Hockey may be a game of finesse and speed, but there is no denying the importance of toughness and grit. For many years, the enforcers or “goons” took it upon themselves to protect their teammates and dish out punishment to the opposing team.
Today, the game has changed, and so has the role of the tough guy. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t still players that strike fear into their opponents. In this article, we take a look at some of the toughest players in NHL history.
Bob Probert – The Ultimate Enforcer
Bob Probert is perhaps the most iconic enforcer in NHL history. The former Detroit Red Wing and Chicago Blackhawk was a physical force on the ice, using his size and strength to dominate opponents. Probert ranks fourth all-time in penalty minutes, and is known for his willingness to drop the gloves with anyone. Unfortunately, Probert’s life off the ice was plagued with addiction and legal troubles, but his legacy as a hockey enforcer is long-lasting.
Zdeno Chara – A Giant Among Men
At 6’9″ and 250 pounds, Zdeno Chara casts a large shadow on the ice. The Boston Bruins defenseman is known not only for his size, but also for his physical play. Chara’s long reach and strong skating make him a force in clearing the puck and shutting down opponents. He won the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman in 2008-2009 and has been a key part of the Bruins’ success in recent years.
Bobby Clarke – Heart of the Broad Street Bullies
Bobby Clarke was a tough player in the truest sense of the word. As the captain of the Philadelphia Flyers‘ legendary Broad Street Bullies teams of the 1970s, Clarke not only scored goals but also played a physical game. His battling spirit inspired his teammates, and he led the Flyers to two Stanley Cup championships. Clarke is also remembered for his toughness off the ice, as he battled diabetes throughout his career.
Kevin Stevens – A Power Forward with a Punch
Kevin Stevens was a towering presence on the ice, standing at 6’3″ and weighing in at over 200 pounds. The former Pittsburgh Penguin was a fearless power forward who combined skill and toughness to dominate the game. Stevens was known for his ability to score goals, but also for his willingness to drop the gloves when necessary. Unfortunately, Stevens’ career was cut short due to injuries and off-ice issues.
Scott Stevens – A Punishing Hitman
Scott Stevens was a defenseman who struck fear into the hearts of opposing forwards. The former New Jersey Devil was known for his devastating hits, many of which were borderline illegal. Stevens won three Stanley Cup championships with the Devils and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007. Though his playing style was controversial, there is no denying the impact he had on the game.
Tom Wilson – A Modern-Day Tough Guy
Tom Wilson is a player who embodies the modern-day enforcer. The Washington Capitals forward is not just tough – he also possesses a rare combination of skill and toughness. Wilson is known for his physical play, but also for his ability to make plays and score clutch goals.
He’s drawn criticism for some of his hits that have resulted in suspensions, but there’s no denying that he’s a vital part of the Capitals’ success.
Toughness has always been an important part of the game of hockey, and there have been many players throughout NHL history who have embodied that trait. From Bob Probert to Tom Wilson, these players have made their mark on the game with their fearlessness and tenacity. While the enforcer role may have changed, there is no denying that these tough players will always hold a special place in the hearts of hockey fans.
Q1. Who is the all-time leader in penalty minutes in NHL history?
The all-time leader in penalty minutes in NHL history is Dave “Tiger” Williams, who accumulated a whopping 3,966 penalty minutes over his career.
Q2. How tall is Zdeno Chara?
Zdeno Chara stands at an impressive height of 6 feet 9 inches, making him the tallest player ever to play in the NHL.
Q3. How many Stanley Cup championships did Bobby Clarke win as a player?
Bobby Clarke won two Stanley Cup championships as a player with the Philadelphia Flyers in 1974 and 1975.
Q4. How many suspensions has Tom Wilson received during his NHL career?
Tom Wilson has received a total of seven suspensions during his NHL career, including a 20-game suspension in 2018 for an illegal hit.
Q5. How many points did Kevin Stevens accumulate in his NHL career?
Kevin Stevens accumulated a total of 726 points (329 goals and 397 assists) in his NHL career, playing for teams such as the Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins, and New York Rangers.