Who are the biggest agitators in Bruins history? Ranking the Top 10
The Bruins are obviously known more for their punch-throwing, body-checking tough guys who have built up the "Big Bad Bruins" moniker over the years. But don't let the Black and Gold fool you. They have their share of pests, rats and agitators who were consistently backed up by those Bruins tough guys over the years.
In fact, the Bruins might have the guy who ends up being the greatest pest in the history of the league when it’s all said and done. Brad Marchand is playing during an era of the NHL where the pests are allowed to get away with plenty as fighting and enforcers are on the wane, and he has the league clout of being one of the best forwards in the entire NHL in what’s most definitely a superstar league.
Put it all together and Marchand is the best of the best when it comes to the all-time list of top-10 Bruins agitators. But it’s also a pretty distinguished list with a group of extremely good hockey players at the top of the list combined with Stanley Cup champs, tough guys ... and even a goaltender?
With all apologies to Johnny “Pie” McKenzie, Noel Acciari, Rob DiMaio, Randy Burridge, Stan Jonathan and PJ Stock, here are the top-10 all-time pests in Bruins history.
Bruins All-Time Top 10: Left Wings | Centers | Right Wings | Defensemen | Goalies | Tough Guys | Playoff Comebacks | Playoff Heartbreaks | Individual Playoff Performances
10. Tim Thomas
Perhaps the most surprising name on this list is reserved for the fiery Bruins goalie who wasn’t afraid to mix it up either. He drilled a Sedin in the Stanley Cup Final, which made him a member of the Bruins. He fought Carey Price, and he blasted Andrei Kostitsyn after he hit Aaron Ward from behind in a Bruins/Habs game.
He chopped Alex Burrows in the Stanley Cup Final and then fought with him in the crease. Or when he tried to fight Jason Chimera. And he got into a war of words with Roberto Luongo of all people during the Stanley Cup Final as well.
For a goaltender, Thomas got into more than his share of scraps and certainly was never afraid to get involved with what was happening on the ice. Thomas is up there among the feistiest, most active goalies in NHL history and his two Vezinas and Conn Smythe Trophy give him plenty of ammunition as one of the best of his generation as well.
9. Shawn Thornton
Thornton was one of the wittiest and downright cerebral trash-talkers in the league that could agitate opponents. Certainly, there was a place that Marchand learned how to be so effective at the NHL level and much of that came from watching guys like Andrew Ference and Shawn Thornton mix the extracurricular stuff with their ability to also do their jobs on a nightly basis.
Classic line to Dale Weise in Montreal: “You can pick the hand that I beat the [expletive] out of you with.” Or when he told Flyers forward Zac Rinaldo “Enjoy the five games, kid, you’ll be back in the minors before you know it.” That’s not just agitating. That’s hurting feelings.
8. Bobby Schmautz
An underrated part of the Lunchpail AC crew, the 5-foot-9, 172-pound Schmautz was scrappy and skilled as attested by the 295 points he put up in 354 games over seven seasons with the Black and Gold. He was also famous for his stick-work and his ability to aggravate opponents while backed by some extremely big and tough teammates on those Big Bad Bruins teams.
He wasn’t the greatest fighter as attested by the time he did mostly dancing in this “bout” with Montreal’s Mario Tremblay, and he was famous for having a cannon shot that was totally unpredictable as to where it would go. But he was good for 20 plus goals and 50 plus points just about every season he was in Boston and brought something to the table as an agitator in the middle-6.
7. John Wensink
Another tough guy that was willing to talk the talk, is there anything more iconic than John Wensink challenging the entire Minnesota North Stars bench to a fight after mopping the ice with Alex Pirus? That led to this massive melee between the Bruins and the North Stars a couple of years later and continues to be the standard for trash-talking an opponent, on this case the entire opposing team, during a game.
From 1977-1980 there wasn’t a tougher customer or a guy more willing to mix it up with the opposition than Wensink, and that included letting opponents know just how badly he was going to lay the smack on them. Here’s another Wensink bout vs. the Quebec Nordiques that ended with the Bruins taking it into the dressing room runway just as the period ended. Old-time hockey.
6. Milan Lucic
Lucic was more a tough guy and power forward than anything resembling a “rat.” But No. 17 wasn’t afraid to do some things that fell into the agitator category as well whether it was spearing a guy in the crotch or making nasty gestures at the Canadiens fans while in the penalty box.
There was also when he told Alexei Emelin that he was going to kill him in the handshake line after the 2014 second-round series between the Bruins and the Canadiens. Those were the days. Lucic was much more enforcer and tough guy that finished things rather than stirred things up, but his hitting and his willingness to take the physicality to opponents rattled plenty of cages during his time in Boston.
5. Cam Neely
Since when can the biggest and toughest also not be the ones to stir things up? Neely was a Hall of Fame power forward and a fearsome player that could beat you with his fists as well as with his skill, and he usually was the one doling out the beatdowns to the rats of his generation when Ulf Samuelsson and Claude Lemieux came looking for trouble.
But there was also the occasional moment when Neely had to do the agitating himself like when he slashed Hartford Whaler Randy Ladoucuer in the back of the head and served a five-game suspension for it. With Neely though, it was always much more about provoking opponents after crushing them with big hits, not being afraid to talk the talk after walking the walk and doing everything that you see in this fun tribute video to No. 8 for a player that led the Bruins in scoring in each of his first five seasons with the team.
That by definition makes you a bit of a target, but Neely also was willing to dish it out as much as he took it.
4. Andrew Ference
An underrated agitator during his time with the Bruins, Ference was a solid, all-around defenseman that always played bigger and stronger than his 5-foot-11, 182-pound size. He was also an excellent leader in the Bruins dressing room that made it a point to bring all corners of the locker room together throughout his tenure in Boston.
But he also would sneak in the occasional nasty hit while also standing up for teammates, or perhaps even going after the NHL’s best player in Sidney Crosby, or even taking out the trash with Sean Avery and Steve Ott. Perhaps his most memorable moment, though, was the “equipment malfunction” that saw him give the Bell Centre crowd the middle finger with his gloved hand after scoring a playoff goal as the Bruins were in the middle of moving past them during the first round of the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs.
In his years with the Bruins, Ference was a feisty competitor and a champion that other people didn’t like to play against.
3. Derek Sanderson
The Turk was a superstar off the ice with a swinging 1970s lifestyle while palling around with Joe Namath and sporting the coolest mustache in Boston. On the ice, Sanderson was a working class player that killed penalties, won faceoffs and didn’t shy away from stirring up the hornet’s nest on occasion. Here’s an unforgettable moment when Sanderson brawled with Ray McKay, took his Blackhawks jersey off during the scrum and then tossed it into the stands as he skated off the ice.
Sanderson was the Calder Trophy winner in 1967-68 with 24 goals, 49 points and 98 penalty minutes as a hotshot youngster for the Black and Gold, and he turned into an emotion and energy player for the Bruins while being unafraid to push the envelope on or off the ice. Sanderson finished with 135 goals and 294 points in 389 games for the B's, won a pair of Cups and of course authored the famous pass that turned into Bobby Orr’s iconic flying goal in 1970. Sanderson also led all players with 72 penalty minutes in 14 games during that run to the 1970 Stanley Cup.
2. Ken Linseman
One only needs to know that Linseman’s nickname was “The Rat.” Linseman was an excellent player in addition to being an agitator and pest that aggravated opponents throughout the 1980s. Once Linseman arrived in Boston in exchange for Mike Krushelnyski, he became a highly effective center that was scoring, antagonizing opponents and pushing the envelope with a group of teammates that could protect him when the going got tough.
Linseman finished with 125 goals and 372 points in 389 games over six seasons with the Black and Gold, and was nails in the 1988 Stanley Cup Final run with 11 goals and 25 points in 23 games. Linseman also went over 100 PIMs in four of the five full seasons in Boston, so he mixed it up physically as well.
Here’s Linesman living up to “The Rat” moniker by spearing Rangers defenseman Thomas Sandstrom between the legs after the Bruins center had been lined up in the corner. That’s definitely going to leave a mark. Here’s one more: Linseman gouging the eyes of Petr Svoboda during a Bruins/Canadiens showdown.
1. Brad Marchand
Not oly has Marchand been suspended six times for a grand total of 19 games that’s caused him to lose almost $1 million in player salary, but he’s also one of the few trash-talkers still left in the NHL. He’s been voted the best AND the worst trash-talker in the NHL by his NHLPA peers over the last couple of years and is one of the few guys that still consistently does it in a league that’s getting quieter all the time.
To his credit, Marchand has cleaned up his game over the last few seasons while avoiding suspensions and any calls to the NHL Player Safety Department principal’s office while putting together Hart Trophy-level seasons. Marchand put up a team-high 100 points last season to become the first Bruins player to do that in decades and leads the NHL in shorthanded goals since entering the NHL at the start of the 2010-11 season.
But there are still moments like in last year’s playoffs when he duped Hurricanes captain Justin Williams into taking a retaliation penalty and then mocked him with an imaginary “C” sign on his chest as Williams trudged off the penalty box. That is true agitative behavior, my friends.