Top 10 All-Time Best Fighters


Spring is here. The playoffs are in full effect, and for those of us that cheer for Canadian teams that means we have A LOT of free time at the moment. Rather than spend our time dwelling on the failures of our respective teams we figured we’d use this opportunity to remember days gone by. A time when men grew killer moustaches, smoked in-between periods and tried to murder each other with their fists. 

Fighter, enforcer, goon, tough guy; they go by many names and come in many different shapes and sizes. These men are revered for their feats of strength, willingness to stand up for teammates and their fearlessness. 

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We’ve all had a favourite or two over the years. Whether it was Big Georges squaring off against the toughest the other team had to offer, then terrifying everyone in the first two rows as he jumped into the glass after scoring a goal. Or Tie Domi, the undersized heavyweight who stood toe to toe with some of the toughest of all time. 

This is where you come in Nation; our friends over at Violent Gentlemen are teaming up with our other friends at to put together a line of T-shirts that celebrate the greatest pugilists to ever step foot on the ice. You may have already seen their homage to Luke Gazdic!


And they need your help whittling down a list of many to just a select few. Let us know in the comments who your favourite fighter of all-time is, we’ll collect the names and next week we’ll leave it up to the citizens of The Nation to vote on who you’d like to see on a brand new HF x VG shirt! 

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  • Dirty30

    I’m going with Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe. He’s a tough dude who went out and scored goals, got assists and fought — the “Gordie Howe Hat Trick”!

    Certainly not an ‘enforcer’, but interviews with guys who played against him pretty much said that the one thing you didn’t want to do is to piss him off.

    Another guy, who has a trophy named after him for scoring, is Rocket Richard — here was another player with talent who was determined to win … many players talked about the look in his eyes and his willingness to get mean to win.

    Finally, Rick Rypien … probably one of the smallest ‘tough guys’ you’d ever find, but seemingly fearless in fighting guys way outside his weight class.

  • Bleedblueandwhite

    Best two fighters I every saw, one made it to the NHL and the other didn’t go pass the ECHL – I saw them both in the OHL.

    One only played one season as an overager for Owen Sound was Robin Big Snake – he had the biggest hands I have ever seen. He was devastating – one punch and out. By the time he got to the OHL no one want to fight him.

    The other was Cam Janssen – played most of his career with Windsor. He was real approachable – even from players on opposing teams. He had a high motor, non-stop punching for 30-40 seconds. Off the rink he was a funny kid. Janssen played over 300 NHL career games, which is more than just a journey man.

  • Oilinmyblood

    Although I’ve long been a proponent of eliminating fighting so it feels hypocritical weighing in, but for my money it’s Cam Neely. As much as I don’t like the guy (except for his Sea Bass cameos), and he seems like a jerk in Boston Management, the guy could throw down while also being a dangerous scorer (probably not hall of fame worthy… but that’s another story).

    So I think cam Neely should be in the list.

    From Edmonton… George Laraque…good mitts and a great personality.

    We should likely include Billy Smith as well as the all-time Goalie fight leader… by far.

    • arjay

      Fraser was a belted martial artist….and indeed was absolutely no slouch.

      I recall one game against To when he was challenged by a big Dman named Dave Farrish (sp).

      Fraser hit him so hard they carried him off the ice.

      Also the Cup run in 1982 he settled things down quickly with a beat down at centre ice on Chicago tough guy “Grant Mulvey” who left bloodied and the Nux went on to win that Series against all odds….partly b c Fraser took the physical game away from Chi,

      good choice for a hockey column…..lots of great choices.

  • Bryan in SK

    Jeff Odgers. Down to earth prairie boy who had no business making it to the NHL. Ended up a captain. Destroyed the knuckles of other fighters with his own nose.

    Saw him at an Oilers game autographing an Oilers jersey for a little boy. Didn’t matter that he played for Atlanta at the time. Never forgot where he was from, or became too big to make time for the kids.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    Could be Mark Messier. The crap that guy got away with was unbelievable yet very few ever took him to task for his indiscretions and infractions. This guy was a hell of a fighter with the Saints and in his one season in the WHA. There is a reason guys seldom dropped the gloves with him in spite of the crap Messier routinely dished out.

    Only guy Messier was ever really scared of was Scotty Stevens after Scotty laid him out with a clean open ice check and then stood over #11 and taunted him. Stevens was an animal when he fought. Messier was smart to stay away from that guy.

    One of the best smaller heavyweights was Frank “Boom Boom” Beaton. I remember when Gordie Howe tried to fight him and Beaton just subdued the old man refusing to pop him saying that hitting Howe would be like hitting his dad. When Beaton did fight he was a monster. His fights with Kim Clackson and Bad News Biladeau are legendary. The rumour still persists that the night Beaton and Billy Goldthorpe squared off was the night the joke about going to a boxing match and a hockey game broke out had its origins.

    Larry Robinson was like Messier in that his reputation as a great fighter meant that he seldom had to drop the gloves after his first couple of season in the show. If you have any doubts about Robinson as a puncher, take a look at his fights with Hammer Schultz and Terry O’ Reilly. He absolutely destroyed both of them. No fooling around. He stepped in and threw fists at them like he was starting an old lawnmower. Interestingly, Robinson said in an interview when praised for his fighting prowess said that his brother Moe was a lot better scrapper and that he could never beat Moe. Moe’s career with the Habs was short and undistinguished.

  • everton fc

    Dave Schultz said the only guy he feared was Nick Fotiu. Nicky Fotiu scared the Hammer. Give this some thought…

    Here’s Nick vs. Behn Wilson. Classic Fotiu – not mentioned by anyone. Amazing. Probably why he never racked up the penalty minutes of some in his era – no one wanted anything to do with him.

    One thing about guys like Probert, McSorely(also not mentioned) and others – they never tied down their jerseys, which gave them an unfair advantage. Probert, in particular, took advantage of this, which taints him in my mind. I think

    Another decent scrapper – though not Top Ten, he’s still one of my faves – Darren Langdon. And Tochett was a willing foe who did well against everyone.

    Finally, one of my all-time favourite players – not big, not the best fighter, but willing to scrap w/anyone…. Nevin Markwart. He was awesome to watch. Played the game the way it was meant to be played, even though he was small.

    And Gary Howatt was another small guy who was unafraid of anyone.

  • Friendly Neighbourhood Canucks fan

    I know I’ll get trashed for picking a Canucks guy but considering we’ve already mentioned the top dogs like Brown and Probert, I had to pick an unsung player. Highly underrated pound for pound little guy fighter is Rick Rypien. Demolished bigger guys like Stortini and Prust. His quick punches and blocks were technically sound. A great fighter if you just analyze it. RIP

  • Reg Dunlop

    Best jr. brawler had to be Barry Beck, his bouts with Rocky Maze were epic in the old Gardens. A true ruffian. In the WHA, Gord Gallant and Pierre Roy. In the NHL, before monsters played, John Wensink or Tiger Williams. Modern NHL, Dave Brown. Arms down to his knees like an orangutan.

  • Misguidedcanuck

    *I see he was just listed as knuckles Nilan a post above, but still not mentioned much.
    But all said I’d still rather see a Canuck on the T than someone who never played for the team.

    • McPucker

      Klackson. Yes. Him and Semenko went at it many times, but according to Rod Phillips, Klackson took a lot more than he gave.

      So that Klackson could keep coming back, I have to drop Semenko down a tad and I’d give it to Brown. He punished.

      Honourable mention to Stan Jonathon and his Pierre Bouchard fight. I think that pretty well put an end to Pierre’s career.

  • Reg Dunlop

    Honorable mention to Tim Horton who won every fight without punching. He would just squeeze the life out of guys. Had to be the strongest man to ever play.

  • fasteddy

    It’s difficult not to be a homer due to the elite toughness the Oil have had in days gone by….having said that the era of Tocchet, Clark, Corson, etc, etc, was very exciting. Guys that could play and scrap, and did so often.

  • T Ambrosini

    Some memorable brawlers, tough guys, etc being mentioned. I’ll add Basil McRae, Kelly Chase and Terry O’Reilly to the pot.

    Someone already mentioned Jon Mirasty. This tilt against Jeremy Jablonski is pretty energetic…