It’s not often that a player comes along who can score goals but is also willing to drop the gloves from time to time. For the most part, teams want to protect their star players from injury, which means, when push comes to shove, enforcers, who are essentially bodyguards for star players, do the dirty work for them (some say that without Marty McSorley, who provided valuable protection for Wayne Gretzky, “The Great One” never would have been able to score 2,857 points in his career).
And for the most part star players are more than happy to let their bodyguards do the fighting for them (don’t expect to see last year’s points leader Patrick Kane drop the gloves any time soon; that is, not unless a Buffalo cab driver happens to find his way onto the ice in the middle of a game). But every once in a while you’ll see a star player, perhaps even a league-leading scorer, fight his own battles. Although such a player is becoming more and more rare as the game shifts away from fighting altogether, there are still stars to this day who refuse to back down.
Here are the top 15 NHL goal scorers who could/can also fight.
Before reading on, let’s all raise our elbows in honor of the greatest old-time hockey player there ever was, “Mr. Hockey” himself, who passed away this June. Gordie!
15 15. Jamie Benn
In the few fights that he's had, 2014-15 scoring leader Jamie Benn has proven that he doesn't need a bodyguard to do the fighting for him. Even though he would ultimately come out on the losing end in a fight against Joe Thornton, he would go down swinging and even managed to land a few good blows before all was said and done.
Benn fought twice this past season, including a decisive victory over Paul Gaustad. In fact, according to hockeyfights.com, the Stars forward rarely loses when he does decide to drop the gloves, including the time he took on, and narrowly edged out, Jerome Iginla, another goal scoring bruiser, during the 2010-11 season.
14 14. Corey Perry
In recent seasons, Corey Perry has tamed down his style of play quite a bit to focus more on the offensive side of his game, but from 2007 to 2012 he finished each season with at least 100 penalty minutes, thanks in part to a few majors. That's not to say that the Ducks forward doesn't drop the gloves anymore. Just last season he fought twice--albeit they weren't the best examples of his fighting abilities. He had his most fights in 2007-08 with 4, even taking on enforcer Dan Carcillo.
Perry's all-around play earned him a Hart Memorial Trophy in 2011, after he led the league in goals (50) and amassed over 100 penalty minutes, thanks to a couple of fights (one of which was against fellow goal scorer Pavel Datsyuk).
13 13. Jeremy Roenick
All you have to do is look at Jeremy Roenick’s face, with his busted nose and scarred lip, to tell that he had his fair share of scraps during his career. What you can’t tell by looking at him, however, is that he also had his fair share of points (1,216 to be exact, with 513 career goals).
When he first broke into the league, Roenick was more of a one-note player, averaging more than a point per game but not breaking triple-digit penalty minutes until his sixth season. Once he established himself as a tough guy, however, he regularly found himself in the middle of the action, fighting guys like Jamie Langenbrunner (a fight that he faired well in) and Darcy Tucker (a fight that he did not fair so well in).
More recently, the former Phoenix Coyote all-star was filmed taking on a decidedly different opponent: an alligator. That's right. Back in October 2015, he posted a video of himself attempting to jump onto the back of an alligator while out golfing. Luckily for Roenick, he didn't wind up like Chubbs from Happy Gilmore, as the alligator leaped back into the water before anything bad could happen.
12 12. Ryan Getzlaf
In many ways Ryan Getzlaf and Anaheim teammate Corey Perry are cut from the same cloth. They both rack up the points (Getzlaf's career high is 91), they both play physical, and they're both willing to stick up for themselves or their teammates if need be. Bigger than Perry and slightly better with his fists, Getzlaf dropped the gloves 3 times last season, but he arguably had his best season fights-wise in 2013-14 when, according to the fan ratings on hockeyfights.com, he won all 3 of the bouts in which he partook.
The Regina native earned the "C" on his chest because of his willingness to do whatever it takes for his team, which of course includes fighting from time to time. More than just a playmaker or a physical power forward, Getzlaf has been described as "the complete package" by The Hockey News.
11 11. Cam Neely
It's hard to say who was more afraid of Cam Neely: opposing goalies or opposing players. With 395 career goals and dozens of fights (including 16 in 1984-85 alone), it was a pretty safe bet that on any given day someone was going to fall victim to Neely’s talents.
With his aggressive style of offence, unafraid to get physical, Neely became the paradigmatic example for power forwards to come, such as Todd Bertuzzi and Brendan Shanahan.
Neely’s toughness was the stuff of legends, once suffering a nasty finger injury that required more than 10 stitches only to return to the ice in the same period. His reputation for being a tough guy was put to good use in the film Dumb and Dumber, wherein he played a violent-tempered truck driver named Seabass, leading, of course, to the famous line, "Kick his a**, Seabass!"
10 10. Evander Kane
No one really knew what to expect from Evander Kane when he entered the league in 2009, which is probably why veteran tough guy Matt Cooke felt confident enough to take the rookie Atlanta Thrasher on in a fight on April 10, 2010. Within a matter of seconds, Kane had made his presence known, as he dropped Cooke with a vicious right cross to the jaw, sending the Penguins pest on a one-way trip to Sleepy Town, USA. It happened so fast that the cameraman barely panned over in time to catch the fatal blow.
If he didn’t know it at the time, Cooke would later learn (after he regained consciousness of course) that Evander Kane was named after Evander Holyfield, as in former heavyweight champion of the world Evander Holyfield, as in somebody you don't want to mess with.
9 9. Jarome Iginla
Now in the twilight stage of his career, Jarome Iginla, who was one of the league’s top scorers while in his prime, is still able to contribute offensively even though he’s pushing 40. Last season, as an alternate captain for the Colorado Avalanche, he finished second in team goals, behind only Matt Duchene, who is fourteen years his junior.
One thing Iggy will always have over Duchene, however, is his ability to fight (unless you call those two blink-and-their-over wrestling matches that Duchene had with Vladimir Sobotka fights, which we don’t). At 6’1” 210 lbs., Iginla isn’t your average lightweight goal scorer, and he’s proven in the past that he can more than handle himself in a fight, like the time he went toe-to-toe with Brady Schenn and made the young Flyers’ centre look like a rag doll.
8 8. Vincent Lecavalier
Like Iginla, Vincent Lecavalier, who spent 14 seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning, most of which as team captain, isn’t afraid to contribute in more ways than one. In fact, in 2004 Vinny and Iggy fought it out in what was one of the biggest superstar vs. superstar fights of all time. According to hockeyfights.com, Iginla narrowly edged out Lecavalier to take the decision, but the Lightning forward, who’s also taken on heavyweights such as Zdeno Chara, more than held his own, getting in a few good shots before falling to the ice.
The Quebec native retired at the end of last season, but not before getting in a few late-career bouts, including one with rookie Keegan Lowe, who is thirteen years younger than the former Maurice “Rocket” Richard trophy winner. And, of course, Lecavalier won that fight in convincing fashion, proving that age is just a number when you’ve got a fist full of knuckles coming toward your face.
7 7. Wendel Clark
Toronto Maple Leaf legend Wendel Clark is the kind of player who’s hard to define. Was he a goal scorer, or was he a tough guy? With career highs of 46 goals and 271 penalty minutes, the case could equally be made for both.
His hard-hitting style of play, regarded as one of the most feared checkers in the league, earned him the nickname "Captain Crunch." But Clark was more than just a hard-nosed goal scorer; he was also a fighter, taking on some of the biggest guys in the league, many of whom were much larger than him, such as Marty McSorley, Bob Probert, and Dave Brown.
As Clark grew older and the fighting began to take a toll on his body, he dropped his gloves increasingly less, but he never abandoned his hard-hitting ways, still capable of laying out guys much bigger than him until he retired in 2000.
6 6. Joe Thornton
Always near the top in the league when it comes to assists, Joe Thornton is the consummate team player, which makes his lack of Stanley Cups all the more bewildering. Not only does he contribute with the stick, but he also contributes with the fists, as he’s been known to stick up for teammates even though he’s usually the most valuable player on his team.
Nicknamed “Jumbo Joe” because of his stature (6’4” 222 lbs.), Thornton packs one hell of a left cross, which Kings defenseman Drew Doughty learned the hard way in 2012 after being on the receiving end of a barrage of them. During the 2012-13 season, Thornton went at it with two other superstars, Jonathan Toews and Jamie Benn, coming out on the winning side both times.
5 5. Gordie Howe
Gordie Howe epitomized the game of hockey so well that he practically became a synecdoche for the sport, as they nicknamed him “Mr. Hockey.” He could do it all: score (801 career goals), pass (1,049 career assists), and rough up opponents (1,685 career penalty minutes). He was such a well-rounded player that to this day it's called a “Gordie Howe hat trick” whenever someone scores a goal, assists on a goal, and gets into a fight in the same game, a fairly common occurrence during Howe's two and a half decade career with the Red Wings.
He recorded his first ever “Gordie Howe hat trick” back in 1953 against the Maple Leafs, scoring a goal of his own, assisting on one by Red Kelly, and duking it out with Leafs defenceman Fernie Flaman. The current leader in "Gordie Howe hat tricks" is Jarome Iginla, with 9.
4 4. Rick Tocchet
It’s called the “Gordie Howe hat trick,” but maybe it should be renamed the “Rick Tocchet hat trick,” since he had 18 of them, the most all time, and 1,287 more penalty minutes than “Mr. Hockey.” Tocchet, who had a career high 48 goals and 299 penalty minutes, also made our list of the top 15 NHL goons who could score, which should tell you something about his equal abilities to score and fight.
Tocchet cemented himself as a legend in the eyes of Flyers fans when, in 2001, he applied a beatdown on New Jersey Devils’ pest Scott Stevens, who had ended Philadelphia’s Stanley Cup hopes the year before after he laid a vicious hit on Eric Lindros.
3 3. Bobby Hull
The fact that Bobby Hull, one of the greatest goal scorers of all time, didn’t fight very often is a testament to just how good a fighter he was. That is, players were so afraid to fight him that they often shied away. Even though he was just 5’10” and listed at less than 200 lbs., Hull was regarded as one of the strongest players in the game.
In fact, he is considered by many to be the most physically fit hockey player of all time, which is particularly impressive given that he played during an era in which physical fitness wasn’t taken nearly as seriously as it is today. Born just outside of Belleville, Ontario, Hull had what you might call farm strength, which is evident from a famous picture wherein he’s bailing hey without a shirt on.
One of the few players who didn’t shy away from Hull was Montreal Canadiens enforcer John Ferguson, who quickly found out that the Blackhawk star was not to be taken lightly.
2 2. Mark Messier
When Gordie Howe passed away in June, Mark Messier said of him: “When I was growing up, Gordie Howe was a mythical legend in our house. We revered him. He represented what every hockey player dreamed of becoming on and off the ice.” And you can certainly see the influence that Howe had on Messier, who followed in the tradition of hard-nosed hockey. Like “Mr. Hockey,” “The Moose,” as he was sometimes called because of his physical strength, was equally as capable of scoring points (second all time, in fact) as he was of getting physical, once racking up 101 points and 165 penalty minutes in the same season.
Aside from his hockey idols, Messier has stated that boxing legend Muhammad Ali was one of the biggest influences on his career. And while he may not have had the same pugilistic abilities as Ali, he was also no lightweight, TKOing more than a few guys in his career.
1 1. Brendan Shanahan
It’s ironic that Brendan Shanahan served as chief disciplinarian in the NHL, given that he is the all-time leader in regular season “Gordie Howe hat tricks” with 17. Ironic since the new rules and restrictions that he put in place have all but eliminated such a style of hockey. In fact, when Jarome Iginla, who modeled his playing style off of Shanahan, retires, don’t be surprised if the tradition of old-time, hard-nosed hockey goes with him.
But before Shanahan cracked down on fighting, he seemed more than happy to partake in it, dropping his gloves dozens of times throughout his career, and more than holding his own even against heavyweight enforcers like Donald Brashear.
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