Over the 15 years of the franchise, there have been a plethora of truly tough men that have donned a Coyotes sweater
Thugs, Goons, Enforcers.
You can call them what you wish, but these men play a critical and necessary role in the game of professional hockey. These warriors serve as the on-ice police force that make sure that others are following the written and unwritten rules of their profession. Accountability is what they ensure and violence is how they enforce it.
Many of these men sacrifice their body day in and day out for the betterment of the team and for the benefit of their squad's skill players. These modern-day gladiators strap up their gear every night only to toss portions of it off to adjudicate a dispute when the time arises. These players are not only revered by the fans but loved by their teammates for their courage and pride.
The following list focuses on enforcers who played with the Winnipeg Jets/Phoenix Coyotes organization. They must have played with both or just the Phoenix Coyotes to be considered for this list.
This list also deals with enforcers only. While men like Rick Tocchet, Lyle Odelein, Sean O'Donnell and Todd Simpson were tough, they were not solely enforcers and therefore will not be on this list.
Did I leave anyone out? Do you feel that the list should be in a different order? Let me know by sending me a comment. Let the debate begin!
DeBrusk played in 115 games for the franchise from 1998-2001. In those 115 games, he racked up 191 penalty minutes and 23 fighting majors. The 6'1, 225 lbs. left wing was asked to do the dirty work to protect the star players on his team and he obliged when necessary.
DeBrusk would rack up 115 fighting majors in his career with four different NHL teams. After his career was over as a player, he came back to the franchise as part of the Phoenix Coyotes radio broadcast team spending three seasons as the 'Yotes radio color analyst. He now works for the Edmonton Oilers in the same capacity
Bissonnette is the quintessential tough guy. "Biz Nasty", as he is known to his Twitter followers, has amassed 229 penalty minutes in just 120 games for the Coyotes during the 2009-2012 seasons. He has accumulated 40 fighting majors during that time as well.
He throws well with both hands and uses the short face jab extremely effectively. The 6'3, 208 lbs. forward has played sporadically over the past two seasons with the Coyotes, but when he is on the ice, his physical play and his willingness to drop the gloves have made him a fan favorite.
"Chin of Steel" came to the Coyotes in a secondary enforcer role, and earned more playing time with his ferocious style of play.
The 6'2, 214 lbs. ball of havoc played a crucial role in helping protect those who were consistently picked on by the opposition. In 64 games with the Coyotes, Gratton collected 223 penalty minutes and 23 fighting majors.
Gratton was known for taking some punishment to give some punishment. His lack of concern for his own safety in scraps earned him his well-deserved nickname.
Cummins was an all-out brawler who threw massive haymakers when he fought.
During his time with the franchise, Cummins racked up 237 penalty minutes in only 75 games from 1997-1999. His 36 fighting majors with the 'Yotes helped elevate him to more playing time on the 4th line and endeared him to his teammates.
Cummins spent 12 years in the NHL with nine different teams. He compiled 129 career fighting majors. He retired in 2004.
Hordichuk was fearless and crazy. His time with the Coyotes was brief (26 games), but in that short tenure he collected 96 penalty minutes and 13 fighting majors. He fought anyone and everyone and it didn't matter their pedigree.
The 6'1, 215 lbs. forward was not interested in scoring or playing within the scheme of the game. He wanted to rough you up and beat the living snot out of you. Within the past couple of years, he has trained with the former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Chuck Liddell to work on his skill set.
In his career, he has 129 fighting majors and is looking to add to his dance card for this upcoming season.
May was a classic bruiser. He tried to play hockey with the Coyotes, but his fierce animal mentality got the best of him more often than not. May had some puck skills, but he was called upon frequently to administer beatdowns to those who decided to push the limits.
The 6'1", 205 lbs. scrapper stockpiled 234 penalty minutes in 154 games with the Phoenix franchise. "May Day" was not the biggest, but he certainly acted the part when called into duty. His 153 career fighting majors speak volumes about his toughness and his character was respected by all in the locker room.
While May's play also was on the edge of legality, he was willing to answer the charges with his fists if called out by an opponent. May was a fan favorite in the Valley during his tenure for his tenacity and grit on the ice.
For the Phoenix Coyotes, "Big" Jim McKenzie was the go-to guy between the years of 1995-1998 for on-ice justice. The 6'4, 229 lbs. enforcer collected 548 penalty minutes and 54 fighting majors in 202 games with the Desert Dogs.
Charged with protecting the franchise's skill players, McKenzie plied his trade in a cold, calculated manner. His fights were well thought out endeavors as he picked and chose when to be aggressive and when to counter-punch.
He was very effective and battled against the biggest and the baddest throughout the league during his time with Phoenix.
Laraque is easily the scariest guy on this list based on his sheer physical presence. "Douli" stood a rock solid 6'3, 240 lbs. When he got his paws on you, you were in trouble. He used his strength to position you where he wanted before he unleashed anvils on you.
Laraque only played 56 games for the Coyotes during the 2006-2007 season. He amassed 52 penalty minutes and 8 fighting majors with the Coyotes.
His most classic is the clip listed above. While mic'd up for a game against the Kings, Laraque asks his fellow enforcer Raitis Ivanans of the Los Angeles Kings if he wants to fight, wishes him good luck and then proceeds to unleash the fury on him. Absolutely classic!
Over his 13 years in the league with four different teams, Laraque garnered 133 fighting majors. He came out on top in most of them. People feared him so much in his time with the Coyotes, that he wasn't able to show off his skills as much as the fans wanted him to. Nevertheless, his presence on the ice was known at all times by his opponents.
"The Russian Bear" was big, mean and borderline psychotic.
Those are three perfect characteristics for an NHL enforcer. The 6'5, 230 lbs. winger fought with unbridled fury for the Coyotes between the years 2001-2004. His 311 penalty minutes and 43 fighting majors in 122 games defined his time with the Desert Dogs.
Part of the mystique of Nazarov during his time in the desert was the fact that he didn't speak very good English and everyone thought that his demeanor bordered on the insane because few understood him. He was quick to snap during games, getting suspended for sucker punching Dan McGillis of the Sharks in one instance. He finished his career with 128 career fighting majors.
Nazarov is now a coach in the Kontinental Hockey League for Vityaz Chekhov (Russia) and was most recently in the news in 2010 when he tried to attack a fan with a hockey stick while on the bench.
Goes to show you that his demeanor has not changed all that much.
He was not the biggest guy, but had the biggest heart.
"The King of Pain" stood only 5'11, 202 lbs., but threw bombs with the biggest and the meanest that the sport had to offer.
From 1992-1997, King played with his heart on his sleeve and gave plenty of blood for the cause. He racked up 762 penalty minutes and 71 fighting majors with the Coyotes in 340 games.
King was not your typical thug trying to fight everyone at all times. King would be the first guy to back up a teammate in a scrum though and he was notoriously tough to knock down or beat up. His never-give-up demeanor led King into many scuffles that lasted longer than normal.
King eventually went on to be the NHL's Dean of Discipline for a few years after he retired. I could think of no better job for the former Coyotes winger.
He is the King of the toughest Coyotes.