You don’t mess with the Top 20 Toughest Hockey Players of All Time.

Some of the toughest athletes in all of sports are hockey fighters.

Linebackers and big rugby players do their fair share of hurting people. But to be a tough guy in the NHL, you have to deal out hard hits and take shots to the body. When the gloves come off, you also have to fight sometimes.

These tough players know how to make things happen, whether it’s protecting a star player from a big check or taking out the best player on the other team. The players on this list aren’t just guys who got penalties. They’re also guys who could give out big penalties and keep playing even after getting hurt in a fight.

To be a tough guy in the NHL, you have to work hard. That means spending hours in the weight room, more time on the ice, and working hard at home with the right food to help you gain strength.

Here are the NHL’s most gnarly, strongest, hardest-hitting, and just plain badass players:

Top 20 Toughest Hockey Players: Gordie Howe, Detroit Red Wings

Top 20 Toughest Hockey Players: Gordie Howe, Detroit Red Wings

Known as “Mr. Hockey,” Howe was regarded as one of the NHL’s hardest players during his time. Although he wasn’t much of a fighter, Howe made his presence known on the ice with a mix of physical strength, scoring ability, true grit, and great longevity.

Born in a Saskatchewan farmhouse, Howe went on to play until he was 51 years old, the most of that time with the Detroit Red Wings. The ambidextrous right winger had an unusually long career for a hockey player, participating in professional games from 1946 to 1980. Howe retired with 801 goals and 1,049 assists in 1,767 regular-season games played, the most in NHL history.

The Hall of Famer established himself as a tough guy in the NHL with what is now known as the “Gordie Howe hat trick”—when a player scores, assists, and fights in the same game.

Top 20 Toughest Hockey Players: Scott Stevens, New Jersey Devils

Top 20 Toughest Hockey Players: Scott Stevens, New Jersey Devils

Stevens was the toughest player on some of the Devils’ best teams, including three that won the Stanley Cup. Stevens played in more than 1,600 games during his career. During that time, he made some very hard hits. Stevens took down Flyers star Eric Lindros with a hit that may still have the Philadelphia center spinning in his seat:

Top 20 Toughest Hockey Players: Rob Blake, Los Angeles Kings

Top 20 Toughest Hockey Players: Rob Blake, Los Angeles Kings

Blake was a strong physical presence on the ice and one of the best two-way defensemen in the NHL throughout his 19-year career. Blake accumulated almost 1,600 penalty minutes in 1,270 games and was always ready for a major hit. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2014 after winning the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defensive player in 1993.

Top 20 Toughest Hockey Players: Bobby Orr, Boston Bruins

Top 20 Toughest Hockey Players: Bobby Orr, Boston Bruins

People think that Orr was one of the best hockey players in NHL history. He was also one of the toughest. Orr didn’t fight very often, but when he did, he fought hard. The Boston Bruins center played through a lot of painful injuries during his career. Orr had to quit early because of all his injuries, but not before he won eight Norris trophies and got almost 1,000 penalty minutes. Orr also scored one of the best playoff goals ever, which won the Stanley Cup in overtime. This led to one of the best sports photos ever taken.

Top 20 Toughest Hockey Players: Donald Brashear, Montreal Canadiens

Top 20 Toughest Hockey Players: Donald Brashear, Montreal Canadiens

Brashear spent a long time in the NHL as one of the league’s greatest enforcers. He was the right size for it, standing 6’3″ and weighing 237 pounds. Brashear finished his career with nearly 2,600 penalty minutes, and one of his most notable accomplishments was playing in the most penalized NHL game ever. Brashear was a member of the Philadelphia Flyers club that faced the Ottawa Senators in a game that had a record 419 penalty minutes. In an epic battle, Brashear faced off against fellow enforcer Rob Ray:

Top 20 Toughest Hockey Players: Chris Pronger, St. Louis Blues

Top 20 Toughest Hockey Players: Chris Pronger, St. Louis Blues

During his time, Pronger was one of the best defensemen in the league. He was also a very scary player to play against. Pronger, who is 6’6″ and weighs 220 pounds, was often the biggest player on the ice, and he didn’t mind throwing his weight around. The defenseman was banned twice during the playoffs in 2007, and he was suspended a total of eight times over the course of his career.

Top 20 Toughest Hockey Players: Jeff Beukeboom, New York Rangers

Top 20 Toughest Hockey Players: Jeff Beukeboom, New York Rangers

It’s written right there in the name. Beukeboom was the enforcer and heavy hitter for the Stanley Cup-winning New York Rangers club in 1994, providing security on the ice for players like Adam Graves and Brian Leetch. Beukeboom won three Stanley Cups during his career and accumulated approximately 1,900 penalty minutes in 804 games.

Top 20 Toughest Hockey Players: Cam Neely, Boston Bruins

Top 20 Toughest Hockey Players: Cam Neely, Boston Bruins

Neely was one of the few tough guys who could also score (he scored almost 400 goals in 726 games), and he also knew how to make a big hit. Neely spent more than 1,200 minutes of his career in the penalty box. Fans of the Boston Bruins even called him “Bam Bam Cam” because of this.

Top 20 Toughest Hockey Players: Marty McSorley, Los Angeles Kings

Top 20 Toughest Hockey Players: Marty McSorley, Los Angeles Kings

McSorley was one of the hardest-hitting players in NHL history, and he served as Wayne Gretzky’s de facto bodyguard while playing for the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings. McSorley finished his career in the top five in penalty minutes, but not without controversy. McSorley was suspended in 2000 after slashing Donald Brashear in the head, which caused him to fall and get a concussion. The slash sparked a massive brawl:

Top 20 Toughest Hockey Players: Brendan Shanahan, Detroit Red Wings

Top 20 Toughest Hockey Players: Brendan Shanahan, Detroit Red Wings

Shanahan could say that he is the NHL’s best-scoring tough guy. When he retired, he was the only player to have scored at least 600 goals and gotten at least 2,000 penalty minutes. Shanahan played for the Detroit Red Wings and won three Stanley Cups with them. In 2013, he was entered into the Hall of Fame.

After his playing days were over, Shanahan got a job with the NHL as the Senior Vice President. In that job, he had to make decisions about players who hit them in a way that was against the rules. Shanahan, on the other hand, was never afraid to drop the gloves when he needed to:

Matthew Barnaby, Buffalo Sabres

Throughout his career, Barnaby was notorious for mocking his opponents on the ice, both during bouts and after huge hits. During his 14-year career, he played for the Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Rangers, Colorado Avalanche, Chicago Blackhawks, and Dallas Stars, although he is best remembered for his time in Buffalo. Barnaby completed his career ranked in the top 20 all-time in penalty minutes, having spent 2,562 minutes in the sin bin.

Mark Messier, New York Rangers

Messier is one of the best-scoring players in NHL history, but he didn’t mind getting in a fight either. Messier’s stats showed this: at the end of his career, he had nearly 700 goals and 1,910 penalty minutes. Messier was a fiery and scary player, and this made him get banned a few times, like when he accidentally elbowed Dallas Stars forward Mike Modano.

Derek Boogaard, Minnesota Wild

Throughout his career, Boogaard embraced the position of enforcer, gaining the nickname “Boogeyman,” and he was known for his fighting even in junior hockey. During his career in the NHL, Boogaard was regarded as one of the hardest and most scary players—his 6’8″ 265-pound size certainly helped.

In a brawl, the former Minnesota Wild and New York Rangers standout shattered Todd Fedoruk’s cheek and knocked out Trevor Gillies with an uppercut. Boogaard’s life ended tragically in 2011, maybe as a result of his hard-charging playing style. Boogaard will forever be associated with the NHL and the fighting culture in which he participated, but he also exemplified the tenacity and grit that many hockey players possess.

Rob Ray, Buffalo Sabres

Ray was one of the best fighters in the NHL. He played for the Buffalo Sabres and the Ottawa Senators and got 3,207 penalty minutes. Ray had a big effect on the NHL’s fighting rules because he didn’t always have his equipment attached to his pants. This made it hard for his opponents to get a good hold on him when they fought him.

This gave Ray a big advantage, but it also led the NHL to make the “Rob Ray rule” to stop other players from using his approach. But Ray wasn’t as rough off the ice as he was on it. In 1999, he won the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for leadership and helping people.

Tony Twist, St. Louis Blues

Twist was regarded as one of the top NHL enforcers during his 10-year career, amassing over 1,100 penalty minutes. In St. Louis, he was a fan favorite who never backed down from a battle. Twist sometimes began them on his own, like as this prodding of Flyers great Eric Lindros with his stick:

Zdeno Chára, Boston Bruins

If you play hockey and are 6’9″ and 255 pounds, there is a good chance you will become an enforcer. Chára has proven himself to be one of the most dangerous players in the league, as well as one of the hardest hits.

Chára’s career has been full of heated moments, but the biggest one was when he hit Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty into the boards in 2011. Chára isn’t seen as a “dirty” player—he’s just a big guy who can throw his weight around—which is probably why he wasn’t banned for the hit.

Tie Domi, Toronto Maple Leafs

When people think of tough guys in hockey, Domi is often one of the first names that come to mind. That’s what happens when you play for 16 years and end up with 3,515 penalty minutes, which is the third-most of all time. Domi is well-known among hockey fans, especially because he fought a lot. Domi’s suspension for a sucker punch he gave to Rangers defender Ulf Samuelsson is one of the most well-known and worst parts of his career:

Tiger Williams, Toronto Maple Leafs

Williams was one of the toughest enforcers of all time—how could he not be with a moniker like Tiger?—He ended his NHL career with the most penalty minutes of any player in history. Williams accumulated 3,966 penalty minutes in 14 seasons while playing for five different teams. Tiger was known as much for his goal celebrations as he was for his fights, with Williams riding his stick down the ice like a horse after scoring.

Williams was a fairly productive offensive player, scoring at least 40 points in six different seasons, but he also had a penchant for violence, which led to suspensions, including one for attempting to choke out a Calgary Flames player with his stick. This brawl between Dave Schultz of the Flyers and Williams (then of the Maple Leafs) pretty much sums it up for Tiger:

Wendel Clark, Toronto Maple Leafs

Clark was once picked first overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs. He scored at least 30 goals in six different seasons, but he was better known for his fierce fighting and hard hits. Clark spent 1,690 minutes in the penalty box over the course of his career, which is a big reason why he was so popular with Toronto fans.

The 5’11”, 190-pound winger was proud of his image as a fighter in the league, and he got the nickname “Captain Crunch” for his hard hits. During his 15-year career, Clark played for many teams, including the Toronto Maple Leafs three times, the Quebec Nordiques, the New York Islanders, the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Detroit Red Wings, and the Chicago Blackhawks.

Maurice Richard, Montreal Canadiens

“The Rocket” is a hockey icon as one of the best playmakers of all time and one of the NHL’s earliest high-scoring players. Richard was the first player to achieve 50 goals in a single season, and when he retired, he had 544 goals. During his time with the Montreal Canadiens, he was known as much for his scoring ability as he was for his fierce temper and tenacity on the ice.

Richard had approximately 1,300 penalty minutes by the end of his career. During the 1954-55 season, he hit a linesman during a game, which became one of his most infamous moments. Richard was eventually suspended by NHL president Clarence Campbell for the rest of the season and playoffs, sparking a riot (yes, a RIOT) on Montreal’s streets. Fans rushed to the streets four days after Campbell’s ban, appropriately dubbed the “Richard Riot,” when he attended a game between the Canadiens and the Detroit Red Wings. The incident cost more than $100,000, yet it simply added to Richard’s legend.

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