Fighting is down 3.5% in the NHL this season with the number of beefs decreased significantly from the rough and tumble days of the 1970s, 80s and 90s when two, sometimes three, four or five fights would break out in a game.
Take a look at these numbers and see how fighting has been reduced in the last 15 years.
In 2000-01, 38.13% of the 1,230 games that season had at least one fight. Fast forward to this year’s NHL campaign with the projected percentage to be 23.41 fights after the completed scheduled.
A big reason for fighting being down so much is the diminishing role of enforcers in the game. With teams trying to stay under the salary cap while icing the most competitive team possible, it's hard to justify giving a roster spot to a guy who will play only four minutes a game and its there primarily to fight. Teams are better suited trying to get as much talent on the ice as possible. Nowadays, it's pretty much just a bonus if a talented player can also handle himself in a fight when need be. Sometimes fans will be shocked when a talented player is able to stand up for himself, rather than needing a protector on his line.
Despite being less brouhahas, fighting still exists in hockey with several players standing out for having the ability to surprise their opponents with above average pugilistic skills.
This list is not for the so-called "goons" but rather for the players who were exceptional hockey players and thus it was a big shocker when they could fight as well.
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15 Bobby Hull
One of the most complete players ever, the ‘Golden Jet” could skate, shoot, pass and compete with the best of them.
He regularly helped kill penalties with the Black Hawks as well as manning their power play. Hull possessed great speed, tremendous shooting power and could fight with the best of them when he was abused by the oppositions enforcers, which was often.
Hull had 18 fights during his career and did not pick any lightweight to drop the mitts with. Hull took on Montreal’s John Ferguson and Toronto’s Eddie Shack in two legendary bouts with other notable matches versus “Leapin” Lou Fontinato, Ted Green, Terry Harper, Ted Harris and Bryan Watson.
14 Corey Perry
The Anaheim star forward may not win all his fights but he is not one to shy away from exchanging punches.
Since his debut in the NHL back in 2005, Perry has engaged in 43 fights including some doozies against the likes of Brent Burns, Dan Carcillo, Ryan Kesler (now teammates in Anaheim) David Backes (three times), Wayne Simmonds and Kevin Klein.
None of the aforementioned players are NHL lightweights and Perry, one of the league’s best scoring forwards has held his own in each match-up.
13 Aurele Joliat
Aurele Joliat was a big star for the Habs in the 1920s and 30s, teaming with Howie Morenz to form one of the most effective duos in NHL history.
Despite his lack of size, the 5-foot-7, 136-pound Ottawa native never backed down from anybody on the ice. He earned the nickname "The Little Giant” or the "Mighty Atom" for his refusal to back down despite his obvious size disadvantage.
Joliat played with a leather cap on his head and rumor has it that if any player dared to knock it off, there would be a high price to pay in the form of fisticuffs.
Prior to his NHL career, legend has it that Joliat took $500 from gangsters to throw an intermediate game he was involved in but scored six goals to lead his team to victory and hopped on a train to Saskatoon immediately after the contest to avoid any retribution.
12 Stan Mikita
The diminutive forward spent his entire NHL career with Chicago starting in 1959 and ending in 1980.
The native of Sokolce, Czechoslovakia had the rare distinction of leading the NHL in penalty minutes early in his career before going on to win a pair of Lady Byng trophies for gentlemanly play.
Mikita was never a menacing sight at 5-foot-9 and a mere 169 pounds but his lack of size never stopped him from mixing it up with the big boys if push came to shove.
In the 1963-64 campaign, Mikita had six fights, the most in any season of his career and always seemed to have an ongoing feud with the Toronto Maple Leafs. That year he took on two Leafs tough guys, Bobby Baun and Eddie Shack, handling himself quite well in both bouts.
11 Vincent Lecavalier
Currently a member of L.A. Kings, Lecavalier came into the NHL in 1998 after the Tampa Bay Lightning selected him first overall for his high end skills at that summer’s Entry Draft.
He had scored 115 points the season before in junior hockey with the QMJHL’s Rimouski Oceanic. Now in his 17th season in the NHL, Lecavalier has had stops in Philadelphia (where every player seems to fight) and now in Los Angeles.
Over that time, Lecavalier has managed to rack up 26 fights against some big bodies and accomplished scrapers like Andy Sutton, Keith Ballard, John Erskine and Luke Schenn who are now teammates in L.A.
His most recent beefs came last year when he squared off twice against Carolina Hurricanes rookie defenceman Keegan Lowe where he was voted the winner in both matches courtesy of hockeyfights.com
10 Brent Seabrook
The Blackhawks defenseman and alternate captain quietly goes about his business, game in and game out. In case you haven’t noticed, because he is too busy dazzling every fan with his slick ability, Seabrook has been involved in 21 fights since his NHL debut in 2006.
His annual fight numbers have dropped off since his rookie year when he was involved with five scraps.
Last year, he was credited with a win in a fight with Winnipeg’s Jim Slater. He’s even mixed it up with George Parros, the former Anaheim heavyweight.
9 Borje Salming
One of the first Swedish players to make a name for himself in the NHL in the 1970s Salming dropped the gloves nine times during his career with the Toronto Maple Leafs which spanned from 1973 to 1987.
Labelled as "Chicken Swedes” by some players in the league, Salming proved his opponents wrong about their notion of Swedes with spirited affairs against the likes of Philadelphia’s Dave “The Hammer” Schultz and Mel Bridgman.
Salming also took on known tough customers in the Islanders Gary Howatt and Edmonton’s Kevin McClelland.
8 Sidney Crosby
Sid is no longer a kid and despite his label as one of the best players in the world, the Pittsburgh Penguins captain can throw them when he wants to.
His bout with Claude Giroux, the Flyers captain in the playoffs a couple of years is epic.
Hockeyfights.com lists Crosby with a 6-1 record in seven NHL fights. In his first pro fight Crosby locked horns with D Andrew Ference when he still with the Bruins. Crosby was awarded the win in that one.
In November 2010, Crosby took Matt Niskanen down with a couple of solid punches when the defencemen was skating for the Dallas Stars.
7 Jamie Benn
The defending Art Ross Trophy winner as the NHL’s leading scorer is not one dimensional when it comes to hockey.
With 17 fights since coming into the NHL in 2009, the Dallas Stars captain rocks and rolls. No shrinking violet when it comes to the rough stuff, Benn is a good old boy from Western Canada that rode the buses playing for Kelowna in the WHL.
Benn is usually not the one to start a fight but usually puts a quick end to it.
6 Rob Blake
The current assistant general manager of the Kings cut out quite a niche for himself as a player before he made the move into management.
The 1997-98 Norris Trophy winner as the NHL’s Top Defencemen played for the Kings, Colorado Avalanche and San Jose Sharks. Blake was known for making clean, but big hits for which he was held accountable from time to time.
While being a pillar on defense for all three organizations, Blake racked up a collection of 33 fights in his 20-year career.
5 Brad Park
The NHL Hall of Fame defenceman was a pretty good fighter considering all the time he spent on the ice putting up points as a member of the New York Rangers, Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings.
Not the biggest guy at an even six feet tall and 190 pounds, Park fought 68 times during his 16 year career taking on the legitimate heavyweights of that era. Park took on bruisers like Dave Schultz, Terry O’Reilly, Dave ‘Tiger’ Williams, Willi Plett, John Wensink, Larry Playfair to name a few and held his own in every fight.
4 Larry Robinson
Larry Robinson remains one of the greatest defensemen to play in the NHL after a lengthy career that began with the Montreal Canadiens. When he broke into the league in the early 1970s, hockey was a lot different than it is today.
The "Big Bad Bruins," and the "Broad Street Bullies," ruled the NHL roost those days and much of the league was heavily populated by players with a penchant for fisticuffs. Each team had their appointed fighters who liked nothing better than getting into scraps and punching their opponents in the kisser. Robinson rarely fought but when it did, the sparks would be flying.
If you were wearing a different color jersey than the “Big Bird”, he was the absolute last person you'd want to pair up with in a scuffle. Some of his most memorable scraps came against those same Bruins and Flyers. Robinson and Philly tough guy, Dave Schultz were dance partners on a few occasions while Boston’s Mike Milbury made the mistake of throwing down with Robinson.
3 Bernard Geoffrion
There was more to Bernard “Boom-Boom” Geoffrion than the thunderous slap-shot that he made famous as a member of the Montreal Canadiens in the 1950s and 60s.
The Boomer liked to wind up and let the puck fly using his big shot every time he had the opportunity. The sight of Boom-Boom skating down the right wing preparing to unload one at the net had goalies around the league losing sleep at night.
The possibility of Geoffrion losing his temper and engaging in battle had the rest of the players giving him plenty of space to do his thing. Boom-Boom used his fists most of the time but in 1953 he tussled with Ron Murphy from the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Instead of a quick jab, Geoffrion swung his stick and connected with Murphy’s face, immediately dropping to the ice unconscious. Many thought he died. He lived but suffered a concussion and a broken jaw.
2 Jonathan Toews
The Chicago Blacks captain and three time Stanley Cup winner is the prototypical leader. Since joining the Hawks in 2007-08 Toews has led his team with inspired play and the occasional scrap. He’s not afraid to drop the gloves if it means protecting a teammate or if somebody is trying to push him around.
He’s fought St. Louis Blues captain, David Backes twice and exchanged punches with San Jose’s Joe Thornton when he was their team captain.
1 Bobby Orr
Many hockey fans don't realize how good of a fighter Bobby Orr was. Orr had his fair share of scraps recording 47 fights during one of the toughest periods in NHL history.
Orr’s first NHL fight came early in his rookie season (1966-67) against veteran Montreal Canadiens defencemen Ted Harris who wanted to see what the youngster was made of. Harris found out the hard way. Orr also engaged in some legendary battles with Keith Magnuson from the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Parry Sound, Ontario native went on to become the prototypical rushing defenseman, shattering records and winning eight straight Norris trophies and widely regarded as the greatest d-man ever.
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