A hockey team is composed of more than just a bunch of guys who are trying to score goals to win games. Every player on every team has an individual role with which they are specialized to fill. While most of the household names are the high scorers with brilliant stick skills, there are also those guys who patrol the ice with a menacing physical presence: enforcers.
While a true enforcer is becoming more rare in a modern NHL that emphasizes fewer penalties and more lineup depth, there will always be a place for the physical brutes who really know how to dish out the pain.
It's not easy to have the job as an NHL enforcer, but the following 30 tough-as-nails guys all hold the distinction of being the grittiest, most fearsome enforcer in team history.
Perhaps one of the most impressive things about this hard-nosed defenseman is that in only four years with the then-Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Dave Karpa managed to earn an assistant captain's position.
Perhaps even more impressive is how much time he spent in the penalty box in those four years. Karpa spent more than 200 minutes in the penalty box in three of his four years in Anaheim, including a monster 270 minutes in the 1995-96 campaign.
To this day, his 788 minutes as a Mighty Duck stands as the highest in franchise history.
Just goes to show that sometimes, the leaders have to drop the mitts too.
OK, I know that it's very likely that in less than a month that this team will no longer exist. However, for the time being they have not played a game in Winnipeg, so their all-time leader remains an Atlanta Thrasher.
That being said, Jeff Odgers was not much of a skill player. In fact, in his 12-year career, he only managed 75 goals, his highest being 13 in 1993-94.
But aside from rocking one of the best bits of facial hair in league history, he was an extremely respectable player, serving as captain of the San Jose Sharks in 1995-96.
He finished his career in Atlanta, where in just three seasons he would rack up 532 penalty minutes, to this day tops of the Thrashers/Jets franchise, bringing his career total to 2,364.
To put that in perspective, he spent a total of 39.4 of his 821 career games in the sin-bin.
I guess it's an honor that goes right up there with being invited to be a voice on The Simpsons; Bruins enforcer Terry O'Reilly has the distinction of being mentioned by Adam Sandler in Happy Gilmore as his favorite player due to his physical style.
And oh man, was he ever physical.
O'Reilly found a role in the Boston Bruins lineup for his entire 14-year career, racking up a jaw-dropping 2,095 penalty minutes. That's just under 35 full games of penalty time.
But when he wasn't playing rough, he was playing well, as he finished his career with 204 goals, including four seasons of 20 goals or more and a glowing career plus/minus of plus-212.
Perhaps the best way to describe his style had to come in an incident in 1979 when a fan at Madison Square Garden stole another player's stick and hit O'Reilly with it. O'Reilly scaled the boards and glass and charged into the stands to retaliate.
I'm not sure what was more deserved: the pummeling that fan received for doing something that boneheaded or the eight-game suspension O'Reilly received for the incident.
Often times, it's kinda funny when you look at it: the guys who are out there beating the snot out of someone with their fists on the ice are the ones who are so nice and so mellow off of it that you'd be surprised to see they hurt a fly.
Rob Ray is one of those guys.
Despite holding the Sabres record for penalty minutes with a staggering 3,189 (a monstrous 53.15 complete games), Rob Ray was awarded the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for leadership and humanitarianism in 1999.
Even to this day, he remains active in several Buffalo-area charities and humanitarian works.
But put this guy on skates, and oh man were things different.
The man they called "Rayzer" was known throughout his career for removing his helmet, jersey and upper body pads at the start of a fight to prevent his opponents from grabbing on and allowing him to control virtually every fight he got into (and trust me... there were a lot).
The NHL actually adopted the "Rob Ray Rule," making his strategy of jersey/pad removal punishable by additional penalties.
Tim Hunter is an example of two patterns that you'll see among several of the guys on this list.
On one hand, he too was nominated for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, twice actually.
On the other hand, he is the first of several guys who have now gone on to become successful coaches on either the AHL or NHL level.
Known for his fearless physical play and skill in killing penalties, which is rather ironic when you consider the fact that he was usually the one penalized.
Hunter racked up an impressive 3,142 penalty minutes in his career (52.4 complete games), good enough for the eighth-highest number in league history, and 2,405 of those came in Calgary Flames jersey, making him the all-time franchise leader in that category as well.
Now retired, Hunter is in his third assistant coaching job, standing behind the bench the Toronto Maple Leafs.
And perhaps the strangest thing of all is how difficult it is to find images of him playing in Calgary Flames jersey...
His statistics may look a little odd in that only two of his 20 seasons in the NHL were spent with the Carolina Hurricanes, however, Kevin Dineen played for the franchise an additional 10 years in their previous form as the Hartford Whalers.
In those 12 years though, Dineen racked up a hefty 2,405 penalty minutes (just over 40 complete games), making him the franchise leader in that category.
Dineen now works in Sunrise, Fla. as the head coach of the Florida Panthers.
Outside the world of hockey, Dineen serves as a spokesperson for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America, continuing a trend of charity work on this list.
Here's something I bet you didn't know. Chris Chelios is the all-time franchise leader of the Chicago Blackhawks in penalty minutes.
OK, if you're a diehard Blackhawks fan then you probably did. But it definitely surprised me.
The second-oldest man ever to play in the NHL was, to say the least, unafraid to play tough, tallying 2,891 penalty minutes (48.2 complete games), including 1,495 in Chicago, where he spent nine seasons.
But the list of accomplishments in his career far outshines this landmark record. How does two Norris Trophies, four Olympic Team selections (including two of them as captain), 10 All-Star Game selections, three Stanley Cups and making the playoffs 24 times, missing only two years of his career, sound?
Chelios now serves as an adviser to Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland, filling in a post that was vacated by Steve Yzerman.
Want more random trivia? When Chelios finally hung up his skates after the 2009-10 season, he was the last player from the 1981 NHL draft to do so...and every other draft up until 1986.
You ready for a surprise...make sure you keep reading until the end of this list.
Dale Hunter was just about your typical definition of an power forward. Racking up over at least 100 minutes in penalties in all but one season of his career (in which he only managed 48), the man who earned the nickname "The Nuisance" was about as scary a guy as you can possibly imagine.
In total, Hunter amassed a jaw-dropping 3,565 penalty minutes, 59.4 complete games. The 1,562 he accrued with the Quebec/Colorado franchise still stands as the club record.
He had a reputation for throwing hits, retaliating when offended and mouthing off to officials.
To top it off, he holds the distinction of earning one of the longest suspensions in NHL history: 21 games.
However, he was a favorite among teammates and Quebec Nordiques fans alike, being a hard worker with a lot of charisma.
He is the only player in NHL history to record both 1,000 career points and 3,000 career penalty minutes.
Hunter now co-owns the London Knights junior squad along with his brother Mark.
While Columbus is considered a "young" franchise in NHL terms, the Blue Jackets have certainly seen their fair share of enforcers and even some of the best in the game.
However, the one to truly stand out so far would have to be known-mega-thug Jody Shelley.
Shelly is notorious for having the most fighting majors in the NHL since he began playing.
Shelley made the Blue Jackets a tough team to play because without fail you would be getting beaten to a pulp either by shoulders or by fists.
In his seven years in Ohio, Shelly earned himself 1,025 penalty minutes, the best in franchise history. Now playing for Philadelphia, that career total is up to 1,474 minutes,
With a reputation to willingly drop the gloves for really any reason, it comes as no surprise that he's the toughest enforcer in Blue Jackets history.
When an NHL defenseman is coming at you at full speed while lining you up for a hit, you better brace yourself for some pain. When an NHL defenseman who stands 6'5" and weighs 235 lbs. lines you up for a hit at full speed, you better have your last will and testament written.
Derian Hatcher had a reputation as a big, mean, bone-crunching defenseman who used his daunting physical stature to his advantage, and he did it rather well.
In his 11 years with the Dallas stars, he not only made the franchise a perennial playoff contender, but he earned the captaincy for his leadership in the locker room.
He also pulled in 1,380 penalty minutes. He finished his career with 1,581 minutes, the equivalent of 26.4 full games.
Hatcher finished his career with Philadelphia after a short stint in Detroit, and was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010.
Bob Probert was one mean dude in the Motor City.
Perhaps best-known for being one of the "Bruise Brothers" with Joey Kocur, Probert was one of the most feared fighters in the NHL. Perhaps what made him so unique though was how much pride he took in fighting.
He had longstanding rivalries with some of the other renowned enforcers of the time, such as Tie Domi and Wendell Clark.
And perhaps even further was his role as the "protector" in the Red Wings lineup, most specifically of captain Steve Yzerman.
All in all, Probert's career as a fighter amassed a whopping 3,300 minutes in penalties, equal to 55 complete games in the sin bin. His 2,090 are tops in Red Wings history, and with no active player even in the top five in that category, it looks like that's a record he's going to hold for many years to come.
Tragically, Probert passed away in July 2010 after suffering a heart attack. He was 45. His funeral was attended by both teammates and opponents, as NHL greats like Steve Yzerman, Joey Kocur and even Tie Domi were in attendance.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you one of the longest names ever to adorn an NHL sweater.
Kelly Buchberger played for five different teams in his last seven years in the NHL after playing 13 seasons for the Edmonton Oilers.
While he wasn't the greatest scorer in the world, only reaching the 20-goal plateau once in his NHL career, Buchberger was a staple in the Oilers lineup, earning the captaincy and the respect of teammates and fans alike.
He was excellent at finding his way to the penalty box, racking up 1,747 in an Oilers uniform, still to this day their all-time high. He finished his career with 2,297, 38.3 complete games of penalty minutes.
And since I love random trivia, he was the last player to make his NHL debut in the Stanley Cup Final and was also the last remaining member of any of the Edmonton Oilers five Stanley Cup winning teams, staying with the Oilers until he was selected by the Atlanta Thrashers in the 1999 expansion draft.
One of the all-time fan favorites in Sunrise, Fla., Paul Laus was one of the most spirited and determined players in team history.
Brought in as part of the 1993 NHL expansion draft, Laus established his role as an enforcer quickly, notching at least 100 penalty minutes every year except 2001-02, which was shortened due to injury.
Laus had a memorable year in 1996-97 when he set an NHL record with 39 fighting majors. Even more amazing is that he also managed to set career highs in assists, points, plus/minus and penalty minutes (a mind-blowing 313) in the same year.
In total, Laus' short, nine-year career saw him tally a franchise record 1,702 penalty minutes, equaling just over 28 complete games.
Another guy who filled the role of "protector," Marty McSorley had the job of seeing to it that nobody had their way with none other than the Great One, Wayne Gretzkey.
The two played together for both the Edmonton Oilers and the Los Angeles Kings.
In 1993, they took the Kings to their only Stanley Cup Final appearance in the franchise's nearly 50-year history. In the third period of Game 2, McSorley was caught using an illegal stick, and the Montreal Canadiens would score on the ensuing powerplay to tie and eventually win the game and the Stanley Cup (incidentally, the last cup to be won by a Canadian team).
McSorley also had the honor of assisting on the Great One's record-breaking goal to pass Gordie Howe.
But the heavyweight forward was no stranger to taking penalties in his duty as L.A.'s ice police. In his two stints with Los Angeles, McSorley accounted 1,846 minutes and a total of 3,381 in his career (56.4 complete games).
His career came to a crashing halt however in 2000 when McSorley swung his stick at Donald Brasher, striking him in the head and causing a Grade 3 concussion when he hit the ice.
McSorley was suspended for what wound up being 23 additional games, and McSorley was tried and convicted of assault, forcing him to miss an additional year in suspension. Ultimately, he would never play another game in the NHL.
It didn't take too long for this guy to develop a reputation as one of the most feared fighters in the modern NHL. With one of the longest reaches in the NHL, he controlled virtually every fight he got into and won many of them in convincing fashion.
In a game against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Boogaard landed a blow to Anaheim enforcer Todd Fedoruk's cheek that was so hard, it knocked Fedoruk unconscious and required him to have facial reconstruction surgery to repair the shattered cheekbones.
He did it to Anaheim again in 2005 when he decked Trevor Gillies with a swift uppercut.
After that, nobody wanted to fight Derek Boogaard.
The guy they called the "Boogeyman" stood a towering 6'7" and weighed in at 265 lbs.
Despite being a revered scrapper, Boogaard was not huge on penalty minutes. In fact his five years with the Minnesota Wild led to only 450 of them, which is second in franchise history to Matt Johnson's 698.
Sadly he played his last shift of his NHL career on Dec. 9, 2010, when he received a concussion from a fight with Ottawa's Matt Carkner. He would never recover enough to return this past season.
Sadly just days after New York's elimination from the playoffs, Boogaard passed away in his apartment on May 13, 2011, due to a medicinal accident.
He will always be remembered for not only his kind-hearted personality off the ice but his amazing toughness and incredible fighting skill on it.
How do you possibly determine a toughest enforcer of all time for a team like Montreal with over 100 years of history?
The answer: you make it easy for me by amassing 2,248 penalty minutes in a Canadiens jersey, nearly 1,000 more than the guy sitting in second place on the list.
Chris Nilan was no stranger to dropping the gloves. In fact, his willingness to fight even earned him the nickname "Knuckles."
Incredibly, Nilan's numbers when it comes to penalties don't stop at just that honor.
He holds the record for highest number of penalty minutes per game, averaging 4.42 per game over his career.
And perhaps even more impressive is he holds the record for most penalties in a single game. On March 31, 1991, Nilan recorded six minors, two majors, a misconduct and a game misconduct, making a total of 42 penalty minutes.
In total, Nilan spent 3,043 minutes in the penalty box, or a total of 50.7 complete games.
It only seems appropriate that this guy wears number 22 on this jersey with a name like that.
But for Jordin Tootoo, his play is no joking matter.
Known for his high-energy style and unparalleled aggression, Tootoo has found a perfect home in Barry Trotz's Nashville Predators system.
However, it's this aggressive style that have led to some controversial incidents which have given him a reputation as a "dirty" player.
In spite of this, Tootoo's play was a huge part of Nashville's playoff run this season, which saw them upset a favored Anaheim Ducks squad in six games to give the franchise its first ever playoff series win. Tootoo set up the game winning goal in Game 5 in Anaheim, a play that is believed to have been what sealed the series win for the Predators.
While his numbers in penalty minutes are low for this list, he has only played seven seasons in the NHL, and there is a lot of room for his 633 minutes to grow.
And just because I like putting in more random trivia, Jordin Tootoo is the first person of Inuit descent to play in the NHL.
You want to talk physical? Let me start with Scott Stevens.
This big, bad, bone-crushing blue-liner was without question one of the best hitters in NHL history.
In fact, he will always be remembered for his ability to come across open ice and just absolutely bury players who approached his blueline with their head down. So good was his body-checking skill that it earned him the nickname "Captain Crunch."
In 22 seasons in the NHL, he amassed 2,785 penalty minutes, equal to 46.4 complete games of time in the sin bin. Interestingly enough, however, only 1,007 of these were earned with New Jersey, which is fourth in franchise history.
So why does he make this list? With his massive physical presence, unparalleled defensive talent and ability to completely change the momentum of the game, Stevens was possibly the best defenseman of his era, and when combined with the talents of Scott Neidermayer, Colin White and Brian Rafalski and the goaltending talents of an in-his-prime Martin Broduer, the Devils became one of the most lights-out defensive teams in NHL history.
He was the longest-serving captain in Devils history, and as a result, his number four was the first number ever to be retired in New Jersey.
But without question, he'll always be remembered for hits like this one that I'm sure Paul Kariya will never forget...if he can even remember it in the first place.
The guy who gained the nickname of "The Quick Mickster," Mick Vukota became a fan favorite on Long Island when he rapidly established a reputation as the team's top enforcer of the late 1980s and early 1990s.
He was strong, gritty and even had the skill to score goal or two when needed.
However, his short-lived career only spanned 12 seasons, 10 of which were with the Islanders.
However, those 10 seasons saw Vukota work his way to becoming the franchise leader in penalty minutes with 1,879.
When his final two years are added in, Vukota's total jumps to 2,071, a total of 34.5 full games.
At 6'5", 230 lbs., really the only noise you can imagine this guy making when he hits you is "boom."
Known throughout his career as a hard-hitting, physical defenseman, Jeff Beukeboom made a perfect partner for Brian Leech, who was free to lead the rush with Beukeboom staying home protecting the net.
Despite his role as an enforcer, Beukeboom is another one of the guys who was heavily involved with philanthropic work, and he was a large part of Ice Hockey in Harlem, which brought the opportunity to play the game to underprivileged children in the poorer areas of New York.
His 1,157 penalty minutes as a Ranger stack up second in franchise history, and his career totaled 1,890 minutes, or 31.5 complete games in the sin bin.
Sadly, Beukeboom's career was cut short due to recurring symptoms from a host concussions, what doctors labeled as Post-Concussion Syndrome.
There are good guys, there are bad guys and then there are some guys who are just plain nasty when you put them on the ice.
Chris Neil falls into that last category.
The Ottawa Senators forward has developed a reputation as one of the most fearless players in the NHL and will do battle with absolutely anybody, whether it's over the puck or with the gloves dropped.
In eight seasons with the Ottawa Senators, Neil has found a role as an energy player and team pest, terrorizing opponents with his aggression, physicality and tendency to smack-talk.
At the age of 31, Neil has a lot of hockey left in him, meaning his 1,683 penalty minutes has plenty of room to grow, and that's significant considering he already is the Senators franchise leader in that category.
Neil is on contract with the Ottawa Senators through the end of the 2014 season.
Bobby Clarke is definitely one of the more spectacular players in history to ever make this list.
Not only did he spend his entire 15-year career with the Philadelphia Flyers, but he managed to successfully earn the fourth-highest number of penalty minutes in Franchise history at 1,453, as well as lose a few teeth.
Sure this number might pale in comparison to some of the bruisers on this list, but Bobby Clarke was unique in that he was definitely a power forward.
Despite earning over 60 penalty minutes every year except his rookie campaign, Clarke knew how to score and was one of, if not the most, talented players in Flyers history.
Not only did he manage to win just about every award in the NHL trophy case (except the Norris and the Vezina, obviously), with two Stanley Cups and appear in eight All-Star Games, he set a host of Flyers franchise records as well, including games played, assists, points, plus/minus, shorthanded goals, playoff games played, playoff assists and playoff points.
Strictly speaking his role on the Flyers was not an "enforcer," but when you get a guy as gritty as he was and as talented as he was, it's hard not to give him the honor on this list as the toughest guy on Broad Street.
Keith Tkachuck holds the honor of having been the first captain in Phoenix Coyotes history.
He also holds the honor of having accumulated the most penalty minutes in his time in a Desert Dogs uniform.
Tkachuck began his career with the original Winnipeg Jets, who moved to Phoenix in 1996. It was there that Tkachuck would have some of the most memorable and productive years of his career, including a 1996-97 season where he scored 52 goals.
He was even given the honor of gracing the cover of the NHL Breakaway '98 video game.
Tkachuck was eventually traded by the Coyotes to St. Louis in exchange for Ladislav Nagy, Michal Handzus and Jeff Taffe.
However, he would leave the franchise as the leader in both game winning goals with 40 and penalty minutes with 1,508, making him one of the toughest skill players, or most skilled tough-guys, in Phoenix history.
Tkachuck retired from professional hockey at the end of the 2010 season, with a total of 2,219 penalty minutes, just short of 37 complete games.
PS: I know a lot of people are going to disagree with me, but I'm a firm believer that those old Phoenix black, red and green jerseys were some of the coolest most beautiful jerseys ever to grace the NHL and easily one of my favorites of all time. It's a shame Phoenix ever got rid of them.
Kevin Stevens was an integral part of the powerhouse Pittsburgh Penguins squad that won two Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992, playing left wing for Mario Lemieux.
While his career numbers scoring numbers are remarkable (four times breaking the 40-goal plateau and five times breaking the 50-goal), Stevens is equally renowned for his physical play that saw him tally 1,048 penalty minutes, a record that still stands today as the highest mark in franchise history.
His career totaled 1,470 minutes, further emphasizing his role as one of the NHL's premiere power forwards of the 1990s.
Today, Stevens is still with the Penguins organization, working as a scout.
When you think of brilliant ice hockey countries, I'm willing to bet Great Britain is not one that first pops into your mind.
But random trivia time prevails again, as Owen Nolan is the only player in NHL history to hail from Belfast, Northern Ireland.
That's right, he's British-born, even though he played internationally for Canada.
Nolan spent a good deal of years with the San Jose Sharks, and while he served a lot of roles on the team, he was definitely prone to taking the physical enforcer's role.
In eight years in San Jose, Nolan racked up 934 penalty minutes, second all-time in Sharks history and 1,793 in his career.
He also contributed big in key situations. In 2000, Nolan would score the series-winning goal in the Sharks' seven-game upset of the top-seeded St. Louis Blues.
Nolan continues even today to play professional hockey in Europe, playing this past year for ZSC Lions in Switzerland.
Interestingly enough, the honor of most penalty minutes in Sharks history falls to none other than someone else we've seen on this list: Jeff Odgers, who has 1,001 in a Sharks uniform.
Perhaps he's more famous now for his coaching career, but Brian Sutter, the second-oldest of the famous Sutter brothers, was an icon in St. Louis for years. Playing all 11 years of his career there, Sutter was a fan favorite for his high intensity and physical play.
Unfortunately, it was that same physical style that forced him into retirement in 1988 due to a nagging back problem, but Sutter will be remembered for his ability to score goals (with a career high 46 in 1982-83) and his gritty style that led to 1,786 career penalty minutes.
To this day that mark stands as the record in St. Louis.
A true NHL journeyman, Chris Gratton played for seven teams in his NHL career.
However, he started out in Tampa Bay, where he would leave his mark by quickly becoming an enforcer for the Lightning's record books.
In seven seasons in three different spells in Tampa Bay, Gratton managed to put up 828 penalty minutes, a mark that still stands as the highest in Lightning history.
While he never played for any other team for more than four years, Gratton still managed to find work around the league, and it led to a career that spanned 19 seasons and 1,092 games. All in all, Gratton managed to put together 1,638 career penalty minutes, 27.3 complete games.
On a team that boasts some of the nastiest tough-guys in the history of the game, including Tiger Williams and Tie Domi, Wendel Clark stands out among the rest.
Clark was a fan favorite for many years in Toronto due not only to his electric style that involved a lot of hard-hitting physical play.
He was a feared fighter and quickly established a reputation as a huge hitter and a guy who wouldn't back down from anyone, even the much bigger and most respected fighters in the league at the time.
Unfortunately this style eventually led to his demise and retirement, but Clark's 13 seasons with the Leafs led to 1,535 penalty minutes. Over the span of his entire career, Clark accumulated 1,690 minutes, just over 28 complete games of penalty time.
And trivia time once more brings you this little tidbit: Wendel Clark is actually first cousins with none other than Barry Melrose.
Bet you were wondering when this guy was going to show up on this list, weren't you?
Well it had to be sometime, and I think it goes just about without saying that Tiger Williams was the toughest enforcer ever to put on a Vancouver Canucks jersey
While he's most known for his days in Toronto, Williams was equally rambunctious in Vancouver, piling up 1,324 penalty minutes, fourth-highest in franchise history.
Add that together with another 1,670 from his days with the Leafs and then the numbers from his other teams (Detroit, Los Angeles, and Hartford), and you get a career total of 3,966, a jaw-dropping 66.1 complete games spent in the sin bin.
While he may not be the franchise leader in penalty minutes, an honor that falls to Gino Odjick with 2,127, I think it's safe to say that Tiger Williams was the toughest guy ever to sport a Canucks uniform.
SURPRISE!! See, I told you to wait for it.
Dale Hunter is one of only two players in the record books right now to lead two different franchises in penalty minutes, both the Colorado Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques with 1,562, and also the Washington Capitals with 2,003.
Now, one last instance of trivia time. Do you remember the other player to lead two different franchises in sin-bin time?
If you guessed (or cheated and went back and looked) it was Jeff Odgers, who leads both the San Jose Sharks and the Atlanta/Winnipeg Thrashers franchises.
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