Who are the best tough guys in Bruins history? Ranking the Top 10
There are a couple of things that the Bruins franchise has been known for during its long history as an Original Six NHL charter member.
One is certainly No. 1 defensemen with Eddie Shore, Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque and Zdeno Chara topping the list. Another is the long line of great goaltenders with names like Tiny Thompson, Frank Brimsek, Gerry Cheevers, Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask among the all-time greats to man the pipes.
Another staple for the franchise is toughness with players unafraid to thrown down with an offending opponent. Whether it was the Bobby Orr-era Bruins, the Lunchpail AC crew or the modern-day team that won the Cup in 2011, they have long lived up to the Big Bad Bruins moniker that’s long been a part of their history.
With apologies to true Bruins tough guys like John Wensink, Teddy Green, Nevin Markwart, Bruce Shoebottom, Ken Belanger, Adam McQuaid and even Hall of Famer Zdeno Chara, and old timers like Eddie Shore and Fern Flaman, here is the all-time top-10 list of Bruins tough guys:
10. Lyndon Byers
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Byers fought 80 times for the Bruins over the course of his career in Boston, and had a few memorable ones with Sabres tough guy Rob Ray among others during his time in Black and Gold.
Byers finished with 261 games played over the course of nine seasons with the B’s where he dutifully played the role of enforcer, tough guy and energy player while posting 10 goals and 24 points in 53 games during the 1987-88 regular season. Byers posted back-to-back seasons with 200 penalty minutes from 1987-89 and spent all but 18 games of his NHL career in Boston.
His 24 fights during the 1987-88 regular season registers as one of the single-toughest seasons in Bruins franchise history.
9. P.J. Stock
The 5-foot-10, 197-pound Stock only played 130 games for the Bruins in his NHL career, but he was a memorable piledriver of punches who didn’t back down from anybody. Certainly, there were other short-time Bruins tough guys who are just as memorable, whether it was John Wensink or Nevin Markwart, but there was something about Stock’s spunkiness that excited the B’s faithful.
Stock fought 32 times over the course of what was essentially two years in Boston and none was more memorable than his flurry of punches with Stephen Peat at center ice during a Bruins/Capitals tilt in 2002. These days, Stock is a hockey analyst for Hockey Night in Canada, but he’ll always be remembered in Boston for a couple of big-time tough guy years in the early 2000s.
8. Mike Milbury
The Brighton-born Milbury finished his Bruins career second in franchise history with 1,552 career penalty minutes and finished with 64 career fights in a B’s sweater over his 12-year career in Boston. Milbury twice topped 200 penalty minutes in 1980-81 and 1982-83 and fought Louis Sleigher and Brad Maxwell each three times in his NHL career.
Milbury’s most famous fight, though, didn’t even come against an opponent and instead came against a Rangers fan in the stands when he began to waylay the troublemaker with his own shoe. Milbury topped double-digits in fights in 1980-81 and 1982-82 for some pretty fearsome Bruins teams and was right in the middle of the Big Bad Bruins teams of the 1970s as a top defenseman and tough guy.
7. Milan Lucic
Big Looch helped usher in the new era of toughness with the Bruins when he hooked on as a teenager in 2007-08 and quickly developed a reputation as one of the toughest power forwards in the league. The 6-foot-3, 231-pund Lucic scored 30 goals in the Bruins' Cup season of 2010-11 and finished with 772 penalty minutes in eight seasons with the Black and Gold during a kinder, gentler era of the NHL.
Perhaps one of his best fights was his complete demolition of Montreal Canadiens defenseman Mike Komisarek, which kicked off years of bad blood between Lucic and the Habs. It was more than fighting with Lucic, of course, as he was one of the most punishing body checkers of his era as well, as evidenced when he delivered an iconic check on Mike Van Ryn that shattered the glass at TD Garden.
6. Stan Jonathan
Pound-for-pound the toughest guy who ever played for the Bruins, Jonathan was a wrecking ball for the Black and Gold who didn’t hold back during his brawls. Jonathan dropped the gloves 60 times over the course of his Bruins career and dropped them with Kim Clackson and Chris Nilan more than anybody else in his NHL career, and had one hockey fight where he absolutely destroyed Pierre Bouchard on the Boston Garden ice.
The 5-foot-8, 175-pounder was more than a fighter, of course, as he showed with career-highs of 27 goals and 52 points in a season for Boston. But it was also a career that lasted just eight seasons and 392 games in Boston because of just how hard Jonathan played on a nightly basis. Jonathan had a whopping 20 fights in 1979-80, which is a big number for a smaller guy in what was a big man’s NHL back then.
5. Shawn Thornton
The 6-foot-2, 217-pound Thornton finished with over 100 fights in his Bruins career and went up against all the toughest guys from his era including the late Derek Boogaard, Colton Orr, Chris Neil and Jody Shelley, and dropped the gloves 55 times from 2009-2012 in Boston as the top enforcer and tough guy on an incredibly tough team.
Here’s a good heavyweight bout with Mike Rupp. Thornton was also a team leader, an underrated fourth line winger and a guy who won two Stanley Cups over the course of his NHL career. Thornton was an anchoring piece of the Merlot Line with Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille that won a Cup in 2011 for the Bruins and played over 500 games at both the NHL and AHL level, which is a tribute to him as a hockey player.
4. Wayne Cashman
Cashman never fought more than eight times in a season and was quiet with his toughness, but there wasn’t a bigger embodiment of tough guy on those two 1970’s Cup teams than Cashman. The lefty-swinging Cashman wouldn’t stop once he got started and that’s what happened when he started a bench-clearing brawl with the Buffalo Sabres as he beat the bejesus out of Reg Fleming after he was run behind the net.
Cashman finished seventh all-time in Bruins history with 1,039 penalty minutes in his NHL career in Boston and is one of only nine players in B’s history with over 1,000 penalty minutes.
3. Jay Miller
Miller only played four seasons and 216 games as a member of the Boston Bruins, but the Wellesley-born tough guy left a lasting impact during his time with the Black and Gold. After four years playing for UNH, the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder joined the Bruins in the mid-1980’s and fought his way through just about everything and everyone.
Miller is the all-time single-season leader in penalty minutes for the Bruins after he racked up 304 PIMs in 78 games for the 1987-88 Bruins, and made a massive impression on Boston fans. Miller’s battles with Chris Nilan when he was a feared fighter for the Montreal Canadiens show the impact that Miller made after he was called up to Boston. Miller fought John Kordic and Nilan six times apiece during many of the Bruins/Canadiens rivalry games during his time in Boston and dropped the gloves 87 times in four seasons in Boston.
2. Cam Neely
Neely was a Hall of Fame hockey player first and a fighter second, but he was scary when he started losing his temper after dropping the gloves. He had longstanding rivalries with cheap-shotters who didn’t want to fight him like Ulf Samuelsson and Claude Lemieux, but Neely also went toe-to-toe with some of the toughest guys in the NHL during his brief, brilliant career.
Neely fought other Hall of Fame-caliber players like Wendell Clark and he dropped the gloves with professional fighter-types like Basil McRae and fared equally well against either of them. Neely finished with 921 penalty minutes in 525 games for the Bruins over his 10-year career in Boston and dropped the gloves a total of 45 times over his career in Boston in addition to his 344 goals and 590 points in 525 games.
1. Terry O’Reilly
The all-time Bruins leader in penalty minutes who fought a whopping 23 times in the 1979-80 regular season, the Tasmanian Devil epitomizes toughness and being hard to play against while also being a damned good hockey player. From 1974-1981 O’Reilly averaged over 10 fights per season, made a career of standing up for his teammates and was a fearsome power forward force as a 6-foot-1, 200-pounder.
The fact he did all of the extracurricular stuff while also finishing with over 200 goals and 600 points for the Bruins over the course of his 14-year career with the Bruins just makes it all the more impressive. O’Reilly and Dave Schultz fought five times in their NHL careers making them long-time adversaries, so here is one of his best against his Flyers counterpart. O'Reilly is the only Bruin with over 2,000 career penalty minutes and likely the only one ever in Black and Gold history.