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Who was the first enforcer?

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09-21-2013, 10:20 AM
  #26
Peter9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hobnobs View Post
Yea, sorry. Misleading wording in the topic.

The first enforcers appeared in the 30's. The first goons who could do little more than fight appeared during the expansion era. Steve Durbano comes to mind.
No, Howie Young was the first goon, with the Red Wings in the pre-expansion 1960s. He was the first player with hugely inflated penalty minute numbers. He was a skating foul.

Here's what I wrote on an earlier thread about goons:

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A goon is a player whose main attribute is that he engages in unbridled violence. He starts fights merely for the sake of stirring things up and as a tactic that substitutes for skill. Not every player who has size, strength and fighting ability that he is not reluctant to use when necessary is a goon. If my definition is too imprecise, too vague, let me borrow what the late Justice Potter Stewart said with respect to hard-core obscenity: I know it (goonery) when I see it.
The NHL, of course, has always had really tough players. Sprague Cleghorn and Red Horner, for example, were famed for their rugged play in the NHL's earlier years. But I don't think the concept of a player as primarily an enforcer came until the Canadiens undertook considerable efforts to toughen up in the early 1960s. Management felt that the team had been roughed up and intimidated during semifinal playoff defeats following the five-successive-Cups run of the late 1950s. First, in the Doug Harvey trade in the 1961 off-season, the Canadiens acquired Lou Fontinato, who, with Rangers in 1955-56, had become the first player to exceed 200 penalty minutes in a season. Fontinato was certainly tough and a pretty good fighter (although he lost to Gordie Howe), but he was just a fairly good rough and tough defenceman, not merely an enforcer.

After Leapin' Louie broke his neck, ending his career near the end of his second season with Montreal in 1962-63, the Canadiens needed another tough player, and they brought in left-winger John Ferguson for the 1963-64 season. Ferguson was a great fighter or, rather, puncher on skates. He threw punches as if he were a machine, rat-a-tat-tat, one after the other until he downed his man or the officials broke up the fight. He was, of course, more than a fighter; he had some hockey talent. He could score goals, although my impression was that they came more through sheer doggedness and tremendous competitive spirit than through talent.

But the reason the Canadiens went after him was his value as a deterrent against play getting too rough. The opposition knew they would have to deal with Ferguson if they went too far, especially if they went too far against any of the more talented Canadiens, like Beliveau. I think Ferguson is the first player who was primarily regarded as an enforcer. And I think the reason he was so regarded was that he was often put on Beliveau's line, a position that seemed so far beyond his hockey talents that it was assumed he was there just to protect Beliveau, who, at the time, had health issues and needed protection. To be fair to Ferguson, I think he outgrew that popular view of his role as the years went by and his other talents were properly appreciated.


Last edited by Peter9: 09-21-2013 at 11:01 AM.
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09-21-2013, 11:40 AM
  #27
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I think Ferguson is the first player who was primarily regarded as an enforcer.
Ya thats my take on it as well as opined earlier and certainly in the modern era circa early 60's on. Ferguson though was much more than just an Enforcer. Had some serious game going on. Dogged determination. A will to win. Took on & out most of the leagues agitators & ragamuffins in establishing room & ice-rules according to The Code. Thereafter like a Policeman who sits in his cruiser on the side of the highway in full view, like you see the guy a good 1/4 mile ahead. More a deterrent. Slow down, take your foot off the pedal, cop dead ahead. Dont mess around.

So sure, I guess the hat should be tipped to Fontinato followed by Cowboy (big John Wayne fan who wanted to be a cowboy as a kid) Howie Young, an "interesting" guy to put it mildly. Jack Adams of Detroit said he "couldve become the next Eddie Shore" he'd shown so much promise. A trainer with Chicago stating "he could skate better backwards than most players could skate forward". Problem was by the age of 15 he was a full blown alcoholic. 60-61 he played just 29 games for the Red Wings recording 108PIMS' and though undisciplined tonnes of potential. 62-63 was his breathrough year really, eclipsing Fontinatos PIM record of 202 with 273PIMS' and winding up on the cover of Sports Illustrated (completely hungover during the photo-shoot) for his exploits.

By this time however he'd earned the wrath of Clarence Campbell, who called him "the worst detriment to the NHL who ever laced up a pair of skates", in & out of the dog house in Detroit, sold to the Los Angeles Blades of the old WHL where he became pals with actors & musicians, including Frank Sinatra who gave him a small role as a Marine in his movie None But the Brave. Howie however just kept getting into trouble. Arrested numerous times for public intoxication, for attempting Break & Enter into his own apartment & so on & so forth. By the late 60's he was seemingly done after returning to the NHL with Detroit & then Chicago, but made a come-back as a Forward with the WHL Phoenix Roadrunners and surprisingly scored 37 goals. When the WHA started up he played with his old team mate Bobby Hull in Winnipeg as well, putting up not spectacular numbers but not exactly anemic before retiring yet again.... except for... one more comeback at nearly 50yrs of age with Flint of the IHL in 85, playing 4 games, recording a couple of assists I believe.... had parts in various movies over the years; Lonesome Dove, Young Guns etc. Had a ranch in New Mexico, worked with the Navajo's... Howie finally becoming the cowboy he'd dreamed of becoming all those years ago in Toronto where he grew up fast. Died in 1999 at the age of 62.


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Old
09-21-2013, 12:09 PM
  #28
Canadiens1958
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Early Enforcers

Fifties into the early sixties there was a string of early energy or change of pace players. No particular order - Larry Zeidel, Jim Bartlett,Garry edmundson, Gerry James, Jack Bionda, Ian Cushenan, Forbes Kennedy, Bob Bailey plus a few I may have overlooked. None had any NHL staying power or longevity because simple they lacked hockey talent or had serious off ice issues - Howie Young.

The first that had longevity in this context was Reggie Fleming, followed by John Ferguson, Ted Harris.

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09-21-2013, 12:13 PM
  #29
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Originally Posted by Peter9 View Post
No, Howie Young was the first goon, with the Red Wings in the pre-expansion 1960s. He was the first player with hugely inflated penalty minute numbers. He was a skating foul.

Here's what I wrote on an earlier thread about goons:



The NHL, of course, has always had really tough players. Sprague Cleghorn and Red Horner, for example, were famed for their rugged play in the NHL's earlier years. But I don't think the concept of a player as primarily an enforcer came until the Canadiens undertook considerable efforts to toughen up in the early 1960s. Management felt that the team had been roughed up and intimidated during semifinal playoff defeats following the five-successive-Cups run of the late 1950s. First, in the Doug Harvey trade in the 1961 off-season, the Canadiens acquired Lou Fontinato, who, with Rangers in 1955-56, had become the first player to exceed 200 penalty minutes in a season. Fontinato was certainly tough and a pretty good fighter (although he lost to Gordie Howe), but he was just a fairly good rough and tough defenceman, not merely an enforcer.

After Leapin' Louie broke his neck, ending his career near the end of his second season with Montreal in 1962-63, the Canadiens needed another tough player, and they brought in left-winger John Ferguson for the 1963-64 season. Ferguson was a great fighter or, rather, puncher on skates. He threw punches as if he were a machine, rat-a-tat-tat, one after the other until he downed his man or the officials broke up the fight. He was, of course, more than a fighter; he had some hockey talent. He could score goals, although my impression was that they came more through sheer doggedness and tremendous competitive spirit than through talent.

But the reason the Canadiens went after him was his value as a deterrent against play getting too rough. The opposition knew they would have to deal with Ferguson if they went too far, especially if they went too far against any of the more talented Canadiens, like Beliveau. I think Ferguson is the first player who was primarily regarded as an enforcer. And I think the reason he was so regarded was that he was often put on Beliveau's line, a position that seemed so far beyond his hockey talents that it was assumed he was there just to protect Beliveau, who, at the time, had health issues and needed protection. To be fair to Ferguson, I think he outgrew that popular view of his role as the years went by and his other talents were properly appreciated.
Ended up in a scuffle with Howie when we were young and I can tell you he weren't a goon in the sense most people would think of it but for the time you might call him one. Strong as an ox and one violent fighter. Wild and unpredictable and not afraid to do whatever it took to win.

When I think of a goon I think of guys like Gino Odjick and Tony Twist. Players who couldn't do a thing except fight and elbow other players in the head.

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09-21-2013, 12:30 PM
  #30
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Originally Posted by Canadiens1958 View Post
The first that had longevity in this context was Reggie Fleming, followed by John Ferguson, Ted Harris.
Yes I think thats the key there, the threshold; staying power. Fleming, Green et al had that, were more than just agitators & fighters/enforcers. Ferguson the most successful of the lot.

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Ended up in a scuffle with Howie when we were young and I can tell you he weren't a goon in the sense most people would think of it but for the time you might call him one.
Charming. Pleased ta meetcha Im sure. But ya, that boy could play hockey. Serious wheels on him.

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09-21-2013, 12:52 PM
  #31
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Charming. Pleased ta meetcha Im sure. But ya, that boy could play hockey. Serious wheels on him.
You didn't go into the corners with him for pleasure, that's for sure.

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09-21-2013, 01:01 PM
  #32
Ogie Goldthorpe
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Thought I'd bring up the WHA again, because that's where straight up Goon Hockey really took hold. The NHL, even at it's worst, still tried to feature hockey over goonery, for the most part. The WHA on the other hand, trying to attract fans in places like Birmingham, sometimes allowed the goonery to overshadow the hockey. Look at any Glen Sonmor/John Brophy team.

Check out the careers of guys like Kim Clackson, Pierre Roy, Gord Gallant, Gilles Bilodeau and Curt Brackenbury.

Two of the prime 80's NHL enforcers, such as Dave Semenko and Paul Baxter got their start in the WHA.

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09-23-2013, 08:00 AM
  #33
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Originally Posted by Canadiens1958 View Post
One interpretation would be is "Would the player be in the NHL if he was not willing to fight?"
I read a quote by Reg Fleming where he actually admitted that he adopted the tough-guy role because he didn't think he was good enough ability-wise to make the league.

In retrospect though i don't think he was that bad a player?

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09-23-2013, 10:40 AM
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Post Depression Montreal

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Originally Posted by BobbyAwe View Post
I read a quote by Reg Fleming where he actually admitted that he adopted the tough-guy role because he didn't think he was good enough ability-wise to make the league.

In retrospect though i don't think he was that bad a player?
Post depression era Montreal produced a baby boom furthered by the post WWII baby boom. Problem was that recreational facilities and opportunities for these kids were non-existent in the old working class areas.

Kids like Reggie Fleming and a few others who went on to athletic careers in the NHL, CFL, amateur/pro boxing, then life were young street fighters that various community centers got to and converted to athletes, giving them some discipline and purpose.

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09-23-2013, 07:03 PM
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Dennis Bonvie
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ogie Goldthorpe View Post
Thought I'd bring up the WHA again, because that's where straight up Goon Hockey really took hold. The NHL, even at it's worst, still tried to feature hockey over goonery, for the most part. The WHA on the other hand, trying to attract fans in places like Birmingham, sometimes allowed the goonery to overshadow the hockey. Look at any Glen Sonmor/John Brophy team.

Check out the careers of guys like Kim Clackson, Pierre Roy, Gord Gallant, Gilles Bilodeau and Curt Brackenbury.

Two of the prime 80's NHL enforcers, such as Dave Semenko and Paul Baxter got their start in the WHA.
Nick Fotiu and Jack Carlson. Frank Beaton and Ron Busniak. Durbano had a season there.

But not many took on Kevin Morris.

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09-23-2013, 07:17 PM
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But not many took on Kevin Morris.
... who would that be? 20yr old listed on hockeydb but thats it.

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09-23-2013, 07:22 PM
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LeBlondeDemon10
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Originally Posted by Canadiens1958 View Post
Others. Jimmy Orlando - Detroit, Bob Dill & Lou Fontinato - New York, Reg Fleming - Chicago.
I believe it was Reg Fleming who died a few years ago and he left his brain to science. There was an article somewhere that detailed the findings of the autopsy on his brain. It indicated that Fleming's brain was indeed swollen even after years away from the game. They attributed the swelling to his rough style of play, punches and sticks to the head. I don't know if he ever had a major head injury. Perhaps someone else can shed some light on this.

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09-23-2013, 07:24 PM
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Question for... humm... older people.
Where do Ivan Irwin fits in this discussion?

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09-23-2013, 08:09 PM
  #39
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Question for... humm... older people.
Where do Ivan Irwin fits in this discussion?
Ivan the Terrible as a New York scribe called him. Terrible because of his short temper and often times out to lunch play & lousy skating abilities. Was Habs property initially but traded to the Rangers for Slowinski & Babando. In New York he had a few decent seasons partnered with Bill Gadsby on Defence. Unfortunately his skating was a liability & he was up & down in the minors, one year though a 2nd team all star in the AHL. Most famous "fight" per se seems to have been against Lee Fogolin Sr who played for Detroit (won a couple of Cups, All Star Team picks) and then Chicago (son was the Captain of the Oilers when they won their first Cup in 83). Fogolin Sr a rugged player as well, hard nosed.

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09-23-2013, 08:09 PM
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Kevin Morrison

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... who would that be? 20yr old listed on hockeydb but thats it.
It would be Kevin Morrison.

http://www.hockey-reference.com/play...morrike01.html

Destroyed Dave Schultz in the MMJHL.

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09-23-2013, 08:13 PM
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It would be Kevin Morrison.... Destroyed Dave Schultz in the MMJHL.
... rather thought it might be. You never know though. Might be some "Kevin Morris" who fell through the cracks of my search engines in over-drive when I went lookin for him.

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