Fighting in hockey is currently at its lowest point since the late 1960s, with a fight occurring in only 38% of games this season. In spite of the low frequency of fighting in today’s game, it remains one of the most exciting events that can take place in the sport. Of the 380 fights that have taken place so far this season, there has only been one by knockout victory. This rare occurrence used to occur more frequently, but with the widespread use of visors and improvement to helmet technology, it has become an increasingly rare event.
Knockout power is something that only a few enforcers in the game possess, but when it is utilized properly, it can change the tide of a fight and swing momentum in favor of their team. Some of the greatest hockey fights in history have ended with a decisive knockout victory and in these bouts some of the game’s greatest enforcers have fallen to the ice. When a perfect punch connects it is a beautiful, yet violent act that can leave an opponent unconscious. These punches can have devastating effects on the men on the receiving end and have changed the course of careers.
When grown men fall to the ice unconscious, it can be scary. The Code kept among NHL enforcers and the quick action of referees usually limit the amount of damage suffered after a decisive knockout has been scored. Despite the risk of injury and the potential long term effects on a player’s health, fighting will continue to play a vital role in hockey. Here are the individuals that have dealt and received the most devastating punches in history.
20 Rob Ray vs. Dennis Bonvie
After the “Rob Ray Rule” was instituted to prevent players from intentionally removing their jerseys during a fight, Rob Ray remained an intimidating force on the ice. He showed why during a brawl with Dennis Bonvie, who was outmatched by Ray over the course of their brief encounter. Ray landed a couple right hands to size up Bonvie before delivering the knockout blow with an overhand right. He skated away to the applause of the Buffalo crowd who roared their approval to the celebration of Ray.
19 Deryk Engelland vs. Colton Orr
This battle of Heavyweights lived up to everybody’s expectation during the second period of a Penguins vs. Maple Leafs game in 2010. Engelland and Orr squared off and immediately began to fire fists at a surprising rate. After each of the fighters landed several blows, Engelland’s helmet began to dangle in front of his face. Orr quickly removed the obstruction to continue fighting, but was met by a massive overhand right from Engelland that knocked Orr to the ground. It was a surprising finish considering Orr enjoyed the better part of their opening exchange.
18 Arron Asham vs. Jay Beagle
Jay Beagle had the upper hand in the early stages of his fight against Arron Asham in 2011. He had Asham off balance, struggling for leverage, and unable to free his right hand, while Beagle landed several shots of his own. However, once Asham got his right hand free, this fight was quickly ended with two fierce blows from Asham that dropped Beagle. Asham sent his opponent to the ice then proceeded to celebrate with an victory gesture that mocked going to sleep (which was shameful). Beagle skated off the ice bloodied, but under his own power.
17 Wade Belak vs. Donald Brashear
Donald Brashear is rarely overpowered during a fight, but that is exactly what Wade Belak did to him during their bout in 2009. Brashear has been rarely defeated during his NHL career and looked to be enjoying the upper hand when he was caught with a left hand by Belak. Belak’s knockout blow was one of several lefts that managed to find their target, but he halted as soon as Brashear went down to the ice as a sign of respect. Brashear struggled to get to his feet, but was helped over to the penalty box where both men served their majors.
16 Ed Jovanovski vs. Adam Deadmarsh
Ed Jovanovski and Adam Deadmarsh were not well known for their fighting skills, but both were willing participants in this November 2000 scrap. The two circled for a moment before engaging, Deadmarsh with left hands and Jovanovski with rights. Deadmarsh mistimed his punch and left himself open for Jovanovski, who quickly ended the fight with a brutal overhand right. Deadmarsh crumpled to the ground in a heap and had to be helped to his feet by teammates. Concussions would significantly limit Deadmarsh later in his career and he ultimately retired due to them in 2005, according to USAToday.
15 Dan Carcillo vs. Krys Barch
With his team trailing with time winding down in the third period, Dan Carcillo decided to stir things up and get a little energy in the building. To do this he found his counterpart in #13 for the Dallas Stars, Krys Barch. The two tentatively grabbed at each other attempting to wrest control. After a moment of circling each other, they finally came together. Carcillo clinched Barch’s jersey by the collar and rained down a blow from Thor’s hammer that dropped Barch. Barch struggled to return to his feet as Carcillo skated away in celebration to “Wild Thing.”
14 Colton Orr vs. Todd Fedoryk
The Flyers-Rangers rivalry is no stranger to brawls between the two teams, but Colton Orr’s knockout of Todd Fedoryk was as decisive as it was scary. The two skated in circles as they clinched for control and when Orr’s right arm came free the fight was over almost immediately. After finding his range with a couple punches, Orr launched a rocket right hand that bent Fedoryk backwards. Fedoryk slammed his head off the ice and eventually had to be carted off by medical personnel. Orr also appeared to be showing ill effects from the fight, and was pictured icing his hand in the penalty box.
13 Matt Johnson vs. Andrew Peters
Andrew Peters never stood a chance in his bout with Matt Johnson. That was apparent almost from the beginning. Peters stood almost completely stationary as the two began to scrap and quickly found himself overwhelmed by Johnson. Johnson grabbed Peters by the collar and after landing a few quick blows, began to hammer him with overhand rights. Peters fell to the ice twice, but quickly scrambled to his feet, which was a mistake, because Johnson then landed a right handed bomb that dropped Peters to the ice.
12 Aaron Downey vs. Jesse Boulerice
This fight lasted longer than you would expect a one-punch knockout fight to last, but only because Aaron Downey and Jesse Boulerice circled each other until linesmen nearly broke up the scrap. After Boulerice misses with a wild swing of his right hand, Downey capitalized on the opportunity by delivering a lighting fast left hook to Boulerice’s jaw. Boulerice dropped to the ice in a heap and the crowd in attendance roared their approval of Downey’s decisive swing.
11 Joey Kocur vs. Jim Kyte
Jim Kyte looked to have the early advantage in his scrap against Joey Kocur, but things quickly swung in the Bruise Brother’s favor a few seconds into the melee. Kyte landed several nice uppercuts, but Kocur began leveling Kyte with overhand rights and the fight culminated with one that came as both men were falling to the ice. Kocur’s final punch connected with the momentum of both men falling down and Kyte was left dazed on the ice. The last punch earned Kocur an early shower, and he skated off the ice immediately following the conclusion of the bout.
10 Rob Ray vs. Jim Kyte
Jim Kyte has the misfortune of being included on this list twice, both times on the loser's end. Rob Ray was notorious for removing his jersey and shoulder pads to gain an advantage in scraps and this is a textbook example of this practice at work. Kyte once again enjoyed the advantage in the early fight, but once Ray had his jersey off it was quick work, with Ray landing one huge right hand to the temple that knocked Kyte out. Kyte struggled to get back to his feet as Ray collected his gear and coolly skated over to the penalty box like a true professional.
9 Tony Twist vs. Mike Peluso
Immediately following a goal in a heated contest between the New Jersey Devils and Quebec Nordiques, Tony Twist and Mike Peluso squared off at the ensuing face off. The fight lasted only a few seconds, with Twist manhandling Peluso with his superior strength and fighting ability. As Peluso swung his fists wildly, Twist responded with a thunderous right that sent the Devils scrapper to the ice. Referees quickly stepped in to help the unconscious Peluso and Twist climbed off his opponent to serve his fighting major.
8 Paul Laus vs. Craig Berube
Craig Berube is a veteran of more NHL fights than all but one player, but in November 1996 got more than he could handle in a tussle with Paul Laus. Laus enjoyed the better part of the opening exchange and was in the process of spinning Berube around to gain an advantage when he saw his opportunity. Laus capitalized by landing an uppercut Mike Tyson would have been proud of square on Berube’s jaw. The blow lifted Berube off the ice and he crumbled to the ground in a heap.
7 Joey Kocur vs. Mike Eagles
Joey Kocur and Mike Eagles appeared to disagree over a hit that occurred just prior to them dropping the gloves. Eagles began swinging wildly as he was pushed backwards, but managed to land a few blows while Kocur figured out how to handle the situation. Kocur quickly dealt with Eagles’ visor by removing his opponent helmet and proceeded to crush Eagles with right hands. After several shots, Kocur landed one flush on Eagles’ cheek, knocking him head first into the ice. Remarkably, Eagles got back to his feet a few seconds later and skated to serve his time in the penalty box.
6 Todd Ewen vs. Bob Probert
Even the best fighters have off nights and that was certainly the case with Bob Probert during his fight with Todd Ewen. Probert and Ewan squared off just inside the Buffalo zone and proceeded to throw haymakers at each other. After each of them landed a couple blows, Ewen landed a shot right on Probert’s jaw that sent the Red Wings’ tough guy to the ice. Ewen wanted to keep going after his opponent and had to be ushered away by the referee. Probert took a minute to rise to his feet, but was able to skate over to the box to serve his fighting major.
5 Tie Domi vs. Steve Smith
Tie Domi’s bout with Steve Smith was a brief and decisive affair that had lasting effects. In the first period of the Jets vs. Blackhawks, Domi and Smith dropped the gloves to fight just before the halfway point of the first period. Domi quickly got Smith off balance and after missing with his first shot, landed his second blow flush. The left hook sent Smith to the ice and his awkward landing was made worse by Domi continuing to pummel him with blows. Smith was in considerable pain as he was attended to by trainers and suffered a broken leg due to the awkward fall and knockout. The injury caused Smith to miss the remainder of the season.
4 Evander Kane vs. Matt Cooke
In what may have been the greatest moment in the short lived history of the Atlanta Thrashers, Evander Kane landed a brutal right handed shot to Matt Cooke’s temple that sent the Penguins pest to the ground. The pair squared off and almost as suddenly as it began, Cooke had been floored by Kane’s right cross. Cooke challenged Kane with a check and some banter and did not even have a chance to realize he had bitten off more than he could chew. Kane managed to hold on to Cooke’s jersey which broke his fall and saved him from hitting the ice.
3 Brent Johnson vs. Rick DiPietro
Seeing two goaltenders fight is a rarity in hockey, and seeing a knockout during a goalie fight virtually never occurs. Both of these happened in the closing moments of the third period between the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders. Rick DiPietro took a shot at Matt Cooke and Brent Johnson skated the length of the ice to get even. DiPietro had a smile on his face as he removed his helmet to engage Johnson, who met the Isles goalie with a left hook that knocked him unconscious and fractured his cheekbone. This fight caused DiPietro to miss the next 20 games.
2 Ryan Vandenbussche vs. Nick Kyprios
To call Ryan Vandenbussche vs. Nick Kyprios a fight is a bit of an overstatement. Vandenbussche thoroughly dominated the bout from start to finish, pummeling Kyprios with a series of furious right handed blows. The first several blows took Kyprios’ helmet off of his head and the next few caused Kyprios to attempt to “turtle.” However, Vandenbussche held up the opposing fighter and Kyprios managed to recover, attempting to remove the other fighter’s helmet. The two tussled for a few more moments before Vandenbussche landed a vicious left that sent Kyprios face first into the ice.
1 Stu Grimson vs. Reid Simpson
Stu Grimson showed how he earned the nickname the “Grim Reaper” during his brief fracas with Reid Simpson in 2000. Grimson enticed Simpson to fight, but the Blues enforcer should never have answered the call. The two dropped the gloves at center ice the crowd rose to their feet, only to see Grimson deliver two overhand rights that instantly dropped Simpson to the ice. Grimson’s knockout victory was the exclamation point on a victory for the Los Angeles Kings and he skated off the ice for a shower one minute early.