Ranking the 50 Most Frightening Players in NHL History
When ranking the 50 most frightening players in NHL history, looks aren't part of the discussion. No, these are players who struck fear into the hearts of opposing players when they were on the ice.
There are a few ways to get on this list, but it's mostly a mixture of tough fighters and fierce body checkers who made opponents stop and take notice.
Keep in mind that this list includes all of NHL history, so there are some players on here that you may not be familiar with but who were the most frightening players of their era.
Discussing these lists with readers is always part of the fun, so feel free to comment and say why you feel a player I omitted belongs or why a player should be ranked higher or lower.
Here are the 50 most frightening players in NHL history.
50. Theo Fleury
He was small, but he was fearless, and nobody wanted to mess with Theo Fleury.
Fluery was listed at 5'6", 180 pounds, but he hit anything that moved, had a 50-goal season and was a fan favorite in Calgary.
Fleury's off-ice issues eventually caught up to him and ended his NHL career prematurely, but in his prime, Fleury was somebody nobody wanted to play against.
49. Nick Fotiu
Nick Fotiu was the first New York City-born player to make the New York Rangers roster. The amazing thing is that Fotiu didn't learn how to skate until he was a teenager.
Fotiu was a tough guy and stayed on the Rangers because of his ability and willingness to drop the gloves. He also had a hard wrist shot that could give goalies fits if he had enough time to get it off.
Fotiu defended his smaller teammates and parlayed his hard work into two seasons in the WHA and 13 in the NHL.
Nine times he topped 100 penalty minutes in a season and he was a fan favorite at Madison Square Garden for his tough style of play and his willingness to throw pucks up to kids in the stands after the pregame skate.
48. Willi Plett
Willi Plett was tough, but he there was no doubt he could play hockey as well as drop the gloves.
Plett won the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie with the Atlanta Flames in 1976-77 after he scored 33 goals and accumulated 123 penalty minutes.
Seven times during his NHL career Plett topped 200 penalty minutes in a season, including a career-best 316 with Minnesota in 1983-84.
His best offensive season came in 1980-81 with Calgary, when he scored 38 goals and 68 points.
Plett finished his career with 2,572 penalty minutes, and at 6'3", 205-pounds, he was never afraid to drop the gloves with anybody.
47. Brad Marchand
Marchand was a big part of the Bruins' 2011 Stanley Cup run, scoring 11 goals and 19 points in 25 postseason games for Boston.
Even though he stands only 5'9", few players look forward to a night when they have to play against the man known as "Honey Badger" or "Nose Face Killah."
46. Don Saleski
Don Saleski was one of the toughest players on the "Broad Street Bullies" clubs that won back-to-back Stanley Cups in Philadelphia in 1974 and 1975.
Saleski earned the nickname "Big Bird" because he was tall and and his curly blond hair resembled the Sesame Street character.
The native of Moose Jaw dropped the gloves often enough to earn more than 100 penalty minutes in three straight seasons in Philadelphia.
In 1976, Saleski got into a confrontation with some fans in Toronto. The Flyers forward was charged with assault, although the charges were later dropped.
"Big Bird" could play hockey, too, and he had three seasons with 20 or more goals.
Saleski finished his career by playing two seasons with the Colorado Rockies, but he will always be remembered as one of the "Broad Street Bullies."
45. Stan Jonathan
Stan Jonathan stood only 5'8" and 175 pounds, but he never backed down when taking on bigger and stronger opponents.
Jonathan was one of Don Cherry's favorites on the "Lunch Pail Crew" of the late '70s that reached the Stanley Cup Final in 1977 and 1978.
Jonathan could play hockey, too, scoring more than 20 goals in a season twice.
His toughness and tenacity made him a fan favorite at the old Boston Garden during his playing career.
44. Dion Phaneuf
Toronto's Dion Phaneuf is one of the most feared body checkers in the NHL today.
Phaneuf's open-ice hits have earned him lots of entries on YouTube and keep opposing players thinking before they skate down the Toronto captain's side of the ice.
While he doesn't drop the gloves all that often, Phaneuf has accumulated more than 90 penalty minutes in five different NHL seasons.
His hard-hitting style has helped make him a leader in both Calgary and Toronto.
43. Dan Maloney
Dan Maloney was one of the most feared fighters in the NHL in the early to mid-1970s.
The Barrie, Ontario native had one of the strongest right hands in the league in an era where fighting was a huge part of the game.
Maloney could score, too, reaching the 20-goal mark in three different NHL seasons.
Maloney played for the Blackhawks, Kings, Red Wings and Maple Leafs.
He finished his NHL career with 1,489 penalty minutes in 737 games.
42. Tim Hunter
Anybody who watched Tim Hunter play in the NHL wouldn't question his inclusion on this list.
Hunter lasted 16 seasons in the league by working hard in the corners, playing strong defense and defending his teammates.
Twice hunter led the league in penalty minutes (1986-87 and 1988-89), and he is ranked eighth all time in career penalty minutes in NHL history with 3,146.
Hunter became an assistant coach after his playing days were over and currently works for the Washington Capitals as an assistant to new head coach Adam Oates.
41. Wendel Clark
Wendel Clark was only 5'11" and he weighed less than 200 pounds, but that didn't stop him from playing a physical style of hockey that endeared him to fans. Seven times in his career he topped 100 penalty minutes in a season.
Clark lasted 15 seasons in the NHL and he never stopped playing what one writer described as "an intimidating, physical style." Toronto fans viewed Clark as "nothing short of a superhero, taking on any and all of hockey's villains while attempting to will the good guys to victory."
In addition to his physical presence, Clark could play solid offensive hockey, scoring 30 or more goals in a season five times, including a career-high 46 in 1993-94.
Clark was one one of the main contributors on a Leafs team that reached Game 7 of the Western Conference finals that year before falling to Wayne Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings.
By the time he hung up his skates in 2000, Clark had scored 330 goals and accumulated 1,690 career penalty minutes.
40. Tony Twist
Tony Twist managed to last 10 seasons in the NHL, and it wasn't because of his scoring. In 445 career games, Twist scored only 10 goals and 28 points. He also accumulated 1,121 penalty minutes.
Twist had good size at 6'1" and 230 pounds. He kept opponents on their toes and helped Blues scorers like Brett Hull get more room to maneuver.
Opponents were forced to respect Twist. Ex-Kings tough guy Matt Johnson once told Sports Illustrated, "You don't want to see him looking at you the wrong way. No one in the league matches his pure punching power. He's an honest player but as tough as they come."
Today, Twist works as part of the Blues' local broadcasting team.
39. Dave Brown
Dave Brown was an enforcer for the Flyers, Oilers and Sharks from 1982-1996.
Eight times Brown topped the 100-penalty minute mark in a season. He won a Stanley Cup with Edmonton in 1990.
Brown was never afraid to drop the gloves and took on all comers, but he is best remembered for the above incident against the New York Rangers that saw him take a baseball-like swing at the throat of Tomas Sandstrom. Sandstrom suffered a broken jaw and a concussion and Brown earned a 15-game suspension.
In his career, Brown scored 45 goals and accumulated 97 points in 729 games. But he had 1,789 penalty minutes and was one of the most respected fighters of his era.
38. Lou Fontinato
Back in the 1950s and early '60s, "Leapin' Lou" Fontinato was one of the more physical defensemen in the old six-team NHL.
A Rangers program once said that Fontinato, "set the standard for the kind of rough stuff and hustle that continues to turn Rangers players into fan favorites."
Fontinato took on all comers, including Gordie Howe, who famously once left the Guelph, Ontario native a bloody mess.
In 536 career NHL games with the Rangers and Canadiens, Fontinato scored 26 goals and 104 points. He also accumulated 1,247 penalty minutes, including a career-best 202 in just 70 games in 1955-56.
37. Ken Daneyko
Ken Daneyko earned the nickname "Mr. Devil" for the way he played each of his 1,283 games in the NHL, all of them spent in a Devils uniform.
Daneyko looks the part of an NHL tough guy. He is rock solid, has a square jaw and a stare that could freeze you in your tracks.
He earned his money by sacrificing his body and keeping opposing players away from his own net.
Daneyko only scored 36 goals and 178 points in the NHL but accumulated 2,516 penalty minutes and three Stanley Cup rings.
When Daneyko announced his retirement, Devils GM Lou Lamoriello said, "Ken Daneyko is an individual who symbolizes the character of our entire organization. When you look at his career—his loyalty, work ethic, toughness and commitment represent what the New Jersey Devils are all about."
36. Link Gaetz
Link Gaetz only played in 61 career NHL games for the Minnesota North Stars and the San Jose Sharks, but he left his mark on the game with his fists.
Gaetz's nickname was "The Missing Link," which he earned due to his brute force and willingness to fight anybody and everybody in an opposing jersey.
Gaetz scored six goals and 14 points in his NHL career, but he accumulated 412 penalty minutes, or an average of more than 6.75 penalty minutes per game.
Unfortunately, a serious auto accident involving alcohol nearly killed Gaetz and curtailed his NHL career. He bounced around the minors and some semi-pro leagues before hanging up his skates for good in 2005.
Gaetz didn't last very long in the NHL, but anyone who saw "The Missing Link" drop the gloves knows why he belongs on this list.
35. Ron Hextall
Ron Hextall was one of the most exciting players ever to play goal in the National Hockey League.
Hextall got physical with opponents, had a fiery temper and spent a lot of time trying to score goals, not just trying to prevent them. He was also an excellent puck-handler.
The Flyers netminder accumulated more than 100 penalty minutes in each of his first three NHL seasons, something unprecedented for a goaltender.
He was known for hacking opposing players with his stick and being unafraid to retaliate when opponents hit him. In fact, Hextall earned three suspensions of at least six games during his career.
Hextall had an unbelievable rookie year, winning the Vezina Trophy and the Conn Smythe Trophy while leading the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Final.
Unfortunately, he couldn't sustain the excellence he displayed early in his career. After six seasons with the Flyers, he was traded to Quebec and then to the Islanders. By the time he returned to Philadelphia in 1994-95, he was just an average starting NHL goalie.
The Brandon, Manitoba native retired after the 1998-99 season and now works for the Kings organization.
34. Derek Boogaard
Derek Boogaard was briefly one of the most feared enforcers in the NHL before his untimely death in 2011 at the age of 28.
"The Boogey Man" played six seasons in the NHL, five with the Wild and one with the Rangers. He accumulated 589 penalty minutes in just 277 career NHL games.
Boogaard was popular with fans and earned the respect of his fellow enforcers. Chris Simon once told Men's Journal that Boogaard was very tough to face in a fight. "It's a real bad feeling when he works that hand free," Simon said. "It's not just his power but the accuracy. He's one of the most on-the-money punchers you'll ever face."
33. John Wensink
John Wensink played parts of seven seasons in the NHL and is best remembered as the tough guy who challenged the entire Minnesota North Stars bench to a brawl (see the video on this slide to watch it). It should come as no surprise that there were no takers.
Wensink topped the 100-penalty minute mark six times during his NHL career, including a career-high 181 in 1977-78. His bold fighting style made him a favorite of Bruins coach Don Cherry.
Wensink could also play hockey when he wanted to. In 1978-79, he scored 28 goals and 46 points for a very strong Bruins team that finished the season with 100 points in the standings.
Wensink finished his career with the Nordiques, Rockies and Devils. He accumulated 840 penalty minutes in 403 career NHL games.
32. Rob Ray
Not many enforcers can say they changed the rules of the game, but Rob Ray certainly can.
The Sabres tough guy used to remove his pads and sweater during fights, leaving opponents nothing to grasp during a tussle. As a result, the NHL changed the rules and now assess a game misconduct to any player whose jersey is not tied down during a fight. It is referred to as "The Rob Ray Rule."
"Rayzor" spent 15 seasons in the NHL, and the first thirteen-and-a-half were spent with the Sabres. He was a part of Buffalo's 1999 club that reached the Stanley Cup Final before falling to the Dallas Stars in six games.
Ray finished his career with 3,207 penalty minutes in exactly 900 regular-season games and was one of the most popular Sabres of all time for his hustle, determination and charity work off the ice.
He presently works as a color commentator on Sabres TV broadcasts.
31. Milan Lucic
Milan Lucic can drop the gloves, but he's on this list primarily because he constantly throws his 6'4", 220-pound body into opponents, making them think twice before proceeding.
Lucic has exceeded 100 penalty minutes in three of the last four seasons and was a major reason why the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011 for the first time since 1972.
Teammate Adam McQuaid explained the problem Lucic poses for opposing players. "He's the prototypical old Bruin," McQuaid said. "He's a power forward who can score, and it's a pretty tough combination for a D-man when you're worried about getting put through the boards, or a guy making a play and scoring a goal. That's a tough combination. All I know is we're all glad he's on our team."
Lucic is only 24 and has plenty of time to add to his resume, something that has to make Bruins fans smile and opposing players take notice.
30. Basil McRae
Basil McRae was an imposing figure on the ice during his NHL career, which spanned from 1981-1987.
He was at his best on the Minnesota North Stars when he teamed with fellow tough guy Shane Churla to strike fear in opposing players.
McRae surpassed 300 penalty minutes in a season for four consecutive seasons and was part of the North Stars club that reached the 1991 Stanley Cup Final before falling to Mario Lemieux and the Penguins.
In 576 career NHL games with the Leafs, Red Wings, Nordiques, North Stars, Blues and Blackhawks, McRae accumulated 2,453 penalty minutes.
29. Gino Odjick
Big Gino Odjick earned the name "The Algonquin Enforcer" for his toughness and his native heritage.
Odjick, who stood 6'3", 215 pounds, protected sniper Pavel Bure for most of his career with Vancouver.
In 1993-94, Odjick was part of the Canucks team that reached the Stanley Cup Final and pushed the Rangers to seven games in that series. He scored a career-high 16 goals that season.
Odjick later played for the Islanders, Flyers and Canadiens during his NHL career. In 605 games, Odjick accumulated 2,567 penalty minutes.
28. Wayne Cashman
Wayne Cashman specialized in doing the dirty work throughout his lengthy NHL career. He played for the Bruins between 1964 and 1983 and served as captain of the Bruins later in his career.
Cashman did the little things that didn't make headlines but helped win hockey games. He would dig the puck out of the corners and center it to high-scoring linemate Phil Esposito. He also dropped to gloves to help protect Espo or Bobby Orr.
At one point, Sports Illustrated called Cashman, "the meanest and toughest player on a team on a team that ruthlessly bullied opponents."
Cashman played on two Stanley Cup-winning teams with Boston (1970 and 1972) and reached the Stanley Cup Final three other times.
In 1,027 career games, Cashman scored 277 goals, 793 points and accumulated 1,041 penalty minutes.
27. Dale Hunter
Dale Hunter was the type of player you loved to have on your team but hated to play against.
Hunter stretched the rules to the limit and sometimes admittedly went over the line, but he always gave his all for his club. He pushed, shoved, agitated and got under the skin of opponents.
Hunter played 19 NHL seasons with the Nordiques and Capitals and accumulated more than 100 penalty minutes in each and every one of them.
His most infamous moment came in the 1993 playoffs when Hunter attacked Isles center Pierre Turgeon a full five seconds after he scored a goal, hacking Turgeon with his stick and knocking him out of the series.
Hunter is second all time in NHL history with 3,563 career penalty minutes.
26. Sprague Cleghorn
Hall of Famer Sprague Cleghorn was the toughest player in the very early days of the NHL.
If you look back at the record book, Cleghorn led the NHL in penalty minutes in nine of the first 10 seasons in league history.
Cleghorn played for the original Ottawa Senators, the Canadiens, the Bruins and Toronto St. Pats during his NHL career.
His style of play was so rough that he was once found guilty of assault after attacking an opposing player with his stick. The fine was $50.
25. Billy Smith
Islanders goalie Billy Smith won four Stanley Cups and was considered a money goalie: The bigger the game, the better he played.
But Smith also earned the nickname "Battlin' Billy" and he usually cleared opposing players out of his own crease with a hard chop of his stick.
Smith accumulated 489 career penalty minutes and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1993.
24. Donald Brashear
Big Donald Brashear topped the 200-penalty minute mark five times during his NHL career and was one of the most feared enforcers of the late 1990s and 2000s.
Although he only scored 10 or more goals once in his NHL career, Brashear's toughness kept him in the league for 1,025 games, in which he totaled 2,634 penalty minutes.
After his hockey career was over, Brashear competed in MMA.
23. Marty McSorley
Marty McSorley was known as Wayne Gretzky's bodyguard during his time in both Edmonton and Los Angeles. The bruising Hamilton, Ontario native never backed down from anybody.
McSorely won a pair of Stanley Cups with the Oilers and fought his way to 3,381 penalty minutes, good for fourth on the all-time list.
Unfortunately, McSorley is remembered for two incidents in which he played the goat or villain. In the 1993 Stanley Cup Final, the Kings led the series 1-0 and held a one-goal lead in the closing minutes of Game 2 when McSorley was called for using an illegal stick. Montreal tied the game on the ensuing power play and went on to win the game in overtime. They also won the series in five games.
Then, in 2000, McSorley was suspended for attacking Donald Brashear in the head with his stick. McSorley was suspended and never really returned to the NHL.
22. Chris Nilan
Chris Nilan's nickname should tell you a lot about why he is on this list: They called him "Knuckles."
He was consistently in the penalty box throughout his NHL career. In fact, the Boston native never finished a complete NHL season with fewer than 200 penalty minutes.
"Knuckles" also once picked up 42 penalty minutes in one game against Hartford in 1991, picking up 10 penalties, six minors, two majors, a misconduct and a game misconduct.
Nilan played for Montreal, Boston and the Rangers during his NHL career.
He played in 688 games and accumulated 3,043 penalty minutes.
21. Stu Grimson
Most opposing players ignored the advice of classic rockers Blue Oyster Cult: They did fear the reaper.
Stu Grimson earned the nickname "The Grim Reaper" for the way he knocked down so many opposing fighters over his career.
Grimson played in 729 career games for the Flames, Blackhawks, Ducks, Red Wings, Whalers, Hurricanes, Kings and Predators and accumulated 2,113 penalty minutes. During that time, he scored only 17 goals and 39 points.
20. Black Jack Stewart
"Black Jack" Stewart was one of the toughest customers in the NHL in the 1940s and early '50s.
He won a pair of Stanley Cups with Detroit and later finished his NHL career with the Blackhawks.
Stewart was one of the hardest hitters in the game and earned his famous nickname when an opposing player skated to the bench after receiving a hard check and asked who hit him with a black jack.
Stewart was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1964.
19. Dave Semenko
Dave Semenko protected a young Wayne Gretzky in Edmonton, first in the WHA and then after the Oilers joined the NHL in 1979.
Semenko earned the nickname "Cement Head" for his toughness and willingness to drop the gloves.
Semenko won Stanley Cups with the Oilers in 1984 and 1985 and spent one season with the Whalers and one with the Maple Leafs before retiring.
In 575 NHL games, Semenko accumulated 1,175 penalty minutes. He had more than 100 penalty minutes in a season nine times.
18. Chris Simon
Chris Simon was a tough customer, but his failure to control his temper eventually caused him to be suspended and practically exiled from the NHL.
Simon was a good player earlier in his prime, and he scored a career-best 29 goals with Washington in 1999-2000. He was also a fearless fighter who used his 6'3", 200-pound build to his advantage.
Simon accumulated 1,824 penalty minutes in 782 NHL games over the course of his career.
Unfortunately, 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 was banned for 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 Penguin Jarkko Ruutu's leg with his skate and earned a 30-game suspension.
Shortly after that, he was playing in the KHL where he remains today.
17. Steve Durbano
Steve Durbano was tough, intense and difficult to control.
He was one of the most feared fighters in the NHL and WHA during his brief career with the Blues, Penguins, Scouts, Rockies and Birmingham Bulls.
The Toronto native led the NHL in penalty minutes in 1975-76 with 370. He finished his career with 1,127 career penalty minutes in just 227 games, an average of more than five penalty minutes per game.
Unfortunately, Durbano's life spiraled out of control after he left hockey. He developed a cocaine habit and was in jail for a time. He died at the age of 51 of liver cancer in 2002.
16. Terry O'Reilly
Terry O'Reilly's non-stop motor and hard-hitting style made him one of the most popular Bruins of all time and earned him the nickname "Taz," short for the Tasmanian Devil.
O'Reilly wasn't just a fighter and an agitator, he was a good hockey player who scored 606 points in 891 career NHL games. He also accumulated 2,095 lifetime penalty minutes.
In 1979, O'Reilly was involved in one of the most infamous incidents in NHL history when he scaled the boards to confront a fan at Madison Square Garden in New York. Teammate Mike Milbury later attacked the fan with his own shoe.
After his playing career ended, O'Reilly was head coach of the Bruins from 1986-1989.
15. Joe Kocur
Few people packed as powerful a punch as Joe Kocur.
In his prime with the Red Wings, Kocur and Bob Probert were "The Bruise Brothers," and they struck fear in the hearts of opposing players throughout the league.
In 15 NHL seasons with the Red Wings, Rangers and Canucks, Kocur accumulated 2,519 penalty minutes in 821 games. He won a Stanley Cup with the Rangers in 1994 and two with the Wings in 1997 and '98.
14. Zdeno Chara
Zdeno Chara stands 6'9" tall and is the tallest player ever to lace up a pair of skates and play in an NHL game.
The Bruins captain hits hard and is a force in all three zones. His most infamous check came against Montreal's Max Pacioretty, who was hurt when he collided with a stanchion.
Chara has had eight seasons with 100 or more penalty minutes in his career and has a total of 1,481.
He helped lead the Bruins to a Stanley Cup title in 2011.
13. Mark Messier
Mark Messier patterned his style of play after the great Gordie Howe.
His size and willingness to hit opponents earned him the nickname "Moose."
Messier is considered one of the greatest leaders in NHL history. He is the only player to captain two different franchises to Stanley Cup championships, and he won six Cups during his lengthy career.
"Moose" accumulated more than 100 penalty minutes seven times during his career and finished with 1,910 penalty minutes.
He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007.
12. Red Horner
Red Horner was the toughest player of his era. He played for the Maple Leafs between 1928-1940.
Horner led the NHL in penalty minutes for eight straight seasons, a record that has still never been broken. He also led the Maple Leafs to their first ever Stanley Cup win in 1932.
When he retired in 1940, Horner was the NHL's all-time penalty minute leader with 1,264 in 490 career games played.
He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1965.
11. Tie Domi
Tie Domi stood only 5'10" tall, but he was strong and chiseled and always was ready for action.
Domi was tough and always looking to give the fans something to talk about. In his early days with the Rangers, for example, Domi once punched an imaginary punching bag as he was led to the penalty box after winning a fight.
He later had a pair of bouts with Detroit's Bob Probert that were looked forward to by fans almost as much as a heavyweight fight.
Domi was eager to stick up for teammates and became a fan favorite in every city he played in, which included New York, Winnipeg and Toronto.
The Windsor, Ontario native played 15 seasons in the NHL and topped 100 penalty minutes in each and every one of them.
By the time he retired, the was the NHL's third all-time leader in minutes spent in the sin bin with 3,515.
10. Dave 'Tiger' Williams
No player in NHL history has more penalty minutes than Dave "Tiger" Williams (3,966).
Williams tore through the NHL in the 1970s and '80s with five different teams, making a name for himself with both opposing players and fans throughout the league.
Williams was a very good fighter, but he could do more than just drop the gloves. Williams had four seasons of 20 or more goals, including a career-best 35 in 1980-81 with Vancouver. That season, he had 62 points and 343 penalty minutes.
Tiger was also a showman. When he scored a goal, he would ride his stick like a horse and skate down the center of the ice, much to the delight of home fans.
Today, Williams remains active in alumni activities and remains one of the most popular players in the history of both the Maple Leafs and the Canucks.
9. Clark Gillies
Very few players induced a bigger combination of fear and respect than Islanders power forward Clark Gillies.
"Jethro" stood an imposing 6'3" and 210 pounds, and he was one of the strongest players of the 1970s and '80s.
He was so intimidating that he didn't end up fighting very often after his first few seasons in the league because most opponents were reluctant to challenge him. When they did, they were often in for a beating.
Gillies still finished his career with 1,023 penalty minutes, but he also scored 319 goals and was an integral part of the New York Islanders dynasty that won four straight Stanley Cups from 1980-1983.
Gillies was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2002.
8. Georges Laraque
Georges Laraque was the toughest fighter in the NHL in the 2000s.
For 12 seasons, the Montreal native took on all comers while playing for the Oilers, Coyotes, Penguins and Canadiens.
A poll of NHL players conducted by The Hockey News in 2004 voted Laraque the game's best fighter.
His size alone was intimidating, as Laraque stood 6'3" and weighed in at 245 pounds.
Laraque could do more than just punch people on the ice. He even scored a hat trick against the Kings in 2000 and scored a career-high 13 goals in 2000-01.
He finished his career with 1,126 penalty minutes in 695 NHL games.
7. Scott Stevens
While he did sometimes drop the gloves, no player in the post-expansion NHL put more fear into opposing players with his body checks than defenseman Scott Stevens.
Stevens was the leader of three Stanley Cup-winning teams in New Jersey and he won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 2000.
Stevens' thunderous hits knocked players like Slava Kozlov and Eric Lindros out of important playoff games. Players had to think twice before skating down Stevens' side of the ice.
In 1,635 career NHL games with the Capitals, Blues and Devils, Stevens accumulated 2,875 penalty minutes and never had a negative plus/minus rating during his 22-season career.
He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007.
6. Dave Schultz
Dave Schultz was the most famous of the Broad Street Bullies, the Flyers clubs that won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1974 and 1975.
Schultz took on all comers and changed the role of the enforcer in the NHL. Prior to Schultz, enforcers usually had significant hockey skills. After the success of Schultz and the Flyers, teams were hiring players who could fight and do little else in an attempt to respond to the Bullies' roughhouse tactics.
In 1974-75, Schultz set an NHL record with 472 penalty minutes in a single season. Nobody has broken that record since.
His intensity and antics made Schultz a fan favorite in Philadelphia and the most hated man in every other NHL arena.
He finished his NHL career with 2,294 penalty minutes in 535 games with the Flyers, Kings, Penguins and Sabres.
5. Bob Probert
Red Wings and Blackhawks enforcer Bob Probert was one of the most intimidating fighters in NHL history.
While he could throw punches with the best of them, Probert had a 29-goal season and scored 10 or more goals in a season six times.
Probert finished his career with 3,300 penalty minutes accumulated over 935 games, which ranks him fifth all time.
Probert never backed down and had memorable bouts with rivals like Wendel Clark, Tie Domi, Marty McSorley and Stu Grimson, many of the best enforcers of his 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.
4. Ted Lindsay
Ted Lindsay stood only 5'8" and weighed just 163 pounds, but he was one of the toughest and most intimidating players of the 1950s.
Lindsay's willingness to hit opponents and drop the gloves when called upon earned him the nickname "Terrible Ted."
He finished his career with 1,808 penalty minutes in 1,068 games with the Red Wings and Blackhawks. He also scored 379 goals and 851 points and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966.
Lindsay never backed down from a fight, including one with the league's owners, as he was a key figure in the founding of the NHL Players' Association.
He later served as a coach, GM and broadcaster after his playing days were over.
3. John B. Ferguson
John B. Ferguson was the prototype for NHL enforcers when he played in the 1960s. Fergie was the most feared fighter of his day, but he could also play hockey and scored 29 goals in 1968-69 for the Canadiens.
Ferguson played eight seasons for the Habs and always totaled 100 or more penalty minutes in each NHL season he played in. The Canadiens won five Stanley Cups with Ferguson, who helped protect teammates like Yvan Cournoyer and Jean Beliveau.
In 500 NHL games, Ferguson accumulated 1,214 penalty minutes.
After his playing days were over, Ferguson served as coach and GM of the Rangers and the Winnipeg Jets.
2. Eddie Shore
Eddie Shore was one of the hardest hitters in the history of the National Hockey League, and he never forgot a slight.
Shore personified "old-time hockey" during the 1920s and '30s and was named to eight postseason All-Star teams. He also won two Stanley Cups with the Boston Bruins.
Shore was so tough that he once nearly lost his ear after having a fight with a teammate in practice and then used a mirror to watch the doctor sew it back on.
His infamous hit on Ace Bailey ended the Toronto Maple Leaf star's career and was the reason for the NHL's first All-Star Game, which was a fundraiser for Bailey and his family.
In 1927-28, his second NHL season, Shore set a new NHL record with 165 penalty minutes in a season.
He finished his NHL career with 1,037 penalty minutes in just 553 games.
Shore was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1947.
1. Gordie Howe
Gordie Howe earned the nickname "Mr. Hockey" for being a hockey player's hockey player.
He was a great goal scorer and a hard hitter. Few players wanted to skate down Howe's wing because they knew Howe would deliver a check or an elbow or do whatever it took to stop the rush up ice.
By the time he finally retired in 1980 at the age of 51, Howe had accumulated more than 2,000 penalty minutes in the NHL and WHA and also was the all-time leader in goals scored, points and games played.
Howe's legendary toughness and skill are immortalized in hockey by the introduction of the "Gordie Howe Hat Trick," which is when a player scores a goal, gets an assist and has a fight in the same game.
Howe was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972 and remains an ambassador for the game.
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