The Best Canadian NHL Enforcers

Emma Byrd by Emma Byrd Published: April 19, 2024

Ice hockey has been popular in Canada for a very long time. While not the biggest sport in the world, it's fiercely supported in all corners of the globe. Canada in particular has had a strong connection with the sport. A lot of people might even go as far as to say that Canada is the home of ice hockey. One of the most exciting elements of ice hockey would be the fist fights that often break out on the ice. The people who usually throw the biggest punches are known as enforcers.

the best canadian nhl enforcers

What are NHL Enforcers and What's Their Role on the Ice?

In the past, teams would often draft players to their roster with the sole purpose of fighting. It was their job to rough up other players. A slow shift then started to happen as a lot of the older enforcers began to retire. Skilled play then started to replace the rough approach, with flasher forwards dominating the league.

As time went on, the role of power forward became more important. Bigger wingers and centres weren't just sent onto the ice to fight, as they now had a bigger role to play. Stars such as David Backes and Milan Lucic, although skilled players, were known as being some of the toughest and roughest players in the league. Even though today's enforcers don't drop their gloves at the drop of a hat anymore, they still have an important part to play, with numerous players still filling the role of fighter in today's league.

Best Canadian NHL Enforcers

Today's NHL enforcers have a different role to play when compared to a few years ago, but with that being said, they are still an integral part of a team. Teams need tough guys who can roughhouse other players and add a bit of aggression to plays. Even though fights aren't as common anymore, when they do break out, teams need powerhouses who can step up when it's needed. Some of the top Canadian NHL enforcers can be found below.

Chris Simon

Chris Simon was picked in the second round of the 1990 draft. He was originally drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers but then traded in the Eric Lindros deal to the Quebec Nordiques. Simon went on to play for eight different teams during this time, but he found the most success with the Washington Capitals. He scored and fought aggressively during his time with them, going on to have the most productive offensive season in 1999. He scored 29 goals and managed 20 assists. In his time with the New York Islanders, which began in 2006, he stepped up to the role of enforcer. He was suspended 8 times in 65 games, with his most notable suspension happening when he smacked Ryan Hollwegg in the face with his hockey stick.

Dale Hunter

Hunter was drafted by the Quebec Nordiques in 1979. He played a total of 7 seasons for them before he was traded for Joe Sakic from Washington. He ended up being one of the very first enforcers for the Capitals, providing an immense level of security for the forwards. His best season was in 1992 where he managed 79 points. He's racked up his fair share of penalty minutes for his antics on the ice, totalling 3,565 PIM. Even though he spent a lot of time in the penalty box, he was a favourite amongst people who bet on the NHL through Canadian sportsbooks, as he often had a game-influencing presence when on the ice.

Dave Semenko

Dave Semenko was a huge fighter. Fans often called him Wayne Gretzky's bodyguard. During his time, he provided a lot of safety for star players. Some of them included Mark Messier, Jari Kurri and Paul Coffey. His ability to enforce helped to give the Oilers way more freedom on the ice. He even helped them to win the Stanley Cup in both the 1984 and 1985 seasons. He also had a stint with the Toronto Maple Leafs before he went on to retire. After he finished his NHL career, he fought Muhammad Ali during an exhibition match, a testament to how much of a hard hitter he was. He finished his season with a total of 1,175 penalty minutes.

Bob Probert

Probert was picked up by the Detroit Red Wings in 1983. He was drafted alongside Steve Yzerman and Joe Kocur. During the 1985 season, he was third on the team in total penalty minutes and he only lagged behind Randy Ladouceur. He focused on his reputation as being an enforcer and then tallied 398 minutes. During his career, Probert won a lot of battles, and in 1994 his fight with McSorley lasted a total of 100 seconds.

Clark Gillies

During his rookie season, he joined the New York Islanders. He proved his ability to fight when he clashed with Dave Schultz in the 1974 playoffs. The Flyers would go on to have their toughest test of the postseason when versing the New York Islanders, as they had just become the second team in NHL history to overcome a season deficit of 3-0. They defeated the Penguins in the quarterfinals and were only one game away from repeating their feat against the Flyers. Should they have won this game, it would have been one of the greatest comebacks in history. Even though the Flyers took the victory, this paved the way for some major changes for the islanders. Clark Gillies used this to drive him in his quest to become one of the most feared players in the NHL. He became the Captain of the team and was recognised as a great enforcer. He was a fantastic shot and scored 319 goals in his career. He finished his career with 1,023 penalty minutes and during the playoff runs for the Islanders, he gave a lot of protection to Mike Bossy, Bobby Nystrom and Brian Trottier.

Tie Domi

Domi was drafted in the 1988 NHL draft. During his 1997 season, he set the record for most penalty minutes during a single season. He clocked 365, passing the one and only Tiger Williams. One of his most famous incidents happened when the Maple Leafs versed the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2000 season. He was being heckled by a drunk Flyers fan while sitting in the penalty box. The fan was banging on the glass, and Domi responded by spraying him with his water bottle. The glass barrier gave way and fell on Domi, who proceeded to land a few jabs. To this day, he's one of the best enforcers of his time, with 3,515 penalty minutes. He also went on to be in the NHL Hall of Fame, solidifying his legacy as being one of the best fighters to ever grace the ice.

Marty McSorley

Marty McSorley is most known for his time with the Los Angeles Kings and the Edmonton Oilers. He's a keen fighter and came away with two Stanley Cups. He put on his best performances during the 1987 and 1988 NHL seasons. He gave a lot of protection to Wayne Gretzky but when he was traded to the Kings, he refused to go unless McSorley came with him. One of his biggest fighting moments happened when he swung his stick at Donald Brashear's head. He went on to suffer from a grade-three concussion as a result. He's one of the most penalised players in the NHL, with well over 3,381 penalty minutes. One thing to know about the NHL is that game outcomes can be determined by fights, and Marty McSorley, although was often in the penalty box, was known for having a huge impact on the ice.

Terry O'Reilly

O'Reilly was picked up by the Boston Bruins in the 1971 NHL draft. He was a tough player and racked up a total of 200 penalty minutes in five straight seasons. One of his most notorious moments happened at Madison Square Garden in 1979. During a brawl, a fan of the Rangers stole Stan Jonathan's stick, before hitting him with it. O'Reilly took offence to this and went after the fan. He scaled the glass and chased him down. He then grabbed him in the stands. As a result of this, he was suspended for 8 games. He finished his career with 2,095 minutes and even had his jersey number retired by the Bruins.

Justin Schultz

Justin earned himself the nickname of The Hammer when he played with the Broad Street Bullies. He served as protection for Bobby Clake. He managed to score a goal in overtime against the Atlanta Flames during the 1974 Stanley Cup, and he also scored a career-high 20 goals for the team. He finished his career with a total of 2,294 penalty minutes. Nobody in the NHL was more intimidating than him. He went on to have great battles against the Boston Bruins and the New York Islanders, and to this day, he has helped to give other enforcers something to strive for.

NHL is Incredibly Popular in Canada

The NHL is popular in Canada for a number of reasons. Canada is the birthplace of hockey, and a lot of this comes down to the First Nations people. The indigenous people of the country played a sport that's very similar to ice hockey, and because of this, it's in the blood of Canadians across the country.

Even though most NHL teams are based in America, it's not surprising to see that most of the players are Canadian. Canadians are better at sports like ice hockey due to the climate that Canada offers. Canada doesn't have a lot of sunshine, nor does it have summer weather throughout the year. Most of the time, it's bitterly cold and snowy, and as a result of this, Canadians need to find sports that can be played despite these weather conditions. Ice hockey suits the climate very well, and it's another reason why it's so popular across the country.

Sports Betting on the NHL

Sports betting is becoming more and more popular as time goes on. Canada is known for being the home of ice hockey, with many rising stars coming out of the country. Betting on the NHL can be done through a Canadian sportsbook, with numerous options available. This includes betting on the total goals scored, as well as the team that you think is going to win the division. You can also bet on who you think is going to win the Hart trophy and a player's performance. By taking note of the biggest stars, you can make betting on the right outcome, much easier.

About the Author
 Emma Byrd
Emma Byrd - News Editor

Emma Byrd is an experienced news editor who is responsible for creating and managing content for She ensures all content is always up-to-date, engaging, and accurate. She is detail-orientated, organized, and has excellent editing and writing skills. Emma has a unique ability to analyze news to determine the most important information to include in each article or review.

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