Ask both hardcore and casual fans what their favorite thing about hockey is.
Their answer will most likely be the fighting.
Fighting not only separates the NHL from other professional sports, but plays a key role in the game. Fighting not only protects the superstars of today, but also gets fans into the sport of hockey. Violence is a huge seller this day and age to many, and no other sport can provide such a thrill like hockey can.
I present you with the NHL's top 10 pugilists (stats from www.hockeyfights.com):
10. Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins
Chara, one of the NHL's biggest guys at 6'9" and 260 lbs., is also one of the game's top D-men, putting up 40-plus points in his last four NHL seasons. While fighting isn't his main priority, Big Z is among the best of them when he chooses to ditch the mitts—even breaking Dave Koci's nose last season during a scrap.
9. Daniel Carcillo, Phoenix Coyotes
The Coyotes have something special in Carcillo. In his rookie season, Carcillo racked up 24 points and 13 goals, while scrapping 19 times and leading the league with an astounding 324 penalty minutes.
The sky's the limit for Carcillo, as 30 goals and over 300 penalty minutes are in the realm of possibility. While standing only 6'0" tall, Carcillo does not let his size work against him.
8. Milan Lucic, Boston Bruins
Lucic, only a rookie last season, is also a Sean Avery-type of player, who can score as well as bring the business when it comes to dropping the gloves. Lucic uses his 6'4", 220-lb. frame to overpower his opponents and knock them senseless. Expect Lucic to move up this list dramatically very soon.
7. George Parros, Anahiem Ducks
Parros is another one of the league's biggest scrappers, at 6'5" and 230 lbs. While he doesn't win all of his fights, almost every one of them is entertaining—and Parros did sport the best 'stache in the game by far, putting him at seventh on my list.
6. Jared Boll, Columbus Blue Jackets
Boll, the league's leader in fights last year with 27, is another one of the NHL's up-and-comers. Boll won a little more than half his fights last season, with key wins against Daniel Carcillo and Scott Nichol.
5. Colton Orr, New York Rangers
Orr, standing only at 6'3", is another great up-and-coming fighter for the Rangers. Orr does not lose often—and when he does, its only against the best. Orr has beaten the likes of Riley Cote and even George Parros. Orr will still have to get a bit more experience though, before he gets into the top five.
4. Riley Cote, Philadelphia Flyers
Ranking Cote over Orr and Parros was a tough decision, but I believe Cote ranks fifth due to his potential and the competition he faced through 24 fights last season. Cote is the classic "goon" who has no skills on the ice other than scrapping. He is MMA trained and had key victories over Andre Roy (although he's lost three other fights to him), Jody Shelley, and Andrew Peters. Cote held his own, and rather well, against the top fighters such as Donald Brashear, Colton Orr, and Georges Laraque.
3. Derek Boogaard, Minnesota Wild
The Boogey Man, as he is called, is the second-largest guy in the NHL next to Zdeno Chara. Standing 6'7", Boogaard pummels almost every guy he tussles with. Through 10 fights last season, Boogaard probably won seven, with wins over Brad May, Zack Stortini, and Eric Godard.
2. Donald Brashear, Washington Capitals
One of the game's veteran warriors, Brashear has been known for years as one of the top fighters in the NHL. Brashear lost only one fight last season out of 12, to the one and only Georges Laraque. More on him soon. Getting back to Brashear, he has key wins over Colton Orr and Riley Cote, and a draw against big Zdeno Chara.
1. Georges Laraque, Montreal Canadiens
King Georges, according to hockeyfights.com, hasn't lost a fight since the 2005-2006 season, which is very impressive. Though he doesn't fight as much as most of the others on this list, Georges almost always stacks up with the best of them and continually comes out with wins. Laraque has beaten pretty much every elite fighter in the NHL to a pulp. Expect his win streak to continue through this season.