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Top 10 NHL Enforcers All-Time List 1960-2000

May. 14, 2020 - Michael Stewart

Top 10 NHL Enforcers All-Time List 1960-2000

Introduction:  When NHL fans reminisce about great hockey legends, it’s often related to the prolific scorers such as: Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, Mark Messier and Mario Lemieux. However; throughout NHL history nearly every successful team had a player whose role was to ensure that their superstars could perform at the highest level without being intimidated by an opposing player and that was the role of the enforcer. Today’s fans are really unaware of the importance these players had as today’s game has gone in a different direction.

Growing up playing hockey and being an avid fan of the game, I was fortunate enough to watch many of the elite enforcers from the late 1960’s to late 1990’s when teams utilized their services. Since I wasn’t able to watch enforcers prior to the 1960’s, I will only focus on that time frame (1960-2000). He is my top 10 enforcers who were equally important to their teams success through0ut their careers.

10. Nick Fotiu: Fotiu played the majority of his career as a New York Ranger. Fans would come watch the Rangers play in hopes to watch a fight or two from Fotiu and most of the time; Fotiu didn’t disappoint them. Fotiu finished his career probably winning 90% of his fights.

9. Joey Kocur: Kocur played the majority of this career with the Detroit Red Wings & had a sledgehammer for a right hand. Most many opposing players picked a fight with Kocur & if they did, they were introduced to a Kocur right hand. Aside from being an intimidating enforcer, Kocur was a solid defender and took immense pride in his defense.

8. Tie Domi: Domi played the majority of his career with the Toronto Maple Leafs and was a fan favorite among the fans in Toronto. Domi never backed down from a fight and if any opposing players dared to take a run at any of Domi’s teammates; they should expect to drop their gloves. Domi amassed 347 minutes in the 1993-1194 season and is remembered for sucker punching Ulf Samuelsson (knocked out) and doing the same to Scott Niedermayer with an elbow.

7. Chris Nilan: Nilan played the majority of his career with the Montreal Canadians and was affectionally nicknamed “knuckles”. Nilan only played in 688 games due to various injuries or he would have been higher on this list. In a two year span, Nilan amassed a total of 696 minutes; which is legendary and probably will never be broken. Nilan also holds the record for most penalties in a single game with 10.

6. Marty McSorley: McSorley played the majority of his career with the Los Angeles Kings and was Wayne Gretzky’s official bodyguard both in Edmonton and Los Angeles. McSorley accumulated 3,381 in penalty minutes and battled many of the elite enforcers during his career. McSorley’s most memorable moment on the ice was his ill-advised stick to the head of Donald Brashear causing a serious concussion; which led to an assault charge.

5. Clark Gillies: Gillies played the majority of his career with the New York Islanders and protected the likes of Mike Bossy and Brian Trottier. Gillies was immediately respected the moment he stepped onto the ice as a rookie in the NHL. To his teammates, Gillies was more than an enforcer as he provided clutch goals during those great Islander teams.

4. Dave Schultz: Schultz played the majority of his career with the Philadelphia Flyers and was nicknamed “The Hammer”. Schultz was such an intimidating force, he was the catalyst for the infamous matchup against the Soviet Red Army where Schultz led the way by totally beating up any Russian player within reach. Schultz holds the record for the highest average in penalty minutes per game with four.

3. Terry O’Reilly: O’Reilly played his entire career with the Boston Bruins and was more than just an enforcer as he once led the team in scoring (1977-78) with 90 points and in penalty minutes (211). O’Reilly never backed down from a fight and his battles with Dave Schultz, Clark Gillies and Tiger Williams are legendary.

2. Bob Probert: Probert played the majority of his career with the Detroit Red Wings and formed a dynamic duo with Joey Kocur. Probert was the ultimate protector and his fights against some of the well known enforcers of his day like Tie Domi and Stu Grimson among others were legendary.

1. Tiger Williams: Williams played the majority of his career with the Toronto Maple Leafs and did he put on a show. Williams holds the record for the most penalty minutes with 4,400; while also tallying 241 career goals. Williams was not your big bruising enforcer like Probert, Gillies or Schultz, but Williams had immense heart and never backed down from a fight; which is why he is top enforcer on my list.

Final Thoughts: The role of the enforcer has changed dramatically in the NHL over the last 20+ years, but if you’re a hockey fan purest as I am, then you’ll appreciate a good fight more often than not as I firmly believe it’s still a vital part of the game. To this day I still go watch my share of games and when a fight does break out, more fans than not stand up and cheer on with more excitement than a goal being scored.