By: Andrew Lindroth | Follow me on Twitter! @andrewlindrothh
With NHL news at a bare minimum and fans eagerly awaiting the final decision on the 2020-2021 season, I decided to have fun and take a trip back to memory lane. While hockey is not the same it was 10-20 years ago; there’s no doubt that particular ‘tough guy’ Bruins contributed more to their team than just with their fists, although that was in their main job description.
While I could sit here and spout off multiple tough guys off the top of my head that I thoroughly enjoyed watching, I wanted to focus on those I believe impacted the team more than just being a ‘goon’ or ‘enforcer’. These players embodied a true Bruin and helped the Bruins maintain the nickname ‘Big Bad Bruins’ for as long as possible. Without further ado, let’s take a look at my top-five Bruin ‘tough guys’ of all-time (no particular order).
#17 – Milan Lucic
There is no doubt Milan Lucic was going to make this list no matter what. Standing at 6’3, 231-pounds, the forward was a menace on the ice and wasn’t just a player who knew how to throw and take punches. After scoring 30 goals and 68 points, racking up 147 PIM, and winning the Memorial Cup with the Vancouver Giants (WHL), the Bruins knew they had something special with Lucic. After his final season in juniors, Bruins called up the forward for the 2007-2008 season, and from there, it was history.
Bruins fans instantly fell in love with Lucic’s play after dropping the gloves at the face-off for his first NHL shift, seemingly winning his first bout and quickly establishing himself across the league. From there, Lucic was paired with David Krejci for most of his career as a Bruin and not only allowed Krejci plenty of time and space on the ice but was able to contribute plenty of points himself.
He had his most productive year during the 2010-2011 season, contributing 30-32-62 career-high numbers, with a +28 rating and 121 PIM. That season, Lucic helped bring the Bruins to a Stanley Cup victory in 2011, contributing 12 points, +11 rating, and 63 PIM that post-season. According to Hockeyfights.com, Lucic recorded 55 fighting majors in his career as a Bruin and currently ranks #10 in fighting majors as a Bruin all-time.
#24 – Terry O’Reilly
Arguably one of my favorite Bruins of all-time in general, Terry “Tasmanian Devil” O’Reilly. The 14th overall pick in the 1971 NHL Draft would soon become a dominant figure across the league and eventually earn his number retired. O’Reilly earned his nickname through his explosive, fiery temper and was known as a vicious southpaw. He gained ultimate credibility towards his nickname for his involvement in the infamous ‘brawl in the stands’ during a game against the New York Rangers (as seen above).
Although he seems like a character straight out of the movie “Slap Shot,” he was very talented and contributed a lot to the Bruins’ success. O’Reilly notched four 20-goal campaigns during his career, six 50+ point campaigns, and managed over 100+ PIM in 11 different seasons (five of those seasons he eclipsed 200+ PIM). O’Reilly was a player who’s job description listed everything as a hockey player, and he played the role very well throughout his career as a talented enforcer of the NHL. According to Hockeyfights.com, O’Reilly amassed 150 fighting majors throughout his 14-year tenure as a Bruin and ranks 1st on the Brranked all-time list.
After his playing career ended in 1985, O’Reilly quickly became the Bruins franchise’s face once again when he became head coach in 1986-1987. He served as the Bruins head coach for three seasons (lost in Stanley Cup finals in 1988) and as an assistant coach for the New York Rangers for two seasons from 2002-2004. Through his 14-year NHL career, O’Reilly contributed 204-402-606 numbers with 2,095 PIM in 891 games.
#22 – Shawn Thornton
One of the most beloved enforcers in Bruins history, without a doubt, is Shawn Thornton. First and foremost, he was apart of the notable fourth-line ‘The Merlot Line,” featuring Thornton, Gregory Campbell, and Daniel Paille. They saw their most significant success together during the 2011 post-season, where the Bruins ended up clinching the Stanley Cup. He was more well known for his fisticuffs than his point totals, but he provided a spark for the Bruins every time he stepped out on the ice.
The 6’2, 217-pound forward made his Bruins debut during the 2007-2008 season and continued to play with the team until 2014 when he became a free agent and signed with the Florida Panthers. During his time with the Bruins, he was relied on as a spark and the ‘policeman’ to keep other players in line and served that role very well. It was more relevant to have a ‘policeman’ when the game was played at a more physical approach. His success at that role gave the Bruins star players protection when other players tried to target them. For example, I will attach a video at the end of Thornton’s segment showing Thornton challenging Matt Cooke for his dirty hit on Marc Savard (ended up ruining his career) the previous game. Characters like Thornton are missed in the NHL.
The two-time Stanley Cup champion suited up in the NHL for 14 years with four different teams. Throughout his career, he contributed 42-60-102 numbers with 1,102 PIM in 705 games. According to Hockeyfights.com, as a Bruin, he accumulated 102 fighting majors and is ranked second on the Bruins all-time list.
#42 – P.J. Stock
As I mentioned in the beginning, I could spend all day discussing the Bruins’ great enforcers, but one player who always caught my attention was P.J. Stock. He was not a massive guy who had an intimidating presence when he stepped on the ice, but he was never afraid to drop the gloves with the biggest and most formidable players in the NHL. The 5’10, 190-pound forward served the role of enforcer for the Bruins for only two seasons (2001-2003) but left impressions on Bruins fans forever.
When Tie Domi entered the NHL scene, it gave players like Stock the motivation and opportunity to take on the most challenging role as a player despite their smaller physical stature. With no weight classes in the NHL, you have to be prepared to fight anyone in the league, and that’s what Stock did for the Bruins. The fans loved the energy and effort he brought to every shift and his fearlessness when taking on the league’s toughest characters.
Throughout his seven-year career in the NHL, he produced 5-21-26 numbers with 523 PIM in 235 games. According to Hockeyfights.com, he fought 32 times over the two years as a Boston Bruin. He now has his weekly podcast that features guests who are former NHL players.
#29 – Jay Miller
The final player I include on this list is another old-school player, Jay Miller. He served as an enforcer for the Bruins for three and a half seasons from 1985-1989. He was apart of the ‘Big Bad Bruins’ team in the 1980s and usually led the team in fighting majors. The most fighting majors recorded in one year for the Boston Bruins were in 1987-1988, a whopping 132 fights that season, with Miller leading the Bruins with 34 fights.
The 6’2, 210-pound forward was apart of the Bruins for only a few seasons but played an essential part for the Bruins during the late 1980s. The Bruins were known as the ‘Big Bad Bruins’, not because of one or two enforcers, but most players on the team during that time were willing to fight and stick up for their teammates. But Miller took on fighting the heavyweights of the league, such as Bob Probert, etc. So, other players didn’t have to worry about that while he was on the ice.
Throughout his seven-year tenure in the NHL, he produced 40-44-84 numbers with an astounding 1,723 PIM in 446 games. Miller fought 87 times as a Bruin and is ranked third on the team’s all-time list. He played for the Bruins and Los Angeles Kings before retiring from the hockey world in 1992.
Some honorable mentions that could’ve easily made this list; Adam McQuaid, Lyndon Byers, Stan Johnathan, Keith Crowder, and the list go on. The game of hockey may have changed over the years, and the enforcer’s role is nearly extinct, but it’s always a pleasure looking back at some of the toughest Bruins’ to ever step on the ice.