Hockey is such a beautiful game to play and watch because it encompasses all that we love as sports fans. Hockey players are arguably the toughest athletes in the world (coming from a former football player) and the superstars of the NHL often have a mean streak to them as well.
The combination of finesse and toughness may be more apparent in hockey than in any other major sport. Fans of the NHL love their teams and they respect their opponents that hit everything that moves (cleanly of course, Matt Cooke).
The Broad Street Bullies still are one of the most memorable hockey teams ever because of their complete disregard for their own bodies. We love those types of players and we respect them deeply.
Here is each NHL team's most ferocious hitter.
Kevin Bieksa of the Vancouver Canucks really emerged in 2011 as the best defenseman on the best team in the Western Conference. Bieksa is a fierce hitter that will play through injury and log a ton of ice time.
He may not be the biggest guy on the ice but that doesn't mean he will back down from anyone. Bieksa is an intimidator on the ice who uses his reputation to his advantage.
He was second in the entire NHL in plus/minus in 2011. Enough said.
Alexander Ovechkin can simply do it all. He is one of the fastest players in the NHL and he uses his speed to lay devastating hits on anything within reach.
Ovechkin is clearly the fiercest hitter on the Capitals and he may very well be the hardest hitter in the entire NHL. Just YouTube "Alex Ovechkin hits" if you don't believe me.
The way he throws his body into players full speed is awesome to see from a guy who is considered one of the top three offensive talents in the game today. "Alexander the Great" is a beast that looks like a man amongst boys out on the ice.
Except in the playoffs.
Chris Pronger is easily one of the most intimidating players in the NHL and he has been for a long time. The 6'6" Pronger may not hit as much as he used to but he still strikes the fear of God into the opposition every time he is on the ice.
It seems logical that Pronger will be the next captain of the Philadelphia Flyers after the departure of Mike Richards. He may talk the talk but he certainly can walk the walk.
He may be 36 years old, but he is still one of the most ferocious hitters in the NHL.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have a lot of players who can dish out hits like Aaron Asham, Michael Rupp and even that punk Matt Cooke, but no one hits harder than Brooks Orpik. Orpik may be one of the most under-appreciated players in the entire NHL and he is an old-school player that does whatever it takes to help his team win.
NHL fans finally started to take notice of how great a player Orpik really is during his performance with Team USA during the Olympics. Orpik doesn't care how big the guy is that has the puck.
If he has a chance to lay him out, you'd better believe he's going to take it. It probably won't work out too well for the opposition either.
Any NHL fan would love to have a guy like Douglas Murray of the San Jose Sharks on their team. He is big (6'3", 240) and strong as an ox.
Murray seems to enjoy delivering crushing hits on the opposition as much as the San Jose faithful do watching them. Murray plays the game with an attitude and he has the rare ability to do so for an entire game.
Murray has built up quite a reputation around the league as one of the game's best hitters. You'd better keep your head up when big No. 3 is around.
When you think of hard-hitting Detroit Red Wings you instantly think of Niklas Kronwall. Kronwall may have broken the mold of Swedish defensemen a bit with his style of play, but it certainly has been effective.
He has won a Stanley Cup with Detroit and also gold medals in the Olympics and World Cup. Not only is Kronwall one of the most ferocious hitters in the game, but even his name sounds intimidating.
Say it with me: KRONWALL.
The Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins showed the hockey world in 2010 that they have a number of guys that can dish out punishment, but no one in the game is more feared than Zdeno Chara. "Big Z" is 6'9" and 260 lbs but he is no gentle giant.
Chara loves to deliver huge hits when given the opportunity and he has even been in the conversation of a dirty player. Whatever he is, I'm glad I don't have to play against him.
Zdeno Chara is flat-out scary.
The 6'3" 206-lb Adam Hall finally was a regular player on an NHL hockey team and he showed that he is one of the game's best hitters. Hall plays with a complete disregard for his body and understands what he needs to do to be a regular in the Tampa Bay Lightning lineup.
Hall is an agitator that can certainly back up the talk in the light-heavyweight division of NHL fighters.
Corey Perry backed up his supporters' claims in 2011 that he is one of the best two-way players in the NHL. The former first-round pick hits hard and often in a lineup that features a myriad of tough guys.
Perry may have won the Hart Trophy (league MVP) because of his outstanding season offensively, but he is a great defensive player who loves to lay out opposing players as well.
Shea Weber was awarded a record $7.5 million contract this year by a salary arbitrator and he is worth every penny. The 6'4", 235 lbs, Weber may be the most elite defenseman in hockey and he is the total package.
He logs a ton of ice time and has all of the tools that you'd want in a D-man. He has a blistering shot (check out his slap shot at the NHL Skills Competition), great agility and plays with unrivaled tenacity.
Weber is a huge guy that can dish out the pain if he gets the chance.
Paul Bissonnette is the unquestioned top hitter of the Phoenix Coyotes. Bissonnette may not move too well, but he is always trying to throw. His 6'3", 220-lb frame around whenever he gets the chance.
Bissonnette just looks like a guy that is crazy and likes to hit.
Brown will hit anything that moves, which is uncommon for a guy that is as skilled as he is. Dustin Brown and Mike Richards may become the new "Bash Brothers."
I may dislike the Chicago Blackhawks as a Flyers fan, but I love watching Brent Seabrook play. Seabrook is a complete defenseman who can do it all.
He is an offensive and defensive force and he is a great hitter. Seabrook utilizes his above-average skating ability and intelligence to take great angles and deliver crushing blows.
The Seabrook-Keith combination is deadly.
The 6'2", 215-lb Travis Moen has been a ferocious NHL hitter for seven years now. Moen is an energy player that flies around the ice and tries to hit anything that is near him.
He is the player that can pump up the Montreal Canadiens when things are not going their way. He is not afraid of anyone and consequently will never back down.
The arrival of Robyn Regehr to the Buffalo Sabres instantly meant that Patrick Kaleta was no longer the hardest hitter on the team. Regehr was a tremendous signing by Buffalo and he will instantly become the lockdown D-man they have yearned for in front of Ryan Miller.
If Regehr hits his man square, there is good chance the other guy won't be getting up. He is a beast and Buffalo will instantly fall in love.
The picture above is of Jamie Benn attempting to annihilate Steve Wisnewski and missing badly. Benn has become a superstar rather quickly and is a complete two-way player.
Benn is fast, big and strong and is a captain in waiting for the Dallas Stars. Steve Ott was a close second though.
The gritty Curtis Glencross of the Calgary Flames is now the hardest hitter on the team with Dion Phaneuf gone. Glencross is a coach's dream and an opposing team's nightmare as he is an agitator who is great at making opposing teams take unnecessary penalties.
Glencross is a great hitter, especially for a player his size. Jarome Iginla was certainly considered for this honor as well.
Marc Staal has followed the lead of brothers Jordan and Eric and become a real warrior on the ice. Staal has already emerged as one of the best defensemen for the New York Rangers and he has the size and speed to play against any forward in the league.
Staal hasn't been in the league for a long time, but he already has built quite the highlight tape of crushing hits.
Tuomo Ruutu finished 15th in the NHL in hits last year and many of them were of the board-shaking variety. Ruutu is as tough as they come and isn't afraid to drop his gloves to back up his play.
Ruutu is one of the most under-appreciated players in the NHL today.
David Backes is pound for pound one of the toughest guys in the NHL. He uses that big body to be one of the game's most vicious hitters as well.
Backes is a fluid skater and he can knock an opposing player (or his own teammate) out when he squares them up. Backes looks like a wrecking ball on the ice.
Get out of his way.
Cal Clutterbuck is one of the most enjoyable players to watch in the NHL if you love the rough stuff. He racked up the seventh-most hits per 60 minutes in 2011 and can certainly stake his claim as an intimidator on the ice.
Clutterbuck is a grinder that actually has a decent scoring touch as well. He would look mighty nice in an orange and black Flyers uniform.
The Dion Phaneuf train has arrived in Toronto and the hardest hitter in the NHL has brought his reputation with him. Phaneuf is my pick for the most ferocious hitter as he actually seems to enjoy squaring up the opposition and making them hurt.
Phaneuf is a beast on the ice who makes opponents sure that they keep their heads up at all times. I love watching this guy.
Anton Volchenkov will always be in the conversation of the hardest hitters in the NHL. He plays with a complete disregard for his own body and he is a real enforcer on the ice without ever even having to drop his gloves.
Even though he will drop them with anyone.
Derek MacKenzie finished with the 11th-most hits per 60 minutes this past season. He is a monster that has to be in the conversation of the most ferocious hitters in the NHL.
MacKenzie is only 5'11" and around 180 lbs but he hits with the force of a Mack truck. He hits often and that is bad news for the opposition.
At 6'4" and 260 lbs, "Big Buff" Dustin Byfuglien can certainly bring the body. He may not check with the regularity as some of the other players on this list, but when he does you better watch out.
Byfuglien is a monster who has made the successful transition the blue line. Winnipeg will love their new D-man.
His big hits are game-changers.
Chris Neil is a real tough guy that isn't afraid to drop the gloves with anyone. He racked up over 200 penalty minutes in 2011 and loves to get in on the forecheck.
Neil is a grinder that is an agitator for the opposition but he is still well respected around the league. When you hit like Neil does you'd better respect the guy.
The New York Islanders had a lot of candidates for this list as they had three of the top 14 checkers from 2011, but Matt Martin was my choice here. This selection may be up for debate, but I love the way the winger attacks players in the corners.
Martin is tough as nails and is a good leader for the young Islanders.
Matt Bradley is one of the many new additions to the Florida Panthers and he instantly earns the ranking of hardest hitter. Bradley is a wide body that loves to throw his weight around.
Bradley is really the type of player that is suited for the Eastern Conference tough teams like the Bruins, Flyers, Capitals and Penguins, but take the money when you can bro!
The 6'3", 230-lb Shane O'Brien has been around for a long time and he has been a vicious hitter everywhere he has played. He is strong and tough and loves to dish out punishment on smaller forwards.
O'Brien will be a great mentor for the younger players on Colorado and is lead-by-example type player.
Darcy Hordichuk instantly becomes the hardest hitter on the Edmonton Oilers with his signing with the team. Hordichuk is a grinder who will drop the gloves with anyone and hit anything in sight.
Hordichuk was a great signing by a team that is loaded with young, skilled talent. Hordichuk will be on the bench to make sure no team takes any liberties against them.