An enforcer or a noted “tough guy” is known for his fighting skills. Enforcers or goons are usually fourth line players that are limited in skill who see limited action during a game and usually do not play on special teams. While the Pens have had their share of players who could fight and score: Rick Tocchet, Gary Roberts, Bill Guerin, Kevin Stevens, etc. This list is comprised of players who were acquired for protection and intimidation.
These players can also be considered as “energy players” who fly up and down the ice finishing checks to energize his team or engage in a fight to spark the fire. Enforcers can also be used by their coaches to intimidate opponents and get them off their game because they will be more cautious when they know that an enforcer is on the ice. These players are also given the role of protecting their teammates, especially the star players on their team.
Here is my list for the top ten “Enforcers” in Penguin’s history:
1. Dave Schultz (1977-79): Dave Schultz earned his reputation as one of the original “Broad Street Bullies.” Once known for the true intimidator of the league, Schultz was coming to the end of his career when he was acquired by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Not wanting to disappoint, the “Hammer” dropped the gloves 21 times during the 1977-78 season, racking up a modest 378 penalty minutes. After injuring his wrist in a fight, Schultz once put boxing wraps on his hands for protection. Shortly after, the NHL created the “Schultz rule”, banning boxing wraps in professional hockey.
2. Georges Laraque (2007-08): Standing in at 6’3 and 270 pounds, George Laraque was brought in for one reason, protect Crosby and pummel opponents mentally and physically. “BGL” quickly put the Atlantic division on notice when he disposed Colton Orr and Donald Brashear shortly after his arrival in the Steel City. When “BGL” wasn’t fighting, he used his hulking frame to effectively dominate in the corner or along the boards in puck battles.
3. Eric Godard (2008-11): Eric Godard was brought in to fill the role of reigning champ, George Laraque. “Godsy” immediately excelled in his role as enforcer during the Cup run of 2008-09. At 6’4 230 pounds, Godard was game on any night to drop the gloves and lay waste to opposing forces. In 2011, Godard left the bench during a game to defend Brent Johnson during the Long Island Brawl.
4. Deryk Engelland (2009-present): “The King of Engelland” made his presence known in 2010 when he dropped Colton Orr like a sack of potatoes. Last week, Deryk Engelland got a personal lesson and an up close look at a quick right hand by, Brian Mcgrattan. Engelland gets high marks for even having the stones to drop his gloves against a true enforcer of McGrattan’s stature. During his time with the Penguins, Engelland has established himself as a protector, who can play forward or defense.
5. Steve Durbano (1974-76): The more I read up on this player, the more he becomes the real-life Olgie Ogolthorpe. Steve “Demolition Durby” Durbano’s game-plan was simple, he would go out of his way to intimidate an opponent as Durbano was truly one of the baddest men to suit up for the Penguins.
6. Matthew Barnaby (1998-01): Without question, Matthew Barnaby was one of the most hated men in the NHL. Barnaby was a true agitator, a pest, and could back it up with the drop of his gloves. As we know, what Barnaby lacked in size, who stood at 5’9, he made up for it in heart and courage as he challenged players like Eric Cairns, Chris Pronger, and Stu Grimson.
7. Arron Asham (2010-12): Most well-known for dropping Washington’s Jay Beagle early in the 2011 season, then drew heat for his “CM Punk” celebration. Arron Asham was one of the best middle-weight fighters of his time. “Ash” took on all comers as he was equipped with a loaded right hand and a concrete chin.
8. Francois Leroux (1995-97): At 6’6″ and over 240 pounds, Leroux was a physical player known for delivering bone crunching hits and answering the bell when needed. During the 1996–97, “Frankie” hammered Pat Lafontaine with a high hit to the head, starting the end of Lafontaine’s career. A month later, Leroux took the belt from reigning heavy-weight champ, Tony Twist with an jaw dropping TKO.
9. Marty McSorley (1983-85, 1993-94): Quite possibly the biggest goon of all time, Marty McSorley entered the league as a pretty boy rookie in 1983, McSorley was anything but. He quickly established himself by taking on the league’s top heavyweights. McSorley quickly earned a reputation for toughness and the title of protector/enforcer. Mcsorley has also been named one of biggest scumbags of all time, per the Bleacher report for his savage attack on Donald Brashear.
10. Jay Caufield (1988-93): At 6’4″ 240lbs, Jay Caufield was a linebacker on skates. Caufield, a linebacker in college, also liked to play hockey. The Penguins acquired the services of Caufield for one reason, to protect superstar, Mario Lemiuex. Caufield may not have been a truly feared heavyweight, he was however willing to take on all comers as Caufield was incredibly strong and knew his role as the enforcer or protector of the team.
(Photo Credit: Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)