The Bob Probert Memorial Ice Pugilist Award, awarded annually by Mac to the best NHL fighter in each weight class...
The ice clears around the two warriors, both stripped of gloves and helmets and standing astride their two sharpened blades. Towering above the ice they begin throwing punches at one another, grabbing at the other’s sweater for purchase and leverage. Pushing, pulling, reeling from each beefy fist colliding with septum, with cheekbone, with skull and mandible, body shots and head shots all taking their toll.
And then it all ends, one warrior on the ice and the other led off triumphantly to the penalty box to sit his five minutes, glowing with the raw expression of power he’s unleashed for the crowd. None left their seats to get another beer or drain the last one into a urinal. All stood, ignoring their seats, leaning forward — craning to get a taste of the combination of skill and brutality.
For it takes true skill to inflict damage in a hockey fight without inflicting too much damage, a combination of restraint and rage mixed in finite parts as each fighter skates right along the edge of craziness. The fighters in these rankings are the very best at what they do, the titans of their weight class. The enforcer, no longer merely a clod sent out to brutalize opponents, must chip in with his stick and his fists in what minutes he may see…
1. Derek Boogaard (LW/New York Rangers)
The reigning Champ is still King of the Mountain. His fight card thus far has been impressive. He has defeated Colton Orr, Jody Shelley and Steve MacIntyre and all three victories were done in convincing fashion. While I would prefer to see him fight with a little anger ala the late Bob Probert, I have no issue placing “The Boogey Man” at the top of this list.
2. Deryk Engelland (D/Pittsburgh Penguins)
Not too many guys can say they have ko’d Colton Orr and dismantled Jody Shelley in a month’s span. Engelland can and after seven seasons in the minors this veteran defenseman has finally gotten his shot among the big boys and is taking full advantage of the chance. The kid also does have some decent skill in his own end and gives the Pittsburgh blue line something they seriously lacked last season; a big physical team first defender who has no problem forcefully telling the opposition to stay out of Marc-Andre Fleury’s crease. Engelland understands that he must play with a sense of urgency if he wants to stay up in the big league and it remains to be seen what the Pen’s have planned for him but for now his body of work this season has earned him the second spot in our top ten.
3. Shawn Thornton (RW/Boston Bruins)
4. Colton Orr (RW/Toronto Maple Leafs)
Orr’s victory over D.J. King was a killer display of the intimidation that Orr brings to the ice every evening. While King is a true warrior and has fought some of the toughest fighters of the past decade with no fear, in this instance with Orr he did not look very interested in trading punches and who could blame him? Though Orr as had a slow start he still possess the most frightening overhand right on the Planet and he enjoys using it. You can also bet that when his Leafs travel to Pittsburgh on December 8th he will be eagerly seeking a redemption match against Engelland.
5. Matt Carkner (D/Ottawa Senators)
Though Carkner has been a big part of the Ottawa blue line (he’s averaging 17.26 minutes of ice time this season) he has still been true to what got him a shot in the big league in the first and has compiled 3-2-0 win/loss record as the chief Senator enforcer. His 2 biggest victories came against Hordichuk and the always dangerous Rick Rypien. Its great to see a legit heavyweight like Carkner have a vital role on a playoff contender because he has earned every bit of it.
6. Steve MacIntyre (LW/Edmonton Oilers)
7. Jody Shelley (LW/Philadelphia Flyers)
The last time Philly carried an elite heavyweight was when they had Donald Brashear under contract back in 2006 and being the pure puck traditionalist that I am I found it extremely disconcerting that THE Broadstreet Bullies went so long without a bona fide menace. It just was not right! When the Flyers picked up Shelley over the Summer off the free agent market it made me very happy. Shelley is a superb game fighter who loves nothing more than defending the sweater and keeping his teammates healthy. You can bet the fickle fans of Philadelphia have come to appreciate his old school way of taking care of business.
8. George Parros (RW/Anaheim Ducks)
The Economics Major from Princeton is leading the league in fighting majors at press time and though he has racked up more losses than victories we must remember that it isn’t always about winning the fight, it’s about providing your team with a spark. Parros is great at playing gritty and staying away from taking silly penalties, I guess they teach you that at Princeton.
9. Eric Godard (RW/Pittsburgh Penguins)
With the good Penguins depth at right wing Godard has been the odd man this season has seen very limited action. Of course, considering the Penguins are making a charge at the crown of the league’s most rugged division you can bet that as division showdowns become more cut throat as the playoff race progresses Pittsburgh’s toughest hombre will be dressed more and more. Though Godard’s teammate, Engelland, sits near the top of the top ten this week Godard is still Pittsburgh’s most intimidating presence.
10. Darcy Hordichuk (LW/Florida Panthers)
Though Hordichuk has lost both his contest this season both fights have been superb and he appears to be the entertaining scrapper of old. You’ll notice that of the ten heavyweights listed here eight of them are employed by Eastern Conference squads and its no surprise that Florida picked Hordi up as they are a young team trying to work their way through the heavy handed Conference in hopes of a playoff berth. For the last few years Hordi has served as bodyguard of the Sedin twins and that right there gives him great credentials as a top notch bodyguard.