Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Hangar 39's Top Five Caps Fighters

Fighting has been a big issue in the NHL recently with talks by league big shots about banning, if not fighting, than pre-arranged fights. In other words, if you're going to fight and it's in the heat of the battle, fine, but you can't talk about with a guy in the faceoff circle and then drop 'em.

If the league ever succeeds in doing this, it would virtually eliminate the role of the goon in the NHL.

Now me, I enjoy fighters. People don't realize how hard it is to be in a hockey fight. Much like boxers and MMA fighters, there's a real art to a hockey fight. You have to be able to hit the other guy while holding his arms to make sure he doesn't hit you. And you have to be able to stand up on your skates while the other guy is jerking you around like a rag doll.

All this discussion about fighting got me thinking about some of the great goons the Caps have had over the years. Particularly in the 80s and early 90s, the Caps had to have at least one, sometimes two enforcers on the club. Mostly because they had to play the Flyers eight times a year and Philly always came stocked with an arsenal of guys who liked to mix it up. But it seemed every team in the old Patrick Division had a bunch of tough guys. The Rangers had Tie Domi and Kris King. Philly had Dave Brown, Craig Berube, Rick Tocchet and Terry Carkner. Pittsburgh had Jay Caufield. The Islanders had Mick Vukota and Ken Baumgartner. Every game had the potential to break out into fight night. The game may have changed over the years, but the need for enforcers lives on. So here now is my list of top five Caps fighters, in descending order.

Honorable Mention:
- Dale Hunter - Was more of an agitator than a fighter but he did participate in one of my favorite fights ever when he KO'd Penguins shitheel Ulf Samuelsson and broke Ulfie's jaw.

- Matt Bradley - A guy that is all heart but really should not be doing a lot of fighting. Too many of his bouts end with him looking like this...

- Chris Simon - He was one of the most feared fighters in the league before he scored 29 goals in 1999-00. After that, for some reason, he played like Peter Bondra, forgetting that the whole reason he scored 29 goals was because of his physicality. Now known for his suspensions more than anything else.

-Brian Curran - He didn't have more than a cup of coffee with the Caps but Curran was the very embodiment of a journeyman goon. Curran makes this list more as a lifetime achievement award than anything else for the staggering penalty minutes per game numbers he put up during his career.

And now for the countdown...

5. Craig Berube - The man known as "Chief" wasn't as big a fighter with the Caps as he was during his early years in Philadelphia. His reputation pretty much proceeded him. He also sported a sweet ass mullet.

The Chief could play the game a little bit and scored a key goal during the 1998 Cup Finals run in the series against Buffalo. While he was a valuble member of that '98 team, he's better known for his bouts AGAINST the Caps than anything else. But for a glimpse of his handiwork in DC, witness this tussle with Eric Cairns of the Rangers.

4. John Kordic - If you look up goon in the dictionary, Kordic's picture would likely come up. All the guy liked to do was fight. He didn't last long with the Caps, but he certainly endeared himself to the fans with bouts like this pair against Pittsburgh's Jay Caufield.

Tragically, Kordic had serious problems with drugs that ended up getting the best of him. He died in 1992.

3. Stephen Peat - One of me and my dad's personal favorites. Peat did not have much of an NHL skill set but boy could he throw punches. This bout with Boston's PJ Stock is one of the finest hockey fights ever.

Of course I cannot mention Peat without mentioning Video Steve Peat, who would pretty much fight at the drop of a hat. One of my proudest moments in video gaming was racking up over 700 PIM's and 15 goals with Peat in "NHL '04." He was like the video game equivalent of Carl Racki in "Youngblood."

2. Alan May - I've already kinda chronicled the birth of Alan May as a cult hero in Caps-land with his epic beatdown on Pittsburgh's Gord Dineen. From there on in, May was a fan favorite, even earning the nickname "Buster" during the 1989-90 season in honor of boxer Buster Douglas. As a kid, I remember when Kordic was acquired to team up with May. To me, it was like teaming up the Gretzky and Mario of goons. Twenty years later, Buster's epic 89-90 season, in which he racked up 339 PIMs, is still a Caps record. Here's a look at the man himself, dueling with Pittsburgh's Troy Loney.

1. Donald Brashear - Despite his loss to Nashville's Wade Belak, I still gotta give the top spot to Brash. Besides being my Facebook friend, the guy's been a top heavyweight in the league for what seems like forever. And he can play a little bit. He's no goal scorer and to say he's a little slow afoot is being generous, but whatever line he's on has always had high energy and works hard. But who cares about his forechecking skills, let's see the man in action...

...vs Jody Shelley...

...vs Georges Laraque..

...vs Riley Cote...

...vs Colton Orr...

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