This is a tough list. Going over this list, I decided that how much you fought mattered. That's why my list is heavy in the 1970s and 80s. Those guys fought so much more. A tough guy now maybe fights 10 times a year. Some of the guys in my list fought 40 or 50 times a year. It was the era of the most fights in the history of the NHL, so obviously it was the era of the most tough guys in the history of the NHL.
People will be mad John Ferguson
is not on it, but I watched Fergie, and he was the toughest guy in the NHL then. But there wasn't a lot of fighting then and these guys fought more than Fergie and were much bigger than Fergie. The same thing is the case with the guys today. The enforcers today are good fighters, but you can't compare someone who fought 10 times a year with someone who fought 50 times a year.
Here's my list of the five greatest fighters in NHL history:
5. Joey Kocur
In addition to his 2,519 penalty minutes, Joey Kocur
also totalled 80 goals and 162 points over an 820 games with the Rangers, Red Wings, and Canucks. (Photo: Detroit Red Wings)
-- Joey was in a lot of classic bouts, but when you fought Joey Kocur
, there was a good chance you were going to get hurt. I know he basically ended Jim Playfair's career, he basically ended Brad Dalgarno
's career. He just had that one punch and it was lethal and if you happened to get hit by it, it hurt. If you watch people fight Joey, they're always defensive battles. You never saw someone go toe to toe with Joey. You made sure that you weren't going to get hit rather than go punch for punch with him. I think he is the scariest fighter the NHL's ever seen.
4. Dave Schultz
-- Schultzie's on the list because he just fought so much during that six or seven-year period when the Flyers were on top. He was fighting 40, 50 times a year getting 400 minutes in penalties. He was fighting. When you thought of fighting you automatically thought of Dave Schultz. He fought everybody. There were so many tough guys in that era. Every team had three or four guys that were tough, there were bench-clearing brawls and 5-on-5 fights every night and Schultzie always answered the bell.
3. Marty McSorley
-- I was ending my career in the American League when Marty started and he fought Joe Patterson in Baltimore one night in a long, long fight and I said to myself, "Holy jeez, this McSorley kid is tough." He got to the NHL on his fighting skills, but he made himself into a heck of a hockey player. He played forward, he played defense, he won Stanley Cups. He became a pretty important player with Edmonton and L.A. I saw him fight a lot those three years I coached him. He got stronger as fights went on and he really became a great fighter that really worked on it. He took boxing lessons, he worked out in the gym and did the same exercise regiments that boxers did and at the same time turned himself into a heck of a hockey player.
2. Dave Brown
-- A big man (about 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds), he had giant hands on him and he fought a lot. Brownie was tough and he fought everybody. Listening to the guys of that era, they did not enjoy playing Philadelphia and they did not like fighting Dave Brown if they had to. He worked at it, too, as all these guys did. They were good fighters coming in, but they worked at it, worked at their skating ability, worked on their balance and Brownie was mean, he was tough and he always had a smile on his face when he was fighting usually because he was winning.
1. Bob Probert
-- It's Probert, hands down. I had trouble with the order of the rest, but Probert was always No. 1. I played with Bobby in the American League, I saw him fight everyone as a rookie, a 19, 20-year-old kid and Probert killed them all. He went up to Detroit and continued to do the same with the Red Wings. He was a guy that fought everybody. He knew he had to fight, and he turned himself into a very good player, too, he scored over 20 goals a couple of times, but he was just a guy that could fight for it seemed like hours and he got stronger as the fight went on. As far as I'm concerned, I never had a doubt in my mind that Bob Probert
was No. 1 on my list of best fighters to ever play in the NHL.