Although fighting in the NHL has been on a steady decline for years (sorry, Don Cherry), the recent drama surrounding the Battle of Alberta has put it back on the map—at least temporarily.
With Edmonton Oilers’ winger Zack Kassian suspended two games for his now-infamous rag-dolling of the Calgary Flames’ Matthew Tkachuk, we’re reminded of other memorable fights in modern hockey history that grabbed our attention.
Although we didn’t include vintage throwbacks like The Good Friday Massacre of 1982, the 1990s, and 2010s provided us with plenty of high-intensity battles featuring the likes of Marty McSorley, Ray Emery, and Wendel Clark.
So, in no discernable order—because how could we pick just one for the top spot?—we’ve compiled a list of some the most unforgettable NHL hockey fights we’re still talking about to this day.
Donald Brashear, Philadelphia Flyers vs. Rob Ray, Ottawa Senators
Date: March 5, 2004
Cited in some circles as the “best” modern hockey fight, this bench-clearing brawl all started when Brashear and Ray dropped their gloves in front of the Flyers’ net and started throwing punches. Ray ultimately came out the worse for wear, sporting a nasty cut to the side of his face. But it’s what came afterward that had everyone on their feet: a two-team pile-up that resulted in more than 419 penalty minutes and 20 player ejections.
Marty McSorley, Pittsburg Penguins vs. Bob Probert, Detroit Red Wings
Date: February 4, 1994
You can’t compile a list of NHL fights without including the late Bob Probert (spoiler alert: he appears on this list more than once). This epic tilt between the winger and Pens’ enforcer McSorley has gone down in the history books as one of the longest fights without an official intervening. It clocks in at roughly 90 seconds and the mutual exhaustion the two men feel is evident toward the end.
Felix Potvin, Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Ron Hextall, Philadelphia Flyers
Date: November 10, 1996
Goalie fights are rare in the NHL, which makes them all the more memorable when they do happen. Case in point: what started as a tussle between Wendel Clark and Daniel Lacroix quickly devolved into a two-team battle that included Hextall skating the length of the ice to take on the mild-mannered Leafs’ netminder who surprisingly managed to subdue Hextall after a couple rounds. The icing on the cake is Leafs’ captain Doug Gilmour taking in the proceedings with his legs casually dangling from his perch on the edge of the boards.