Whether you like it or not, fighting is still a part of hockey, and as long as that's the case, players are going to drop the gloves and go at it with an opponent. Whether it's a staged battle between two goons or a fight sparked by a brutal hit on a teammate, the NHL (and the levels of hockey just below it) are still allowing players to police the games themselves, to a certain extent.
Because of this, teams are still willing to take on guys who have a reputation of being nothing more than a guy who can hop on the ice and drop the gloves - and do so effectively. While fighting in hockey has stayed the same, for the most part, the types of fighters we see in this era of the sport are vastly different from the days of the Broad Street Bullies or the golden era of enforcers. Today's fighters approach fisticuffs with a plan. Barring the odd discrepancy, gone are the days of two guys wildly throwing haymakers without rhyme or reason.
Of course, we still have our heavy hitters in the game today, but top-end fighters are not "the biggest guy on the team anymore" - as you'll see throughout this list. It's one thing to punch hard, but it's another thing entirely to connect properly.
*Includes players on an NHL roster as of October 8th, 2015. Names like John Scott and Brian McGrattan have been omitted as they are currently not currently on an NHL roster.
15 15. Tim Jackman
14 14. Chris Neil
13 13. Kyle Clifford
12 12. Mike Brown
11 11. Zac Rinaldo
10 10. Anthony Peluso
Anthony Peluso lands in the "new age" category of fighters. For one thing, he's a young guy, but more noticeably, he wears a visor. He threw one on after not wearing a visor to start his NHL career and while he's caught some flak for it, it's only a matter of time before every NHL player has one on anyway.
9 9. Brandon Bollig
8 8. Cody McLeod
7 7. Micheal Ferland
6 6. Matt Martin
5 5. Jared Boll
4 4. Ryan Reaves
3 3. Tom Wilson
Tom Wilson might not have the track record of some other guys on this list, but at 21 years old Wilson has already established himself as one of the best fighters in the league. Wilson plays a similar style to Ferland - but on overdrive. A hitting machine, he'll often find himself getting harassed by angry opponents before squaring off with one of them - and oftentimes coming out of the battle the winner. He's only going to get better from here on out.
2 2. Brandon Prust
1 1. Zdeno Chara
Think of it this way: Darrelle Revis and Richard Sherman might not pick off many passes anymore, but they are still considered the best corners in the NFL because quarterbacks simply avoid them.
The same applies to Zdeno Chara. Chara used to fight relatively often, until people realized it was not worth the physical abuse and humiliation they were about to endure. Chara has bloodied more faces and rag-dolled more bodies than we can remember. Because of his reputation and the fact that he's a giant on skates, opponents have wisely learned to turn the other cheek against the big Slovak.
Before too long someone will make the mistake of pissing off Chara enough for him to come out of fighting hibernation - and when he does, it will probably be a glorious beating.
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