On August 15 the hockey world lost a good man and a tough enforcer. Rick Rypien was only 27 years old and left the world far too soon.
Many people have speculated that Rypien suffered from depression and likely committed suicide because of his mental demons. But rather than discuss his mental health and how he died, I have decided to recognize Rypien for being a tough hockey player and a talented fighter on the Vancouver Canucks. After all, this is what most of us knew him for and it shows how much passion Rypien played the game with.
Being a fighter in hockey might be the toughest job in all of professional sports. At any given moment you have to drop your gloves and throw your cold, bare fists into another players’ helmet while risking getting knocked out on the ice.
But Rypien did his job well and was one of the best enforcers in Canucks history. So what is his ranking on the all-time list of the Canucks best fighters?
It’s time to find out as I take a look back at the ultimate tough guys in the 40-year history of the Vancouver Canucks!
The criteria for how I ranked these fighters is based on the number of fights as a Canuck, how successful the player was in those fights, the quality of opponents and the overall power and fighting skills of the player.
Before I begin, I must credit hockeyfights.com and dropyourgloves.com as the sources for all the fighting statistics I reference in this list, such as the number of fights and the fighting records of certain players.
There are plenty of videos showcasing each fighters toughness, so keep your eyes pealed for the links in every slide. Now let’s get started and countdown the top 20 fighters in Canucks history. Enjoy!
Scott Walker started his NHL career in Vancouver and quickly earned the nickname “The Pitbull” because of his ferocity and his willingness to go toe-to-toe with a number of challengers, despite his lack of size.
At 5’11” and 195 pounds, Walker didn’t take on many heavyweights because he simply wasn’t in that class. However, his fights were always entertaining and usually consisted of an all-or-nothing style with Walker holding nothing back. A good example of how he fought is this fight against Dody Wood from the 1996-97 season.
There was rarely any jersey grabbing or hugging for "The Pitbull." He wanted to throw down and he did so on 32 occasions in regular season play during his three full seasons as a member of the Vancouver Canucks.
The 6’5”, 215-pound Richter only played in Vancouver for two seasons from 1986 to 1988, and he fought 14 times during that time.
Richter was a big, strong guy and had some good fights as a Canuck, despite his fight card lacking very many big-name opponents. He won most of his fights because of this and did a good job protecting the more skilled members of the Canucks.
It’s also worth mentioning that Richter once fought the Canucks current GM Mike Gillis, although Richter was playing for the Minnesota North Stars at the time while Gillis played for the Bruins.
Stojanov is known mostly as the guy the Canucks traded away to acquire Markus Naslund in one of the most lopsided trades in NHL history.
But while Stojanov’s hockey skills were no match for Naslund’s, his fighting ability was extremely respectable. In his 62 regular seasons games as a Canuck, Stojanov managed a 7-6-1 record in 14 fights, many of which were against top-tier opponents.
This fight against Dody Wood isn’t an example of one of those top-tier opponents, but it is an entertaining fight in which Stojanov gets the decision.
Ron Delorme was a savvy veteran by the time he was acquired by the Vancouver Canucks. He spent the final four years of his career as a Canuck and was a part of the team that made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1982.
Delorme racked up 24 fights in the regular season with the Canucks, but perhaps his most memorable fight came in the 1982 Western Conference Finals when he bloodied the face of Gran Mulvey of the Chicago Blackhawks.
At 6’2” and 185 pounds, Delorme wasn’t the biggest fighter. However, he was rarely underestimated because of the speed and power of his right hand. Here’s a great toe-to-toe battle with Jamie McCoun that ends with Delorme getting one last powerful punch in with that right hand.
After his playing career ended, Delorme became a scout for the Canucks and was credited with being the man who discovered Vancouver legend Gino Odjick, who you’ll see later on this list.
Darren Langdon was only 6’1” and 204 pounds, but he fought in the heavyweight division during his time in the NHL and was one of the best strategic fighters in the league.
As a member of the Canucks, Langdon played just 45 games in the 2002-03 season and racked up just nine fights in the process. However, his 6-2-1 record in those fights speaks for itself, especially considering many of them came against the cream of the crop in the heavyweight division.
One of Langdon’s trademarks was to feel his opponent out early and wait until later in the fight to fire a series of punches to finish things off. Here’s a perfect example of that against the menacing 6’7” Peter Worrell.
Then again, Langdon also had the ability to dominate weaker opponents like he did in this fight against Luke Richardson.
It was a terrible move by the Canucks to trade away Cam Neely at such a young age. However, Neely played a physical brand of hockey and racked up 31 fights during his three seasons in Vancouver.
Neely wasn’t afraid of anyone, and one of his fighting highlights with the Canucks came when he fought Dave Semenko to a draw during the 1984-85 season.
In this fight, Neely is sporting the infamous flying-V Canucks jersey of the 1980s while pounding on a member of his future Boston Bruins team.
Chris McAllister was a big bad man, standing at 6’7” and tipping the scale at 240 pounds. He didn’t spend very much time in Vancouver, but during his 64 regular season games as a Canuck in the late 1990s he fought 20 times and managed a 6-6-8 record.
The majority of McAllister’s fights were against the other heavyweights in the NHL because no one else was stupid enough to take him on. One of those heavyweights was Wade Belak, who had a spirited tilt with McAllister during the 1998-99 season.
Most Canucks fans know that Orland Kurtenbach was the first ever captain on the team when they joined the NHL in 1970. But what many younger Canucks fans don’t realize is how good of a fighter Kurtenbach was.
The 6’2”, 195-pound Kurtenbach was nearing the end of his career by the time he joined the expansion Canucks, but he still had plenty of toughness left in him and racked up 11 fights during his four years with the team.
In fact, Kurtenbach was so tough that boxing trainer Murray Greig claimed that Kurtenbach was one of the best fighters of his era, referencing his long reach and quick fists that delivered some huge uppercuts.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any video clips of Kurtenbach throwing the knuckles around as a member of the Canucks. But if you look at his photo, it should tell you all you need to know about his toughness.
With the sad departure of Rick Rypien, it looks as though Kevin Bieksa is the Canucks top tough guy heading into the 2011-12 season.
There’s no questioning Bieksa’s fighting ability. He’s admitted to studying videos of potential opponents on hockeyfights.com and his staggering 24-3-1 regular season record proves that he knows exactly what he’s doing once the gloves come off. He’ll even drop the mitts in the playoffs if he feels it’s necessary.
The only problem with Bieksa is that he rarely fights anyone in the heavyweight division. This is probably a good thing for Canucks fans because he’s too valuable to the team to risk getting injured against a heavyweight goon. Nevertheless, the calibre of opponents Bieksa takes on is the only reason that he doesn’t crack the top 10.
Clearly, Kevin Bieksa has proved he can dominate second-class fighters such as Craig Adams. It would be interesting to see how well he would do if he fought more often and did so against the top-tier fighters.
Wade Brookbank was one of the top fighters in the league during his brief NHL career. He was the Canucks top enforcer for parts of the 2003-04 and 2005-06 seasons and had a record of 9-5-4 in 18 regular season fights.
At 6’4” and 220 pounds, Brookbank fought the best of the best and was only in the NHL because of his fighting skills. In fact, he’d likely rank higher on this list if he had stuck around Vancouver for longer than 52 regular season games.
Brookbank’s best victories with the Canucks came against heavyweights like Matt Johnson, Jody Shelley, and this epic KO of Krzysztof Oliwa in his first ever shift in a Vancouver uniform.
Antoski may have been overshadowed by Gino Odjick in the enforcer department during his time in Vancouver. The two tough guys both played for the Canucks in the early to mid-1990s, and when Odjick wasn’t beating up opponents, Antoski was picking up the slack.
The majority of Antoski’s 22 regular season fights with the Canucks were against the heavyweights, as he stood at 6’4” and weighed 235 pounds during his playing days.
Jack MgIlhargey was nicknamed “The Wolfman” during his NHL career, and he was a very scary combatant for most opponents.
McIlhargey had great hand speed and beat some of the best fighters in the league during the 1970s. He is mostly remembered for being part of the broad street bully Philadelphia Flyers teams, but he did spend a few seasons with the Canucks.
In the 167 games he played for the Canucks, McIlhargey fought 31 times and was successful in most of those fights. One of those fights was in his very first game as a Canuck, which you can watch here.
It’s a shame that Rick Rypien is gone from the world at just 27 years young. At just 5’11" and 194 pounds, Rypien played and fought with a lot of spirit, as he took on challengers of all sizes.
The hockey world clearly respected what Rypien did and there were a couple of comments on Twitter that summed up that respect nicely.
Bobby Ryan of the Anaheim Ducks tweeted that Rypien played a tough position and did it well, while Ducks enforcer George Parros complimented Rypien by calling him the nicest guy and tough as nails, too.
Rypien was an extremely talented hockey fighter and was a natural south paw who could throw with both hands. This often surprised opponents and put them in trouble.
Most of his fights were against the middle-weight division and he cleaned up pretty nicely against those players. His 19-7-2 record in regular season play is proof of that.
There were some occasions where “The Ripper” took on guys much bigger than him and he still fared admirably. One of those occasions was against 6’7” Hal Gill, where Rypien may have even won the fight. Another was against one of the top fighters in the league in 6’4”, 230-pound Matt Carkner.
Here’s a compilation of some of Rypien's more memorable fights in the NHL, along with a beautiful goal. Needless to say, he will be sorely missed.
There was no fear in the eyes of Craig Coxe during his time in Vancouver. He fought the best of the best and did so with reasonable success.
Coxe’s fight strategy didn’t consist of much defence, but you couldn’t say that his fights weren’t entertaining. He swung from the hips and usually someone was going down, even if it was sometimes him.
Coxe played with the Canucks from 1984 to 1988 and then made a return to the team in 1989. He fought 33 times for the Canucks in regular season play and some of the big names he took on included Dave Brown, Joey Kocur, John Kordic, Troy Crowder and Bob Probert. His most memorable fights were probably against Probert as they went toe-to-toe on two separate occasions. Here is one of those occasions from back in 1985.
From 2008 to 2010, Darcy Hordichuk was the main enforcer of the Vancouver Canucks. Despite being relatively small compared to most of the NHL’s heavyweights, Hordichuk did very well fighting for the Canucks.
He kept his head down and fired powerful punches like there was no tomorrow. His regular season record as a Canuck was 14-7-9.
Hordichuk’s job was to stand up for his teammates and take on all challengers, but one of his favourite combatants was clearly George Parros. Including the preseason, Hordichuk fought Parros seven times as a member of the Canucks with a record of 4-1-2, which should give you any idea of how tough Hordichuk truly is. Here is video evidence of one of his victories over Parros.
Hordichuk takes fighting very seriously and trains with UFC legend Chuck Liddell in the offseason. He will be missed as a Vancouver Canuck and we hope he doesn’t hurt the Canucks too badly as a new member of their division rivals, the Edmonton Oilers.
What more can you say about the man known around the NHL as "Tiger"? He may not have been the most talented fighter in hockey history, but he was tough as nails and was willing to fight literally any player at any time.
Tiger played with the Canucks from 1979 to 1984 and racked up a whopping 343 penalty minutes in the 1980-81 season along with 341 penalty minutes in the 1981-82 season when the Canucks made the Stanley Cup Finals.
The stellar fight card of Tiger Williams as a Canuck featured fighting legends such as Terry O’Reilly, Chris Nilan, Dave Semenko, Tim Hunter and several others. In total, he racked up 64 regular season fights with the Canucks and is the all-time leader in career NHL penalty minutes.
While Tiger may not have beat many of the heavyweights, he was always willing and usually did much better against the second-tier fighters. His pummelling of rival Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Jerry Dupont is proof of this.
If for no other reason than his status as the NHL penalty minutes king, Tiger Williams deserves to be in the top five on this list of the top Canucks fighters.
Harold Snepsts spent the vast majority of his career with the Vancouver Canucks and was a great defender of his teammates. If you messed with one of the Canucks skilled players in the 1970s and early 1980s, you usually had to answer to Snepsts.
At 6’3” and 215 pounds, Snepsts was a strong defenseman and fought 45 times with the Canucks. He won most fights based on his strength and power alone and took on some of the top heavyweights during his time in Vancouver.
One particular Snepsts tilt was against Ron Delorme, who was on the Colorado Rockies at the time but once played for the Canucks and is No. 17 on this list. Both fighters threw furious punches, but Snepsts got the better of Delorme and took him down in the end.
For being immensely strong and having success in the majority of his 45 regular season fights as a Canuck, Harold Snepsts earns the No. 4 spot on this list. Oh, and he had a great moustache, too!
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Canucks had many tough guys on their team. However, none of them could match the fighting skills and power of Curt Fraser.
Fraser was one of the most underrated NHL fighters of all time, but to people who followed the game closely, he was one of the best. He was also known as the king of the one-punch. Here’s an example of how he earned that reputation.
In his 53 fights with the Canucks, Fraser proved how strong and powerful he was with his hands by defeating many top-tier fighters. He also got into a fight in the hallways outside the locker rooms with Chris Nilan one night.
Fraser was a beast during his time in Vancouver and was a great fighter in both Canucks history and NHL history.
Gino Odjick is simply known as Gino around Vancouver. His 149 total fights (127 in the regular season) are the most all time by anyone in a Canucks uniform. He terrorized opponents in the early to mid-1990s with his aggressive and successful fighting style.
Odjick was one of the best heavyweights in the league for a long time and entertained fans by going toe-to-toe with anyone who would face him on a nightly basis. His most active season as a fighter was the 1992-93 season where he racked up 370 minutes in penalties.
One example of Gino’s fighting skills is this victory against fellow heavyweight Rob Ray. Odjick was also known to be a loose cannon at times and often wanted to take on entire teams. Here is an example of that against the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the 1995 playoffs.
While Gino Odjick is clearly the most popular fighter in Vancouver Canucks history, he isn’t the best. That spot is reserved for one of the best fighters in NHL history who terrorized opponents for years.
Standing at 6’3” and weighing in at 237 pounds during his playing days, Donald Brashear was in the league for one reason: to protect his teammates and beat the tar out of anyone who wanted to fight him. He is the best of the best when it comes to Canucks fighters and led the way on an extremely tough Vancouver team in the late 1990s.
Brashear spent four full seasons and two partial seasons with the Canucks from 1996 to 2001. During that time, he fought 83 times in the regular season and won almost every single one of those fights. The only reason he didn’t fight more is because many players were afraid to take him on.
Brashear's fighting style began with an odd stance. He would then often grab onto his opponents and tie up their arms before destroying them with lightning quick left hand punches.
One example of that is this fight against an outmatched Chris Murray.
Another is this tilt against the 6’5” Eric Cairns.
And what would a tribute to one of the best NHL fighters of all time be without showing him defeating arguably the greatest fighter of all time in Bob Probert.
Finally, Brashear proves that Cam Russell is truly out of his league by using him as his personal punching bag in this KO.
Now that his hockey career is over, Donald Brashear has moved on to the world of MMA where he recently won his debut fight in just 21 seconds. Clearly he's one tough customer on and off the ice!
Thanks for reading my tribute to the best fighters in Vancouver Canucks history and for watching the videos.
You can connect with me on Twitter: @adam_graham