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. 

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

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! 

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

  • BubbaZanetti

    Wendel Clark could chuck em with the best of them.
    Kevin McClelland was ornery.
    And to throw a name out there not expected, Bob Nystrom had some epic fights back in the day.

  • TrueBlue

    #1 with a bullet is Bob Probert. He was fear itself and could still play the game.

    Ron Hextall didn’t fight as much as your typical enforcer, but when he did he was all-in. Really fun to watch him blow his top.

    Also, I think Link Gaetz has to be included based purely on the fact that he was a fearless, borderline psychotic freaking maniac who kept playing after a car accident effectively ended his NHL career. He kept playing for over a decade in the beeriest of beer leagues because he liked to brawl. He’s a real life Hanson brother, and not the “Doo Wap” kind.

    If you’re not familiar with Link, this is a must-read:

  • Freakin' Saprykin


    But in all seriousness, I would be into a Brian McGrattan shirt. Hard to compare era to era, but he was one of the best and one of the last. Should count for something.

  • Smyl and Snepsts

    Chara, just too big and tough. Nobody can touch him. Larry Robinson pretty much ended Philadelphia reign of terror with beat downs on Schultz. Toughest Canucks ever was Harold Snepsts.

  • Leef O'Golin

    Love that Stan Jonathan got some votes. That guy was a buzz-saw. Don’t think I saw Clark Gillies’ name here though. As much as I HATED those Islanders, Jethro could chuck ’em.

  • Gerald R. Ford

    I don’t know who the other eight are, but Probert and Brown could have divided them into two teams of four and had a tournament just for funzies.

    If they did an MRI of Grimson’s face, it would look like a mold for a sculpture of Dave Brown’s left fist.

  • supra steve

    Brown was an absolute monster.

    I do remember some good bouts between Sandy McCarthy and all the heavyweights of his day. McCarthy, I think is under rated. Sandy lost his taste for the job, but for a short time he was among the best.

    And Domi, pound for pound, a real heavyweight.

  • Longshot1977

    Somewhere around 2007, I saw a segment on some sports channel or another where each team’s top “tough guy” was asked who they really don’t like to fight.

    Eric Godard (then of the Flames) answers with no hesitation. “Iggy. That guy fights ANGRY.”

    This is a guy who fought 199 times in the NHL. He threw down with Boogard, Domi, and Thornton. He broke Steve McIntyre’s orbital socket once. And he picks Jarome Iginla.

    Iggy’s got my vote. The dude scares goalies and goons.

  • CanoeFish

    Laraque has to be the greatest all time fighter despite not actually wanting to beat people up. Actually, that fact should make his case even stronger, he didn’t want to beat people up, but did, a lot. My other favourite was Tie Domi. Unreal courage from him.

  • Keg on Legs

    Larry Robinson only fought a few times and didn’t have to fight after that. Stan Jonathon was tough too. Saw Wendle Clark and John Kordic go at it in Saskatoon, when they were in Jr still, best fight I’ve ever seen, no defense, just bombs. Dave Brown was also a fave

  • The Oilers Shot Clock

    I was an Oiler fan and Dave Brown gave me nightmares.


    The Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames are facing each other for the second half of a home-and-home. The Flames’ Stu Grimson took on the Oilers’ Dave Brown twice in the first game and decides to go again with Brown but fares much worse than the previous two fights. Right after a faceoff they meet up and drop the gloves. After they latch onto each other Brown rifles off a series of eight left hands, landing six as Grimson just holds on. Grimson grabs at Brown’s helmet but Brown ducks away from the attempt and then grabs Grimson’s arm. Brown moves it away and then starts throwing again. Grimson loses his grip of Brown and gets it back but then just puts his head down and clutches onto Brown. In the meantime Brown fires another eight left hands and lands six again. Grimson then counters with a left hand but it’s wide as Brown lands one last left hand as Grimson gets bent over Brown’s arms. Brown then wrestles Grimson to the ice and the linesmen come in to break it up. Brown just gets up and stares at the Calgary bench before going off. Grimson left the ice with a broken orbital bone and a cheekbone and required surgery to heal properly. Even still, Grimson didn’t give up on the fight and stayed in it till it was over. However it was a very one-sided fight and the damage down by Brown makes it an obvious victory for him.

    • McPucker

      I remember the first game Brown had been cut and Grimson, a rookie, was bragging about that. Brown said that some stitches got opened up. Everyone was ready for the next game.

      There is a whole chapter about this in the Battle of Alberta book. Brown had his left sleeve taken in, jersey sewn to the shoulder pads, and had his jersey lubed up.

  • wendel clarks moustache

    Tie Domi, Bob Probert, Knuckles Nilan, Wendel Clark, Dave Schultz, Joey Kocur, Tony Twist, George Laraque, And Gretzky with 2 gloves on would be my vote for the ultimate royal rumble

  • Misguidedcanuck

    I’m keeping mine to Canucks I’ve seen fighting since I got into hockey, so #37 Rick Rypien RIP, Dale Weiss, The Juice, Kevin Bieksa, Derick Dorset and potential future contender Jake Virtanrn? But outside of the team and going back a bit I’m surprised to have not seen Chris ‘knuckles’ Nilan mentioned I watched that documentary the last gladiators and that guy could fight.

    • _Bubba

      Frank Beaton. Played in the old WHA. Touched by the Fist of God…
      Here’s an excpert of an article from Murray Greg of the Sun from 2007 I always liked that mentioned him.

      “The lone Top 10 contender from the World Hockey Association was nicknamed “Seldom” for good reason. And he helped transform the Birmingham Bulls from doormats to demons. Small by heavyweight standards (five-foot-10, 190 pounds), Beaton was a bonafide bomber who could pummel an opponent non-stop for a full minute, then turn around and do the same to another one … and another one. The WHA was like that.

      Beaton’s lightning-quick fists first drew acclaim in 1976 when he took just 30 games to shatter the old Southern Hockey League’s single-season penalty mark, but he became a legend on Thanksgiving Day 1977, when the Bulls hosted the Cincinnati Stingers. Just 24 seconds into the game, Beaton, along with teammates Gilles (Bad News) Bilodeau and Steve Durbano ignited an hour-long brawl that resulted in over 200 penalty minutes and left bleeding Stingers all over the ice.

      The fracas prompted a reporter for the Cincinnati Equirer to write: “It was like watching the German army invading Poland … absolute carnage everywhere you looked. And everywhere you looked, you saw Frank Beaton.”

  • stonedtodeath61

    Our boy in Ottawa was fun to watch for years, Chris Neil took on all comers, his scraps with Chara were funny to watch with the size difference. Loved McGratton as well. Best fight of all time was a bench clearing between NYI and Philly, Bob Nystrom and Mel Bridgman toe to toe for what seemed like ever, both bleeding badly at the end.

    • arjay

      three great choices but if Jonathan where is John Ferguson—the undisputed 1960’s heavyweight champ?

      Many of his fights were legendary and, in particular, he had a running beat-down schedule on Chicago tough guy Eric Nesterenko.