The 33 Most Intimidating Players in NHL History

April WeinerCorrespondent ISeptember 19, 2011

The 33 Most Intimidating Players in NHL History

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    Hockey is a physical sport, filled with big hits and even fighting, so it goes without saying that the sport is filled with tough guys.

    However, some players are more intimidating than others.

    Some players are feared every time they step foot on the ice, whether it's because of their fists of fury or their bone-crushing hits.

    Here are 33 of the most intimidating players throughout NHL history and today.

33. Barclay and Bob Plager

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    Barclay and Bob Plager both spent the majority of their careers playing for the St. Louis Blues organization.

    They played from the late '60s into the '70s.

    They were intimidating hitters, with head coach Scotty Bowman even mentioning that "no one hits harder than Barclay Plager."

    In addition to their hard hits, the pair, along with little brother Billy sometimes, would step up and defend their teammates when the time came.

    The Plager brothers were some of the toughest in the NHL.

32. Bobby Baun

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    Toronto Maple Leaf Bobby Baun might have been one of the toughest hockey players ever. During the 1964 Stanley Cup Final, he blocked a Gordie Howe shot with his body that broke his ankle.

    However, he refused to go to the hospital or let doctors examine him and wound up scoring the game-winning goal that forced a Game 7. He also played every shift in Game 7 in spite of the broken ankle.

    But that doesn't describe why he was intimidating to the other team.

    Baun was only 5'9" and less than 200 pounds, but he was still one of the hardest hitters in the game.

    He delivered bone-crushing hits on a nightly basis.

31. Bill Ezinicki

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    Bill Ezinicki was a right winger in the NHL from 1940-1955. He played for the Toronto Maple Leafs the longest, winning three Stanley Cup championships with the team.

    He also played for the Boston Bruins and the New York Rangers.

    Ezinicki will be remembered mostly for his hard hits that sent shivers down the spines of his opponents when he stepped on the ice.

    It makes sense that he would be such a hard hitter—as a young kid he attended a hockey school run by the great Eddie Shore.

    Photo courtesy of

30. Todd Bertuzzi

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    Todd Bertuzzi has been known for being a power forward during his time with the New York Islanders, Vancouver Canucks, Florida Panthers, Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames and his current team, the Detroit Red Wings.

    Bertuzzi will be remembered for an incident during a Canucks-Colorado Avalanche game.

    Avalanche forward Steve Moore previously injured Canucks captain Markus Naslund after checking him in the head. He was not penalized for the hit, as it was deemed a legal hit.

    However, Bertuzzi decided to retaliate on his own in a rematch between the two teams less than a week later.

    The Canucks team had played Moore hard that game, with Matt Cooke fighting Moore just a few minutes into the game.

    Later on in the game, Bertuzzi wanted to challenge Moore to another fight. Moore was ignoring Bertuzzi, so Bertuzzi skated up behind Moore, sucker-punched him and fell on top of him to the ice.

    Moore was severely injured and later pursued legal action against Bertuzzi.

29. Georges Laraque

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    Georges Laraque spent 14 years in the NHL, playing for the Edmonton Oilers, Phoenix Coyotes and Pittsburgh Penguins and ending his career with the Montreal Canadiens.

    During his career, Laraque was renowned for his fists—one of the most intimidating fighters of his time.

    According to his profile, Laraque had 142 total fights in his NHL career between the preseason, regular season and postseason.

    It's safe to say that Laraque won the vast majority of them.

28. Scott Parker

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    Scott Parker spent 10 years in the NHL, playing for the Colorado Avalanche and San Jose Sharks.

    At 6'5" and 240 pounds, Parker was the perfect size to be a feared fighter in the league, and he stepped into that role well.

    He was even nicknamed "The Sheriff," as he protected his teammates on the ice.

    In 308 total career NHL games, Parker racked up more than twice as many penalty minutes with 699, thanks in large part to his fighting.

27. Milt Schmidt

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    Milt Schmidt was best known for being a star player on the Boston Bruins, helping them win multiple Stanley Cups in the late 1930s and early '40s.

    A few years serving in the Canadian military during World War II interrupted his time with the Bruins, but when he returned, he would eventually be named captain and win the Hart Trophy as the league's MVP.

    In today's game, a player like that generally wouldn't be intimidating physically.

    Schmidt was.

    He was known for his bone-crushing hits and feared on the ice for both his scoring prowess and his destructive hits.

26. Tie Domi

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    Tie Domi played 16 years in the NHL for the Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers and Winnipeg Jets.

    Domi's role was primarily that of an enforcer, and he was an intimidating presence on the ice because of it.

    In fact, the only person he probably didn't intimidate was this Philadelphia Flyers fan.

    In over 1,000 NHL games, Domi accumulated more than 3,500 penalty minutes—the majority being fighting majors.

25. Ulf Samuelsson

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    Ulf Samuelsson spent 16 years in the NHL, playing for the Hartford Whalers, Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers.

    Samuelsson was known for his physical style of play, hard hits, being an agitator and even as a dirty player (as he's considered the reason that Cam Neely's career was cut short).

    He was nicknamed Robocop because of his padding that acted like armor.

    In more than 1,000 NHL games, Samuelsson accumulated more than 2,400 penalty minutes, putting him amongst only 54 players who have accumulated more than 2,000 PIM.

24. Derian Hatcher

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    Derian Hatcher spent 16 years in the NHL with the Minnesota North Stars/Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers.

    At 6'5" and 235 pounds, Hatcher was an effective body-checker and intimidating to his opponents.

    In addition to being intimidating physically, he was intimidating for his skill as well. He captained the Stars to the Stanley Cup in 1999, becoming the first American-born captain to do that.

23. Dave Semenko

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    Dave Semenko spent 11 years in the NHL, playing for the Edmonton Oilers, Hartford Whalers and Toronto Maple Leafs in his career.

    "Cementhead," as he was dubbed, was known best for his role as "Wayne Gretzky's Bodyguard" during his time in Edmonton.

    His protection allowed Gretzky and the other Edmonton stars to really shine and be successful on the ice.

22. Donald Brashear

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    Donald Brashear just recently retired from hockey and is currently pursuing a career in mixed martial arts, which is evidence of his fighting prowess.

    During his time in the NHL, Brashear was an enforcer for the Montreal Canadiens, Vancouver Canucks, Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals and New York Rangers.

    He was intimidating on the ice both for his role as an enforcer, as well as his body-checking.

    In more than 1,000 NHL games, Brashear racked up over 2,600 penalty minutes.

21. Keith Magnuson

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    Keith Magnuson was one of the most beloved Chicago Blackhawks for his personality both on and off the ice.

    On the ice, Magnuson was a feared defenseman and enforcer, willing to drop the gloves with anyone who challenged him.

    He was nicknamed the "Red-Headed Barbarian" and remains Chicago's leader in career penalty minutes with more than 1,400.

20. John Kordic

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    John Kordic played for the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals and Quebec Nordiques during his NHL career.

    Kordic was known primarily as an enforcer in his career.

    In just 244 career NHL games, he accumulated an astounding 997 penalty minutes—a career average of just over four minutes per game.

19. Dave Brown

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    Dave Brown played for the Philadelphia Flyers, Edmonton Oilers and San Jose Sharks during his NHL career.

    At 6'5" and 220 pounds, Brown was the perfect size to be an effective enforcer in the NHL, which he was.

    One of the most memorable moments of Brown's career was when he was suspended 15 games for cross-checking Tomas Sandstrom of the New York Rangers.

    Sandstrom suffered a broken jaw and a concussion following the hit. At the time, that was one of the longest suspensions in league history.

18. Rob Ray

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    Rob Ray spent almost 20 years in the NHL, playing for the Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators during that time.

    Ray will be remembered as a fighter, particularly for rivalries with other top enforcers of the time, including Tie Domi.

    He will also be remembered for his unique fighting style, where he would undress prior to the fight, giving his opponents nothing to attach themselves to.

    The NHL instituted a rule preventing this practice, which was dubbed the "Rob Ray Rule."

17. Chris Nilan

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    Chris Nilan played in the NHL from 1979-1992 for the Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers and Boston Bruins.

    Nilan was known best a fighter and was nicknamed "Knuckles" because of it.

    In just 688 NHL games, Nilan accumulated more than 3,000 penalty minutes, one of only nine players to accumulate more than 3,000 PIM.

16. Dale Hunter

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    Dale Hunter spent almost 20 years in the NHL for the Quebec Nordiques, Washington Capitals and Colorado Avalanche.

    Hunter was a highly talented player, as well as an intimidating force on the ice.

    He's the only player to score more than 1,000 points and also accumulate more than 3,000 penalty minutes.

    Hunter is second only to Tiger Williams among career leaders in penalty minutes.

15. Bobby Clarke

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    Bobby Clarke was the leader of the Philadelphia Flyers, or Broad Street Bullies, in the '70s and was always an intimidating presence.

    In fact, Clarke led Canada in its beatdown of the Soviet Union in the 1972 Summit Series and is still remembered for his controversial slash on Valeri Kharlamov in the game.

    He was also a skilled player, scoring more than 100 points in a season multiple times in his NHL career.

    He was also feared for his checking and physical play.

14. Steve Durbano

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    Steve Durbano played for many teams in his NHL career, most notably for the St. Louis Blues.

    Durbano was an intimidating guy on and off the ice. On the ice, he racked up PIM with lots of fights, but he routinely got into fights off the ice, in bars, as well.

    In 1998, The Hockey News called Durbano the "baddest man in hockey."

    Durbano ran into a lot of trouble with the law, including charges of drug trafficking and running a prostitution ring.

13. Tony Twist

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    Tony Twist spent 10 years as a left winger for the Quebec Nordiques and St. Louis Blues in the NHL.

    He was known primarily as an enforcer, though.

    Twist was known as the most dominant enforcer of his time, beating down most of the game's toughest enforcers of the time.

    In just 445 NHL games, he racked up more than 1,100 PIM—an average of about 2.5 penalty minutes per game.

12. Clark Gillies

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    Clark Gillies spent 14 seasons in the NHL as a left winger for the New  York Islanders and Buffalo Sabres.

    Gillies was best known as an intimidating force on the ice, a reputation he created early on in the juniors. He quickly continued that reputation in the NHL.

    In his rookie season, Gillies established himself as a top enforcer after fighting and beating renowned enforcer Dave "The Hammer" Schultz.

    His toughness, as well as his skill, helped the Islanders to four consecutive Stanley Cup championships during his time with the team.

11. Wendel Clark

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    Wendel Clark spent 15 years in the NHL, most notably for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    He also played for the Quebec Nordiques, New York Islanders, Tampa Bay Lightning, Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks.

    He was known for his fierce play on the ice, a reputation he began in the juniors and extended to the NHL as well.

    He accumulated a whopping 227 PIM during his rookie year. In total, he racked up more than 1,600 career PIM.

10. Derek Boogaard

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    Derek "The Boogeyman" Boogaard will be remembered as one of the most intimidating enforcers in hockey history.

    At 6'7" and 265 pounds, Boogaard was always an intimidating presence on the ice.

    A few years back, Boogaard was voted the second-most feared enforcer in the NHL, behind Georges Laraque.

    Despite being an intimidating presence, Boogaard will be sorely missed. His legacy will live on, though.

9. Joey Kocur

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    Joey Kocur spent 16 seasons in the NHL, playing for the Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks.

    He is best known for his role as one half of the "Bruise Brothers" alongside Bob Probert in Detroit.

    However, the two would fight each other as well when they were later opponents.

    Kocur accumulated more than 2,000 PIM in just 821 games. He's among only 54 other players to exceed 2,000 PIM, with 2,519 total.

8. Bob Probert

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    Bob Probert spent 17 seasons in the NHL, playing for the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks.

    He was one of the most feared enforcers in NHL history and was particularly protective of teammate Steve Yzerman.

    During his NHL career, Probert had longstanding rivalries with other enforcers, including Wendel Clark, Tie Domi and Stu Grimson.

    He's one of only nine players to exceed 3,000 career PIM with 3,300 in 935 career games.

7. Dave "Tiger" Williams

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    Dave "Tiger" Williams spent 14 seasons in the NHL, playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings and Hartford Whalers.

    Williams is best remembered for his role as an enforcer for his various NHL teams.

    In fact, Williams is the most penalized player in NHL history, racking up close to 4,000 PIM in 962 career games.

6. Dave "Hammer" Schultz

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    Dave "The Hammer" Schultz spent 11 years in the NHL for the Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Los Angeles Kings and Buffalo Sabres.

    The Hammer will be best remembered for his role an enforcer during his NHL career.

    In fact, he holds the record for the most PIM in a single season, accumulating 472 in 1974-75. He routinely accumulated more than 200 and 300 PIM in single seasons.

    In total, Schultz accumulated 2,294 career PIM in 535 career games.

5. Cam Neely

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    Cam Neely spent 13 years in the NHL, playing for the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins.

    Neely was known for his offensive prowess, his physical play, his willingness to fight and his destructive body-checking.

    He was intimidating to opponents because he could do it all.

4. Stu Grimson

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    Stu Grimson spent 15 years in the NHL playing for the Calgary Flames, Chicago Blackhawks, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Detroit Red Wings, Hartford Whalers, Carolina Hurricanes, Los Angeles Kings and Nashville Predators.

    He was a renowned enforcer during his career, thus earning the nickname "The Grim Reaper."

    Grimson is one of only 54 players to accumulate more than 2,000 career PIM with 2,113. He did this in only 729 career games.

3. Gordie Howe

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    Gordie Howe is one of the most legendary figures in hockey and NHL history, playing in six different decades and being dubbed "Mr. Hockey."

    Howe was intimidating in more ways than one. He could score and play physically.

    The so-called "Gordie Howe Hat Trick" commemorates this—when a player scores a goal, notches an assist and gets into a fight in a single game.

    We could go on all day about Howe and his career.

    He was always an intimidating presence on the ice.

2. Scott Stevens

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    Scott Stevens played 22 seasons in the NHL for the Washington Capitals, St. Louis Blues and most notably the New Jersey Devils.

    Stevens will be remembered as probably the most intimidating hitter in hockey history.

    If you disagree, just ask Eric Lindros.

    Stevens, who was the longest-tenured captain in Devils history, was often referred to as "Captain Crunch" for his bone-crushing checks.

1. Eddie Shore

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    Eddie Shore played hockey professionally from 1926-1940 for the New York Americans and the Boston Bruins.

    He was one of the most famous early physical hitters and paved the way for the physical hitters of later years.

    In 550 career games, he accumulated more than 1,000 penalty minutes, one of the early PIM leaders, and set some of the first PIM records.