Ice hockey is believed to have evolved from simple stick and ball games that were played in the 18th century. It is one of the sports featured in the Winter Olympics and is governed by the International Ice Hockey Federation. While there are many roles in the game, did you know that enforcers are not officially part of the play?
Ice hockey enforcers are an unofficial role in ice hockey whose job is to deter dirty or violent opposition plays by responding with more violence.
What Do Enforcers Do?
An enforcer’s primary role is to respond to and deter the opposition from engaging in dirty play. When an opponent physically assaults one of their teammates or employs illegal tactics, the enforcer will usually drop the gloves and fight with the perpetrator or the opposing team’s enforcer.
Enforcers are typically used to protect their opponents’ smaller and more skilled players from violent behavior. On the other hand, an enforcer may not necessarily react by fighting an opponent but may seek retribution by delivering a hard body check or an illegal infraction such as a crosscheck or slash.
On the other hand, an enforcer may not necessarily react by fighting an opponent but may seek retribution by delivering a hard body check or an illegal infraction such as a crosscheck or slash. (Source: BS Hockey)
What Happened to the Enforcers?
Previously, almost every National Hockey League (NHL) and other North American professional league rostered at most minuscule one enforcer.
However, since the NHL implemented a salary cap in the 2005/06 season, enforcers have become increasingly scarce in the league. The main reason is that clubs prefer to invest in more skilled players. Not all enforcers lack other hockey skills, as some of the NHL’s top tough guys in the past also possessed a strong scoring touch.
Players with at least one 20-goal season in the league include Dave Tiger Williams, Chris Simon, Terry O’Reilly, Chris Nilan, Dave Schultz, Dale Hunter, John Ferguson, and Bob Probert.
These players had dual roles on their teams because they were considered enforcers due to their fighting ability but were also among their team’s top scorers. The difference between these players and many other enforcers was their amount of ice time per game and their primary role on the team was to create offense.
In fact, in 1977/78, O’Reilly scored 90 points for the Boston Bruins, becoming the first player in NHL history to finish in the top-10 in scoring while serving at least 200 minutes in penalties. (Source: BS Hockey)
Who were the Early Enforcers in Ice Hockey History?
The style of NHL hockey in the 1970s and 1980s was very different from what it is today. There were several changes over the years. It was a much more physical game, with many teams using multiple enforcers. Fights and bench-clearing brawls were common, and teams like the Boston Bruins were dubbed Big Bad Bruins, while the Philadelphia Flyers were dubbed The Broad Street Bullies. (Source: BS Hockey)
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