It’s no surprise that National Hockey League enforcers are a dying breed. Tightened rules for dropping the gloves and hits to the head, along with stricter punishments for “dangerous” plays are becoming enough of a deterrent to put fear into anyone considering taking a cheap shot at Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, or Connor McDavid.
Tough guys like Brian McGrattan, Colton Orr, Tom Sestito, and Paul Bissonnette, who were in the NHL as recent as last season, are having to claw their way back to a roster spot. While some traditional enforcers are hanging on (think Cody McLeod, who notched just 12 points last season, or Tom Wilson with his four goals), most are being replaced by guys who can be counted on to score at least ten goals while adding an element of toughness.
There will soon be a new generation of hockey fans who may never watch a pure enforcer at his finest. They won’t know the fury in Dave Semenko’s eyes for looking at Wayne Gretzky sideways. They won’t witness the wrath of Tiger Williams for doing, well, anything. They’ll never be entertained by an epic Chris Nilan-Stu Grimson tilt.
These feisty players are often fan favorites during their tenure, but just as often fade from our thoughts after retirement. What does an enforcer do after his NHL days are behind him?
There are, unfortunately, a growing number of tough guys who have left us too soon: Bob Probert, Rick Rypien, Derek Boogaard, Wade Belak, and Todd Ewen, to name a few. We dedicate this list in their honor, and to all the fallen enforcers no longer with us.
15 Scott Parker
14 Willi Plett
13 Chris Nilan
12 Joey Kocur
Serving with Bob Probert as the Detroit Red Wings’ dreaded “Bruise Brothers” duo, Joey Kocur collected over 2,500 penalty minutes over his career with more than 200 fights. Kocur was an enforcer in every sense, punishing opponents with his powerful right hook. Today he serves as president of the Detroit Red Wings Alumni Association, where he plays old-timer matches and raises funds for charity.
11 Gino Odjick
10 Dave Semenko
9 Jeff Odgers
8 Dave Brown
7 Stu Grimson
6 Dale Hunter
5 Donald Brashear
4 Tie Domi
Tie Domi was regarded as one of the toughest and most entertaining enforcers of his time. Ending his career with the third-most penalty minutes in NHL history, the five-foot-eight tough guy scrapped his way into the hearts of Jets, Rangers, and Leafs fans. Since retiring, Tie has written a memoir and follows the hockey career of his son, Max, who is now in the NHL. Tie has appeared on TV commercials for Comwave and made the news in 2014 for challenging then-Toronto Mayor Rob Ford to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge (which Ford accepted in embarrassing fashion).
3 Marty McSorley
2 Georges Laraque
1 Tiger Williams
There was no greater NHL tough guy than Dave “Tiger” Williams. Including the playoffs, Tiger piled up over 4,000 career penalty minutes and dropped the gloves on hundreds of occasions against admirable foes like Terry O’Reilly, Dave Schultz, Tim Hunter, and Dave Semenko. After hockey, Tiger took an unusual turn into the oil and gas industry, where he operated Pacific Rodera Energy for several years. Today he takes part in charity golf tournaments and alumni hockey matches. He presumable still receives royalties for the cookbook he co-authored, Done Like Dinner: Tiger in the Kitchen. No joke.
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