Tue. Apr 23rd, 2024

Halloween is around the corner, and I love any excuse to shoehorn it into hockey talk. So why not discuss scary things?

I want to know which players leave you shaking in your boots – and which did in the past.

Roundtable members: Who is (a) the scariest current NHL player and (b) the scariest player of all-time?

MATT LARKIN: Right now, nobody tops Jacob Trouba for me. He’s the boogeyman, the player you have to keep in the back of your mind at all times if you’re playing the New York Rangers. He plays very close to the line and his open-ice hits are devastating, the kind that can knock you out of the lineup if he catches you when you’re not looking. That’s why he’s scarier than any enforcer to me. Trouba does so much damage when he gets you.

All-time? I have to go with Sprague Cleghorn. This guy was basically a criminal on skates during the early days of the NHL, with his peak prime coming 100 years ago. He was known to regularly go after opponents using his stick as a weapon, to the point they tried to get the police involved. His own team once suspended him for “actions befitting an animal.” He was charged with aggravated assault for a stick-swinging incident, too. An absolute lunatic – and a Hall of Fame talent.

STEVEN ELLIS: Who in their right mind would want to go 1-on-1 with Radko Gudas? Heck, he punched his own Philadelphia Flyers teammate without even looking while staring down someone else once in a game. He’s not the tallest player in the world, but he hits like a Hummer, has an incredible beard and has piercing eyes. Gudas looked absolutely terrifying when screaming in the face of Joseph Woll, and there’s no way I’d want to mess with him.

All-time… maybe a cop-out, but I’m going with Gordie Howe. We just don’t see players like that anymore. Someone who can absolutely punish and pummel players with his fists, and then go and score on his next shift… again, there’s no one like him. There’s a reason the Gordie Howe hat-trick exists. Just looking back at it, and I know the game was much different back then, it really felt like Howe was as complete of a player as it got because he was willing to fight anyone, and then backed it up with the incredible historic numbers.

SCOTT MAXWELL: He hasn’t struck the fear quite as much these past few seasons, but prime Tom Wilson was certainly one of the scariest people we’ve seen among current NHL players. He was always a physical beast, but it was his recklessness that caused the most fear, as it created an unpredictability when players found themselves up against him. Yes, he didn’t exactly know where the line was, but that’s the extra factor that makes him all the more terrifying. And to make matters worse, prime Wilson also knew how to score, so you couldn’t just give him space either.

On a similar note, my all-time pick would have to be Scott Stevens, the man who practically rewrote the rulebook on physical contact in the NHL. While a lot of his best work would be illegal in the modern NHL, he was the reason players were afraid of skating up center ice with their head down. Much like Trouba does now, Stevens could lay some devastating open-ice hits, and it says a lot that one of the NHL’s most memorable moments was when Paul Kariya managed to score a goal after coming back from a hit that Stevens gave him. And what makes him more intimidating is that he was a talented player along with it, and didn’t need to always lay you out to knock you off the puck, meaning players were less expecting of it when he finally did.

COLBY COHEN: I know he’s on the back nine, but when Milan Lucic gets angry and inspired, there’s none scarier in the league. He’s got an imposing figure and we all remember him early in his career just pumping guys on TD Garden ice while the Bruins faithful went absolutely crazy. I know we don’t see it as often anymore, but it’s because he commands that fearful respect from players in the NHL, and with his homecoming back to Boston, this season I expect to see a little more of that youthful anger we saw in the early days. 

PS… I always made sure I wasn’t lined up against him in practice or training camp for a reason. 

When you grow up a Flyers fan, Scott Stevens always comes to mind for ending players’ careers 90 miles down the NJ Turnpike, but for this one I’m going to go a little more personal and that’s Brian McGrattan. One season in the AHL he had 551 PIM in 71 games. When I got traded to the Bruins and sent down to Providence I’ll never forget my first day in the room looking at this dude with sleeve tattoos and a beard that might take me 10 years to grow. I was fortunate we were on the same side because night in an out in the American League he would just absolutely pummel guys, never tied up, always just threw absolute haymakers. If he got mad during a game it was scary. Even when you were on his team he might just run you over on his way to find his target. Extremely nice off the ice, but man, on the ice at the AHL or NHL level he was as scary as I’ve seen with my own eyes. 

FRANK SERAVALLI: I swear I’m not being flippant with this answer, but I don’t think any NHL players today are truly scary. I bet the old-time guys would agree. Today’s players can all skate, they can play, some of them can hit, and some can still fight – but the days of striking fear into an opponent and keeping opponents awake at night are mostly over.

That said, I’m surprised that no one said Bob Probert. Can’t believe he’s been gone 13 years already. Probert was pound-for-pound maybe the toughest to ever play the game and had zero fear. His Bruise Brother teammate Joey Kocur was right up there, too.What was probably most admirable about Probert, as the reigning heavyweight champ for a decade and a half is that he almost always seemed to give a challenger a fight. He wasn’t afraid to lose a bout, he wasn’t afraid to cede his belt. 

MIKE GOULD: Well, Steven stole my answer of Gudas, so I’ll go ahead and say Alex Ovechkin. He’s huge, and he can burn you in so many different ways. Ovi has never shied away from throwing big hits, and while he’s not much of a fighter, his slap shot can leave an even bigger mark than one of his fists. I wouldn’t want to cross him.

As for the scariest of all time, I’ll have to say Jarome Iginla. There’s something naturally unsettling about someone who’s such a nice guy off the ice turning into a Terminator on it, but that’s exactly what Iggy was. He put up multiple 50-goal seasons while also being one of the most feared fighters in the world. He wasn’t afraid of anyone. If you were on the ice at the same time as Iginla, you always had to be alert. He was an absolute machine.

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