UPDATE: The article was updated on August 11th, 2022
If you are a fan of the NHL, then odds are you would have witnessed some incredible fights over the years. Some of the best hockey fights of all time happened during the 70s, when teams would focus more on roughing each other up rather than playing hockey. The vast quantity of fights during this decade divided hockey fans, as some felt the enforcers were taking violence too far and bringing the sport into disrepute.
Whatever you believe, there have been some truly great hockey fights over the years. What makes these fights so entertaining is how varied and unpredictable they can be. Some fans enjoy the rare moments where the goalies enter the fray, skating to the center of the ice to throw down. Others especially enjoy it when the meanest enforcers for both teams have it out to see who is tougher. Whatever type of hockey fight you enjoy, our list of the best hockey fights has everything you could wish for.
With that being said, what are the 15 best hockey fights of all time? Well, on this page, you will find a variety of exciting and iconic moments of players brawling on the ice. Some moments had it all, with heavyweights exchanging haymakers, goaltenders squaring off, and both benches spilling out into a huge melee. If you are looking for other iconic moments in hockey, then check out our list of the worst hockey players or the very best hockey players of all time.
15. Philadelphia Flyers vs Ottawa Senators 2004: Donald Brashear and Rob Ray
One of the most famous NHL fights of all time is the Philadelphia Flyers and Ottawa Senators’ brawl from 2004. This skirmish quickly became one of the best hockey fights of all time, thanks to its record-breaking number of penalty minutes. Both teams contributed towards 419 penalty minutes in one game, beating the previous record of 406.
As with any great hockey fight, there was context why things exploded on the ice. The two teams met in the previous two playoff campaigns, all of which were won by the Senators. The Flyers had also failed to win any of the last five regular-season games against the Senators. This bad blood spilled out onto the ice in a fiery display where the Flyers had three players on the bench, and the Senators only had two at the end of the game. You can see the incredible series of fights in the clip below.
Before the third period, they handed out only ten minutes’ worth of penalties. However, in the final two minutes of the period, a series of incredible fights broke out. They handed 24 penalties out after the first fight, which began with Donald Brashear and Rob Ray. After that, the game resumed for three seconds before the teams went at it again. It was another three seconds before another fight broke out, followed by another melee 20 seconds later. One last incident in the third period saw 409 minutes collected, a new league record.
14. Boston Bruins vs Minnesota North Stars 1981: Both Teams
Another record-setting hockey fight came in 1981 when the Minnesota North Stars went to the Boston Bruins. The story goes that the North Stars were winless in their past 34 games at the Bruins, a record they were determined to end. They did not win on the day, but the game went down in history for setting a record; the most penalty minutes recorded in a single NHL game.
The fighting began almost immediately, around seven seconds into the first period. Dave Newell, the referee for the game, assessed 341 penalty minutes in the first period, ejecting 12 players. Newell awarded 67 penalties in the first period, another NHL record. In fact, the North Stars are the fifth highest team for penalty minutes conceded in one period with 180. The first period took over an hour and a half to complete and ended with 406 penalty minutes.
The fighting began on center ice, with Steve Kasper viciously trying to swing at the North Star player on the ground. The officials immediately split the players up, but that is not enough to defuse the situation. Soon after, several other players try to scrap before they can get the game underway. This set the tone for the game as the next few fights involved everyone on the ice. Players were viciously swinging at each other, hell-bent on doing serious damage. It wasn’t long before the benches got involved in the huge skirmish.
13. Pittsburgh Penguins vs Red Wings 1994: Marty McSorley and Bob Probert
No list of the best hockey fights of all time is complete without paying respects to Bob Probert. One of the toughest men to hit the ice, Probert, was an incredible source for brilliant hockey fights. In February 1994, the Pittsburgh Penguins were at the Detroit Red Wings in what has to be considered a clean game when compared to the other fights listed above.
The game saw 12 penalties awarded totaling less than 40 minutes. However, almost halfway through the first period, two heavyweights went toe to toe. Marty McSorley took on Bob Probert, which is a mouthwatering match-up. Both players have over 3000 penalty minutes in their careers and both weigh over 225lbs. The fight began after McSorley tugged on Probert’s stick. The legendary enforcer erupts and the gloves shoot off at incredible speed.
What happened next is exactly what hockey fight fans want to see, two juggernauts going at it. Both players stay on their feet for the best part of a minute, swinging at each other while gripping the other player’s jersey. You can see McSorley trying to give as good as he got, but Probert just waits for openings to land huge right hooks. Even when McSorley briefly slips onto one knee, Probert waits for his opponent to regain his footing before landing another one on his dome. The refs tried to break the fight up around the minute and a half mark, but that’s when the fight goes blow for blow. Each player lands huge bombs on each other until they finally embrace and separate clearly on good terms. Watching one of the best hockey fights of all time sure reminds you that they don’t fight like they used to.
12. Vancouver Canucks vs Calgary Flames 2014: Line Brawl
Even the most violent hockey games do not start off with violence. Players usually like to feel each other out and wait for an opportunity to catch the opponent unaware. Well, that was not the case for the Calgary Flames vs the Vancouver Canucks on January 18th, 2014. What happened in this game reminded fans of hockey from the 70s as the players start the game with a line brawl.
As soon as the puck hit the ice, Kevin Westgarth threw his gloves off and grabbed Bieksa. The referee and other officials dive in on the pair, which gives every other player the opportunity to find someone to fight. Bieksa skates away and scraps with Ladislav Smid, whereas Westgarth grabs 6ft6 Kellan Lain and they scuffle. As far as the eye can see, there are players grappling and swinging at each other with some intent. All before they played a single passage of hockey.
Lain made history that day, setting the record for the fastest game misconduct to start an NHL career. He beat the previous record by ten seconds, setting an almost unbeatable ejection two seconds into his professional debut. Brawls at the start of a hockey game have been far less common since the golden day of the enforcer, which certainly helped make this fight seem even more special. It set the game up for an even and exciting contest, ending in a shootout. Plus, the game did not boil over as the other periods only had eight more penalties assessed, all worth two minutes each. You don’t need to make much of a case for this being one of the best hockey fights of all time.
11. Vancouver Canucks vs Chicago Blackhawks 2009: Kevin Bieksa and Ben Eager
On March 29, 2009, the Vancouver Canucks took on the Chicago Blackhawks. The game was relatively quiet in the first two periods, with only four penalties assessed, two in each period. That all changed around six minutes into the third period. Eager plays the puck through to the front of the net for Dustin Byfuglien to have a free attempt at goal. The rolling puck is too difficult for Byfuglien to get in full control, and Roberto Luongo, the Canucks goaltender, smothered the chance.
Out of pure frustration, Byfuglien extends his left hand into the chin of Luongo. The eagle-eyed officials spot something which most players did not. They stop the game to figure out exactly what happened, which gave the players the opportunity to enact their own form of justice. Several players try to get their hands on the player who started contact, but the Canucks are straight into the medley. The main gaggle of players splits up into several one-on-ones with the highlight of the day going to Kevin Bieksa and Ben Eager.
There is not much of a height difference between the two men, Eager standing at 6ft2 and Bieksa, only an inch shorter. But the two men are almost 40lbs apart with Eager being the heftier player. This led to one hell of a beat down for Bieksa as Eager threw him around the ice for almost thirty seconds. Eager lands a strong jab to the jaw of Bieksa, sending him down onto the ice. The two players are not holding back, but the weight advantage means Eager can throw his opponent around like a rag doll, lifting him up and slamming him down onto the ice. Let’s just say you would not want to fight Eager.
10. Atlanta Thrashers Vs Washington Capitals 2010: Eric Boulton and John Erskine
Hockey fights come in all different shapes and sizes, but a fan favorite is when two heavyweights go at it. This fight between Eric Boulton and John Erskine certainly falls into the heavier side of the fighting spectrum, with both men weighing over 220lbs. You could say this fight was a rematch after the two squared off on the ice in 2008. The fight in 2008 was more of a coming together as Boulton hit the deck faster than a child’s first time on the ice. Whether this encounter stoked the fire in Boulton’s heart, who knows? The outcome was a hockey fight that has long served in the memory of NHL fans.
The fight took place on November 14th, 2010. Eric Boulton’s Atlanta Thrashers were up against John Erskine’s Washington Capitals during the regular season. After they played eight minutes in the second period, Boulton steams over to Erskine. The camera misses the first few exchanges, but when in the frame, you can tell they are out for blood. The pair erupt over the minute-long encounter, attempting to land as hard a punch as possible in the brief window the officials allow them to brawl.
If you watch the clip above, you will see how much force each player is putting into their punch; more than in your typical hockey fight. Clearly, it took little to set Boulton off during this NHL game, which must mean he went on the ice looking for revenge. However, after the referees get the men apart, it’s most likely a draw; with both players getting as good as they gave.
|November 14th, 2010||Eric Boulton and John Erskine||Draw|
9. Washington Capitals Vs Philadelphia Flyers 2013: Tom Wilson and Wayne Simmonds
This fight took place during a regular-season game at the Wells Fargo Center. The Washington Capitals were at the Philadelphia Flyers on November 1, 2013. A fight between Tom Wilson and Wayne Simmonds proved to be a catalyst for a series of fights. The altercations lasted around two minutes, but they stopped the game for a significantly longer period to sort out the vast number of penalties for each side.
Looking at the penalty minutes in the second period, you could tell the game was boiling over. Zac Rinaldo and Steve Downie both received 10-minute penalties, with Downie getting 17 minutes overall. There were eight penalties issued in the second period, totaling 38 minutes. The third period’s penalties dwarfed the second with 11 penalties awarded worth 60 minutes.
The fight began with Simmonds barging a Capitals player to the ground and then shoving Wilson up against the glass. The two threw their gloves off immediately and traded blows. This inspires Ray Emery, goaltender for the Flyers, to charge down the ice to square off with Braden Holtby, the opposition goalie. The two goalies fight, with Emery absolutely smoking Holtby. Lord knows why the linesman did not break this fight up, as Holtby hit the ice multiple times. Just as you think it’s all over, several other players start swinging at each other while the officials try to separate the goalies. The result is ten or more minutes of penalties to Aaron Volpatti, Alexander Urbom, Brayden Schenn, and Emery.
|November 1st, 2013||Tom Wilson and Wayne Simmonds|
Ray Emery and Braden Holtby
8. Detroit Red Wings Vs New York Rangers 1992: Bob Probert and Tie Domi
This iconic fight took place on February 9, 1992. The Detroit Red Wings were visiting the New York Rangers in what proved to be a very rough game. This incident took place less than 10 minutes into the first period and it set the tone for the rest of the game. Overall, there were 40 penalties awarded during the game, with ten coming from this one incident alone.
Both the first and second periods had 17 penalties awarded, with the majority awarded to Red Wings players. There is little doubt that the fight was premeditated, as the two players involved were Bob Probert and Tie Domi. If you don’t know who these two are, they both have over 3300 penalty minutes from around 1000 NHL games. They also have a reputation for being an aggressive enforcer, wanting to fight as often as possible. Domi was in 16 fights in that season alone, and Probert managed 19.
The advantage was to Probert, being 6ft3 compared to the 5ft10 Domi. However, that did not stop the fight, as both men were exchanging blows for around a minute before the officials stepped in. Domi got Probert’s jersey over his head, restricting his movement and reducing the reach advantage, making it more of an even fight than you would expect. It’s rare to see players with a height advantage come off worse on the ice, but given the fan’s support of Domi, he got one over the legendary Probert.
|February 9th, 1992||Bob Probert and Tie Domi||Domi|
7. Colorado Avalanche Vs Detroit Red Wings 1997: Darren McCarty and Claude Lemieux
The Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings brawl of March 26, 1977, went down in history as Bloody Wednesday. Like many fights that take place on the ice, this brawl had a backstory from the year before. The two sides met in the 1976 Stanley Cup playoffs, which the Avalanche won. In game six of the Western Conference Finals, Claude Lemieux delivered a vicious check to the back of Kris Draper. Draper broke his jaw in several places, resulting in reconstructive surgery and his jaw being wired shut. You could tell there was bad blood between the two teams as Dino Ciccarelli, a former winger for the Red Wings, had this to say about Lemieux during an interview:
“I can’t believe I shook this guy’s friggin’ hand after the game; that pisses me right off.”Dino Ciccarelli
The game in 1977 had already gotten off to a rocky start, with a couple of fights inside the first ten minutes of the game. The main brawl happened 18 minutes into the first period, with Peter Forsberg and Igor Larionov colliding on the ice. Darren McCarty took the opportunity and delivered a right hook to Lemieux, who hit the ice and covered the back of his head. McCarty took Lemieux to the boards and kneed him in the head. Avalanche goalie Patrick Roy saw Lemieux in trouble and skated out to help. Brendan Shanahan intercepted Roy, who clotheslined the goaltender in spectacular fashion.
The fighting ends with the two goaltenders having it out in the middle of the ice; you have to see it to believe it!
|March 26th, 1977||Darren McCarty and Claude Lemieux||McCarty|
6. Colorado Avalanche Vs Detroit Red Wings 1998: Patrick Roy and Chris Osgood
Part three of the Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings feud took place on April 1, 1998. Once again, the Avalanche was at the home of the Red Wings, the Joe Louis Arena. This time, however, the fight that went down in NHL history books was between the two goalies, Patrick Roy and Chris Osgood.
One of the best hockey fights of all time is almost certainly the best goalie fight in NHL history. It took place in the third period, just over seven minutes from the end of the game. Roy had already received penalties in the first period for elbowing and unsportsmanlike conduct, but he came out of his crease to confront the Red Wings goaltender.
Somehow, watching goaltenders fight is often more exciting than any normal fight. What made this one iconic was both players squaring off and trading blows at a phenomenal rate. If we had to judge the exchange like a boxing match, you could easily give the win to Roy, who got Osgood’s jersey over his head and restricted his use of the right hand. However, Osgood has his moments too. Taking Roy onto his knees towards the end of the exchange before finally flooring the Avalanche goaltender by the advertisement board.
|April 1st, 1998||Patrick Roy and Chris Osgood||Roy|
5. Montreal Canadiens Vs Boston Bruins 1970: Guy Lapointe and Wayne Cashman
Hockey had a bit of a reputation in the 70s. The problem stemmed from an abundance of enforcers, and some questionable officiating led to moments of utter chaos on the ice. This match between the Montreal Canadiens and the Boston Bruins was one of those moments. The game took place on November 8, 1970, and the Canadiens were at the Bruins, their long-established rival. This fight was perhaps the most ruthless of them all, as both benches spilled onto the ice.
Originally, one player from each side threw down their gloves, which was quickly interrupted by the officials. With the officials focused on keeping two players apart, both teams fly onto the ice and start hustling and grabbing. Guy Lapointe and Wayne Cashman take the opportunity and start swinging at each other with some force before crashing onto the ice.
Some players are trying to separate the fighters, others are looking for an opportunity to land some cheap shots, and the result is carnage. When the camera zooms out, there is a medley of players and equipment all over the ice, with the officials doing almost nothing. Hockey gets a lot of stick for allowing fights to go on, but this is exactly why. Once the officials are busy with two players, it gives the opportunist the chance to be dangerous.
|November 8th, 1970||Guy Lapointe and Wayne Cashman|
4. Los Angeles Kings Vs Philadelphia Flyers 1979: Randy Holt and Bob Kelly
The Los Angeles Kings were at the Philadelphia Flyers on March 11, 1979. The game ended 6-3 for the flyers, but it will live long in the memories of hockey fans not for the scoreline, but for the penalties. There were around 50 penalties awarded inside the first period of the game, with the first two coming after just 20 seconds of game time. Bert Wilson and Behn Wilson both picked up five for fighting, followed by a series of small penalties and ten minutes for Frank Bathe. At 14:58 in the first period, Randy Holt delivered a sucker punch to Blake Dunlop, which resulted in large penalties for Holt and Frank Bathe.
Tempers flared up once or twice during the rest of the first period, but it wasn’t until the end of the period did things boil over. Both benches emptied and swarmed onto the ice and inevitably, players would start swinging. The game broke several NHL records that night, including the most penalty minutes in one game by two teams, 380. Two teams have since broken this record, one in 1981 with 406 penalty minutes and again in 2004 with 419 by the Ottawa Senators and Philadelphia Flyers.
If you can compare the 2004 Senators versus Flyers brawl to this Kings and Flyers brawl, you’ll notice a heap of differences. The benches never emptied onto the ice, the officials didn’t lose total control over the game, and the most vicious fighting only lasted momentarily. Whereas, in 1979, both sets of players were trying to do serious damage to each other with each punch and the officials couldn’t do anything about it.
|March 11th, 1979||Both Benches||Draw|
3. Quebec Nordiques Vs Montreal Canadiens 1984: Louis Sleigher and Jean Hamel
The Quebec Nordiques and Montreal Canadiens met in the second-round playoffs for the 1984 Stanley Cup. The game took place on April 20, Good Friday, and is famous for its brawl, which went down in hockey history as the Good Friday Massacre. Fights between the two sides took place over multiple periods and totaled 252 penalty minutes and 11 ejections from the game.
The rivalry between the two sides, also known as the Battle of Quebec, was a major catalyst in this brawl. Another factor that helped this brawl become one of the most uncontrolled in hockey history was the referee, Bruce Hood. His incompetence helped stoke the flames after the officials broke up the original brawl. The fight began at the end of the second period when two players started grappling next to the Nordiques’ goal. Both benches spilled onto the ice in response, causing nothing short of pandemonium.
The fighting lasts several minutes, with multiple players squaring up and exchanging blows. Most of the scraps were quite soft as far as hockey fights go, with the goalies grabbing each other and players pulling each other onto the ice. That was until an official tries to separate Louis Sleigher and Jean Hamel, where Sleigher unleashes a vicious, career-ending punch to Hamels’ eye. The officials got all the players off the ice, but this is where Hood mishandled the game.
How the Officials Made Everything Worse
Hood did not officially complete the second period, as he did not inform the timekeeper and head coaches of the penalties assigned. This meant players who were ejected from the game, such as Sleigher, returned to the ice for the third-period warm-up, even though they will not be partaking. This gave the ejected players the chance to get revenge, as they will not be taking part in the game anyway, so why not settle the score? Players took the opportunity during the confusion to fight again on the ice before the game even got back underway.
An official failing to do their job properly has detrimental effects on any sport. Even the very best betting sites offer no compensation when unforeseeable situations, like the Good Friday Massacre, take place. Hood retired immediately after the playoffs, and it’s no wonder why. Allowing ejected players to return to the ice only to hear the stadium announcer inform the players of their ejection was a truly puzzling move. It made hockey history, but for all the wrong reasons.
|April 20th, 1984||Louis Sleigher and Jean Hamel|
2. Boston Bruins Vs New York Rangers 1979: Bruins and Rangers Fans
On December 23, 1979, the Boston Bruins were at Madison Square Garden to face the New York Rangers. The game, in which the Bruins won 4-3, was quite clean, with only one penalty worth more than two minutes at the very end of the game. There were only 14 penalties in total, making it the cleanest game on our list. However, this incident changed hockey forever in more ways than one.
There was one last chance for the Rangers to equalize seconds before the end of the game, with Phil Esposito heading for a breakaway on goal. The Bruins goaltender saved his shot and Esposito left the ice in frustration. All the other players gathered together in the center, where they exchanged a few punches. The officials moved the most unruly players towards the boards, away from the main cluster of players. However, a fan used a rolled-up program to attack Stan Jonathan from the sidelines by reaching over the glass. Jonathan had this to say about the encounter when speaking to the New York Times in 2009:
“He just reached over the glass and whacked me with it, I put my stick up to protect myself, and he just took it, and I can’t be hitting no fan with a stick, really, eh, so I just let him take it.”Stan Jonathan
After this, the Bruins made hockey history as they climbed over the glass to exact revenge on the fans. The Bruins players assaulted several fans, with the cameras focusing on one spectator who had his shoe removed and used against him by Mike Milbury.
The events that happened in 1979 disgraced hockey, with lawsuits and bans on Bruins players incoming. They suspended three Bruins players, Terry O’Reilly, Peter McNab, and Mike Milbury. Speaking about the events that unfolded that night, Milbury can look back with a good sense of humor about the altercation. He said:
“I grabbed his shoe, took a little tug on it. I don’t know if I hesitated for a minute because I thought I’d be vilified for the next 30 years, but I gave him a cuff across the leg, and then I did what I thought was probably the most egregious thing of all: I threw his shoe on the ice. If you watch the tape, and I can freely throw my teammates under the bus now after 30 years, people were throwing some serious shots down below us that were obscured because everybody was focusing on the idiot highest up in the stands hitting somebody with a shoe.”Mike Milbury
Hockey learned a valuable lesson that night, extending the glass barricades between the players and the fans. While we can’t change the past, events like players and fans fighting is a step too far from what the sport is all about. Normally, an incident like this deserves the number one spot, but there is one more event that is far more ruthless.
|December 23rd, 1979||Bruins and Rangers Fans||Nobody|
1. Montreal Canadiens Vs Boston Bruins 1978: Pierre Bouchard and Stan Jonathan
The best hockey fight of all time, or the worst depending on your pessimism, is one of the bloodiest fights in sports history. It does not feature both teams trading blows on the ice nor does it have players attacking fans. Yet, this fight between Pierre Bouchard and Stan Jonathan was so fierce that it tops our list. You may not agree with our decision to put this fight above all else, but it certainly falls into the category of “I would not want to be on the receiving end of that exchange”. The fight took place in game four of the 1978 Stanley Cup Final. The Bruins won the day, but the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup that year.
The fight begins with Jonathan and Bouchard coming together after the linesman signals for a foul. Bouchard pulls on the stick of Jonathan twice before the 5ft8 Canadian erupts into a fury of punches aimed at the unprotected head of Bouchard. The helmet of Jonathan nullified the 6ft2 Bouchard punches, allowing Jonathan to get close and nail his fellow countryman square in the face multiple times. The fight between the two only lasted around 15 seconds, but both players tried to throw as many hard punches as possible. Jonathan won the fight, with Bouchard collapsing to the ice spewing blood everywhere, even into the official’s face.
|May 21st, 1978||Pierre Bouchard and Stan Jonathan||Jonathan|
Was Bouchard V Jonathan the Best Hockey Fight of All Time?
There have been many hockey fights over the years, some lasting in memory while others fade. We here at Bet station hope our list was useful to either show you some glorious fights that you have not seen before or fights you may have forgotten about. This exchange between Bouchard and Jonathan is unusual, as the bigger man lost, and lost badly. The length of the altercation and the amount of blood produced is exactly why hockey needed to change from the 70s; it was too dangerous. Most hockey fans enjoy a good fight here and there, but when it gets to a point where players could do permanent damage to each other, something had to change.
Some of the best hockey fights have a bit of everything. Heavyweights going blow for blow, goalies skating across the ice to have it out, and both benches pouring onto the ice for an almighty melee. However, our high standard for the best hockey fights meant some had to miss out. Below, you will find a list of some great hockey fights that narrowly missed out on a spot in our top ten.
- Buffalo Sabres vs Detroit Red Wings 1987
- Philadelphia Flyers vs Pittsburgh Penguins 2012
- Philadelphia Flyers Vs Pittsburgh Penguins 2008
- Anaheim Ducks Vs Ottawa Senators 2006
- Dallas Stars Vs St Louis Blues 2011