Pro hockey is truly a unique sport. It’s the only professional sport that actually allows a certain level of fighting as part of the game. Fighting is such a part of hockey that each team has at least one player on their roster who is a bonafide fighter (they used to call them enforcers). The League has cleaned itself up from the wild-and-crazy bench clearing brawls of the ’70s and early ’80s, but it hasn’t done away with fighting altogether. It takes some skill to skate at the professional level and hold your own while swinging for someone’s head. Some of the enforcers weren’t goals scorers or assist leaders because that wasn’t what they were there for. They were called on to even the score when needed, or to send a physical message to an opposing team. When reminiscing about hockey and some of the enforcers who once laced up their skates and dropped their gloves, it’s fun to wonder how they adjusted to life off the ice. We’ll find out what life after hockey is like for those who threw their bodies around and raised their fists night in and night out by taking a stroll down memory lane in “Where Are They Now?”
15. Joey Kocur
Joey Kocur has to be one of the toughest players to ever play the game. While skating alongside fellow tough guy Bob Probert for the Detroit Red Wings, they were known as the “Bruise Brothers.” Kocur is one of the most penalized players in NHL history having racked up a total of 2519 penalty minutes over the span of his career. His right hook was so devastating that he once cracked a helmet which belonged to Donald Brashear. Brashear later talked about how he was unable to eat for a day or so afterwards. Since retiring, he’s shown a much softer side by being involved in a handful of charities including The Joey Kocur Foundation for Children. He’s also president of the Detroit Red Wings Alumni Association which raises money for children’s charities in Detroit.
14. Tie Domi
Known as The Albanian Assassin, Tie Domi is third overall in NHL history for penalty minutes and first overall in Toronto Maple Leafs history. Domi gets extra points for being an enforcer at only 5’8, but he was also unfortunately known as a sucker punch artist after knocking New York Ranger defenseman Ulf Samuelsson unconscious. He was suspended for eight games and fined for the incident which many described as one of the cheapest cheap-shots in NHL history. Since he retired from hockey, Domi would take up a shirt-lived broadcasting position for The Sports Network in Canada. . He’s also appeared in films such as Mystery, Alaska, and wrote his first book titled Shift Work.
13. Ken Baumgartner
Ken Baumgartner (Pictured Center Above) really isn’t your prototypical tough guy. He was a NHL enforcer for 12 years who, during the offseason, earned a degree in business and finance. He was also elected vice president of the NHL Players Association. But during his playing days, he played for the Los Angeles Kings, New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs, Anaheim Mighty Ducks, and Boston Bruins until retiring in 2000. Baumgartner has the distinction of being the only player in NHL history to play a full season (82 games) and only record a single point. Since retiring, he joined the Bruins coaching staff as an assistant and earned his MBA from Harvard University. He also has a daughter, Alexa, who played for the East Coast Wizards and now stars for the Bowdoin College (Brunswick, Maine) women’s field hockey team.
12. Eric Godard
The player with the absolute best nickname has to be Eric Godard. His nickname was “The Hand of God” (I’m not kidding). Godard broke into the league with the New York Islanders and earned his place as an enforcer when the Calgary Flames brought him up from the AHL to challenge the Minnesota Wild’s tough guy, Derek Boogaard. Godard and Boogaard tussled and Godard dropped him winning the fight and earning a spot on the roster for the remainder of the season. He later went on to play for the Pittsburgh Penguins winning the Stanley Cup in 2009. He ended his career with the Stars after being bought out in 2012 after the NHL lockout. The Hand of God hasn’t done much since retiring. Thanks to his wife Myrika, whom he credits for keeping him straight, and having hired a financial advisor early in his career, Godard is in a good place in life postretirement.
11. Dave “Tiger” Williams
Dave “Tiger” Williams (Pictured Left Above) is perhaps one of the best-known fighters of his era. In a career spanning 14 seasons in five teams, Williams was able to rack up almost 4000 regular-season penalty minutes. Although he was a fighter, he was also able to rack up points after amassing 35 goals and 62 points in the 1980-81 season playing for the Vancouver Canucks. Since retiring he’s published his autobiography, Tiger: A Hockey Story, and released an 101 page cookbook called Done Like Dinner: Tiger in the Kitchen, which included many hockey-inspired recipes. He also reemerged briefly as a roller hockey player in 1993 playing for the Vancouver Voodoo of the Roller Hockey International League (RHI) for one game where he scored two points. Overall, retirement has been pretty quiet and domestic for a guy you never could miss while he was on the ice. He also happens to have one of the best nicknames in all of sports.
10. Donald Brashear
Donald Brashear was one of the bigger fighters of the modern era standing 6’3 and weighing 240 lbs. Signed first by the Montréal Canadiens early in his career, Brashear played for five teams and unfortunately, was the victim of one of the most violent on ice incidents in NHL history. In February of 2000, Brashear fought with Marty McSorley (another heavyweight) which he won pretty easily. After some taunting by Brashear, McSorley wanted a rematch but wasn’t being obliged. Once he saw that Brashear wasn’t going to fight him, he struck him with a two-handed slash to the temple with his stick. Brashear fell to the ice suffering a seizure and a Grade Three concussion. McSorley was later suspended for a year and charged with assault which effectively ended his NHL career. Brashear however, went on to play until the 2010 season after which he joined the LNAH (Canada) playing in Québec and later with Modo Hockey of the Swedish hockey league until officially retiring after the 2015 season. These days, Brashear enjoys playing the piano and guitar.
9. Marty McSorley
Though he had quite an accomplished career, Marty McSorley might always be known for his on ice assault on Donald Brashear. McSorley was bodyguard to the greatest player ever to play the game- Wayne Gretzky, when both played for the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings. His career was filled with highs- such as assisting on Wayne Gretzky’s goal which broke Gordie Howe’s all-time goal scoring record. And lows- such as Game Two of the 1993 Stanley Cup finals when he was caught with an illegal stick which helped the Canadiens scoring the game-tying goal and ultimately winning the series. After assaulting Brashear, he never played another NHL game. He attempted to play in the UK which was blocked by the International Ice Hockey Federation. Then in 2002-2004, he coached in the American Hockey League for the Springfield Falcons. Currently, he is a TV analysts for Sportsnet and has appeared on TV on CSI: Miami and Spike TV’s Pros Vs Joes.
8. Clark Gillies
Clark “Jethro” Gillies has to be one of the most unique fighters to ever play the game. Not quite an enforcer even though he stood at 6’3 and 210 lbs. His 319 career goals and 378 assists can attest to that. Playing for the Stanley Cup dynasty team of the early 1980s, the New York Islanders, he was an integral part of that team’s success. Serving as a protector for line-mate and top goalscorer Mike Bossy, he racked up a total of 1023 penalty minutes. His talents were so apparent that he made the NHL All-Star team twice and was team captain of the Islanders for two years. After winning four consecutive Stanley Cups, he retired and the Islanders retired his #9 jersey. Then in 2002, Gillies was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Today he is an executive at Hilton Capital Management, an investment firm in Garden City, NY which caters to high net worth individuals.
7. Cam Janssen
A long time New Jersey Devils enforcer in the early part of the 2000s, Cam Janssen played his role with discipline. The Devils were known as a physical team, but not necessarily a fighting one. Janssen accepted his role of enforcer which was noted by his six career NHL goals and 774 penalty minutes in nine NHL seasons. He didn’t score his first goal until his 82nd NHL game, but earned his title as enforcer when he knocked Toronto’s Tomas Kaberle unconscious with a late hit to the head in 2007. Kaberle had to be carried off the ice on a stretcher and Janssen was suspended for three games without pay. Janssen recently retired in 2016 after playing one season for the Nottingham Panthers of the AHL. He made head waves when he made off-color remarks about gays in a 2012 radio interview after which he had to apologize and promised to remove the slurs from his vocabulary.
6. George Parros
George Parros didn’t play for very long (nine NHL seasons), but was a part of the 2007 Stanley Cup winning Anaheim Ducks team. Only fifteen days into his rookie season in 2005, he scored a goal, recorded an assist, and received a major fighting penalty- all in the same game (known as a “Gordie Howe Hat Trick”). During the 2006-07 season, he scored only one goal and led the Ducks with 18 fighting majors. Parros gain his notoriety when he TKO’d the Flyer’s Riley Cote with an uppercut in 2008 (you can see it on YouTube). Known for his thick, expensive mustache which he grew during the season, Parros created a line of apparel called “Stache Gear” which benefits The Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids Foundation. He also began growing his hair long and after learning about the Locks of Love foundation, which makes wigs for children who have lost their own hair due to medical conditions, and started donating his every Christmas.
5. George Laraque
George Laraque was another massive heavyweight at 6’3 and 260 lbs. He played for 14 seasons with four teams throughout his NHL career. Known for his frame and fighting, he quickly became one of the most fearful forwards in the league- breaking in with the Edmonton Oilers. Later he was brought on to protect a young Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin while playing for the Pittsburgh Penguins. After last playing for the Canadians, he did some volunteer work for his ancestral country of Haiti helping to raise money to build the Grace Children’s Hospital in Port-au-Prince. In 2010- 2013, he joined the Green Party of Canada and was officially named one of the party’s Deputy Leaders. Then in 2015, Laraque came out of retirement to play for Norway’s Lokomotiv Fana. He is also an investor of raw vegan restaurants called Crudessence, and in 2011 published his autobiography titled, George Laraque: The Story of the NHL’s Unlikeliest Tough Guy.
4. Colton Orr
Colton Orr (no relation to Bobby Orr), played for the Bruins, Rangers and Maple Leafs throughout his 13 year career. Famous for receiving a five-game suspension by the NHL after cross-checking Washington Capitals superstar Alexander Ovechkin at Madison Square Garden. He was also known for his brawls with George Parros. One rather tough brawl with Parros ended with Orr suffering a concussion and missed the rest of the season. Another brawl ended with Parros falling headfirst to the ice and carried off in a stretcher after suffering a concussion. Known as one of the last enforcer’s of the game, the last fight with Parros really had an affect on him. He was never quite the same and with the role for enforcer diminished, Orr decided to retire from hockey in 2016 at the age of 34. He has no regrets getting out of the game a bit early because it’s allowed him to spend more time with his family.
3. Darcy Tucker
DarcyTucker was quite notorious throughout his playing career. He is married to the sister of former NHL player Shayne Corson (Corson and Tucker were once teammates), and became a villain for his low hit on New York Islanders captain Michael Peca during the 2002 playoffs. His low check blew out Peca’s MCL and ACL and ended his season. Peca was angry and thought the hit was an intent to injure but the league at the time ruled the hit clean and decided against taking action. Islanders fans however, never forgot and taunted, insulted, and harassed Tucker and the Leafs so badly that they had to keep their hotel location secret and beefed up security each time they came into town. The irony is that later Peca and Tucker became teammates after Peca signed with the Leafs in 2006. Tucker retired after the 2010 season and now enjoys being a dad, watching his son Cole Tucker play junior hockey, and lending himself to charity organizations.
2. Nick Fotiu
Keeping balance with the early days of NHL fisticuffs, we have to go back to the late ’70s, the New York Rangers, and Nick Fotiu. There is perhaps no better player that exemplified New Yorkers grittiness having been born in Staten Island, NY (he was the first NYC-born Ranger), and played his first NHL game for his hometown team. Brought on strictly to be an enforcer, New York fans took to him right away. They loved him even more when he used to throw pucks into the blue seats (the Garden’s “cheap seats”) after pregame warmups. Fotiu played five seasons for the Rangers before being traded to Calgary where they reached the finals in 1986. He later played for the Flyers and Oilers before calling it quits. Today, he runs a construction business and charitable foundation. He’s also still connected with the Rangers- doing public relations for them whenever needed.
1. Eric Cairns
Eric Cairns is so popular that he’s still featured in EA Sports annual NHL hockey game even after being retired for years. Known as a bonafide enforcer due to his size; 6’6 and 241 lbs. He also played for both the New York Rangers and Islanders during his career which renewed the rivalry between the two crosstown teams. Cairns was involved in a number of fights including a famous incident where he was taunted by New York Rangers Theo Fleury for refusing to fight Sandy McCarthy. When McCarthy and Cairns finally squared up, Cairns won the fight leading McCarthy to state afterwards to reporters: “I never said he wasn’t a tough guy.” Unfortunately, he’s also known for having punched a linesman trying to free himself for a fight and ignited a bench clearing brawl while playing in the IIHL. He officially retired in 2007 and is now a professional scout for the Islanders.
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