Fistfights on the ice are almost a quintessential part of any hockey game. When a couple of guys (or girls!) lose it in the emotion of the game and start pounding away at each other, fans get caught up in the brawling, and sports highlights reels spin. Take a recent example — when the Vancouver Canucks played the L.A. Kings on January 13, 2014, Canuck Tom Sestito started punching Jordan Nolan of the Kings right after the faceoff. Sestito’s one second of play generated 27-minutes-worth of penalties, earned him the designation “Worst Sports Person in the World” from ESPN’s Keith Olbermann and started a much-watched Twitter fight between Olbermann and Sestito’s 13-year-old sister, Victoria.
Ten former NHL players, including former All-Star Gary Leeman, have sued the NHL for failing to educate them and to prevent recurring concussions. Despite the danger of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and the deaths of multiple players from the head trauma-induced disorder, hockey fisticuffs are unlikely to stop anytime soon. There’s not enough room to recap every hockey fight in history, but NHL fans should remember at least a few of these memorable clashes. Grab your favorite team’s gear and get excited for the next match.
Bob Probert and Tie Domi — 1992
Bob Probert was one of hockey’s most seasoned fighters, and he probably didn’t believe that the much-shorter Tie Domi would be much of a match for him. Domi dangled the gloves first, but he waited until Probert made the first move. In the beginning, Probert and Domi’s fight didn’t pack much punch; Domi was too short to reach Probert with his left, and Probert kept hitting Domi’s helmet with his right. Then, Probert pulled Domi in, and Domi landed two fast punches that opened a four-stitch cut over Probert’s right eye. The two continued to struggle, with Probert entangled in his own ripped sweater, until the refs finally broke up the fight. As Domi skated toward the penalty box, he put on an imaginary championship belt to the delight of the 22,000-strong crowd.
Stan Jonathan and Pierre Bouchard — 1978
Jonathan was six inches shorter than Bouchard and 30 pounds lighter, and at first, fans thought Jonathan didn’t have a chance. However, because of his ability to duck Bouchard’s punches, Jonathan soon gained the upper hand. He delivered a right to Bouchard’s forehead and then a nasty left overhand punch to Bouchard’s nose, sending the big man down onto the ice with blood squirting out of his nose. Bouchard had prevailed over Dave Schultz, Ted Irvine and Wayne Cashman on the ice, but he couldn’t defeat Stan Jonathan, who had the bulldog defensive moves of a professional boxer.
Bob Probert and Craig Coxe — 1987
Probert and Coxe were both huge guys, and during the game, they threw off their gloves and started wailing each other with punches. After the fight had gone on for about 40 seconds, Probert looked like he’d had enough. However, he grabbed the back of Coxe’s jersey and started pummeling him with heavy-fisted rights from behind before the refs pulled Coxe away. Tragically, Bob Probert died at the age of 45 in 2010. Postmortem examination showed signs of CTE.
Scott Stevens and Dave Manson — 1991
In the fight known as the “St. Patrick’s Day Massacre,” the Blackhawks and Blues were milling around the St. Louis net when the players started pairing up to duke it out. Big defenders Scott Stevens and Dave Manson skated away from the crowd to center ice, where Manson delivered a series of rights that left Stevens staggering and bleeding around his left eye. Stevens had been instigating fights all night, and the announcers and fans agreed that he deserved a righteous beatdown. Both teams were fined $10,000, and a total of 12 players were ejected from the game.
Flyers and Canadiens — 1987
Four players were on the ice before Game 6 of the Wales Conference when Claude Lemieux shot a puck into Philadelphia’s goal. Hospodar went after him, and both teams piled onto the ice. Dave Brown even ran out of the locker room without his shirt on and started hammering Chris Nilan. Hospodar was suspended for the rest of the playoffs, and the NHL initiated an automatic $10,000 fine and a 10-game ban for players that cleared the benches to fight. Coaches were also fined if they failed to control their players, and the new restrictions dampened most players’ enthusiasm for bench clearing.
Image by Les Stockton from Flickr Creative Commons
About the author: Blake Hollande lives in Quebec City and is an insatiable hockey fan.