It’s been another good season of center-ice soirees so far in 199899, with the league’s best grill dusters throwing ’em hard and heavy across the circuit. Although actual fighting numbers are down from years past, the good news for fight fans is that the majority of matchups have been big-time heavyweight havoc-wreakers! Let’s take a peek at who’s been the best in the ice ring so far.
Best Fighter: Our early season favorite hasn’t disappointed, as Vancouver behemoth Donald Brashear has arguably become the NHL’s most intimidating bare-knuckled nasty. The Canuck enforcer has racked up 13 majors so far, rattling the teeth and jawbones of many of the league’s most noteworthy noggin-clockers.
Best Young Fighter: A bunch of ballyhooed brawlers-in-britches have staked their claim in the NHL this year: Colorado’s Scott Parker, Florida’s Peter Worrell, and Nashville’s Patrick Cote to name a few. But the best to date has been San Jose’s Brant Myhres, whose strong-armed patrol of the Shark waters has been impressive— 11 bouts, six clear-cut victories, and a lethal left hand second only to Vancouver’s Brashear.
Everlast Boy: Nobody has eaten more fistic funnelcake this campaign than the Predators’ Cote. Give the guy marks for leading the league in battles royal with 21, and being an exciting fighter to boot. But Patrick, quit leading with the jaw, bud. It’s not good therapy to get cracked in the mug on a nightly basis.
Most Underrated Fighter: Sabres’ resident ruffian Rob Ray has been dishing out his own brand of dastardly devilishness for the past decade in the NHL, but never really gets his due outside of Buffalo. The wicked winger has one of the hardest punches in the game, racking up three big KOs so far this year in 12 scraps. Once a league piñata back in the late ’80s, Ray has become one of the game’s best.
Biggest KO: Well, the kid was doing OK until Uncle Probie showed up! Avalanche youngster Parker thought it was a good idea to go at the all-time greatest dust-upper in NHL history. Of course that was before Chicago’s Bob Probert dropped a pair of right-hand bombs on the rookie’s suddenly spinning skull. Probie hit Parker so hard he gave the rookie a concussion and a temporary ticket back to the AHL.
More of the season’s best bouts to date:
Jan. 28 Krzysztof Oliwa (NJ) VS. Ken Belanger (BOS)
Right off the draw following a Bruin goal, these two play rock ’emsock ’em rudeboys to the delight of a raucous Boston crowd. They each land a few, but one look at the mess posing as Belanger’s left eye spells it out: victory, Oliwa.
Jan. 28 Patrick Cote (NAS) VS. Rob Ray (BUF)
Nashville’s finest hooks into another league lunker, and gets a one-way trip to Loopy Avenue. A Rob Ray right-hand bomb to the chops fells the Predators’ pugnator in chief.
Jan. 28 Rudy Poeschek (STL) VS. Donald Brashear (VAN)
Well, Rudy messed with the best and paid for it, getting thumped by the rapid-fire left hand of bully-boy Brashear.
Jan. 30 Patrick Cote (NAS) VS. Krzysztof Oliwa (NJ)
Cote’s at it again, trading right-hand scuds early in the game with the “Polish Pug” Oliwa, who gets the win by outlasting the tough Predator rookie.
Jan. 30 Cam Russell (COL) VS. Brant Myhres (SJ)
Russell gains back some face by showing up well in this rugged rematch with the imposing Myhres, who KO’d Cam back in mid December.
Feb. 4 Donald Brashear (VAN) VS. Darren Langdon (NYR)
A quiet year from Langdon just got louder as the Ranger renegade reestablishes himself in the heavyweight race by besting Brashear in a mighty marathon of a brawl. One of the few losses for the Canuck-lehead’s leading leadfist.
Feb. 5 Mark Tinordi (WAS) VS. Keith Primeau (CAR)
Two captains engage as things boil over down south. Tinordi deposits the glass-jawed Primeau to the ice with a pair of right hands that hit square on the button, leaving a dazed Keith to consider, “Why did I actually drop those gloves, anyway?” while twitching in the sin bin.