Firstly, if you decide to “step outside” with anyone who has played professional hockey, as Georges Laraques would say, “good luck to ya man,” cause you’re gonna need it. In a memo this would read, “swallow your pride and walk away, never fight a professional hockey player.“
With the erosion of the enforcer role in the NHL, the notion of two players dropping their sticks, removing their helmets, dropping their gloves, and squaring off is becoming archaic. However, in the lower pro leagues, like the ECHL, CHL,SPHL, etc., fans actually still pay to see that sort of thing. That is to say, particularly in the smaller American markets, the enforcer, goon, tough guy, or what have you, is still essential for a team’s financial success. In the context of those aforementioned leagues, there are always two separate events taking place. First, there is a genuine hockey game: goals, assists, defense, offence, referees to make calls, etc., and teams and their fans do want to win. Second, there are the expected fights and, in this context, the fighters typically fight each other almost exclusively, perhaps to something like “Hells Bells” or “Eye of the Tiger” over the loud speaker. The skilled players are left to play the game.
In the interest of honesty let’s acknowledge that a bar fight is usually an underwhelming experience. Participants are typically inebriated, willing to hurt their bodies and their pride over the most trivial of transgressions. In short, it’s never like the movies. The one-liner insults don’t make sense, nothing heroic ever happens, and both participants are gassed within seconds – embarrassing to watch for the most part. To that end, there will always be those that want to test their mettle, particularly against someone with some clout, like a pro hockey player.
So you want to fight a professional hockey player, do you? Here’s a varied ensemble of the Top 15 Hockey Players You Wouldn’t Want to Fight in a Bar. Consider this a warning.
15. Larry Robinson
As a player, Larry Robinson was known as one of the great blueliners that hockey has ever seen, winning 2 Norris Trophies, a Conn Smythe, and 6 Stanley Cups. And at 6’4, 225lbs, Robinson was an extremely tough guy that fought “selectively” when he needed to, taking on the likes of Dave Shultz and Mike Milbury. Those in the know would liken Robinson’s personality as “gentlemanly,” one who wouldn’t ever start a fight. In a bar, he’d be they voice of reason, understanding that things can be said that aren’t meant, perhaps even encouraging a potential combatant to go home and “sleep it off.” However, if pushed too far, Robinson is the type of guy to end you – period. After which, he’ll pay your tab, make sure you get to the hospital, and apologize to your girlfriend for doing what he rather wouldn’t have – knocking you out.
14. Behn Wilson
As far as NHL fighters go, Behn Wilson is as tough as they come. Wilson’s dropyougloves.com win percentage is in the top 5 of all time and his record shows that he’s fought (and beat) everybody: Semenko, Nilan, Plett, Williams, Clark, etc., at one time or another. What makes Behn Wilson so dangerous in a bar setting? He has an affinity for Shakespeare, poetry and an empathetic nature (often criticized as an NHLer for going easier on smaller players). When you consider Behn Wilson’s fight record in the NHL, coupled with the fact that he studied Economics at University of Toronto in his off seasons, you get the rarest type of fighter; an empathetic, intellectual tough guy. In a bar, when you hear Wilson say, “And damned be him that first cries, “Hold, enough!” don’t just walk away – run!
13. Wendel Clark
Wendel Clark is a unique pugilist for a couple of reasons. First, he’s the only 1st overall draft pick whose name will ever been thrown around in a discussion of the NHL’s “greatest fighters.” Second, at 5’11 and under 200lbs, Clark spent most of his career giving up inches and pounds, while going up against the NHL’s best fighters. Clark established himself early in his career as a player that would drop the mitts with anyone and became known for his quick hands – often landing several punches in the initial stages of a tilt. In short, your only chance against Clark in a bar fight is if you can absorb several shots during the Blitzkrieg, though chances are that you won’t.
12. Brandon Prust
If, like yours truly, you lament over the loss of the NHL enforcer, read Brandon Prust’s Players’ Tribune article, “Why We Fight.” At 6’0, 195lbs, Prust doesn’t have the size of your prototype NHL enforcers, but he makes up for that in both physical and mental toughness. In the article Prust speaks both eloquently and methodically about the dynamics that go into a fight: the why, the how, and the when. Long story short, when Brandon Prust decides to fight you, it’s after considerable thought. What makes Prust so dangerous is that, for him, it’s not about winning the fight, but rather it’s the fight itself. That’s just scary.
11. Chris Neil
Chris Neil ranks very high on the list when it comes to the respect of fellow players and fighters. His been with the Ottawa Senators for his entire career, a team which has resigned him on two occasions (likely under his market value) and he’s undoubtedly a fan favourite on Parliament Hill. At the time of this writing, Neil has 333 career fights, including several tilts with Tie Domi and Sean McMorrow (a career fighter with over 500 fights, 33 in the LNAH this year alone). Neil is a true “protector” and would likely walk away in a bar, which would save you a beating – just make sure you don’t decide to go after one of his buds.
10. Ryan Reaves
It took Ryan Reaves a few years to make it to The Show, spending the first couple of years as a pro fighting his way through the AHL. He was called up by the St Louis Blues in 2010-2011 and, with the exception of a brief stint back in the ECHL in 2012, he’s been NHLer ever since. The son of a pro football player, Reaves is a tough winger that will give you a couple of points here and there and, when called upon or prompted, he can fight with the best of them. Reaves’ strong suits once the gloves are off are his pure punching power and his athleticism; he’s a strong, fast, intelligent fighter, who continues to impress. In a bar he’d probably just pick you up and throw you through the window, rather than risk hurting his hands.
9. Tony Twist
Holding one of the highest career win percentages according to dropyourgloves.com, Tony Twist was an explosive fighter who hit hard and often once the mitts were off. One thing that separates Twist from other enforcers is his approach to fighting, which he undoubtedly loved to do. Unlike some enforcers that lament over their role in retirement, Twist articulates his time in the NHL like Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days.” The crowds, the cheers, the combat, the intimidation tactics he would employ, are all reminisced upon with a satisfied smile and child-like giddiness. Some guys like the fight itself, some like to win, Twist, by his own admission, wants to hurt you.
8. Brandon “Sugar” Sugden
The next four names on the list are devoted to some of the toughest hockey players that you may not even know, all of which have spent time in the LNAH, the Ligue Nord-Américaine de Hockey. First up is Brandon “Sugar” Sugden, 297 fights, none of which were in the NHL (save a couple of pre-season tilts). Sudgen had a few opportunities to grab the enforcer role on an NHL team, but nothing materialized. In Sudgen, we’re talking about a Bob Probert of the minor leagues; a tough, technically skilled, adaptable fighter, who has fought, and beat, all challengers at one time or another. The guy is a legend with his fists; fighting him would only add another win to his resume.
7. Jon “Nasty’ Mirasty
Another minor pro legend is Jon “Nasty” Mirasty; 348 fights and he smiled through most of them like a kid in a candy store. Of all the hockey fighters on this list, Mirasty undoubtedly has the toughest chin – the guy’s face is an anvil. In a bar setting, what makes Mirasty so scary is his genuine love of fighting and the way he seems to embrace getting hit. Additionally, Mirasty also has MMA experience and was a golden gloves boxer. “So, ya wanna go him?” “No thank you.”
6. Steve “The Boss” Bosse
Steve “The Boss” Bosse literally went from brawling in the LNAH to fighting in the UFC, most recently as a combatant in UFC Fight Night 70. The Boss has an 8-2-1 record in the octagon, one of his wins coming against the seasoned Marvin Eastman. On the ice Bosse took on all comers and boasts 206 career hockey fights, playing exclusively in the LNAH. In short, Bosse is a pure fighter and the only guy on this list who didn’t play junior hockey. Even those players that got the best of him on skates wouldn’t do so in a bar.
5. Joel “The Animal” Theriault
With 405 hockey fights under his belt, including toe-to-toe bouts with the likes of: Sugden, Mirasty, and Bosse, Joel “The Animal” Theriault is one of the best fighters in hockey history, yet you may never have heard of him. Theriault was a 4th round pick of the Washington Capitals in 1995, but never made The Show as an enforcer. Who is the only guy that Theriault fought that he didn’t beat? Georges Laraque; who he dropped the gloves with twice in the QMJL. So, unless your name happens to be Georges Laraque, walk away from Theriault; he’s dubbed “The Animal” for a reason.
4. Tie Domi
The NHL’s all-time fight leader is Tie Domi, with 338 tilts. He did so while producing around 20 points per season over a 16 year NHL career – truly impressive when you consider Domi played over 1000 games at the NHL level. That’s more than any enforcer in league history. In this setting, yes, we’re still in a bar, Domi’s experience with his fists make him truly dangerous and not someone you want to dance with. At, 5’10 he may appear at first as unassuming, until you realize “it’s Tie Domi, 338 fights, I’m gonna get filled here.” Do you remember that fan that fell into the box in Philly? Things would likely go like that.
3. Bob Probert
Patient, accurate, intelligent, Bob Probert is almost universally regarded as the Wayne Gretzky of enforcers. Probert not only had a regular shift during his entire career, he had a season total of 62 points in 1987-1988 (29 goals, 33 assists) and in that same season grabbed 21 points in 16 playoff games. The only fighter that Probert couldn’t really figure out was Tony Twist; other than that, Probert could find a way to beat anyone. When you square up with Probert, look for him to throw with both hands, evade all your punches, mix in some body shots and eventually introduce you to Dr. So and so.
2. John Scott
2016 A.S.G. Captain, 2016 A.S.G. MVP – hopefully the John Scott story doesn’t fade in the same way that the enforcer role has for so many of his peers. At 6’8, 270lbs, Scott actually didn’t have his first hockey fight until he was 23yrs old. Does John Scott love to fight? Not really, but it’s his job, which he outlined in his timely essay that was published in The Players’ Tribune titled “A Guy Like Me.” Now playing hockey in the most eastern region of Canada with the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps, it’s uncertain whether or not we’ll see Captain John Scott back in The Show. In a bar today you’d likely be asking Scott for his autograph rather than picking a fight with him; choosing the latter will make you a statistic.
1. Georges Laraque
Do you remember the scene from Goon where Georges Laraques asks Doug “The Slug” Glatt “Do you want to go?” and then says “Good luck to ya’ man?” Well, that actually happened when Laraque was mic’d up prior to his NHL fight with Raitis Ivanans. The reality is that, although one of the very best fighters in NHL history, Laraque fought always with humility and had a ton of respect for anyone he faced; Laraque often wished opponents “Good Luck” prior to a fight and said “Good Job” afterwards. He kept a strict “Code” when it came to fighting that many NHL enforcers lived by: no fighting at the end of a shift, no cheap shot head starts, no hitting a guy when he’s down, etc., and never celebrate or show disrespect to an opponent. So, at least he won’t taunt you after he lays you out in a bar.