Who are the greatest NHL fighters of all time? Hockey is a fast-paced and intense sport that is typically known for its electrifying goals and bone-crushing hits.
But there’s another element that’s always been a part of the game: the enforcers. These players, known for their brawling prowess and willingness to drop the gloves, have earned a special place in NHL history.
With junior hockey leagues such as the QMJHL reportedly abolishing fighting, we thought we’d take a look at some of the greatest hockey fighters to ever lace up the skates.
In this article, we’ll be ranking the best NHL fighters of all time, from legendary bruisers like Bob Probert and Tie Domi to more modern enforcers like Georges Laraque and Rob Ray.
Bob Probert – The Unstoppable Force
Bob Probert was a force to be reckoned with on the ice. The Windsor, Ontario native spent 16 seasons in the NHL, mainly with the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks. Probert was known for his willingness to drop the gloves and defend his teammates.
With over 3,300 penalty minutes in his career, Probert was a true enforcer and a fan favorite. His combination of toughness, skill, and hockey IQ made him one of the most formidable NHL fighters of all time. Probert co-wrote a best-selling book that details his incredible career, including a stint in rehab and a trip to jail.
Tie Domi – “The Little Bulldog”
Standing at just 5’10”, Tie Domi was far from the biggest player on the ice, but he more than made up for it with his tenacity and ferocity. Over his 16-season career, Domi played for the Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, and Winnipeg Jets, earning a reputation as a fearless fighter.
Not only was Domi unafraid to drop the gloves with opposing players, but he also took exception to heckling fans. Domi’s penalty box incident is one of the more memorable NHL-fan interactions. With over 3,500 penalty minutes and more than 300 fights under his belt, Domi’s relentless spirit secured his place among the NHL’s all-time great enforcers. Not to be undone by Probert, Domi also published a chart-topping book that offers insight into his unique career.
Georges Laraque – The Gentle Giant
At 6’3″ and 245 pounds, Georges Laraque was an intimidating presence on the ice. Known for his devastating punches and unmatched strength, Laraque earned his reputation as one of the most feared fighters in the league during his time with the Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Montreal Canadiens.
Despite his fierce demeanor on the ice, Laraque was known off the ice as a gentle giant, always willing to lend a helping hand to his teammates and his community. Laraque’s unique blend of on-ice nastiness and off-ice gentleness made him a fan favorite in Edmonton and throughout the NHL.
Derek Boogaard – The Boogeyman
Derek Boogaard was a towering figure in the NHL, standing at 6’7″ and weighing 265 pounds. Nicknamed “The Boogeyman” for his fearsome fighting abilities, Boogaard played for the Minnesota Wild and the New York Rangers.
His combination of size and strength made him a formidable opponent, and he quickly became one of the most feared enforcers in the league. Tragically, Boogaard passed away at the age of 28, but his impact on the game will never be forgotten.
Donald Brashear – The Heavyweight Champion
Donald Brashear was a force to be reckoned with during his 16-season NHL career. With over 2,600 penalty minutes and more than 200 fights, Brashear earned his reputation as one of the league’s top enforcers.
Brashear played for five different teams, including the Vancouver Canucks, Philadelphia Flyers, and Washington Capitals. Known for his powerful punches and ability to take a hit, Brashear was a heavyweight champion on the ice.
Rob Ray – Rayzor’s Edge
Rob Ray, nicknamed “Rayzor,” spent the majority of his career with the Buffalo Sabres, where he became a fan favorite and a respected enforcer. Ray was known for his unique fighting style, often shedding his jersey and equipment to gain an advantage over his opponents.
Ray’s fighting tactic eventually led to the creation of the “Rob Ray Rule,” which penalized players for removing their jerseys during fights. With over 3,200 penalty minutes and countless memorable brawls, Ray’s impact on the game remains strong.
Dave “The Hammer” Schultz – The Original Enforcer
No list of the best NHL fighters would be complete without mentioning Dave “The Hammer” Schultz. As a key member of the Philadelphia Flyers’ “Broad Street Bullies” era, Schultz was the epitome of an enforcer.
He set an NHL single-season record with 472 penalty minutes in the 1974-75 season, a record that still stands today. Schultz’s fighting prowess and ability to intimidate opponents helped lead the Flyers to back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 1974 and 1975.
Marty McSorley – The Protector
Marty McSorley was a versatile player who could score goals, make plays, and most importantly, protect his teammates. He spent the majority of his career with the Edmonton Oilers and the Los Angeles Kings, often playing alongside the great Wayne Gretzky.
McSorley’s primary role was to ensure Gretzky had the space he needed on the ice, and he did so with his impressive fighting skills. With over 3,000 penalty minutes and a fearless attitude, McSorley was an enforcer who made a significant impact on the game.
Chris Nilan – Knuckles
Chris “Knuckles” Nilan was known for his no-holds-barred approach to fighting on the ice. With more than 3,000 penalty minutes and over 250 fights in his career, Nilan made his mark as one of the league’s most feared enforcers.
As a member of the Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins, and New York Rangers, Nilan’s hard-hitting style and tenacity made him a fan favorite and a crucial component of his teams’ success.
The NHL has seen its fair share of legendary fighters throughout its history. From the early days of Dave “The Hammer” Schultz and Bob Probert to modern-day enforcers like Georges Laraque and Rob Ray, these players have left an indelible mark on the game.
While fighting may be a controversial aspect of hockey, there’s no denying the impact and legacy these enforcers have left on the sport. They represent a unique blend of toughness, skill, and heart that continues to captivate fans and inspire future generations of NHL players.