and is a dominant player in his own zone.
Long considered one of the best all-around defensemen in the NHL, Chara won the Norris Trophy in 2009 and has played in six NHL All-Star Games.
Chara was the captain of the Bruins team that won the Stanley Cup in 2011.
Bryan Watson wasn't very big, but he was always willing. His nicknames, "Bugsy" and "Superpest," tell you everything you need to know about what kind of player Watson was.
Although he stood only 5'9" and weighed 170 pounds, Watson never backed down from anybody. He was so tough, he managed to stay in the NHL for 16 seasons. When he retired, Watson was the all-time NHL leader in penalty minutes with 2,212.
Watson played for the Canadiens, Red Wings, Seals, Penguins, Blues and Capitals during his NHL career before playing one final season with the Cincinnati Stingers of the WHA.
His given name was Andre, but almost everybody in the hockey world knew the 6'1", 200-pound Dupont as "Moose."
While he also played for the Rangers, Blues and Nordiques, Dupont is best known as one of the best defensemen on the Flyers "Broad Street Bully" teams that won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1974 and 1975.
"Moose" was a punishing defenseman and like most of his brother Bullies, he did not hesitate to intimidate opponents and drop the gloves.
Dupont finished his career with 1,986 penalty minutes in 810 NHL games.
Barry Beck was a big, mobile defenseman who played for the Colorado Rockies, New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings.
Beck had great size and used his 6'3", 215-pound frame to deliver crushing body checks that devastated opponents. He also put up good offensive numbers, including a 22-goal rookie season with the Rockies in 1977-78.
Beck was so strong that many opponents hesitated to fight him. In a playoff game against the Kings in 1981, "Bubba" knocked big Jay Wells to the ice with one roundhouse punch.
Beck served as captain of a very good Rangers team that couldn't get past the dynastic Islanders each year in the playoffs.
Rangers broadcaster Bill Chadwick made Beck even more famous by imploring him on the air over and over to "Shoot the puck, Barry, shoot the puck."
Forbes Kennedy was only 5'8" tall and weighed 150 pounds. If that alone didn't make him a long shot to play in the NHL, the fact that he didn't learn to skate until the age of 11 didn't help, either.
But Kennedy not only made it to the big time, he thrived there mostly because of his dogged determination to hit people and take on all comers.
Kennedy played for the Blackhawks, Red Wings, Bruins, Flyers and Maple Leafs. He was one of the fan favorites on the Flyers initial expansion team.
While he had many fights, the most famous in Kennedy's NHL career was his last. After Pat Quinn of Toronto knocked out Boston's Bobby Orr, Kennedy fought four Maple Leafs and ended up punching a linesman in the process. The league suspended Kennedy and he never returned to the NHL after that incident.
Kennedy finished his career with 888 penalty minutes in 603 NHL games.
Toughness can be measured in many different ways. Glenn Hall personified toughness by playing in 502 consecutive games in goal, back in the days before goalies wore masks and before teams carried backup goalies. Add another 50 or so playoff games to the total and you have a record that will never be broken.
Hall won the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 1961 and then helped the St. Louis Blues reach the Cup Final in their first three NHL seasons.
He finished his career with 84 shutouts and an impressive 2.49 goals-against average.
Hall was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1975.
At 6'4", 200 pounds, there was little doubt why Mike Peluso was on the ice when he made his NHL debut for the Blackhawks back in the 1989-90 season. He was there to drop the gloves.
In his first two NHL seasons, Peluso racked up 728 penalty minutes, including 408 in just 63 games in 1991-92. Only four players in NHL history have accumulated more than 400 penalty minutes in a single season.
The only reason Peluso is not higher on this list is that his career was cut short by a spinal injury; he only played 458 career NHL games. He finished with 1,951 penalty minutes and won a Stanley Cup with the Devils in 1995.
Steve Durbano was one of the toughest guys in the game during his brief NHL career. He averaged more than five penalty minutes a game, accumulating 1,127 in 220 contests with the Blues, Penguins, Scouts and Rockies.
In 1975-76, he led the NHL with 370 minutes.
But Durbano's instability on and off the ice undid his career, and later his life.
Durbano developed a cocaine habit after his playing career was over and he spent several years in jail. He died of liver cancer at the age of 51.
Big Basil McRae stood 6'2" and weighed 205 pounds. He was an intimidating force from the mid-80s through the mid-90s, racking up 2,453 penalty minutes in just 576 NHL games. He had his best seasons with the Minnesota North Stars and St. Louis Blues.
McRae was a strong puncher but was also occasionally able to draw penalties on opposing players by skating away after goading his opponent into dropping his gloves.
He stands 24th on the NHL's all-time penalty minute list.
Reg Fleming was a versatile hockey player with a bad temper who had a 20-year-plus career that started in the Original Six era and ended in the WHA and later the minor leagues.
Fleming played both defense and forward during his career but no matter where he played, he did it with toughness and physicality.
When Fleming lost his temper, opponents could pay. Gilles Tremblay received 35 stitches after being hit by Fleming's stick. In another incident, Fleming speared Eddie Shack.
He won a Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 1961 and scored a key goal in the clinching game.
He finished his NHL career with 1,468 penalty minutes in 749 games.
Bob Plager was a large defenseman who helped lead the expansion St. Louis Blues to three straight appearances in the Stanley Cup final from 1968-1970.
Plager's brother, Barclay, also played for the Blues, and the duo was briefly joined by third brother, Bill, who also played in the NHL.
None of the Plager brothers shied away from physical contact or a good fight.
After retiring as a player in 1968, Bob Plager remained in the Blues organization in many different capacities.
Defenseman Rob Blake provided offense and played a rugged style of defense during his career with the Los Angeles Kings, Colorado Avalanche and San Jose Sharks.
Blake went over 100 penalty minutes in a season seven times in his NHL career.
He won a Stanley Cup with Colorado in 2001 and played in six NHL All-Star Games.
Blake finished his NHL career with 777 points and 1,679 penalty minutes in 1,270 games.
Dan Maloney packed a powerful punch and even scored 27 goals in back-to-back seasons in his 1970s heyday.
Maloney was tough and many fans thought he had the strongest right hand in hockey. He once repeatedly slammed Leafs defenseman Brian Glennie's head into the ice and was brought up on assault charges.
He played for the Blackhawks, Leafs, Kings and Red Wings and in 737 career games. Maloney scored 192 goals and added 1,489 penalty minutes.
After his playing career was over, he coached the Leafs and Jets.
Big Nick Fotiu was one of the first native New Yorkers to play hockey for the New York Rangers.
While skating was not Fotiu's forte, he had a strong wrist shot that could surprise goalies if he had the time and space to get it off.
Fotiu was one of the better fighters in his day and was part of the 1979 Rangers team that reached the Stanley Cup Final.
He finished his career with 1,362 penalty minutes in 646 career NHL games with the Rangers, Whalers, Flames, Flyers and Oilers.
Big Donald Brashear turned the strength in his fists and his determination to make it in the NHL into a hockey career that lasted 1,025 games in the NHL.
A fearsome fighter, Brashear is 15th all time with 2,634 career penalty minutes.
With his crooked nose and cold stare, Tim Hunter looked the part of a tough hockey player. He played the part well, too, picking up 3,146 career penalty minutes, good for ninth best in NHL history.
Hunter won the Stanley Cup with the Flames in 1989 and reached the Cup Final twice more during his career. He was also a dogged penalty killer and a smart defensive player to go along with his talent for dishing out punches.
Hunter got into coaching after his playing days ended in 1997.
Keith Magnuson was determined to make good in the NHL despite not being drafted. He was a tough defenseman who sacrificed his body to block shots and check players who were almost always bigger than he was.
The fiery red head also was a frequent fighter during his NHL career, racking up 1,442 penalty minutes in just 589 games.
Magnuson developed into a very good NHL player, playing in two All-Star Games and helping the Blackhawks reach the Stanley Cup Final in both 1971 and 1973.
How tough was Jim Kyte? The 6'5", 210-pound defenseman played nearly 600 NHL games despite a hereditary defect that left him nearly completely deaf.
Kyte accumulated nine seasons of 100 penalty minutes or more and finished with 1,342 minutes in the sin bin during his NHL career.
He played for Winnipeg, Pittsburgh, Calgary, Ottawa and San Jose and never let his hearing issues get in the way of being a successful hockey player.
Tough Tony Twist scored only 10 goals in his NHL career, but he stuck around the NHL for nearly a decade on his ability to throw punches and intimidate opponents.
His career was ended prematurely by a motorcycle accident in 1999, but not before Twist accumulated 1,121 penalty minutes playing for the Blues and Nordiques.
Like many hockey enforcers, as tough as Twist was on the ice, he was nice off the ice, and he remains involved in numerous children's charities in the St. Louis area to this day.
Veteran Jarome Iginla has long been the captain and spiritual leader of the Calgary Flames.
While he usually leads the Flames in scoring, Iginla has never been afraid to throw his body around and to drop the gloves on occasion when he feels he needs to inspire his teammates.
Iginla has won one scoring title, two Rocket Richard Trophies and the Mark Messier Leadership Award. He always hustles and gives his all for his team.
Harold Snepsts was a stay-at-home defenseman who became one of the most popular players in Vancouver Canucks history.
Snepsts always played a physical style, never wore a helmet and often dropped the gloves against some of the league's toughest fighters.
He finished his NHL career with 2,009 penalty minutes in 1,033 games and was a key part of the 1982 Vancouver team that reached the Stanley Cup Final.
Willi Plett burst onto the NHL scene by winning the Calder Trophy as the rookie of the year with the Atlanta Flames in 1976-77. Plett scored 33 goals and added 123 penalty minutes to quickly establish himself as a power forward.
He was later traded to the Minnesota North Stars, who asked Plett to concentrate on fighting more than scoring, so his goal production fell off midway through his career.
Plett is 16th all time on the NHL penalty minute list (2,572) to go along with 437 points in 834 career games.
He gave the fans of Atlanta some excitement with his hard hitting and powerful style.
Gino Odjick protected Pavel Bure when the two played together in Vancouver in the early 1990s. In 1994, the Canucks reached the Stanley Cup Final before falling to the Rangers in seven games.
Odjick led the league in penalty minutes in 1996-97 and finished his NHL career with 2,567 in just 605 games.
"The Algonquin Enforcer" was one of the few fighting specialists to score on a penalty shot, which he accomplished against the rival Flames in 1991.
Defenseman Dave Manson started his NHL career as just a fighter, but he became a reliable physical force in his own zone as he gained experience.
He had back-to-back seasons with more than 300 penalty minutes for the Blackhawks and finished his career with 2,792 penalty minutes in 1,103 career NHL games.
Manson suffered permanent damage to his throat after taking a punch from Sergio Momesso; it left him with a raspy speaking voice.
He retired in 2002 and went into coaching.
Derian Hatcher stood an imposing 6'5", 225 pounds, and he used his size and considerable strength to his advantage. Body checking became Hatcher's forte, and he also was unafraid to drop the gloves.
Hatcher broke in with the Minnesota North Stars and stayed with the team when they moved to Dallas. Hatcher won a Stanley Cup with the Stars in 1999 and later became team captain. He later played for the Red Wings and Flyers before retiring in 2008.
His brother, Kevin, also played in the NHL, and the two of them were inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame together in 2010.
Dave Semenko was one of the most effective enforcers in NHL history. After all, he was Wayne Gretzky's bodyguard in Edmonton, and the Oilers won two Stanley Cups and Gretzky set all kinds of scoring records while Semenko was protecting "The Great One."
Even playing on a line with Gretzky, Semenko never scored more than 12 goals in a season. He finished his career with 1,175 penalty minutes in 575 NHL games and the satisfaction of knowing the man he was hired to protect re-wrote the NHL record book.
"The Grim Reaper" played more than a decade in the NHL and spent most of his time dropping the gloves.
Grimson scored only 17 goals and 39 points in 729 career NHL games, but he did accumulate 2,113 penalty minutes and instilled fear in many of his opponents.
Ironically, "The Grim Reaper" was a religious man who was very involved with a local ministry. He retired from hockey in 2002.
Red Horner was a defenseman who played for the Maple Leafs from 1928-1940. He led the NHL in penalty minutes for eight straight years, a record that still has not been matched.
He was considered one of the hardest hitters of his era, and he once knocked the legendary Eddie Shore out cold with just one punch.
Horner won a Stanley Cup with Toronto in 1932 and retired in 1940 as the NHL's all-time penalty minute leader.
He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1965.
Dave Brown was one of the better fighters in the NHL in the 1980s and early '90s while playing mostly for the Flyers.
He won a Stanley Cup as a member of the Oilers in 1990.
Brown's most infamous moment came in 1987 when he viciously cross-checked Tomas Sandstrom of the Rangers in the face. He received a 15-game suspension for that incident but returned to reek more havoc.
In 729 career games, Brown finished with just 45 goals and 1,789 penalty minutes.
Jack "Black Jack" Stewart spent 12 seasons in the NHL in the 1940s and early '50s and was one of the hardest hitters in the game.
He spent most of his career with the Red Wings, where he earned his nickname when a dazed opponent returned to the bench and asked who had hit him with a black jack.
Stewart's career was interrupted by World War II when he did a stint in the army.
He won a pair of Stanley Cups during his career and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1964.
Al Secord was one of the best power forwards of his era.
After joining the Blackhawks in a trade from Boston, Secord enjoyed three seasons where he scored more than 40 goals and accumulated more than 180 penalty minutes.
Like many power forwards, the physical style of play took its toll on his body and led to a shortened career; Secord was out of the NHL before the age of 33.
In 766 career games, Secord finished with 273 goals and 2,093 penalty minutes.
Rob Ray spent nearly his entire NHL career with the Buffalo Sabres and became an all-time fan favorite for the way he played the game.
Fans would shout "Ray Day, Ray Day" each time he dropped the gloves.
Ray stands sixth on the NHL's all-time penalty minute list with 3,207 minutes in 900 career games.
He is also responsible for an important rule change. Because Ray would not tie down his jersey during fights, he would slip out of it and free up his hands to punch opponents. As a result of Ray's actions, the NHL now assesses players a game misconduct if their jersey comes off during a fight.
Ray now works as a broadcaster for the Sabres and is very involved in various charity causes in the Buffalo area.
Brendan Shanahan had a very productive NHL career, both as a physical player and a goal scorer. In fact, "Shanny" is the only player in NHL history to score more than 600 goals and accumulate more than 2,000 penalty minutes in his career.
Shanahan won three Stanley Cups with the Red Wings during his NHL career.
In later years, Shanahan had a great deal of influence over the course of the sport. During the 2004-05 lockout, Shanahan was at the forefront of presenting ideas to management to help open up the game and help end the "Dead Puck Era."
He now works for the NHL front office and has the thankless job of being in charge of player discipline.
Wendel Clark was small in stature but had a very big heart. He was definitely one of the most popular players in the long and storied history of the Maple Leafs for the scrappy way he played the game.
Perhaps the most famous fight in Clark's career took place in the 1993 playoffs, when he defended Doug Gilmour and took on the much larger Marty McSorley.
Clark was later named captain of the Leafs and helped re-energize a fanbase that was tired of losing and indifferent play late in Harold Ballard's tenure as owner of the club.
In addition to being tough, Clark could score. He produced a career high 46 goals in 1993-94.
Clark finished his NHL career with 1,690 penalty minutes in 793 games. He also captured the hearts of Leafs fans everywhere for his tough style of play.
While today, most Canadians know the name Tim Horton for the restaurant chain that bares his name, in his playing days, Horton was considered the strongest player in the NHL.
He played for the Maple Leafs from 1950-1970 and played more games on defense than anybody in the history of the game at the time of his retirement.
Horton would use his strength to control opposing players, often bear-hugging them rather than slamming them into the boards. No opposing player dared to fight Horton for fear of getting seriously hurt.
Tragically, Horton was killed in a car accident in 1974 after playing in a game for the Buffalo Sabres. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1977.
Ken Daneyko was a defensive mainstay on three Stanley Cup-winning teams with the New Jersey Devils.
Although he never scored more than six goals in any NHL season, Daneyko was one of the toughest and most physical defensemen of his era and truly helped make Martin Brodeur's job easier.
In 1,283 games, Daneyko accumulated 2,516 penalty minutes.
The Devils retired his jersey in 2006.
Big Marty McSorley spent much of his career serving as Wayne Gretzky's protector while playing in Edmonton and later Los Angeles.
McSorley dropped the gloves often, accumulating 3,381 penalty minutes in his NHL career, which places him fourth on the all-time list. He also had some limited offensive ability, scoring 15 goals in a season twice during his career.
McSorley was caught playing will an illegal stick in Game 2 of the 1993 Stanley Cup Final, and it cost the Kings dearly. Nursing a one-goal lead in the final minute, the Canadiens scored on the ensuing power play and sent the game to overtime. Montreal won the game and went on to sweep the next three games of the series to win the Stanley Cup.
In 2000, McSorley was suspended for striking Donald Brashear in the side of the head and knocking him out cold. The NHL suspended McSorley and he was later convicted of criminal assault. It also effectively marked the end of his NHL career.
Little Theo Fleury was listed at 5'6" tall, but he never backed down when playing against taller and heavier opponents.
Crises in his personal life and addictions to drugs and alcohol fueled Fleury's anger both on and off the ice, but he was able to become both a prolific scorer with 455 career goals, and a tough guy who accumulated 1,840 penalty minutes in 1,084 career games.
Fleury won the Stanley Cup with the Flames in 1989 and appeared in seven NHL All-Star Games. He was a tough little bugger who didn't let his lack of size and tough personal history stop him from reaching the top of the hockey world.
Doug Gilmour weighed only 175 pounds during the course of his NHL career, but he played the game like somebody 40 pounds heavier.
Gilmour went into corners and into the "dirty areas" in front of the opposing team's net to score many of his 450 career goals. He earned the nickname "Killer" for his tenacity.
In 1989, Gilmour won the Stanley Cup with the Calgary Flames. He was later traded to Toronto and as captain of the Maple Leafs, helped them reach the Western Conference finals in back-to-back years.
Ron Hextall was a very good NHL goalie who was never afraid to use his stick as a weapon. He is the second member of the extended Hextall hockey family to make this list.
Hextall had many accomplishments over the course of his NHL career. He won the Vezina Trophy and the Conn Smythe Trophy despite the fact that he was never quite able to get the Flyers to a Stanley Cup title. He was also the first NHL goalie to score a goal by actually shooting the puck into the opposing goal.
The long-time Flyers netminder also set a record for most penalty minutes in a season by a goaltender with 113, and he holds the all-time career PM mark for goaltenders with 584.
Dale Hunter ranks second on the NHL's all-time penalty minute list with 3,563 in 1,407 games.
Hunter was gritty, competitive and determined but often went beyond the rules of the game to achieve his goals. In his 19-year NHL career with the Nordiques and Capitals, Hunter never had fewer than 100 penalty minutes in a season.
While Hunter was jabbing opponents on nearly every shift, his most infamous move came in the 1993 playoffs against the New York Islanders. Hunter chopped at Isles center Pierre Turgeon almost five seconds after Turgeon scored a goal. He was suspended for 21 games as a result of this dubious act.
While he was a tough player, Hunter could also score goals consistently. He finished his NHL career with 323 goals despite never reaching the 30-goal mark in any single season.
Claude Lemieux is one of those players you love to have on your team but when he's playing against your club, you hate his guts.
Lemieux was a classic agitator, often crossing the line into dirty play, but he also played his best hockey in clutch situations and is one of only 10 players in NHL history to win the Stanley Cup with three different teams.
Some of Lemieux's more infamous acts included cross-checking Detroit's Kris Draper face first into the boards from behind and biting the finger of Calgary's Jim Peplinski.
"Battlin" Billy Smith was one of the toughest goalies ever to man an NHL crease. Smith didn't need to rely on his defensemen to clear opposing players out of his crease. If a player got too close for Smith's comfort, he used his goalie stick as a weapon to chop at his knees or ankles and move the player out.
Smith was the definition of a money goaltender. While his regular-season statistics were good but not outstanding, the bigger the game, the better the ultra-competitive Smith played. He led the Islanders to four straight Stanley Cups from 1980-1983.
The Hall of Famer accumulated 489 penalty minutes in his NHL career.
Emile "Butch" Bouchard played defense for the Montreal Canadiens from 1941-1956.
Bouchard was one of the strongest players in the league and as a stay-at-home defenseman, he was a great compliment to Doug Harvey, who loved to rush the puck.
Bouchard won four Stanley Cups and was a first-team All-Star three times. He also served as captain of the Canadiens later in his career.
Opposing players always had difficulty getting past Bouchard, who used his incredible strength to clear out his own end of the ice.
He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966.
Boston native Chris Nilan reached the NHL with the Montreal Canadiens in 1979-80 and quickly became one of the game's best fighters.
Nilan never finished a full NHL season without topping the 200-penalty minute mark, and he accumulated 3,043 minutes in the sin bin in just 688 career games.
The Habs enforcer earned a few memorable suspensions, including an eight-game ban for butt-ending Boston's Rick Middleton in the mouth.
Nilan won a Stanley Cup with Montreal in 1986 and picked up 141 penalty minutes in 18 games along the way.
Tie Domi manged to survive for nearly 15 years in the NHL on the strength of his enthusiasm and his fists.
Domi was not just a fighter, but a showman, giving the fans what they wanted, whether it was challenging an opposing team's enforcer before a game or celebrating winning a fight by punching an imaginary punching bag and putting on an imaginary championship belt.
Although he was only 5'10", Domi had legendary bouts with heavyweights like Bob Probert and Sandy McCarthy.
Domi spent his career with the Rangers, Jets and Maple Leafs and in 1,020 career games, racked up 3,515 penalty minutes, good for third all time.
Even though he retired from hockey nearly 25 years ago, Dave "Tiger" Williams remains the NHL's all-time penalty minute king with 3,966 in his career.
Williams was one of the most popular players on any team he played for, especially with Toronto and Vancouver. In addition to his love for trading punches, Williams had a unique goal celebration in which he would ride his stick and skate down the ice, so he looked almost like a witch flying on a broomstick.
Williams was not a bad hockey player despite all the time he spent in the sin bin. He scored 241 career goals, including a career-high 35 in 1980-81.
Those who saw Williams' enthusiasm for both fighting and the game of hockey will never forget him.
Terry O'Reilly was one of the toughest and most popular players every to play for the Boston Bruins. He personified the work ethic and team ethos Don Cherry demanded from his Bruins teams in the late '70s.
O'Reilly never missed the playoffs in his NHL career and three times reached the Stanley Cup Final, only to fall short of winning the ultimate prize.
His intensity and physical play earned him the nickname "Taz," short for the Tasmanian Devil. He never backed down from a fight and refused to let opponents take advantage of more skilled Bruins players like Rick Middleton or Jean Ratelle.
O'Reilly's number was retired by the Bruins after he finished his career with 606 points and 2,095 penalty minutes in 891 NHL games.
Joe Kocur had one of the most devastating right hands in all of hockey. He formed one of the toughest one-two punches in NHL history as a member of the "Bruise Brothers" along with Bob Probert.
Kocur finished his NHL career with 2,519 penalty minutes and three Stanley Cup rings, two with the Red Wings and one with the Rangers.
He had a career-high 377 penalty minutes in 1985-86, his first full season in the NHL.
Big Clark Gillies did it all for the Islanders during their dynasty years. He was a regular 30-goal scorer, a hard-hitting winger and a fighter who protected his teammates.
Gillies didn't fight all that often, but that was mostly because when he did, the results were so one-sided that few people dared to challenge him.
His size and beard earned him the nickname "Jethro." Gillies had some legendary fights with heavyweights like Terry O'Reilly and Dave Schultz that gave the Islanders confidence against some of the top teams in the league.
Gillies was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2002.
At 6'6", 210 pounds, there aren't too many NHL defensemen who are more physically imposing than Chris Pronger.
Like many big defensemen, it took Pronger a while to grow into his body but once he did, he became one of the NHL's best all-around defensemen.
Pronger led by example and often played 30 minutes per game, especially in the playoffs. He reached the Stanley Cup Final three times and won in 2007 with the Anaheim Ducks.
Pronger's leadership and physical play makes the players around him better. It also makes opponents fear getting too close to the big man guarding the crease.
In 1999-2000, Pronger became the first defenseman since Bobby Orr to win the Hart Trophy as the league's MVP.
As of now, his career is in jeopardy due to post-concussion syndrome. Even if he is forced to retire, Pronger has definitely left his mark on the game of hockey.
Bruins forward Cam Neely defined what it meant to be an NHL power forward. He was big, strong and tough but also had the ability to put the puck in the net, topping the 50-goal mark three times in his NHL career.
Unfortunately, the physical and demanding style of play that made Neely so good also helped end his career due to injury at the age of 31.
Neely topped the 100-penalty minute mark for six consecutive seasons before injuries began to slow him down. A cheap shot by Ulf Samuelsson also injured Neely's knee and hastened his downfall.
While he played, Neely was tough, physical and gave as much punishment as he received. He would always seemingly go through an opponent rather than around him.
Neely played in five All-Star Games and led the Bruins to the Stanley Cup Final twice. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2005.
Chris Chelios played parts of 26 seasons in the National Hockey League, no small feat for a defenseman who always played a tough, physical game.
Chelios' determination and drive were a big help in making him an effective hockey player, even at the age of 48.
"Chelly" won three Stanley Cups and set the record for most career games played by a defenseman with 1,651. He played for the Canadiens, Blackhawks, Red Wings and Thrashers.
Chelios was not afraid to hit anybody and totaled more than 100 penalty minutes in 14 seasons during his NHL career. He ranks 12th overall with 2,891 career penalty minutes.
Red Wings and Blackhawks enforcer Bob Probert was one of the fiercest fighters the game of hockey has ever known.
While trading punches was his strong suit, Probert had a 29-goal season and six seasons of 10 goals or more in the NHL.
He presently ranks fifth all time on the NHL career penalty minute list with 3,300 accumulated over 935 games.
Probert took on all comers and had memorable fights and rivalries with Wendel Clark, Tie Domi, Marty McSorley and Stu Grimson, a virtual who's who of enforcers from that era.
Off the ice, Probert battled the twin demons of drugs and alcohol and often ran afoul of the law as a result. He died at the age of 45 of a heart attack, which may have been related to his past drug use.
During his life, Bob Probert was arguably the best fighter in the game of hockey, but it was the battles he fought and lost off the ice that cut his life tragically short.
Bobby Clarke was the captain and spiritual leader of the "Broad Street Bullies" Flyers team that won two Stanley Cups in 1974 and 1975.
Clarke's hockey career almost ended before it began when he was diagnosed with diabetes, but Clarke didn't let his illness slow him down.
Clarke hustled and was always a very physical player, sometimes crossing over the line into dirty. Clarke was determined, competitive and would do almost anything to win. His teammates always had his back, so much to so that critics said Clarke rarely had to finish what he started when it came to dropping the gloves.
Twice Clarke led the NHL in assists and eight times he was selected to play in the All-Star Game.
In addition to his success with the Flyers, Clarke slashed Soviet star Valerie Kharlamov across the ankles during the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the USSR and neutralized him for the rest of the series, which Canada won 4-3-1.
Clarke finished his career with 1,210 points and 1,453 penalty minutes in 1,114 games. His toothless grin while holding the Stanley Cup remains the ultimate symbol of victory for Philadelphia hockey fans
Larry Robinson's career penalty minute totals aren't that high, but "Big Bird" knew how to hit and was a dominant defenseman all over the ice.
Robinson never missed the playoffs in his 20-year NHL career and won six Stanley Cups, including four straight from 1976-79.
Robinson was part one of the greatest defensive corps of all time along with Guy Lapointe and Serge Savard. Together, the three made up the Canadiens' "Big Three."
Opponents had a lot of respect for the tall and strong Robinson, who stood 6'4" and weighed 220 pounds during his playing days. Most opponents were afraid to fight him and he was nearly impossible to knock off his feet.
Robinson was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1995.
No player in the modern era of the NHL hit as hard as Scott Stevens.
When the strong defenseman hit you with all of his 200 pounds, you knew you were hit hard. Stevens intimidated opponents and kept things clear in front of his goalie like few others have ever done.
Earlier in his career, Stevens put up good offensive numbers, topping the 20-goal mark one year and topping out with 78 points in a season.
Later, he concentrated on playing physical defense and did it better than anybody in the league.
Stevens helped lead the Devils to three Stanley Cup titles and stands 14th in NHL history with 2,785 penalty minutes.
John Ferguson was the original mold for an NHL enforcer. He was big, tough and intimidating, but he was not a goon.
Fergie never had fewer than 125 penalty minutes in any of his eight NHL seasons and was always there to protect any of the stars on the Canadiens. He was effective at it, and the Habs won five Stanley Cups in his eight seasons.
Ferguson could score as well, topping the 20-goal mark twice and netting a career-high 29 goals in 1968-69.
Injuries ended his career early, but he later served as GM of the New York Rangers and Winnipeg Jets and remained active in management for the rest of his life.
Dave Schultz was the king of the "Broad Street Bullies," a team that almost literally fought their way to two straight Stanley Cups in 1974 and 1975 and ushered in a new era of violence in hockey.
Schultz still holds the NHL single-season record for penalty minutes in a season with 472. In the Stanley Cup playoffs in 1974, "The Hammer" added 139 minutes in the sin bin in just 17 games.
Schultz would mentally prepare himself for fights, envisioning his likely opponents before taking to the ice. When he fought, he broke into a rage that didn't end until long after the game was over.
Predictably, Schultz became a fan favorite in Philadelphia and the player the rest of the league's fans loved to hate.
Many enforcers have followed, but none of them changed the way the position is played like Dave Schultz.
Nearly 50 years after he retired from hockey, Ted Lindsay remains one of the most respected and influential players ever to set foot on the ice.
Lindsay could do it all—score goals, take the body and drop the gloves. He finished his career with 851 points and 1,808 penalty minutes in 1,068 career games. His physical style of play earned him the nickname "Terrible Ted." In fact, the NHL created penalties for "elbowing" and "kneeing" to stop some of Lindsay's rougher tactics.
Lindsay helped create the NHLPA and as a result, was traded from Detroit to Chicago in retaliation.
He finished his career with four Stanley Cup championships and was named to the first-team All-Star team eight times and the second team once.
Lindsay was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1966.
When the folks who were making the movie Slapshot needed one player to personify "old-time hockey," the man they chose was Eddie Shore.
Shore was tough both on and off the ice. In his rookie year, he scored 12 goals and added 130 penalty minutes, both incredible numbers for the 41 games he played in 1926-27.
Shore hit like a brick wall and intimidated opponents. In 1933, he hit Ace Bailey of the Leafs so hard that Bailey nearly died. In fact, the first NHL All-Star Game was held as a fundraiser for Bailey because the hit ended his hockey career.
Shore won four Hart Trophies as league MVP and was named to the postseason All-Star team eight times in his first nine years in the league.
Shore was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1947 and was one of the hardest and most physical players ever to play the game.
He was known as "The Captain" or "The Messiah" but for Mark Messier, there was only one way to play hockey and that was tough as nails.
Messier finished his career as the NHL's second all-time leading scorer, but he also finished with 1,910 career penalty minutes.
Messier played a physical game and like Gordie Howe, who he admired and played against in both the WHA and the NHL, he was not afraid to send a message to an opponent by using an elbow or a hard body check.
Messier won six Stanley Cups, five with the Edmonton Oilers and one with the Rangers in 1994, which ended the team's 54-year championship drought.
What more can be said about the man known simply as "Mr. Hockey"? Howe scored, checked and dropped the gloves with the best of them, and he did it until he was past the age of 50.
Howe's style of play was tough. Opposing players who took liberties with Gordie or his teammates were likely to get an elbow to the head when they weren't looking. Howe was tough, no-nonsense and he was that good.
Until a kid named Wayne Gretzky came along, Howe held nearly every meaningful career offensive mark in the NHL record book.
His style of play even inspired a new stat: "The Gordie Howe Hat Trick," which is accomplished when a player gets a goal, an assist and has a fight in one game.
Gordie Howe has stood the test of time as the toughest player in NHL history.