What do you mean by toughness anyway? Well, we’re going to let you, valued reader, decide. Though from our perspective, it’s not just the tendency to drop the gloves and pound someone. We’re thinking about that, of course, but also thinking about the ability to effectively play through injury, delivering devastating, but clean hits and going to the hard places on the ice and paying the commensurate price. And, of course, things like agitating the opposition and sticking up for fallen teammates. Bottom line, we’re looking for the kind of player that is respected by his teammates and physically feared by the opposition.
Let’s keep this party going:
Stan Smyl - Back in the days when nicknames actually meant something (we’re sorry but “Kes” and “Bur” and “Hank” and “Lou” score zero on the creativity scale), “Steamer” was aptly named. Smyl was the heart and soul of a gritty, but typically crappy team. A borderline midget by NHL standards, “Steamer” left no check unfinished. Ever. We are quite certain he was the last player to lead his team in goals, assists, points AND penalty minutes in the same season. When it came to scrapping, Smyl was cagey enough to get in close and stay there. There’s a reason his number hangs from the rafters and it’s got nothing to do with skill. So says Mike Vernon’s glove hand. The little clip shows Steamer coming in to defend a fallen teammate instigating a scrap with a tough defenseman 5 inches taller and 20 pounds heavier. Smyl had little trouble with his round one opponent, the much larger Jack McIlhargey.
Curt Fraser - This gritty winger (and Smyl linemate) was a middle weight by size, but a heavy weight in punching power. Many times he’d drop a guy with one quick punch. One of the key players in the improbable ‘82 run. Able to score, hit and fight; he’s the type of player the Canucks miss most right now. This clip is one that is forever ingrained in our minds. And it’s exactly as we remember it. One punch and out. Fraser took out heavyweight champion Donald Brashear in round one, apparently still a little woozy from that Marty McSorley stick to the head.
View and vote here:
Today’s Honourable Mention:
Brad May - While never a particular favourite of ours, May has carved out a long career for himself by being a willing pugilist and, at least early in his career, a decent scorer. His recent career path has regressed into following Todd Bertuzzi whereever he goes, seemingly the George to his Lennie.
Comeback for Round Two, Match Three tomorrow.