You have to be tough to be a hockey player. Between constantly getting hit, to pucks screaming your way, to a culture of "whatever it takes," the NHL is truly a league where only the strong survive.
The New York Rangers have had their fair share of tough players, but there are certain players who stand out above the rest. These players drop the gloves, sacrifice their body and do whatever is necessary to help their team win.
Toughness is not just about being the baddest player on the ice. It's not just about how many times you fight. It's about doing whatever it takes, no matter the consequence, to help your team.
There have been plenty of tough players throughout the Rangers' history. Here are eight of the toughest.
Tie Domi only played two-and-a-half seasons for the Rangers, but he certainly made his mark. In the 1990-91 season, in only 28 games, Domi put up an unfathomable 185 penalty minutes. That's almost seven minutes per game in the box. In other words, Domi averaged a fight and another penalty in every game. That's remarkable.
Domi was small in stature, but big in heart and used his toughness to annoy and bully just about everyone in sight. He's the ultimate pest and continued that behavior in Toronto, where he spent most of his career.
The Rangers got Kasparitis at the end of his career, when he was clearly on the decline. Still, he was a very tough player.
He was known for his ferocious hip-check that would knock opponents out. He often led his team in hits and played through pain.
While Kasparitis's career ended with a trip to the minors, it doesn't disqualify him from the list. As an alternate captain for the Rangers, Kasparitis made it his job to knock some bodies around, using that famous hip-check. It worked. He was a tough player, who despite his eroding skills, made his presence known on the ice.
Nick Fotiu As Coach
Nick Fotiu was a fan favorite the second he stepped onto the ice in Ranger blue. He became the first player born in the five boroughs of Manhattan to play for the Rangers.
Fotiu was "New York tough." He sacrificed his body and played without fear. He was very willing to drop the gloves. He was quite the fighter too, as he was a Golden Gloves boxer as a kid.
Toughness is about work ethic too, and Fotiu was one of the hardest working players on the ice. If there was a race for a puck in the corner, odds were that Fotiu would get there first. He left it all on the ice and grew the admiration and respect of fans.
In 1978-79, Fotiu amassed 190 penalty minutes in 71 games, many of them fighting majors. He was a pest all over the ice, but did occasionally put the puck in the back of the net.
Fotiu is still a fan favorite and many fans wish that more players were like him.
Brad Park was one of the first "offensive" defensemen. He scored 213 goals and had 683 assists in an 18-year, Hall-of-Fame career.
Park was also a tough, tough player. He was willing to drop the gloves, and often fought with Bobby Orr. He was one of the first pests and made the Bruins-Rangers rivalry something special.
He played eight seasons with the Rangers, where he spent one of those seasons as captain.
Park may not be well-known by young fans, but he was one of the toughest Rangers. He dropped the gloves and had the skill to back it all up.
Ron Greschner is the Rangers all-time leader in penalty minutes, with 1,226. Greschner played 16 seasons with the Rangers.
In addition to being tough, Greschner was also an outstanding player. He scored 179 goals and added 431 assists, impressive numbers for a defenseman.
Greschner is not only one of the better players in Rangers history, he was a captain and often laid his body on the line for the victory. Toughness, once again, is not just about dropping the gloves. It's doing everything required to win. That's exactly what Greschner did.
At 6'5", 230 pounds, Jeff Beukeboom was quite the physical specimen. He used that body to impose his will on opposing players.
Often paired with Brian Leetch, Beukeboom gave Leetch the freedom to make plays by staying home and doling out huge hits. He would drop the gloves whenever necessary.
He played with such reckless abandon that he eventually had to end his career in 1999 due to concussions. He is second all-time in penalty minutes in Rangers history. In his career, Beukeboom amassed 1,890 penalty minutes in only 804 career games. That's a little over a penalty a game.
Beukeboom was and is a fan favorite and was a key cog in the Rangers' 1994 Stanley Cup victory.
Ryan Callahan is the current Rangers captain and exhibits toughness on a nightly basis. He's one of the most prolific hitters in the league. He's averaged 260 hits over the last three seasons.
Callahan has come to identify the current "Black-and-Blueshirts." It's a team that will give up their bodies to block a shot, no matter whom it's against—Callahan once broke his foot blocking a vicious Zdeno Chara slap shot.
Callahan is a natural-born leader and has taken the Rangers to the Eastern Conference Finals. He's a goal scorer too, scoring 29 last season.
He's relentless and is always the hardest-working player on the ice. He goes into corners, he goes in front of the net and will drop the gloves on occasion too.
Callahan is the perfect captain to lead the talented Rangers to the promised land.
Mark Messier represented what it is to be a hockey player. Yes, he would lay out the body and drop the gloves when necessary. He played with little regard for his body and would do whatever it takes, on and off the ice, for his team to win. He played with aggression and incredible strength.
The results speak for itself. He has six Stanley Cup victories, including one with the Rangers, and is the only player in NHL history to captain two different franchises to a Cup victory.
He put his reputation on the line when he guaranteed that the Rangers would win Game Six of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals, where the team was down 3-2 to the Devils. Not only did they win the game, but Messier had a hat trick as well. He also scored the Cup-winning goal that year.
Messier defines toughness and proves it's not all about dropping the gloves. It's about doing whatever is necessary to help your team win. Messier did that in every game he played.