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Toughest Hockey Players in NHL History

Alex Jones-

The cliche is the hockey player’s jack-o’-lantern smile, the specter of missing teeth that no other pro sport embodies as much as the NHL.

Chief among those that dish out the pain are the enforcers, the men drafted to make their living protecting the superstar scorers. It’s a balancing act of brute force and finesse, of thundering checks and precision slap shots.

These are the toughest to play in the NHL, a collection of skaters and shooters who could take a hit and the men who delivered the biggest blows.

Note: All stats are from Drop Your Gloves and through Jan. 1, 2019.

#1: Tie Domi

Seasons in NHL: 16 (1989-2006)

Teams: Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, Winnipeg Jets

Career games played: 1,020

Career fights: 339

Plus/minus: -54

Stanley Cups won: 0

Bottom line: Tie Domi got into a fight on his first NHL shift, setting the stage for a career that would see him become the best-known brawler in the game. “That was my job … to protect my teammates,” he said.

His most famous blows included a sucker-punch knockout of Rangers defenseman Ulf Samuelsson in 1995 after Samuelsson repeatedly called him a “dummy,” and a vicious knockout elbow to the head of Devils defenseman Scott Niedermayer during the 2001 Eastern Conference semis.

Domi even got into a fight while in the penalty box (where he spent 3,515 minutes of his hockey career) when he sprayed a heckling Flyers fan with his water bottle and a second fan tried to scale the glass. The glass gave way, and the fan fell into the box with Domi, who promptly punched him several times.

The Fathers Fought on the Ice. The Sons Are Roommates.


FEBRUARY 3, 2017

Tie Domi and Jeff Chychrun’s most memorable fight came during a 1990 exhibition game in Orlando, Fla., when Domi was a member of the Rangers and Chychrun played for the archrival Philadelphia Flyers.

As the two went head-to-head during one of the last golden ages for N.H.L. enforcers, Domi absorbed a couple of right hands to the head before making a mocking pouty face at Chychrun.

Thanks so much for stopping and speaking with the boys!


Just wanted to write to tell Mr. Domi that the boys that he stopped and spoke with at the Fairmount Royal York Hotel in Toronto on Thursday Jan 19th went ahead and won the Diamond Division at the Curtis Joseph Tournament in Newmarket!

Thanks so much for stopping and speaking with the boys!

Please tell Mr Domi that when he’s in Belle River the rest of the team would love to meet him!


From Tie Domi to Max: the enforcer nears extinction after one generation

With the exception of alumni games and Slap Shot movie reunions, it’s taken just one generation to usher in the end of the tough guy in a faster, leaner NHL.

JOHN WAWROW – The Associated Press

Tie Domi is no different than any proud hockey father when it comes to worrying about his son.

Having spent 16 seasons establishing a reputation as one of the NHL’s fiercest enforcers, Domi fully appreciates the importance of protecting a team’s marquee players. What concerns him: Who has the back of his 21-year-old son, budding Arizona star Max Domi, at a time when the league has all but eliminated the role of on-ice policeman?

“Obviously, I don’t agree with it, especially having a kid in the NHL now and watching the so-called accountability factor,” Tie Domi said during the recent Centennial Classic weekend in Toronto. “We used to make people accountable. It’s definitely a different taste for sure.”

A sour one, too, after Domi’s fears were realized last month when his son broke his hand in a fight with Calgary’s Garnet Hathaway.

“It’s a learning lesson for him,” the elder Domi said. “Unfortunately, he has a little bit of me in him.”

With the exception of alumni games and Slap Shot movie reunions, where the Hanson Brothers will live forever, it’s taken just one generation — from Tie to Max Domi, for example — to usher in the end of the tough guy in what’s become a faster, leaner and far less gap-toothed era. The evidence was apparent in the Leafs and Wings alumni who took the ice last weekend: The game featured five of the NHL’s top 20 in career penalty minutes, including all-time leader Dave (Tiger) Williams (3,966 penalty minutes) and Domi, who ranks third (3,515).

“How many is there?” cracked Williams, wearing a cowboy hat and big silver belt buckle, when informed the game appeared to be a reunion of aging enforcers. “Well, good. They all showed up.”

Former Toronto star Wendel Clark smiled when asked if he’d consider taking a run at ex-Wing — and current Maple Leafs president — Brendan Shanahan.

“Oh, I don’t know. We’ve never hit a president before,” Clark said. “We’ve never gone that high up the ladder.”

The elder Domi was wearing a throwback leather helmet fit snug to his head following practice, a day before the alumni outdoor game. While holding court on the topic of enforcers, in a hallway at old Maple Leaf Gardens, he stopped mid-sentence to greet former Wings tough guy Joey Kocur. The two engaged in a big hug and a few playful taunts.

“You’re not scoring this year,” Kocur said.

“My mentor,” Domi replied.

How quickly hockey has changed wasn’t lost on ex-Wings enforcer Darren McCarty.

“The game is where it’s buddy-buddy now,” McCarty said. “The only talking over the red line back then is where you were (taunting) a guy or you’re setting up a fight because you say, ‘I’m coming.’ It was never pleasantries.”

McCarty joked he would have never had a chance to play today.

“It’s a different game. You’ve got to understand it’s a college, European-style game,” he said. “I guarantee you, if I grew up and had to play this game, I would be learning how to hit that curveball, because that’s what kept me out of baseball.”

The elimination of the enforcer has been based on a series of rule changes. It began with the NHL in 1992 adding a game misconduct for players who start fights. That led to what was called “show fighting,” where both players would agree to square off so neither would be considered the instigator.

The NHL cracked down further on fighting to protect itself and its players from growing concerns over concussions, and the debilitating toll of repeated punches to the head. Rules freeing up the game from clutching-and-grabbing styles of defence also placed a premium on faster, more skilled players, and further reduced the need for plodding fighters.

A comparison of penalty minutes alone reflects how drastic the change has been.

Heading into Saturday’s action, Dallas Stars forward Antoine Roussel led the NHL with 87 penalty minutes in 35 games. Three months into the 1996-97 season, Vancouver’s Gino Odjick had a league-leading 214 penalty minutes. Roussel’s current total would have been tied for 33rd with Anaheim’s Ken Baumgartner 20 years ago.

Clark has no trouble with hockey’s evolution.

“Basically, it’s whatever society thinks they want to see. That’s it. Society judges all of us,” said Clark, who scored 330 goals and racked up 1,690 penalty minutes during a 15-year career.

As with any sport, Clark said, the top players will adapt and marginal players get shunted aside. One of the alumni game highlights featured Detroit’s Kris Draper and Toronto’s Gary Roberts exchanging shoves and slashes before Williams, Kocur and Domi pulled the two aside before anything escalated.

Oh, the irony of seeing one-time enforcers stepping in to actually stop a brawl.

McCarty couldn’t help but laugh at seeing two hard-hitting forwards such as Draper and Roberts picking up on a rivalry dating to their playing days.

“It’s just second nature that they reverted back to 20 years ago for the moment,” McCarty said. “They’ll laugh about it now, but that’s just what made them great players, and I think you don’t see a lot of that these days.”

Tie Domi’s Memoir Details Bloody Story of the Battle of Ontario

Peter Robb, Ottawa Citizen
Shift Work
Tie Domi (Simon & Schuster)

In Town: The author will be meeting fans and signing books at Kanata Costco Monday at 5 p.m.

Tie Domi was among a group of Maple Leafs who, more than the rest of the “blue team,” made losing the Battle of Ontario every spring in the first decade of this century a very bitter pill to swallow indeed.

These days he is the best-selling author of the memoir Shift Work, and the one-time hockey enforcer is telling the story of those years and much more, he says, the way he wanted to tell it.

Former Maple Leafs tough guy Tie Domi hits Windsor Walmart

Nick Brancaccio – Windsor Star

Large crowds formed on Wednesday to see former Maple Leafs tough guy Tie Domi, who made a stop in Windsor to promote his newly released book Shift Work.

The Belle River native’s first book chronicles his life growing up as the son of immigrants to an NHL career that spanned 15 years.

Following the meet-and-greet, Domi took to Twitter to thank all the Windsorites who made it out to the launch.

Former Maple Leaf Tie Domi Hits London Friday To Promote New Book

Former Toronto Maple Leafs tough guy Tie Domi is making a stop in London on Friday to promote his recently-released memoir, Shift Work.

Domi will be appearing at the Chapters at 1037 Wellington St. South from 12 – 2 pm and then again at the Budweiser Gardens from 6 – 8:30 pm. The London Knights host Guelph starting at 7:30 pm.

He will be bringing along a 48-foot double-expandable trailer which is being called the “Tie Museum on Wheels.”

Shift Work chronicles Domi’s 16 tumultous seasons in the NHL with the New York Rangers, Winnipeg Jets, and the Leafs.