Dec 15, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Philadelphia Flyers right wing Wayne Simmonds (17) fights Washington Capitals defenseman Steve Oleksy (61) in the third period at Verizon Center. The Capitals won 5-4 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Top Fighters In The NHL 2013-14


Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

After hearing so much bad press about the subject, I really want to know who thinks fighting should be banned in the NHL? It’s really confusing because the fans say it’s the NHL board of directors and the board says it’s the fan that wants the league to ban fighting. I’m not really sure which side to take. I have never met a fan of the sport that doesn’t like the odd fist-a-cuff, and if the NHL wanted it banned, they would have put stiffer penalties and suspensions in place that would eliminate it. On top of all that, most of the players like and respect that aspect of the game. So in all reality, no one really wants this stopped, if they did, it would have been weened out of play long ago.

For the fan, the players, and the NHL, it’s hard to admit that they like the violent nature of the sport because violence is so taboo in our society these days. Most people often refer to it as a necessary means, or act, to combat more flagrant fouls from being committed.

This leads us to the age old argument for fighting having it’s place in hockey because it induces a certain type of play in the sport, which in turn, influences the players into not committing random acts of violence. In other words, no cheap shots or you’ll pay for it. Violence for violence, has cured a lot of the world’s problems hasn’t it?. If this was true, why are all these high-sticking, boarding, charging, slashing, kneeing, and elbowing penalties still happening? There’s still fighting in hockey today, but the NHL had to hand out a record number of suspensions for dirty play in December. How has fighting hindered players into thinking twice before making that cheap-shot? We would be naive to think that fighting does stop it, it in fact, it may encourage it.

So let’s all just admit it and let our primal selves speak. Man vs man, such as the gladiators, was the first of all sport, and it has evolved with us today. Nothing gets our adrenaline pumping more then a contest of strength and cougar, just take a look at the popularity of Mixed Material Arts these days and you’ll see what I mean. Before money, strength was the measure of a man’s wealth. It’s part of our human nature, injected into us many thousands of years ago when man was just another animal. Acts of courage and strength are still admired in today’s society. Hockey really is no different.

As a society, we are hard-pressed to admit that we like controlled violence, but fighting is a part of hockey because it’s entertaining and WE do like it. Go on and admit it, it’s okay. There now, doesn’t everyone feel better?

Now that the truth is out, let’s bestow our hockey gladiators with some hardware that can be handed out at the end of the season. Just like the gentlemen of the league have the Lady Bing Memorial Trophy, and rightly so, let’s have the Tiger Williams Trophy for the best fighter in the NHL, it’s only fair.

Some stipulations for the award will be, number of fights, record in those fights and quality of opponents fought. I’ve only taken a look at players with five or more fights at this point in the season, mainly because players at the end of the season will need at least twelve bouts to be considered for this award(I love making-up rules). We’re a little over the halfway point of the regular season and the leading candidates for the “Tiger Trophy” are as follows.

Honorable mentions: Jay Rosehill, Shawn Thorton, Matt Martin and Zenon Konopka.

6. Wayne Simmonds-Philadelphia Flyers, 6’1″, 160.

He’s not a guy you want to mess with. He may be on the skinny side, but he makes up for that with balance and reach. He’s 4-0-1 in his five fights. His reach is good defensively, as it holds opponents at bay until he’s ready to attack. He’s a big time hitter, and that’s what usually gets him into trouble, but more often then not, he comes out on the winning side. Simmonds needs to challenge some bigger names to really be considered for this award, although he has Tom Wilson and Sheldon Brookbank on his fight card already this year.

5. Chris Stewart-St. Louis Blues, 6’2″, 228.

A lot of readers are probably questioning this decision right now but go to Hockeyfights.com and check this guy out. He’s an impressive 4-0-1 against a credible list of opponents that includes Zack Kassian, Cory Sarich, Dalton Prout, Matt Carkner and Brookbank. The mix-up with Dalton Prout could easily be fight of the year material. Not much in the way of defense with Stewart, but he can trade with the best of them and has a very good chin. He’s very strong in the trunk making him hard to move around.

4.  Ryan Reaves-St. Louis Blues, 6’1″, 194.

A very strong man, Reaves will go with anyone. He has a 4-1-2 record with his only loss coming to George Parros, in what was a great heavyweight tilt. His upper-cut and over the top right compare with the best in the league. Very strong on his skates, Reaves has challenged the best of the best in the NHL and has held his ground while working his way up the heavyweight division. Look for this guy to be the undisputed champion in a few seasons.

3. Tom Wilson-Washington Capitals, 6’4″, 210.

A great technical fighter for his size. He knows all the tricks and has been taught well. I have his record at 5-0-3 but he needs to stack his resume with some tougher competition to really be considered. He man-handled a very tough Richard Clune, but other then Clune and  a wrestling match with Reaves, he hasn’t really fought anybody significant. Still, he has a perfect record and some great skill. Watch out for his right cross, it’s a killer.

2. Luke Gazdic-Edmonton Oilers, 6’3″, 210.

Second in the league with ten fighting majors, Gazdic is always game. His record stands at 7-2-1, and his list of combatants is impressive. Jay Rosehill and Brian McGratton are the only fighters to get the best of him. Gazdic has a great right cross that scored a TKO for him against Brandon Prust. He also gets great leverage on his punches for being on skates, especially his upper-cut. He has come on of late and if Gazidic continues to challenge top-tier opponents, a “Tiger Trophy” could be in his future.

1. Brian McGrattan-Calgary Flames, 6’4″, 235.

He’s the undisputed king so far this year, going 7-0 in his fights. He’s a veteran of 80 NHL fights and 81 AHL battles, and he uses that experience to his advantage. He has great balance and is what you would call  a “mauler” in the fighting world.  He stands his ground and takes a few, but he keeps coming at you. Great overhand rights are his trademark and he just keeps delivering them. He doesn’t have great knock-out power, but makes up for it with quantity. When he gets a competitor by the collar it is all but over, as he feeds more and more rights over the top. He also has great use of his grab hand(left), for jabs and aim. Has a good resume, with his battle against Luke Gazdic being the highlight.

Let me know who your favorites are and check back at the end of the season to see who’ll have the honor of winning the first ever “Tiger Trophy.” Maybe next year the NHL will admit the truth and have the jiblets to hand it out themselves.

Tags: NHL Philadelphia Flyers