Other than a fancy goal or a solid fight, there is nothing in hockey more satisfying than a big time check. The physics of a big guy’s shoulder going into a smaller man’s chest just evokes a barbaric pleasure, something that keeps hockey pure. Below are the ten best “big guys” in the game, the people who keep delivering the primal joy of body checks to the masses, and who scare hockey players everywhere into keeping their heads up.
But first, a disclaimer. When making this list, I tried to keep consistency in mind. So gone were the players known for one big hit (i.e. Brian Campbell). I also ruled out the goons and enforcers in the league. They have the size and strength to be on this list, but their games are a little one-sided (i.e. George Parros). So now we can look at the list…
10. Tuomo Ruutu – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zb-5stoTF94
Perhaps the toughest Finn in the league is Tuomo Ruutu. He plays a Canadian-style game, as Canadians like to say, and he bangs and checks players all down the ice. He is certainly not afraid to throw his body at anyone, including Kris Letang as this video shows.
Oshie is certainly the smallest player on this list: he is only 5’11”, 195 lb. But he does have speed and a ton grit, and Oshie always seems to finish his checks, no matter how big his target is. One of Oshie’s biggest hits was on Rick Nash, as Oshie went on a dead sprint out of the penalty box straight at Nash. Nash couldn’t react in time, and he went flying
8. Alexander Ovechkin – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLq0DXDIdmU
Ovechkin is almost surely the fastest skater on this list, and coupled with his big frame, he flattens any player between him and the puck. Not only can Ovechkin score the most gorgeous goals in the NHL, he can also generate some of the biggest hits in the NHL. His hit on Evgeni Malkin only serves as evidence.
7. Shea Weber – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MEWrKHxKUOQ&feature=related
Shea Weber is a big man (6’4″, 234 lb), and he can certainly create havoc if someone is coming down the ice with his head down. There are a few reasons why Weber is one of the top-three defenseman in the game, and his big hit prowess is one of those reasons.
6. Cal Clutterbuck – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UT8AUt7YR1s&feature=related
Clutterbuck, seemingly out of nowhere, became the new record holder for hits in a season in 2009, when he hit 356 players during the year. On the way there, Clutterbuck made some big time hits, like this one on Jordan Henry. When Don Cherry says you have a prototypical hockey name, you’d better play like a old-time player. Clutterbuck certainly does.
5. Robyn Regehr – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBUI95URRAk&feature=related
Regehr is a big, nasty, stay-at-home defenseman. For years in Calgary, he has terrified skaters with his vicious checks into the boards. Regehr is not known to make flashy hits and throw his body at people: he just lines up his target and waits for it to come to him. This time, his target was Ales Kotalik.
4. Dion Phaneuf – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gknyJBraNlc&feature=related
Regehr’s former line pairing, Phaneuf took some notes on how to hit someone from his partner. Having since moved to Toronto, Phaneuf has been making some highlight hits of his own. This hit on Nick Foligno illustrates why skaters must always keep their heads up when going down center ice with the puck.
3. Dustin Brown – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6nT9pzrS3A
Dustin Brown held the season hits record before Clutterbuck broke it, but Brown hasn’t stopped making big hits. He’s an American that plays a Canadian-style game. If Brown keeps making hits like this one on Mattias Ohlund, we might have to start calling it an American-style game.
2. Zdeno Chara – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZXGJYz8GMo&feature=related
My favorite video on this list is this one of Zdeno Chara wreaking havoc on Mikhail Grabovski. Not one hit, but two. It’s simple physics, really. Chara is 6’9″, 255 lbs. Everyone else is smaller. When Chara wants to lay down a big hit, he does.
1. Milan Lucic – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ptIZdjGfjs
Lucic is a flat-out animal. In his young career, Lucic has created a reputation in the league as a nasty piece of work, one who you shouldn’t instigate. He can fight, he can score goals, and he can hit like the dickens. Lucic is like a power forward from the 90s playing in present day. If you had any doubts about whether Lucic is the biggest hitter in the NHL, check out his hit on Mike Van Ryn.
So what do you think Panther fans? Did I miss anyone? Is somebody too high/low? Comment and let me know!