When it comes to hockey, I grew up on the Los Angeles Kings and the Philadelphia Flyers of the 1970’s , which means I am a connoisseur of the knuckles-in-your-mouth style of play. There’s an art to sheer bad-assery; the trouble in hockey is that bad-assery is really limited to the realm of the skull-buster. But when it comes to some of my favorite television and movie cops, the art of being a bad-ass has so much more license; but make no mistake, it is bad-assery nevertheless.
So, in honor of the soon-to-be end of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, let’s take a journey of comparison between 15 all-time hockey knucklemen and their fictional cop counterparts.
15) Derek Boogaard
The story of Derek Boogaaard is one that is at the same time bizarre yet awesome; hilarious yet tragic. Boogaard was born in a Mennonite community in Saskatchewan where he towered over the other kids. Due to his size and the fact that he was the son of an RCMP officer, he was a frequent target of bullies, until he shit-hammered one of them and a legend was born. All through his rise to the NHL, Boogaard garnered a reputation for winning fights decisively. In particular, there was an instance while Boogaard played for the Melfort Mustangs in which he charged the opposing bench and proceeded to dismantle several players. Scouts from the Western Hockey League’s Regina Pats were so impressed that they signed Boogaard the next day.
Once he got to the NHL, Boogaard became known as “The Mountie” and was literally feared as an enforcer, especially after he caved in fellow enforcer Todd Fedoruk’s face with a hammer-like right hand. Boogaard was so intimidating as a brawler that Georges Laraque, one of Boogaard’s prime knuckle-throwing rivals, atrtributed his retirement to not wanting anymore of Boogaards’ savage beatings.
Sadly, Boogaard met a tragic and premature end by his own hand.
Fictional Cop Counterpart: Officer Andy Kilvinski, The New Centurions
While no brute, Andy Kilvinski was no less legendary. He was best known for his unique manner of imparting wisdom into his younger counterparts as though it were a non-Euclidean geometric postulate. Many an L.A.P.D. rookie in his charge were subjected to a finger-wagging lecture beginining with the header “as Kilvinski’s Law dictates…” What followed was a harsh, yet useful life lesson delivered in a wizened, cynical, and crusty manner heavily salted with gallows humor.
Sadly, Andy Kilvinski also met a tragic and premature end by his own hand.
14) Clark Gillies
Gillies never racked up the huge numbers of penalty minutes usually associated with a enforcer, but there is no way a list of all-time hockey brawlers wouldn’t include him. One of the big reason Gillies didn’t fight much is because he didn’t need to…Gillies was a big man at 6’3″, 220 pounds in an era before the NHL starting filling up with lumberjack-sized guys like Derek Boogaard or tree-sized guys like Zdeno Chara. When he did fight, it usually ended badly for the other guy; just ask another guy further down this list, Terry “Taz” O’Reilly. Taz was a feared enforcer in his own right, but Gillies was such a master of the fisticuffs that he made”Taz” look more like “Radar” O’Reilly.
Fictional Cop Counterpart: Sergeant Joe Friday, Dragnet
Joe Friday was never big on shootouts, bar brawls, car chases, or any of the other standard fictional cop action, but there’s no way you can have a list of fictional cops that doesn’t include Mr. “Just the Facts.” Friday wasn’t one to drop the hammer unless he was forced. In fact, if you saw Joe Friday from the perspective in the photo above, you were closer to death than Princess Diana right after she said “Sure, let the French guy drive.”‘
Joe Friday had an aura that was posted with “No Fucking Around Zone” signs, which is exactly why Friday’s hammer were his words. Who can forget those classic monologues full of rapid-fire, unbroken sentences about the perils of wayward behavior delivered in his classic two-pack-a-day gravel truck monotone?
13) Joe Kocur
Part of the “Bruise Brothers” with Bob Probert, Kocur won three Stanley Cups during his NHL career while compiling over 2,500 penalty minutes. Kocur was another guy known for having a right hand like a jack-hammer; a reputation cemented when one of his hammer blows split an opponent’s helmet.
Fictional Cop Counterpart: Detective Vic Mackey, The Shield
Vic Mackey is the inverse of Joe Friday, his L.A.P.D. antecedent of half a century. Mackey couldn’t give a fuck less about the facts, unless those facts involve kicking down a door and shooting somebody in the face. The man is a poster child for rage and shotgun ammunition. Joe Friday had rules for how you iron a shirt; Mackey extorts drug dealers and blew a tunnel through his own partner’s head. See the difference? If Bill Gannon had been Mackey’s partner, he would have never grown up to be Colonel Potter (that’s right, you just got your second completely needless MASH reference).
12) Tie Domi
Every sports list must have a guy that everybody hates…it’s the law, I checked. That’s why this human butt-nugget has been included. I’ve never seen a guy who was more the master of the surprise grab/sucker punch combination I This is really how he managed to rack up over 3,500 penalty minutes. Domi was also quite the little agitator, and to his credit he was virtually fearless when it came to picking fights. But I still hated this sawed-off little fuckface.
Fictional Cop Counterpart: Officer Rod Farva, Super Troopers
All you have to do to illustrate why Farva is such a douche-nozzle is to quote him:
- “Say car Ram-Rod!”
- “Liter” is French for “Give me my fucking cola before I break VOUS FUCKIN LIP!”
- “Hey, let’s pop some Viagras and issue tickets with raging, mega-huge boners!”
- “Just cleaning out the old locker, she stinks like ass but I’ll sure miss her… I guess you could say that about all my girls.”
You know somewhere, Tie Domi has one of those inflatable dolls with the name Ulf Samuelsson written on it’s forehead.
11) Terry “Taz” O’Reilly
O’Reilly is a legend in Boston, largely because during his 14 seasons as a Bruin, he had some notorious accomplishments. He gained infamy for being the central figure in a crawl-over-the-glass brawl with New York Ranger fans in Madison Square Garden in 1979. He was suspended for the first 10 games of the 1982 season for full-on decking a referee. Like all great enforcers, O’Reilly had many seasons with at least 200 penalty minutes, including five in a row.
Fictional Cop Counterpart: Jack Cates, 48 Hours
I’m not entirely sure that Jack Cates didn’t strap on the skates at some point. If he did, he had to be a guy like Terry O’Reilly. When Cates wasn’t re-arranging Eddie Murphy’s facial features, he was challenging entire bars to fights. He would also fit right in with Bostonians for his proclivity to suck the bottom out of a bottle, smoking like a steam locomotive, raising misogyny to an art form, and driving like a Somali cab driver on crystal meth.
10) Bobby Clarke
Being the captain for the Philadelphia Flyer “Broad Street bullies” teams of the 1970s is good enough to make this list. Taking cheap shot artistry to the international level cements it.
The pride of Flin Flon, Manitoba, Clarke was more than just a bone-breaker. Clarke actually could use his stick for its intended purpose; he led the league twice in assists, had three 100-point seasons, and played in eight NHL All-Star games. Clarke was also a skilled defender, brutal on the check, and almost impossible to best in the face-off circle.
But what started Clarke’s reputation as an enforcer was wearing the “C” for the infamous Flyers. The skull-cracking nature of the Flyers was really a reflection of their captain, who along with an exemplary work ethic had a will to win that made him not afraid to break the rules. The best example of this came in an international competition in 1972.
The Summit Series was an eight-game series between the Soviet Union and Canada held in September 1972. It was the first competition between the Soviet national team and a Canadian team represented by professional players of the National Hockey League (NHL), and more importantly, it was the first international ice hockey competition for Canada after that country had withdrawn from international ice hockey competitions over a dispute with the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), which had disallowed the Canadian professional players in international competition.
In other words, this was a big deal for the Canadians, because in their absence the Soviets had become the dominant team international competition. You don’t need the FBI crime lab to figure out that hockey is the national sport of Canada, and they had a long history of being the big dog in the international hockey world prior to the Soviets’ rise. The Summit Series represented the Canadians’ opportunity to show the Soviets how good Canadian players were.
It was set up as an eight game series, and after five games, the Canadians were losing 3-1-1. This led to the infamous incident (pictured above) in game 6 in Moscow, where Bobby Clarke deliberately swung his stick like a fire ax at the ankle of Soviet star Valeri Kharlamov, shattering it instantly. However, there was a lot of run up to the moment universally regarded as the low-point of the series.
It is commonly believed that Kharlamov was targeted by Canadian head coach Harry Sinden. Throughout game 6, Kharlamov was continually boarded, cross-checked, and generally cheap-shotted at every turn. Kharlamov finally retaliated in the second period when he knocked Clarke flat on his ass, which was followed by the two trading punches. Later another Canadian, Peter Mahovlich, elbowed Kharlamov which resulted in another skirmish which ended with Mahovlich being dumped to the ice. It was after this that Clarke took matters into his own hands.
Fictional Cop Counterpart: Detective Lenny Briscoe, Law and Order
Much like Bobby Clarke is still loved as a player in Philadelphia and Canada, Lenny Briscoe is one of the most beloved fictional cops of all time, despite his foibles. Briscoe was another cop who struggled with John Barleycorn, and his trips off the wagon, while infrequent, were disastrous. Briscoe was also not afraid to kick one on to the fairway; there were more than one of Briscoe’s cases that ran into trouble in the courts because he would rather bend the rules than let the system work for the bad guys. While he was dysfunctional and cynical, those characteristics made him human, which is why he was so loved.
9) Claude Lemieux
His opponents hated him, and his teammates loved him. Lemieux was all about longevity, which is one of the big reasons why Claude Lemieux is one of a handful of players in NHL history to win a Stanley Cup with three different teams. Lemieux was a performer when it mattered, which is why his 80 career playoff goals is a top ten all-time rank. But let’s not forget this list is about being a bad-ass; Lemieux racked up over 2,300 penalty minutes in his 21 NHL: seasons and he was among the most-hated players in the league due to his instigating style.
Fictional Cop Counterpart: Sheriff Buford T. Justice, Smokey and the Bandit
Buford T. Justice is the prototypical southern sheriff who just happens to have a propensity for great one-liners. He is at once profane, ill-tempered, bigoted, and hilarious. His hilarity comes from a never -ending series of contradictions. He is a professional lawman with over 30 years seniority, but his pursuit of the Bandit is an entirely personal affair. Obviously, his determination means he isn’t a terribly popular figure with bad guys, but his stubborn nature and personal involvement in the Bandit case means he often pisses off fellow law-enforcement officers as well. Justice also goes out of his way to show his chivalrous streak towards women and the elderly, but he has no problem driving a knee into the groin of a suspect, then tossing them up against a car, insisting that “they look tired and should rest.”
8) Dale Hunter
While Dale Hunter is the only player in NHL history with 1,000 points and 3,000 penalty minutes. The fact that he took the most games (1,308) to reach 1,000 points suggests he was a bruiser of the first order, but what sets it in cast plaster is the fact that he is best known for his dismantling of New York Islanders’ forward Pierre Turgeon in the 1993 playoffs, which led to him being suspended for 21 games.
Fictional Cop Counterpart: Sheriff Bill Daggett, The Unforgiven
Daggett defines the term “morally bereft;” he’s a sheriff who will tolerate no violence in his town, and he will kill anybody in order to keep it that way. Gunslingers are best advised to just ride past his town, those that down end up beaten to a pulp or worse, depending on Daggett’s mood that day. While his motives start out with the best of intentions, Daggett’s disdain of bad guys turns him into that which he hates, particular when he has Ned Logan tortured to death and leaves his body on display as a warning. That’s when his penchant for vengeance turns him from hero to villain, and what turns William Munny back to his cold-blooded killer ways.
7) Dave Semenko
Semenko ‘s main claim to fame was as a “Bodyguard to the Stars” for the Edmonton Oilers who dominated the mid-1980s. Thanks to “Cementhead,” guys like Wayne Gretzky, Jarri Kurri, Paul Coffey, and Mark Messier were able to power the Oilers to four Stanley Cups. He only played nine NHL seasons, which means he never racked up the big career number of penalty minutes, but he was such a celebrity enforcer that he once participated in an exhibition boxing match with Muhammad Ali.
Fictional Cop Counterpart: Sergeant Jack Vincennes, L.A. Confidential
The journey for Jack Vincennes starts out as a blue-collar guy who becomes a cop, then gets a taste of the Hollywood lifestyle by becoming a technical advisor to a big-time TV cop show. The problem is that Vincennes achieves this through some serious nefariousness. By developing a relationship with a sleazy tabloid publisher to whom he sells details on celebrity narcotics arrests, he is rewarded with the technical advisor job. Vincennes soon loses sight of who and what he really is, and this contributes to his being murdered by his own even more corrupt captain.
6) Stu Grimson
If your nickname was “The Grim Reaper,” you earned your way on to this list. In 14 seasons with 8 different teams. Grimson was a “Have Right Cross, Will Travel” whose reputation as one of the best fighters in the NHL preceded him. He was best known as the favorite sparring partner of Bob Probert. Grimson has probably the grossest discrepancy between his total penalty minutes (2,113), and his career points (39).
Fictional Cop Counterpart: The Man With No Eyes, Cool Hand Luke
Technically more of a prison guard than a cop, “The Man With No Eyes” is nevertheless a symbol of sheer bad-assery. He doesn’t speak, his facial expression never changes, and his ever-present mirrored sunglasses are the genesis of his nickname. He lets his rifle do the talking, especially when he picks off a bird in flight with it from 30 yards away in full view of his chain-gang. It’s pretty obvious that “The Man With No Eyes” is meant to be a symb of the kind of scariness that breaking the law unleashes, which is also the perfect metaphor for guys like Grimson…break the hockey code and risk having your teeth driven through your lip.
5) Bob Probert
Probert’s bona fides as an enforcer: he garnered 235 penalty minutes in six straight seasons from 1990-91 through 1996-97, including a career-high 398 PM’s. Unfortunately, Probert’s career was marred by some off-ice issues until his retirement in 2002.
Fictional Cop Counterpart: Detective Andy Sipowicz, NYPD Blue
Like Probert, Sipowicz was a hot-tempered bad-ass who had more than his fair share of demons. Sipowicz was a character who was a drunk, a bigot, and generally a bad guy who somehow managed to let a streak of decency shine through.
4) Dave “Tiger” Williams
Being a great enforcer means being a guy willing to play outside the rules. Notching six seasons with over 300 penalty minutes ( including a career high 358 in 1981) clearly illustrates you aren’t afraid to take the punishment for dishing out punishment. But Williams also was a respectable scorer; Williams had 241 goals for his career, and topped 40 points in six different seasons.
Fictional Cop Counterpart: Sergeant Rick Hunter, Hunter
L.A.P.D. never really had a homicide detective like Sgt. Rick Hunter. Hunter cut an imposing physical presence suggestive of providing defensive-lineman type mayhem, but his rugged, surfer-type good looks meant he also did plenty of scoring, if you know what I mean…
3) Marty McSorley
Marty McSorley is really best known for two things: being Wayne Gretzky’s personal bodyguard, and for his stick work that rarely involved handling the puck. McSorley racked up 3,381 penalty minutes in his NHL career, which came to a screeching halt in 2000 when tried to cave in Donald Brashear’s head.
Fictional Cop Counterpart: Officer Bumper Morgan, The Blue Knight
Let’s be honest. This one’s all about the stick work. Morgan was a master of the nightstick, and he used it to mash more melons than Gallagher.
2) Dave Schultz
When your nickname is the “The Hammer,” it shouldn’t be any fucking surprise you end up on a list like this. When they put you on a magazine cover wearing a 1943 German Army surplus helmet…well, you get the point. Schultz played a central part of the Philadelphia Flyers ”Broad Street Bullies” teams who won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1974 and 1975 with a style of play the made the NHL consider adding felony convictions as an official statistic. Schultz was the maestro behind the Flyers Philharmonic Beat The Shit Out Of You Orchestra, with their signature piece being the Concerto for Fist and Stick To Make Your Head B Flat. Not forgetting the “bully” angle, dad they allowed high-school boys’ room toilets on the ice, Schultz surely would have led the league in “swirlies.” Schultz set a record with 472 penalty minutes during the 1974-75 season, which wasn’t the only time he racked up over 400 minutes enjoying the solitude of the sin bin.
Fictional Cop Counterpart: Detective Mick Belker, Hill Street Blues
Once accused of biting off a nose, Belker was perfect for the role of an enforcer. Unshaven and sporting a ratty stocking cap and fingerless gloves, Belker was all about busting bad guys, and he didn’t give a shit whether that meant putting them in handcuffs or the hospital.
1) Gordie Howe
We all know about Gordie Howe as a great hockey player, but a lot of people look at his stats and forget that he could alos be a royal ass-kicker. Howe loved to ram his elbow into the faces of his opponents; the catalyst of many of those classic “old time hockey” brawls…the kind celebrated in the cinema classic “Slap Shot.” The kind of fight that when it ended and they were clearing the blood from the ice, they expected to find a few teeth, but were never really shocked at the sight of an occasional ear or part of a nose. You have arrived as a bad-ass when they invent an unofficial, yet undeniably awesome stat for you; the “Gordie Howe hat-trick” consists of notching a goal, an assist, and a fight in one game.
Fictional Cop Counterpart: Sheriff Andy Taylor – The Andy Griffith Show
When you hear the name “Gordie Howe,” his first-rate status as an ass-kicker isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Oddly enough, that is something he shares with Sheriff Taylor. Much like nobody remembers Howe for his ability to bust your face, Andy Taylor was under-rated as a “fuck your shit up” kind of cop. There’s a reason why despite Andy’s charming, seemingly harmless Southern demeanor, nobody ever fucked around in Mayberry. Face it, the whole reason why Otis the Town Drunk routinely locked himself up was because he was scared shitless of Taylor. The only way you get that kind of respect is with a bit of cringing fear; you know Andy took more than one guy out behind the courthouse and gave then a “nightstick massage” that would give L.A.P.D. a heavy case of “ass-whoop envy.”