|1||Chris Nilan|| My all-time favourite! Heart as big as the old Forum, Ferguson's true heir. Intelligent fighter, expert at mind games, loud-mouthed, genuine son-of-a-bitch whom everyone hated outside of Montreal, always highly motivated when playing his hometown Bruins, made the difference when facing bigger, more talented teams like Quebec and the Flyers. Didn't hesitate to fight giants like Brown, Playfair and Semenko. Always stood up for his teammates, the way Ferguson did for Beliveau. He especially took care of his linemate Carbonneau, which wasn't easy as Carbo had a gift for making lots of enemies on the ice, as center on the checking line. The least his old teammates Carbonneau and Gainey could do nowadays is give the man a job and show some gratitude towards Chris for protecting them for several years. The Montreal organization broke my heart when they traded him to New York, and then when he became a Boston Bruins, I felt even worse, even though I knew it made sense for him to go home that way. I'll never forget that game when he returned to Montreal in a Bruins uniform, I believe it was in 1990. My buddy and I were at the game, that night. And right at the end of the 1st period, we both stood near the corridor leading to the visiting team's locker room to watch Boston players leave for the intermission. When Nilan walked by, my friend and I we started chanting 'Knuckles, Knuckles, Knuckles!!...' Well, right then he turned around, he looked at us and he had his big (typical) mischievous grin on his face, like he was saying 'Thanks for remembering', made a short waving gesture with his glove, then continued on his way. I will never forget that moment. Yeah, he was now wearing a Boston jersey, but he'll always be one of ours, no matter what. Even when he fought one of the Habs' enforcers, like Odelein or Ewen, you can bet your life I still rooted for Old Knucks.|
|2||Bobby Orr|| The best hockey player of all time, period (periods 1, 2, 3, overtime, whatever!). I've been fortunate enough (meaning I am OLD enough, hehehehe...) to have seen other great players in their prime: I followed Lafleur's career, back from when he played junior in Quebec, all the way to his domination in the NHL from the late 70's; I saw Gretzky break all the records, with his extraordinary vision (I don't mean peripheral, but more in the way of his overall intelligence and understanding of the game, and the way he always looked one or two steps ahead of the other players), and great sportmanship; I was a Lemieux fan, whom I went to watch back in his Laval junior days, and then witnessed his becoming the greatest magician the game has ever seen; but of all these players, no one, NO ONE could take over a game the way Bobby Orr did. And for a hardcore Montreal fan to admit this is anything but easy. But it's the truth, it's what I saw; when Orr would take the puck from behind Cheevers' net, and carry it end to end and either pass it to Esposito or score the goal himself, it was just so incredible it's almost impossible to describe. There's nothing you could do as an opposing player or as a Habs fan, because we couldn't even look away, it was too amazing not to watch. When Bobby Orr decided it was time to win the game, there's nothing anyone could do but watch history in the making.
He could brawl, too. Very strong, solid fists, great stamina, afraid of nobody. His checks were feared. He had it all, except for good knees. The fact that he blocked shots in spite of them adds to his myth. His career cut short, way too soon. How many knee operations? They're what kept him out of the lineup in the 1972 series against the Russians. If he had been healthy and able to play all 8 games, I can assure you it never would've been as close (or as dramatic, true enough. But to witness a more dominant Canada team might have been fun, too, you know.)
The only player in history to win 4 major NHL trophies the same year (in 1970), the Art Ross, the Norris, the Hart and the Conn Smythe. After Orr's induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame, making him the youngest player ever to be admitted, the great Gordie Howe himself, perhaps one of the top three players of all time (and a pretty solid brawler himself, according to my dad), was quoted as saying: 'Losing Bobby was the biggest blow the NHL has ever suffered.' Gordie Howe said it. The Greatest isn't Gretzky; the Greatest Player of All Time is Robert Gordon Orr. |
|3||Mario Roberge|| Great middleweight, fast hands, a real boxer, not afraid to mix it up with the heavyweights, including Probie, came to the NHL directly from a Quebec Senior league, smaller than his brother but better, a team player; won the Stanley Cup with the Habs in '93, then he returned to the NAHL to wreak havoc again! Just too bad he lost that boxing match to Mike Brault...|
|4||John Kordic|| Awesome warrior! Spectacular machine-gun left hand. Strong as an ox. I'll never forget his fights with Jay Miller and Basil McRae. It's really sad what happened to him at the end. He is truly missed.|
|5||Donald Brashear|| Huggy Beeeeeeeear!!! Awesome fighter. Fast, destructive left hand, can switch. Incredibly strong, still strongest man in the league except for Laraque. He is guilty of holding at times, but EVERY brawler in the NHL is cautious against the Brash. During the lockout, went to play in one of the toughest leagues on Earth, the NAHL, where he fought some true monsters such as Mike Varhaug, Dean Mayrand and Roger Maxwell to name but a few. I wish he had spent his career with the Habs, and I believe he does too, even though he wasn't that impressive early on in his NHL career (that scary-little-girl number he pulled the 1st time he faced Probert was embarrassing enough... But Boy, did he gain confidence later on!!!). I'll never forgive Mario Tremblay for forcing him out of Montreal. If Carbonneau ever hires his old buddy Mario as an assistant coach, I'll start rooting for the Sens!|
|6||Joey Kocur|| How can anyone who has seen him fight not include this guy in his love list? Was there ever a harder puncher in the history of hockey? Come on! The guy could've killed someone, right there on the ice! Absolutely lethal! |
|7||Bob Probert|| Overwhelming, brutal, spectacular (the two fights against Coxe, best ever), feared, incredibly long ape-like reach, superhuman stamina, what else can I say?|
|8||Tie Domi|| That's a tough one for me to admit. I sworn to myself I would never include a T.O. player in my list. But I can't help it. Even though he had that spin-a-roonee style I never cared for, and he had this way of bragging and celebrating even after a defeat, nevertheless I believe that any guy who takes out Ulf Samuelsson with one punch deserves a f****** statue in the Hockey Hall of Fame, no less! Plus the deepest gratitude from Cam Neely and Pierre Mondou.|
|9||Brandon Sugden|| Dominated the AHL, dominates the NAHL again this year as he did in his first time around. Vicious right hand with plenty of KO power. He can switch, too. Incredibly quick release for a big man. 'Hope he makes it to the NHL, someday.|
|10||Gino Odjick|| A lovable nutcase! Too bad he came to Montreal as damaged goods, but he was still a riot. Presented himself to TV interviewers as Quebec's Handsomest Guy...(!!!???!!...) However, in his prime, he was a force to behold, including some impressive wins against Tony Twist and a few other top guys. Went berzerk at times, but you had to love him!|
|11||Mike Keane|| Outstanding middleweight, machine-gun release, too bad he fought very rarely. Most of his fights are T2T events, and that one against Walker right after he left Montreal is one for the record books.|
|12||Ken Belanger|| Same reason as Domi: any guy that leaves Samuelsson unconscious deserves very high praise and my eternal gratitude. What a great guy!|
|13||Link Gaetz|| Mean, crazy motherfucker. Could throw often, fast, hard, accurately, and do facial reconstruction at a very cheap price. Could've been a pretty decent hockey player if he had put his mind to it. Remembering Lou Nanne's words about him: 'In the 1st round, I picked Mike Modano as our concession player. In the 2nd round, I picked Link Gaetz to take care of Modano. In the 3rd round, I should've picked a lawyer to take care of Gaetz...'
Hey, any hockey player who leaves a game in the middle of a period to buy a couple of hot dogs at the concession stands deserves my respect! |
|14||Steve Bosse|| The Boss! The Crash! Call him whatever you like, he's the most fun to watch in the NAHL, and certainly one of the most feared in the league as well, right up there in the top 5 with his teammate Sugden, The Animal Theriault, McMorrow and maybe Sam Duplain. Delivers rights by the dozen; hard, head-snapping, TKO-power rights. Just ask Nasty Mirasty, who got knocked out, what, 3, 4, 5 times by Steve, in the last season alone? T2T action almost guaranteed, unless his opponent starts grabbing on for dear life.
Unfortunately, Steve has missed a good part of the 2007-2008 season, plus almost the entire 1st half of the 2008-2009 season, because of his stint in professional mixed martial arts. For a while, we thought he might decide to quit his enforcer job in the NAHL for good in order to become a full-time MMA fighter. He's back in 2009, playing for Saguenay. Hopefully he'll stay for a while. I pray he won't decide to turn his back on the league who's fans practically worship him as a god...|
|15||Joel Theriault|| "The Animal"! The Real Thing! Perhaps the best in the NAHL (toss up with Sugden), and one of the most entertaining to boost. Left-handed, punishing flurries, just sheer, unequivocal, flat-out wreckage! Another great quality he has: cutting down on the preliminaries and refusing to play it safe early in a fight (he does dance around a bit but always while going forward straight into his opponent's face, right after the gloves are dropped). His win-loss ratio is one of the best in the history of Quebec semi-professional leagues. 'Hasn't lost in 2 years (up to January 2008). Loses his mind, at times, really hot-tempered, occasionally guilty of a cheapshot, but then it depends on who's the 'victim'...|