The word "goon" is often tied in with the word "enforcer" in the NHL. This is not entirely accurate as there have been many players in the past and present that can drops the mitts and play the game extremely well. We definitely have to walk a fine line when writing this list, in terms of what exactly constitutes as an enforcer. For example, Jarome Iginla is an example of an exceptional hockey player that can take care of himself and his teammates. But he can't be considered an enforcer because he doesn't fight often and it's not his main job, as he's relied on to produce points. A feared player like Dale Hunter also cannot be considered because amidst all his penalty minutes and dirty plays, he barely fought. What about John Scott? Now, that's a goon...
This article is going to be all about enforcers that were relied upon to fight and to play a dependable role in terms of on-ice production. Without further ado, here at the top 15 enforcers that were good hockey players!
15 Matthew Barnaby
Matthew Barnaby was one of the most infuriating enforcers of all-time. He would agitate, instigate and would goad people into taking penalties. When he was done, he'd stick out that stupid tongue and frustrate everyone even more. . He finished his career with 300 points and a staggering 2,562 penalty minutes. Barnaby oftentimes ended up on the receiving end of a beat-down, but he did not take a step backwards from anyone as he fought the league's toughest, including his buddy Rob Ray and even Zdeno Chara. However, on top of that, Barnaby also had a knack for scoring big goals. In the 1998 playoffs, he notched a hat-trick against the Habs in game 2 of the quarter-finals en route a sweep
14 Chris Simon
Though he was known more for his pugilistic skills and wild acts of violence that seemingly came out of nowhere. did you know that Simon scored 29 goals in the 1999-2000 season? Me neither... Simon was actually a very reliable forward in his earlier years in the league. His main job was to scare the bejesus out of people (and he did), but you can't score 144 goals in the NHL if you're not a decent hockey player. Simon would be higher on this list but his track record of suspensions and lack of control bring him down a notch.
13 Stan Jonathan
At 5'8 and 175 lbs, Stan Jonathan was very unassuming, but it was certainly a different story when the gloves came off. His most famous tilt was against Pierre Bouchard where the much bigger Bouchard grabbed him in a scrum and left him no choice. So, Jonathan dropped (and bloodied) Bouchard with a flurry of rights and left everyone in awe. Even Don Cherry himself admitted that he thought Jonathan was about to get fed. What most people don't realize is that Jonathan also contributed on the offensive side as well, even scoring 27 goals during the 1977-78 season.
12 Tie Domi
Tie Domi absolutely makes the list. Skeptical? I'm sure. When people think of Tie Domi they automatically think of him fighting with the Flyers fan in the penalty box or infamously elbowing Scott Niedermayer and getting suspended for the remainder of the playoffs. Domi certainly towed the line more than a few times in his career. However, when you consider that he averaged slightly more than 10 minutes of ice-time per game and still managed to put up 245 points in 1020 games, that isn't half bad! Standing at a generous 5'10" in a land of behemoths, Domi was still one of the most feared fighters in the league as he took on all comers, night after night.
11 Brad May
MAYDAY! MAYDAY! MAYDAY! Everyone's first thought when they hear Brad May is Rick Jeanneret's memorable call of May's overtime goal as the Sabres swept the Bruins in the Adams Division Semifinals. You'd think May was a 50 goal scorer with the way he deked Ray Bourque out of his jock-strap. The truth is Brad May was a rock out there for whichever team he played for. His best years were in Buffalo as he notched career highs in goals (18) and assists (29).
10 Dave Manson
Dave Manson was a dependable force on D for an impressive 20 NHL seasons. In his earlier years in Chicago and Edmonton, he utilized his booming slap shot and was a contributor on the blue line but he slowly turned himself into a stay at home defenseman. For much of his career, he was also an absolute madman, as his nickname wasn't "Charlie" for no reason. However, he had to tone down his act after a fight with Montreal Canadiens forward Sergio Momesso. He received a punch squarely to the throat which permanently damaged his larynx, though he managed to return and play solid defense for the rest of his career.
9 Chris Neil
Chris Neil didn't waste any time making an impact in the NHL. As a matter of fact, he didn't even wait for his first regular season game. In a preseason game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, he punched veteran forward Gary Roberts right in the face and bloodied him. That set the tone for the rest of Neil's career. He's built like a fridge and can fight with the best of them. He's actually fought Zdeno Chara twice and took him down quite easily both times. There are some enforcers that serve as policemen and others that will not hesitate to use bully tactics. Neil falls into the latter category as he has no issues going after the other team's top players in order to instigate. He's also been a staple on Ottawa's third line for well over a decade and is the type of player that every team wants.
8 Shayne Corson
Shayne Corson was the kind of player that teams would be lining up for in today's game. The NHL is quickly phasing out players that are only there to fight, as teams simply do not want someone that will be a liability every time they're on the ice. A player like Corson could do it all as he was a consistent contributor on the second line for most of his career, while he could fight with the best of them. He was such a solid contributor that he was even selected to represent Team Canada in the 1998 Olympics in Nagano.
7 Marty McSorley
Marty McSorley was unofficially known as Wayne Gretzky's body guard for most of his career. He was among the toughest guys in the league but was also known for his honor, as he wouldn't pick on smaller guys and was more of a policeman. Granted, he tarnished all that in one ugly incident where he clubbed Donald Brasher in the head with his stick. He was also a sturdy defenseman that could move the puck and had a cannon of a shot from the point. He also played a prominent role during the L.A Kings run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1993. Unfortunately, people just remember the fact that he got busted for using an illegal stick in game two. It was a costly penalty that shifted the momentum in the series.
6 Chris Nilan
He depicted "old time hockey" at its finest. Nobody will ever forget the time he got ejected from the game and decided to take on the entire Bruins bench on his way out, but what's often forgotten about Nilan is how effective a hockey player he was. Sure, he finished his career with an astounding 3,043 penalty minutes in 688 games, but he was also part of one of the best "shut down" lines of all-time when he was paired up with Guy Carbonneau and Bob Gainey. Carbo and Gainey both won Selke trophies as the league's top defensive forwards, but Nilan was a huge part of their success. He also managed to find the back of the net 21 times in the 1984-85 season. Not bad for a "goon."
5 Dave Semenko
Semenko was "The Great One's" more notable bodyguard (and we wonder why nobody really messed with him like people do with Crosby nowadays) and Semenko was such a beast that it was as if he packed iron in his fists. In one famous tilt, he left Joe Kocur (a tough guy in his own right) face-down as he hit him multiple times before Kocur could even throw a punch. Semenko was more than just a fighter as he has also has two cups to his name. However, he wasn't just a bystander on those terrific teams. In 1984, he managed to rack up 10 points in 19 games en route to the Oilers winning their first Stanley Cup.
4 Bob Probert
He's widely considered to be one of the best fighters ever to play the game and what was so impressive about Probert's game was his durability. He was so successful at his role and served as an enforcer for so long that he had a target on his back as he was billed as "the champ." When Tie Domi won their first fight, he did the symbol of the championship belt around his waist. This incensed Probert and he beat the heck out of Domi in their next tilt. In the 1987-88 season, he spent 398 minutes in the sin-bin yet still managed to score 29 goals! What more can you ask for from an enforcer?
3 Eddie Shore
Most of the enforcers named above were generally considered "nice guys" in their everyday life. The fact of the matter is that they're serving a role on the ice as they're paid to defend their teammates. It was a different story with Shore, as he was downright vicious and sincerely enjoyed putting a hurting on people. Even his teammates weren't safe as he infamously brawled with Billy Coutu in practice and nearly lost his ear in the process (it's all good though, he found a doctor that sewed it back on). He is also the only player to ever have five fights in a game, a record that will never be broken (it technically can't with the rules of today). His most famous act of violence was a crushing hit on Irvine "Ace" Bailey, resulting in Bailey sustaining near life-ending head trauma. Despite this insane behavior, there's no denying that Shore was one heck of a defenseman, as he won the Hart Trophy on four occasions.
2 Terry O'Reilly
He had his teammates backs, no matter what. In one legendary melee, he scaled the boards, jumped into the crowd and proceeded to beat up a fan because he punched his teammate Stan Jonathan in the face. O'Reilly set the blue print for the prototypical Bruins type player and Ex Bruin Milan Lucic has gone on record saying that he's modeled his game after O'Reilly. In one scrap in 1976, O'Reilly took on Dave "The Hammer" Schultz. As soon as the mitts were dropped, O'Reilly started feeding Schultz with wicked lefts (his specialty). In terms of his other abilities, O'Reilly also managed to rack up 606 points in 891 games, making him an incredibly serviceable player who could fight with the best of them.
1 John Ferguson
"Fergy" was the ultimate team guy. He would actually walk out of restaurants if he saw an opponent sitting there, refusing to breathe the same air as his foe. His intensity matched that of Eddie Shore, except Ferguson wouldn't take as many senseless penalties as him. Standing at 5'11", he was not the biggest guy but he had a crazy chin. At times, he would take heavy haymakers and stand there unfazed until he would throw one of his own and drop his opponent like a sack of bricks. Ferguson had a short career, only playing eight NHL seasons, but he made his time count. Out of his 71 career fights, he barely lost any. He was also a solid contributor, as he chipped in 303 points in 500 games.