"I went to a fight the other night, and a hockey game broke out." - Rodney Dangerfield
Fighting is part of the game of hockey; some would consider it the game's most iconic feature. The NHL has been working in recent years on cleaning up and regulating fights. As a result they aren't quite what they used to be, but still remain a very fun part of the game. It allows teams to show their disapproval with their opponent's style of play beyond harsh words and petty shoving.
There are a few different types of fights. Some never really get going, with both players skating in circles waiting for the other to make a move. Or they might just hug each other for a bit. The refs end up getting bored and pull them apart.
Some are more of a show than anything, where players are trying to stimulate their team or their fans. Both players try to land a few punches and then get out. They're often just light hearted fights that don't mean much other than job security for two enforcers.
But then there are the fights that every hockey fan lives for. Fights where it looks like both players are trying to murder each other. It isn't staged, and they hold nothing back. It's raw emotion fueling the fight. These are the types of fights make the best and most brutal brawls.
20 Zack Smith v Nathan Horton- April 9, 2011
As the announcers make clear, this game is not significant. It occurred one day before the official end of the regular season with Boston having already secured the division win, and Ottawa being eliminated.
This isn't two enforcers fighting to give themselves job security; this is two guys fighting because they hate each other (at least in the moment). Both players land some nice hits on each other, but neither goes down.
It makes for a great fight because it's real. These two have to settle something and they do just that.
19 Atlanta Thrashers vs. Boston Bruins - December 23, 2010
It's pretty clear to see what kicked all this off. Meyer hits Lucic high and everyone pairs off. The announcers were talking about Meyer's hit being a possible suspension. Instead, all the talk afterwards was about whether Lucic would be suspended for the punch he threw that sent Meyer to the ice just before all the fighting broke out. In the end, Lucic was given a $3,500 fine, but no suspension.
18 Tanner Glass vs. Cody McCormick - November 8, 2011
Short and sweet. It was quite a bit more fun than those fights that start off strong and then slowly dwindle in to a passionate hug. Glass and McCormick threw everything they had into it before falling to the ice, ending the brawl.
It appeared McCormick got the better hits in, but he also came away from it bloodier and with less equipment.
17 Montreal Canadiens vs. Ottawa Senators - May 5th 2013
Game 3 of the 2013 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals saw the Senators leading the Canadiens by a score of 4-1 with about 13 minutes left in the 3rd. A couple slashes and a shove was enough to set everything off in a brawl that resulted in over 200 penalty minutes being dealt.
All things considered, the refs did a very nice job handling 4 simultaneous fights. Not a terrible amount occurred after everything got cleaned up.
16 David Driurzynski vs. Frazer McLaren - March 6, 2013
This fight got started less than a minute into the hockey game. Both players got a few decent hits in to start, but McLaren finishes it pretty early on when he sends Dziurzynski to the ice.
Driurzynski stays down, something that is always hard to watch. It takes him a minute to get back up, needing the help of him teammates to get off the ice. It was later announced that he had received a concussion; though his symptoms were not severe at least.
15 Vancouver Canucks vs. Calgary Flames - April 17, 2015
Between Derek Dorsett and Dan Hamhuis ganging up on Deryk Engelland and Matt Stajan being thrown to the ice, this scrum got very heated.
Surprisingly, Hamhuis didn't get a suspension for being the third man in. The rational seemed to be that it wasn't technically a fight at that point. With punches being thrown and everyone having their gloves off by the time they went down, it's hard to understand that point of view.
14 Philadelphia Flyers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins - April 1 2012
With one minute left in a game that was already decided, Pittsburgh sent out of their 4th line. Briere took a legal but unnecessary hit that enraged the flyers.
The best part of all this was seeing the two coaches standing on the bench yelling at each other. It's a shame they didn't switch to Pierre so the fans could get a listen in on what they were saying, I'm sure everyone would've enjoyed that; everyone except parents who were watching the game with younger kids perhaps.
13 John Erskine vs. Eric Boulton - November 14, 2010
This fight was definitely one of the better ones in recent years. Neither player was pulling punches; rather they were swinging for the one knockout punch.
Both Erskine and Boulton landed some hard shots that would've sent most players down, but not these two heavyweights. Erskine got the last hit in with a shove into the boards, but no clear winner emerged from the fight.
12 Jay Rosehill vs. Brian McGratton - November 17, 2011
How Rosehill stayed standing after taking a couple dozen punches to the head is completely beyond me. Neither player was concerned with blocking, or anything related to defense for that matter. It was a fight where the only goal seemingly was to land has many shots to the head as possible.
It didn't take much to get this fight going, the heavy weights pairing up after the two teams got into a minor scrum.
11 Matt Cooke vs. Evander Kane - April 10, 2010
Evander Kane Answers Matt Cooke's challenge and ends it almost immediately. Cooke goes down hard and it takes a while for him to get up but does eventually leave the ice on his own.
While many consider Cooke to be a dirty player, it's still always hard to watch a player go down like that. Following this, Cooke was listed as day-to-day with a suspected concussion.
10 Buffalo Sabres vs. Toronto Maple Leafs - September 22, 2013
The strangest thing about everything that happened here is that it occurred during a preseason game. These types of fights aren't supposed to happen in meaningless games.
It was started off after a fight between Jamie DeVane and Corey Tropp that sent Tropp down hard. It was followed up by 2015 all-star John Scott trying to pick a fight with Phil Kessel, who rejected the fight in completely hilarious and absurd fashion by hold his stick like it's a sword and swinging at Scott's legs.
It even featured a goalie fight, one that both went all in on. Seldom do all 6 players on the ice go at it - it happening during a preseason game is even more surprising. It's absurd that all this went down. In the end, Clarkson received a 10 game suspension for coming off the bench; Kessel got 3 for his ridiculous slashing.
For what it's worth, Toronto won the game 5-3.
9 Jarome Iginla vs. Jamie Benn - December 23, 2010
It's always fun to see two talented players go at it. At first it looked like one of those fights where both players skate around each other in circles before the refs get bored and pull them apart. Benn thankfully ruins that thought when he dives in swinging for Iginla.
Iginla had the stronger finish. However, overall it felt like Benn did more damage, the majority of it coming early on in the fight.
8 Andrew Ladd vs. Gabriel Landeskog - December 11, 2014
Watching the enforcers go at it can be fun, two big guys who know how to fight smacking each other, and most would probably agree that these are the best types of hockey fights. Two leaders going at it. Two guys who aren't known to fight absolutely tearing into each other.
Landeskog had Ladd beat in this one, partially due to Ladd's hand getting stuck in his jersey of course, but still.
Though, someone should tell them that if you wear a visor, you're supposed to take it off before you fight.
7 B.J. Crombeen vs. Zac Rinaldo - February 5th, 2013
Zac Rinaldo is a terrifying player. He plays like he wants to knock someone out whenever he's on the ice (especially when he was in Philadelphia). While he's not known for his fighting ability, he might have just went into this one bent on beating someone up.
While if you slow it down, you'll see his last hit lands before Crombeen hits the ice. If you want to get technical about it, you could make the case that it wasn't a dirty hit. But for all intents and purposes it was due to Crombeen being out of the fight at that point. Either way it, was hard to watch.
6 Vancouver Canucks vs. Calgary Flames - January 18, 2014
This was absolute madness. Calgary decided to start the game with their 4th line (their tough guys), Vancouver responded with theirs. As soon as the puck dropped, everyone paired up and threw down. This is the kind of thing that happens when you have heated rivalries in the NHL. Watching Tortorella (as well as some of his other players) yell across the benches makes this whole thing so much better.
5 Ilya Kovalchuk vs. Brayden Schenn - February 4, 2012
Following a dirty slew foot by Rinaldo on Parise, a relatively minor scrum ensues. Out of it, the young Brayden Schenn bit off way more than he could chew; getting literally thrown around before being dropped to his knees by veteran Ilya Kovalchuk.
Amazingly, it looks like Schenn came out of the fight alright. At the very least, the Flyers made no announcement of any sort of injury. It's a shame that Rinaldo never had to answer for his own dirty play.
4 Antoine Roussel v Andrew Shaw - December 3rd, 2013
Antoine Roussel and Andrew Shaw square off right out of the draw. The two certainly want to go at it a lot longer than the refs wanted them two. Roussel and Shaw continue to wail on each other despite the linesmen getting in between them.
Unfortunately, they manage to get a hold of Roussel but not Shaw, allowing Shaw to get a few free hits in. He needed to be grabbed and thrown to the ice by the ref to end it all.
3 New Jersey Devils Vs New York Rangers - March 19, 2012
The fans really got into this one. You can tell the teams hate each other. The fans hate each other. It's a hateful rivalry. There isn't a terrible amount to say about these fights. The puck drops and the players square off. The fights between Ryan Carter/ Stu Bickel and Cam Janessen/ Brandon Prust were close, but Eric Boulton went down hard and it looked like he took some hits while on the ice. This is probably the way most hockey fans would like to see a rivalry game start off. It certainly sets the mood nicely.
2 Washington Capitals vs. Philadelphia Flyers - November 1, 2013
With Philadelphia getting smashed, tensions were high. Most games that have brutal line brawls feature a blowout.
The Simmonds and Wilson fight was a good one alone. Emery beating up on an unwilling Holtby takes this whole brawl to the next level. It's unbelievable that no one stepped in between the two goalies. Not only did the refs let them go, but it appeared that he even prevented one of Washington's skaters from helping him out. Just to make things stranger, Emery was given the 3rd star for the game. He finished with 4 goals against and a .733 save percentage. You can be sure he didn't get it for his goaltending.
1 New York Islanders vs. Pittsburgh Penguins - February 11, 2011
This game featured fights and dirty hits throughout. The worst of it all came in the third, sparked off by a high hit by Gillies to Tangradi that sent the Penguin to the ice. Haley looked to get revenge on Penguin's goaltender Brent Johnson for what happened during a goalie fight in a previous game that left Islander's goaltender Rick DiPietro out of action for 4-6 weeks. Martin left the Penguins bench to defend his goalie, adding to the total chaos of this game. The Islanders organization was fined $100,000. Forward Trevor Gillies was suspended 9 games, and Martin Martin was suspended for 4. For Pittsburgh, Eric Godard got an automatic 10 game ban for leaving the bench.