It’s no secret that fighting in the sport of hockey has taken a backseat in recent years. Player safety and other things of that nature have led to the decrease in fisticuffs. There are still a few players in the league that have that fighting mentality, but over the time the NHL has been around, there have been some legendary players who were best known for dropping the gloves at a moments notice. These warriors made their name and created their own legacy by doing what many didn’t. Let’s take a look at the most recognized fighters of all time.
Georges Laraque played in the NHL for 14 seasons and was one of the most feared enforcers in the sport. At 6’3, 245 pounds, the Montreal native was an undisputed heavyweight among his peers and combatants in his seven seasons with the Edmonton Oilers. Laraque racked up over 1126 penalty minutes in his career, and, participated in 138 fights according to hockeyfights.com
In the fight-filled era of the 1970’s, Stan Jonathan was revered as one of the most-feared enforcers. Playing for the “Big Bad” Bruins of that decade, Jonathan, the 175 pounder, wasn’t afraid to drop them with anyone. Jonathan would play for seven years in the NHL — ending his career in Pittsburgh — but even in that short span, was a fighting machine.
The late 28-year old big man from Saskatoon, Boogaard in his six seasons, was the consummate NHL enforcer. Boogard. In his time in the league, Boogaard became the most notorious for his knockouts, so much so, that his fellow counterpart, Georges Laraque, retired because he knew it would end badly if he faced him. Totaling 66 fights, it was a shock around the league when he accidentally overdosed. Boogard was one of the last of his breed.
It’s no surprise another member of the Big Bad Bruins finds his way on to this list. O’Reilly — on those famed Bruins teams — would throw his weight around at anyone, and if the opposition came back at him, he had no problem obliging to get into an old-fashioned donnybrook. Over his 13-year career, O’Reilly tallied up to 2100 penalty minutes and a mind-numbing 172 fights.
Oh, how much fun it must have been to be this guy, who was in charge of having Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky’s back on the Oilers Stanley Cup winning teams of the late 80’s. Semenko played his role to perfection in Edmonton as the bodyguard, and if needed, as a goon who would throw down with anyone who tried to hurt The Great One. From 1979 to 1988, the Winnipeg native fought over 70 times in the regular season and postseason.
Known as “The Hammer” and adored by Flyers fans, and hated by every other fanbase around the league, Dave Schultz was as mean and tough as they came. As one of the most iconic members of the Broad Street Bullies, Schultz wasn’t intimidated by anybody. His 472 penalty minutes in 1974-75 will never, ever be broken. Being that hated, Schultz ended up fighting 158 times in just seven seasons of playing.
Considered by many as the original enforcer, John Ferguson played a huge part in that nasty, blood riven time, known as old-time hockey. Ferguson was an engine, taking a boatload of penalty and fighting anything or anyone that could move. Even standing at 6’0, 178 pounds, Ferguson didn’t let his size affect him, as he partook in 49 fights from 1963 to 1970.
One of the most recognized names of the 1990’s for his dirty play, Marty McSorley was a maniac on skates. People say he was not just a simple goon, and McSorley proved them right. He is fourth all-time in penalty minutes for an NHLer, and just like Dave Semenko, he was another one of the famed Wayne Gretzky protectors. As for dropping the gloves, in over 16 seasons, McSorley fought a record 225 times.
For someone who only stood 5’10, Tie Domi had no problem taking on whoever was in his path. Described as a sideshow, Domi would put on a show every single time fisticuffs were involved. Those antics earned Domi the third-most penalty minutes for a player in the history of the game, with 3,515. By the end of his career in 2005-06, Domi had been in a staggering 255 fights.
Dave “Tiger” Williams
Aside from his awesome nickname, Dave Williams was like a tiger out on the ice: Imposing and Ferocious. Williams was seen as a real entertainer anytime someone would challenge him to a fight. Another tough kid from Wayburn, Saskatchewan, Williams threw down with the best of them, ending his career as the most penalized player in NHL history with 3, 966 minutes. Oh and as for how many fights he had? Try, 246 times.
The greatest fighter in the history of the National Hockey League, Bob Probert was and still is in a class of his own. He is seen as the most skilled fighter of his day, that even legend on this list, John Ferguson, said that he was nowhere near the level of fighter Probert was. His iconic battles with Tie Domi and Joey Kocur, just to name a few, made Probert a household name. Fifth all-time on the penalty docket and 230 fights under his belt, nothing else needs to be debated that Probert will go down as the king of fighting.