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Top 20 Hardest Hitters in NHL History

Many hockey purists will complain from time to time about the disappearance of the body check. They will say that the rules have handcuffed players from going for a body check out of fear of suspension. The advent of replays from cameras aimed at every corner of the ice makes a body check that was once seen as legal, is now scrutinized by every official at the NHL disciplinary office.

Another complaint that many analysts make to explain the decline of the hockey body check is the unwritten code among hockey players. This code has evolved to the point where any physical contact that is perceived as crossing the line now mandates a response from the entire opposing team. This often takes the form of fighting so guys who have a tendency or interest in stepping up and laying out a solid body check are discouraged from doing so because they know that they will have to fight immediately afterwards.

These complaints do have some merit, but hockey has not changed that much from its inception and body checking is still a big part of the game. It is an important factor in helping teams win through intimidation and puck possession.

Like every aspect of hockey, body checking is not a skill unto itself and is used in conjunction with other aspects to help win the game. Over time body checking has been referred to as "hitting" or "crushing" which simplifies this element of the game into pure violence.  A player who has perfected the body check understands that this play serves multiple purposes. Firstly, it is a defensive tool, preventing an opposing player's progress towards your own goal. Secondly, a body check separates the player from the puck, giving your team the chance to regain possession and turn your attention to offense. Lastly, a good, solid and legal body check will sting the opposing player. Putting a little sting into someone is best described as making a player feel discomfort for a short period of time, forcing them to catch their breath and recover on the bench. When a player has felt that sting the natural reaction is to avoid contact for the rest of the game so they avoid going close to your net where physical contact is likely to occur. This player becomes less of a threat to score, increasing your chances of winning. It is especially for this last reason that hard body checking is so valued and always will be.

Here is a list of the top 20 hardest body checkers in NHL history.

20  20. Adam Foote

via milehighhockey.com

19 Raffi Torres

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

18 Garnet Exelby

via hockeyjournal.com

17 Jordin Tootoo

via dalje.com

16 Zdeno Chara

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

15 Cal Clutterbuck

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

14 Bryan Marchment

via bleacherreport.net

13 Alex Ovechkin

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

12 Vladimir Konstantinov

via nhlsnipers.com

11 Wendel Clark

via espn.com

10 Dion Phaneuf

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

9 Niklas Kronwall

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

8 Mike Peca

via cbc.ca

7 Larry Robinson

via nhlsnipers.com

6 Denis Potvin

via kingscountynews.com

5 Tim Horton

via classicauctions.net

4 Rob Blake

via isportsweb.com

3 Eric Lindros

via nbcphiladelphia.com

2 Darius Kasparaitis

via sskoveralltalltid.se

1 Scott Stevens

via espn.com

Of course the number 1 hardest body checker of all time was Scott Stevens. Stevens was just a big, mean defenceman that was born to hit. He looked like a heat seeking missile at times, just searching for targets while on the ice. Stevens had a knack of anticipating when a player had their head down and was unsuspecting that contact was imminent. Some players on this list have one body check that they are remembered for, but Stevens has at least half a dozen including famous hits on Lindros, Ron Francis and Paul Kariya. The king of the body check was undoubtedly Scott Stevens.

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Top 20 Hardest Hitters in NHL History