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Home Sport-Specific Sports Entertainment The Toughest NHL Hockey Players of All Time

The Toughest NHL Hockey Players of All Time

The Toughest NHL Hockey Players of All Time


Hockey players are tough as nails. A recent ESPN study concluded that ice hockey is the most demanding team sport in the world. Only boxing was given a higher overall mark based on ESPN’s ten criteria: endurance, strength, power, speed, agility, flexibility, nerve, durability, hand-eye coordination, analytic aptitude. In hockey, you are forced to do two to three minute full-out sprints at a time jostling with 250 pound speed demons on ice, trying to get a small puck while simultaneously having finesse. According to numerous studies, hockey players have to fight through the most buildup of lactic acid in their legs during the course of a game.  No wonder why Kobe Bryant referred to hockey player’s toughness when facing a 3-0 deficit. Players like Zdeno Chara are tough for today’s standards, but no one holds a candle to these 10 hockey legends who played when they were hurt or sick, and weren’t afraid to get a tooth (or several) knocked out in a fight.






#10-  Maurice Richard
Years Active: 1942-1960


In 1944, Maurice "The Rocket" Richard once spent a full day lifting furniture (including a piano) while moving into a new house, then played an entire hockey game that night, scoring five goals for Montreal. In the 1952 Stanley Cup Finals, blood pouring down his face from a previous blow to the head, Richard scored the goal that clinched the Stanley Cup for the Canadians. He later claimed he had no memory of doing so.









#9-  Billy Smith

Years Active: 1969-1989



Billy Smith, who holds the record for most penalty minutes by a goaltender, once got so angry at his Islanders teammate Mike Bossy that Smith had to be tackled and held down from killing the superstar.









#8-  Peter Forsberg

Years Active: 1994-2008, 2010-2011


Anyone who can continue playing hockey after getting their spleen removed is one tough SOB. End of story.









#7-  Mark Messier

Years Active: 1978-2004



One of the dirtiest players in the game, Messier wasn't noted for fighting as much as his elbows and high sticks. His reputation and his piercing glare intimidated most players to the point where they didn't want to test him. Not to mention, who can forget the time when Messier’s Rangers were one game away from elimination by the New Jersey Devils. Messier gathered around the unforgiving New York press and flat-out guaranteed victory. He went on to score three straight third-period goals to beat the Devils, eventually winning the series and their first Stanley Cup in 54 years.









#6-  Todd Bertuzzi

Years Active: 1995-Present



Todd Bertuzzi will forever be infamously known for cheap-shotting Colorado Avalanche forward Steve Moore and breaking his neck. Before that, he was the prototypical power forward, bulldozing through defensemen to score goals, and wracking up penalty minutes by shutting up anyone who complained.









#5-  Bob Probert

Years Active: 1982-2002



Bob Probert defined the term "goon" in the NHL, a player who can’t contribute anything to the game and instead go out and just beat other players up. Probert was so feared that other teams would dress notorious fighters only when they played against Probert.








#4-  Doug Gilmour

Years Active: 1983-2003



At only 5’11 and 175 pounds, Doug “Killer” Gilmour was still the toughest guy around. He was truly fearless and many would often consider his play a failure without blood trickling down his grinning face.








#3-  Scott Stevens

Years Active: 1982-2004



Eric Lindros was nicknamed "The Next One" because he was supposed have the talent of Wayne Gretzky in the body of a pro wrestler. But we´ll never knows all thanks to Scott Stevens. During the 2000 NHL playoffs, Lindros was hit so hard by Steven’s vicious shoulder blow (which many deem as a clean hit) that it essentially put a dagger to his once highly promising career.  Stevens is one of the most intimidating blueline warriors ever.








#2-  Mario Lemieux

Years Active: 1984-1997, 2000-2006



Anyone that can beat out cancer, let alone still play hockey at an elite level, is the toughest of all. Therefore, Mario Lemieux deserves a top spot on this list. Diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1992, Lemieux was sidelined for all of two months battling cancer. On the final day of his radiation treatment, he went out and scored a goal and an assist against Philadelphia. He also continued to be one of the game’s all time greats for 10 more years.








#1-  Gordie Howe

Years Active: 1946-1980, 1997


To many, Gordie Howe is the greatest hockey player not named Wayne Gretzky. Looked at as the NHL´s most prolific goal-scorer and biggest star before Gretzky, Howe was also known as the toughest hockey player both past and present. His patented "hat trick" included a goal, an assist, and a fight. What’s most amazing is the fact that Howe played professional hockey in six different decades. At 51 years old, Howe played all 80 games of the schedule in his last NHL season, scoring 15 goals and propelling his team into the playoffs. In 1997, a 69 year old Howe signed a one-game contract by the Detroit Vipers of the IHL returning to the ice for one shift.














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