Bodychecking in hockey has been one of the most controversial topics in the sport in recent years, especially at the minor league level. However in the National Hockey League, bodychecking is very frequent with many hits delivering serious blows to opponents. In recent years the National Hockey League has taken the issue of dangerous bodychecks seriously, and players are taught how to hit their opponent more safely so the issue of concussions is kept to a minimum. However for many years it was common to see professional hockey players deliver massive hits on the ice.
It is time to take a look at the ten biggest hits in NHL history. Remember what was considered a “clean hit” at the time, may not be considered a clean hit now as the standards of what a clean hit is has changed.
#10 – Niklas Kronwall on Martin Havlat
On May 22, 2009 in game three of a Western Conference Final playoff game between the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks, Red Wings’ defenseman Niklas Kronwall delivered a massive bodycheck on Martin Havlat. Kronwall was given a major penalty for interference and a game misconduct, however many have questioned why Kronwall needed to serve time in the penalty box for delivering what was considered “a clean hit” by National Hockey League rules. Despite the penalty, Kronwall was not suspended. Since the hit, when a player gets bodychecked by Kronwall, they get “Kronwalled”. Even though Chicago won the game 4-3, the Red Wings came back to win the next two games of the series to advance to the Stanley Cup Final. Havlat, who suffered a concussion, played in game four of the series but only played just over seven minutes and was a -1 and did not play in game five.
#9 – Raffi Torres on Brent Seabrook
On April 17, 2011 in game three of the Western Conference Quarterfinal playoff series between the Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks, Canucks’ agitator Raffi Torres delivered a hard hit on Blackhawks’ defenseman and Olympic gold medalist Brent Seabrook behind the Chicago net. Even though Torres has been suspended four times throughout his career, he only received a two minute minor for interference and did not receive a suspension. The Canucks went on to beat the Blackhawks in a dramatic playoff series. The Canucks won the first three games, while the Blackhawks won the next three games. Then in game seven, Alexandre Burrows scored the overtime winner as Vancouver beat Chicago 2-1. The Canucks would then go all the way to the Stanley Cup final. Seabrook meanwhile missed two games as a result of the hit. Ironically, it was Seabrook who has received the biggest suspension of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs to date. He was suspended three games for a hit on David Backes of the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.
#8 – Bryan Marchment on Donald Brashear
Throughout his NHL career, enforcer Donald Brashear was best known for being the recipient of Marty McSorley’s vicious slash in a regular season game on February 21, 2000. However that was not the only time Brashear was on the receiving end of an encounter. In a game played between the San Jose Sharks and Philadelphia Flyers on January 2, 2002, Brashear, who was playing for the Flyers at the time, was hit hard near center ice by Bryan Marchment of the Sharks. According to Tim Panaccio of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Marchment and Brashear also delivered hard hits on each other again throughout the game. San Jose won 5-2. That season the Sharks recorded a career best 99 points en route to their first ever Pacific Division title.
#7 – Larry Robinson on Gary Dornhoefer
On May 11, 1976, in game two of the Stanley Cup Finals, Montreal Canadiens’ defenseman Larry Robinson, better known as “Big Bird”, delivered a massive bodycheck on Philadelphia Flyers right winger Gary Dornhoefer. The check delivered such an impact, that the Montreal maintenance crew needed to come on to the ice to nail the boards back into place. The Canadiens went on to win the game 2-1 and sweep the series 4-0 for their first of four consecutive Stanley Cup championships. After two more years of playing, Dornhoefer announced his retirement and would go on to work the next eight seasons for CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada.
#6 – Darcy Tucker on Sami Kapanen
On May 4, 2004, in overtime of game six of the Eastern Conference Semi-finals, Darcy Tucker of the Toronto Maple Leafs bodychecked Sami Kapanen of the Philadelphia Flyers hard into the boards. There are many players who are bodychecked hard into the boards, but it was clear soon after, that this particular hit would have greater significance. Kapanen fell three times while skating to the Flyers’ bench. A player who could play both left wing and right wing, Kapanen was praised by many for his determination to get to the bench without assistance. The Flyers would soon after get a series winning goal from Jeremy Roenick in a 3-2 victory to eliminate Toronto from the postseason.
#5 – Scott Stevens on Slava Kozlov
On June 20, 1995, during the second period of game two of the Stanley Cup Finals, Scott Stevens of the New Jersey Devils made his mark in the National Hockey League as one of the most intimidating defensemen of all-time. Stevens delivered a gigantic bodycheck on Red Wings’ forward Slava Kozlov as Kozlov tried to skate through two Devils in the New Jersey zone. The hit was considered a major turning point in the series. The Devils won the game 4-2 to take a 2-0 series lead. Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur was outstanding throughout the entire 1995 Stanley Cup playoffs, however Stevens is also credited for inspiring the Devils as they went on to win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Kozlov went on to play the final two games of the series, but did not register a point.
#4 – Brian Campbell on R.J. Umberger
During the first overtime period on April 22, 2006 in game one of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, Brian Campbell of the Buffalo Sabres delivered a hard bodycheck on R.J. Umberger of the Philadelphia Flyers as Umberger was receiving a pass and skating over the blue line and out of his zone. The Campbell hit received a thunderous applause from the Sabres fans. Daniel Briere, who has been a clutch playoff performer offensively throughout his career, scored the overtime winner at 7:31 of the second overtime. The Sabres went on to win the series 4-2, in a series where they outscored Philadelphia 27-14.
#3 – Trevor Linden on Jeff Norton
On May 11, 1995, in game three of the Western Conference quarterfinals, Vancouver Canucks captain Trevor Linden delivered a hard bodycheck on Jeff Norton of the St. Louis Blues. The hit by Linden, who is now the Canucks’ president, completely shattered the glass. The Canucks went on to win 6-1 to take a 2-1 series lead. The Canucks would beat the Blues 4-3 in the series, but would struggle mightily in their next series as they were swept by the Chicago Blackhawks. Linden, was better known for his outstanding leadership skills during the prime of his career, but on this particular night at Vancouver’s Pacific Coliseum, it would be his physical presence that would be remembered most.
#2 – Scott Stevens on Paul Kariya
Throughout National Hockey League history, it is not uncommon for players to receive a concussion from a hard hit. On June 7, in game six of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Anaheim Ducks and New Jersey Devils, Scott Stevens delivered a huge open ice hit on Ducks star Paul Kariya. A gold medalist for Canada at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City just a year before, Kariya was motionless on the ice for an extended period of time. Miraculously Kariya returned and scored a goal in helping the Ducks to a 4-1 win. The Ducks would lose game seven to the Devils though, and Kariya would experience issues with concussions frequently for the rest of his career. A major reason for his retirement was because of post concussion syndrome. Even though the Ducks thought the hit deserved a penalty or suspension, Stevens did not experience either and guided the Devils to their third Stanley Cup.
#1 – Scott Stevens on Eric Lindros
In the seventh game of the 2000 Eastern Conference final, the New Jersey Devils vs. Philadelphia Flyers series will be most remembered by what many has considered as the hardest hit in hockey history. Early in the deciding game, Devils defenseman Scott Stevens hit NHL superstar Eric Lindros as Lindros skated into the Devils zone with the puck. Lindros was just playing in his second game after missing ten weeks of action due to a concussion. According to CBC Sports, Lindros was unconscious from the hit even before his head hit the ice. Like the Stevens’ hit on Kariya, the Stevens hit on Lindros was considered clean. Stevens hit Lindros with his shoulder. A major reason why Lindros retired prematurely was because of the eight concussions he suffered in his career. None will be more memorable than the one he received from the hit by Stevens.