Halloween is upon us. And, with the holiday that celebrates everything haunted and scary, I decided to look at the scariest Pittsburgh Penguins and create a lineup that no one would want to take the ice against. For an organization that prides itself on superstars such as Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, they’ve also had their share of intimidating brutes that struck fear into any and all opponents.
What does it take to be a scary NHL player? Well, there’s obviously the intimidation factor, which so few players possess in today’s NHL. The game has changed so much that the guys like you’ll see listed below are few and far between. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing but simply a result of how hockey is evolving.
Second, you have to completely lack any regard for your own safety. What’s worse than knowing that your opponent will stop at nothing to inflict pain on you? Let’s have a bit of fun and break down the all-halloween team by position.
Mario Lemieux – Penguins Center From 1984-1997, 2000-2006
This lineup will consist mostly of intimidating, hard-nosed Penguins that abused opponents over the years. But, Pittsburgh was never known for having that type of player in a center role. So, I thought it was scary enough thinking about exactly what Le Magnifique was capable of on the score sheet. Never again will there be a player that can put a team on his back and take over a game like 66.
How much can I really say about Lemieux that hasn’t already been said throughout history? Let’s just enjoy his pure brilliance.
Dave Schultz – Penguins Wing From 1977-1979
Schultz, while mostly known for his time with the Philadelphia Flyers, is by far one of the most intimidating players to dawn the Penguins logo. Throughout his two-year stint in the Steel City, Schultz accrued 535 penalty minutes in 113 games-played and to this day, he still holds the NHL record for penalty minutes in a season with 472 in 1974-75 with the Flyers.
Though Schultz possessed a mild-mannered persona off the ice, he was a force to be reckoned with when he laced them up. His mantra was simple. You weren’t going to get away with taking liberties on his teammates. A simple Google search will allow you view many of his fights on YouTube.
Battleship Bob Kelly – Penguins Wing From 1973-1977
Battleship, or John Robert Kelly, is one of the most revered enforcers in Pittsburgh Penguins history. He played four seasons with Pittsburgh and accrued 462 penalty minutes during that time frame. He’s widely viewed as one of the best fighters to play the game.
One of the best stories you’ll hear about Kelly is that he dropped the gloves and defeated the aforementioned Dave Schultz twice in a preseason game while playing with the St. Louis Blues. The game wasn’t televised so no one has video evidence of this occurring, but you can find more discussion around that game in the hockeyfights.com forums.
Ulf Samuelsson – Penguins Defenseman From 1990-1994
The Penguins have had their share of hard-nosed defensemen in the past, which makes this a tough decision. Some will argue that the likes of Rod Buskas and Bryan Watson should be listed here, but very few defensemen made opponents fear what might happen when they approached the offensive zone like the two I picked.
Samuelsson was widely viewed as a dirty player during his NHL tenure. And, while there’s always varying opinions and a fine line that separates tough play and cheap shots, there’s no denying that Ulf is one of the better hitters to have played the game. Turn on any Penguins highlight video from 1990-1995 and you’ll see Samuelsson, likely losing his helmet quite frequently as he was known to do, throwing his body and pulverizing opponents.
Darius Kasparaitis – Penguins Defenseman From 1996-2002
Kasparaitis is the epitome of a fearless, hard-nosed defenseman. And, he was one of the most skilled hitters in the league during his career, especially his ability to lay a perfectly timed hip check.
Kasparaitis represents another defenseman, similar to Samuelsson, that every opponent had to take note of and pay attention to when he hit the ice. If you were caught with your head down or watching the play, he’d find you and make you pay for it. Like all others on this list, Kasparaitis’ antics were borderline and he pushed the limits like few others have been able to.
You’ll often hear of players that others would love to have on their team but hate to play against. Kasparaitis is that player. He was outstanding at harassing star players and in fact, he did so to Mario Lemieux in 1993 while playing for the Islanders.
Jim Rutherford – Penguins Goaltender From 1971-1974
The Penguins never had a Ron Hextall type of goaltender that would find himself in more fights than some NHL forwards and defensemen. You could argue that Brent Johnson deserves this spot due to this scrap with Rick DiPietro below but this wasn’t a common theme for Johnson.
Rutherford, now the General Manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins, was chosen for one reason and one reason only. That reason is his mask.
In the years prior to goalies having real head protection, goaltenders like Rutherford wore masks quite similar to that of Jason Voorhees from the Halloween movies. Obviously, the protection wasn’t great but it was the best they had to work with at the time. Rutherford’s masks are known as classics and often ranked in the top-10 of all masks in history. They weren’t fancy but still stood out in their own unique way.