50 Most Entertaining Hockey Fights of All-Time
Although legitimate hockey fans tune in or pass through the turnstiles for the expressed purpose of seeing hockey, there are always bound to be some crossover hockey/wrestling/boxing fans who might get themselves a two-for-one package in the game.
Debate all you want as to whether or not fighting is really a “part of the game.” What cannot be denied is it happens, often in the spirit of a rivalry or just out of an unsavory incident that irks one of the participating clubs.
Baseball fans with a penchant for punches on the side have had moments like Jason Varitek force-feeding his catcher’s mitt to Alex Rodriguez. Puckheads with the same sort of cravings have a historically dense buffet of comparable occurrences.
In chronological order, 50 of the most intense brawls to occur and be caught on tape in the NHL and at various minor pro and amateur levels are as follows.
No one told Buffalo’s Jim Schoenfeld and Boston’s Wayne Cashman to take it outside, but they went ahead and took their differences outdoors in some fashion.
Flyers-Maple Leafs, 1974
A Dave-on-Dave donnybrook between Philadelphia’s Dave “Hammer” Schultz and Toronto’s David “Tiger” Williams.
In the postseason of his rookie campaign, burgeoning Islanders power forward Clark Gillies converged with the comparatively seasoned Flyers enforcer Schultz, comprising the two twigs that sparked this five-on-five fire. This was also, no less, the year Schultz set a yet-to-be-matched record of 472 penalty minutes in a single NHL season.
Boston University-Minnesota, 1976
This is one of the few moments that does not have any videographic evidence, but is nonetheless well-documented. Just read this feature from US College Hockey Online or go back and watch Miracle or one of the film’s DVD extras where former players recount the regional rivalry’s ugliest episode.
Only a year after Slap Shot was released, there was no acting on this sector of Broadway with the Rangers hosting the NHL’s Syracuse Bulldog lookalikes.
Indianapolis-New England, 1978
Speaking of Slap Shot, here is at least one readily accessible action shot of Jack Carlson, one-third of the inspiration behind the Hanson Brothers and the only one who was unable to portray himself in the movie due to his WHA obligations.
Maine-Nova Scotia, 1980
Two bygone AHL teams from a bygone era in minor pro hockey, and hockey in general.
Bruins-North Stars, 1981
Sheer coincidence, of course, but still interesting that these teams skirmished the way they did so soon after the aforementioned college feud between the Terriers and Gophers started to taper off.
The Good Friday Massacre, it came to be called.
One of the more pugilistic points in the provincial pique featuring the only two teams to represent the Campbell Conference in any Stanley Cup Finals over the latter half of the 1980s.
From the first-ever playoff edition of the Keystone State clash.
The St. Patrick’s Day Massacre, it came to be called.
This scuffle occurring between two regional AHL rivals in their inaugural and second seasons of existence spilled from the ice and into the penalty boxes. Enough said.
U.S.-Canada, World Cup 1996
Go figure, this rare IIHF brawl occurred at what was then a newly-opened Corestates Center in Philadelphia.
The announcer’s remark at 1:01 of the video above that “This is straight out of Slap Shot” is technically trite, yet somehow cannot bother any fan of the game or the movie too much.
Any spectators who were in desperate need to stretch their legs an extra time were in luck this evening in San Jose. The aftermath of this tussle alone created a delay of game long enough to constitute a bonus, bite-sized intermission.
Avalanche-Red Wings 1997
Carry-over umbrage over a hit by nemesis Claude Lemieux on teammate Kris Draper spawned one of the early hallmark moments in the Colorado-Detroit rivalry that lasted from about the time of the Avs' inception through the lockout.
As ESPN commentator Darren Pang says around the 1:37 mark of the video, “Look at the Sabre players yapping away from the bench,” summing up the spirit of this particular scrum.
One of the more pungent moments of Ohio’s old IHL intrastate rivalry that lasted for nearly a decade.
As the standings shown at the start of the clip indicate, the bordering rivals were not exactly engaged in a heated race for the summit of the Atlantic Division. Yet that did nothing to mollify the mutual hatred in the matchup that had seen playoff action in two of the previous four years and, for all we knew at the time, might have been renewed again that spring.
Mighty Ducks-Stars, 1998
No decent hockey fan or human being could have been happy to see what happened to Teemu Selanne, but Anaheim rooters were likely gratified by the team’s response.
Imagine being a parent who, with all the requisite creative thinking and effort, installed a boundary between your children’s car seats, only to witness and listen to altercations anyway.
It’s kind of like that. Not much fun for the mediating party, but attention-gripping for any television viewer.
Michigan-Michigan State, 2000
Despite the NCAA’s steadfast anti-fighting approach, something of this sort was bound to have happened somewhere down the line between these schools.
Bad blood boils over (literally at one point) in the battle of the AHL’s two most time-honored cities in upstate New York.
Merry Fist-mas, 2002
One who didn’t know better may have thought the Nassau Coliseum was hosting Fear Factor auditions on this night.
Future Freeway Faceoff rivals, Corey Perry of the Ducks and Mike Richards of the Kings, set themselves apart from the pack in an unlikely manner after this playoff tilt in their final OHL season.
Eerily enough, barely two months would pass between this incident at the old Spectrum and a similar occurrence across the street between these AHL teams’ respective parent clubs.
On that note…
The timing of the off-and-on extracurricular activity in this tilt brought hockey relatively close to basketball and football for one night in one regard. That is, the constant stoppages of play prolonged the playing out of the final minutes of play to absurd lengths.
Maple Leafs-Senators, 2004
From the dying days of the Ontario provincial feud before its relevance went on an indefinite, ongoing hiatus.
This spontaneous skirmish between stars, Calgary’s Jarome Iginla and Tampa’s Vincent Lecavalier, in the third game of the Stanley Cup Finals was a comparatively refreshing change of pace from the staged, premeditated scraps between those lacking a skill set fit for even the ECHL. This was an expression of genuine, hockey-induced intensity.
What’s rarer than a goalie brawl? Try one where the contesting stoppers carry out their punch-fest directly at center ice.
But beginning at 5:11 and ending at the six-minute mark of the clip compilation above, there is one instance of that caught on tape. Future NHL backups and journeymen Hannu Toivonen and Peter Budaj duked it out as part of this installment of the Ultimate Ursine Battle between the Providence Bruins and Hershey Bears.
Several slides ago, you saw the defunct IHL version of the Cyclones in a dust-up with Cleveland. Here is the more recent, Double-A, ECHL Cyclones in another Buckeye State Brawl, opposite the Toledo Storm.
Two of the Eastern Conference’s heavyweights adopted a slightly more literal definition of that term after Ottawa’s Chris Neil leveled Buffalo captain Chris Drury. Sabres rookie Drew Stafford did not hesitate to respond, and no one else was exactly shy about uncorking their rage afterward.
If the commentator’s observations are accurate, it would be hard not to hear the Spokane Chiefs out when any of them explain this melee in the aftermath of their playoff overtime loss.
The scuffles here are primarily verbal, but as the announcers note, this is a non-conference matchup, so extra credit for the extra intensity both parties brought to the game.
A preview of coming attractions, the coming attraction being Vancouver’s appearance in the 2011 championship round?
Watching any of this will obliterate any remaining mystery as to why blood-thirsty Bruins fans might be particularly excited by divisional rival Buffalo acquiring Steve Ott this summer.
There are at least three visibly passionate scuffles in this clip, all of which end in a virtual stalemate.
Sometimes it takes nothing more than a simple love tap to ensure no love will be lost between rivals.
There were points in this dustup where it looked like a routine tackle pile-on in the NFL.
This sequence alone generated 79 penalty minutes divided amongst six individuals.
Bowling Green-Miami, 2010
One evening prior to Valentine’s Day, well, you can figure out where this is going for yourself.
A Southern state border battle reignites on an ECHL ice surface.
When he deemed Freddy Meyer’s hit on Milan Lucic to be outside clean boundaries, Bruins defenseman and off-and-on alternate captain Andrew Ference characteristically stepped a little out of line to pull his opponent back in line.
Whether they did it manually or by computer, those who were filling the scoresheets of this game, an eventual 8-6 Boston victory, were put at great risk of carpal tunnel.
As is evidenced in the video and concomitant commentary, the Islanders were looking to protect their dignity and the Penguins were soon looking to protect two of their teammates. This is what tends to happen when protection is such a pressing priority for both parties.
The extracurricular incidents in the Bruins-Canucks game on Jan. 7 of this year, the first and so far only rematch of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, speak for themselves. But the verbal, off-ice card between Bruins grinder Shawn Thornton and Vancouver columnist Tony Gallagher the following evening was the real treat.
This incident resulted in a cumulative 152 penalty minutes, the ejection of both head coaches and starting goaltenders and an early intermission at around the halfway mark of regulation.
From one of the final dates in the last season’s homestretch that essentially amounted to a tune-up tilt before the Keystone State clash had its most recent playoff feud.
Just as the two Pennsylvania adversaries did, the other half of the four-headed Atlantic Division monster crossed paths in the most recent playoffs. Arguably the most intense moment of the series was the five-way skirmish among skaters and the altercation between the coaches triggered by Ranger Mike Rupp’s shove on Devils’ stopper Martin Brodeur.
Consider that the culmination, at least for the 2011-12 campaign, of a particularly nasty era in the Hudson River Rivalry.
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