In light of a recent article I wrote regarding the Top 5 toughest Blues of all time where I focused on the well rounded players who made a difference with more than their fists, and proved their grit to the league by battling in corners, grinding out points, and playing through injuries; this article will focus on what many thought that last one would: the biggest and best enforcers in St. Louis Blues history.
That’s right fans, here we take a look at the biggest brawlers, the hammer-fisted heroes, the guys who drop meat bombs on the opposition’s face to rally the Blues to victory when the team needs it most. They play a smaller role in today’s fast-paced quick transitioning game, but they will always have a special place in our hearts. Without further ado, here’s the Blues’ top 5 biggest enforcers of all time.
Top 5 Biggest Enforcers to Ever Don the Note
As most fans know, the Blues have a rich history of tough guys and brawlers alike, but here is the cream of the fighter’s crop. Guys who would die for their team (or at least be willing to go through a bunch of facial lacerations and bruised/broken hands) just to see 2 more points banked into their totals for each season. The baddest of the bad, the true enforcers of the Blues are here (well, they’re listed below at least), and the time to honor their selfless play is now (NOTE: FIGHT NUMBERS ALSO INCLUDE PRE AND POSTSEASON BOUTS).
5. Ryan Reaves
Though Mr. Reaves has not been in the NHL nearly as long as some of the other names you’ll see on this list, he comes in at number 5 because of his massive hands that when clinched, send opposing tough guys into la-la land. He averages almost 8 fights a season (7.80) and has an impressive 27-9-10 record card (which needs to be taken with a grain of salt, because depending on where you get stats from the number varies) showing that he wins A LOT. He never backs down from a challenge, and though he’s turning into a more complete player to keep up with the today’s game, he is still a major force in the league. Don’t agree? Watch a Blues game against a heated rival with Reaves in the lineup, then watch one against a similar rival without him in, and you’ll see the difference in the other team’s play (it’s fairly obvious).
4. Bob Gassoff
Bob Gassoff is a true ‘old-school’ enforcer who tossed haymakers and mixed in jabs to bloody up any opposing player who tried to get fresh. He almost cracked the top 5 toughest Blues of all time list, but he wasn’t as fit for that as he is for this. He was truly a force on the ice, and he was the first one to stick up for team mates when they were in a bind. Though he didn’t drop the gloves as often as he could’ve, he made sure that when he did the entire opposing team stood up and took notice. He averaged a fairly high 9 fights a season while with the club, which was just enough to give the Blues an edge in any arena he decided to drop ’em in, and is why he comes in at number 4.
3. Reed Low
Adding Reed Low to this list was not on my agenda, however after reviewing his stats and fight card not only did he make the list, but he rounds out the top 3. In his 6 seasons with the Blues he was able to rack up 95 total scraps, a large percentage of which he won in impressive fashion. He averaged almost 16 fights per season (15.83) which is the highest by any Blue on this list, and shows his commitment to playing his role for the greater good of the team. His personality is lovable, and his swings are definitely not described as ‘pillows’ (a hockey slang term for people who can’t punch hard), which makes him the 3rd best Blues enforcer of all time.
2. Tony Twist
Wait a second here, you’re telling me the Twister isn’t numero uno? You read that correctly fans, as much as I wanted to put Twist in the top spot he barely fell to number 2 when analyzing all of the numbers (which for those who care were overall fights, number of seasons played for the Blues, fights per season, then wins and losses- which had to be taken a little more lightly as stated earlier). Tony Twist was a ball of fury on the ice, and he would actively look for opposing players to decimate.
Watching this reminds me of the Blues-Sabres game when Tony Twist punched out Rob Ray. Think it broke his jaw. Solidified the belt on Twist.
— Brian Stull (@StullySTL) November 12, 2014
His hands were rock solid, and his arms were fast and strong which left many a player battered and bruised over his career here in the Gateway to the West. He averaged over 10 fights a season (10.40), and was a true show stopper with his crazy punch combos and his general torrential nature, which is why he’s almost tied for the biggest brawler in all of Blues’ history.
1. Kelly Chase
How in the heck did Kelly Chase beat out the Twister you ask? Read the above comment about how the players were broken down for ranking and you’ll get it. Kelly Chase appeared in 345 games for the Blues (Twist appeared in 294 contests) and racked up an impressive 1497 PIMs over that time (Twist only had 688). A large percentage of that was fighting majors, and misconducts from bashing the opposition’s skulls with his pure pummeling power. He averaged 15.82 fights per game, just under Reed Low’s average, but managed an incredible record card along the way (103-35-59).
Blues with 1,000 penalty minutes (as Blues): Brian Sutter (1,786), Kelly Chase (1,497) and Barclay Plager (1,115).
— Tom Timmermann (@tomtimm) December 17, 2014
He was also a more complete hockey player than Twist, which doesn’t count for much in this poll, but does speak to his overall skill level. He was balanced on his feet, and was among the toughest customers in the NHL for years, which is why he tops this chart. His heart never allowed him to give up, and he made sure that if he fought, he would try his hardest to swing the momentum the Blues’ way to aid their chances of winning night in and night out. He was and still is a genuinely nice guy, but he knew his role on the ice, and man was he great to watch when he executed.
Didn’t see your favorite enforcer on the list? Well here’s some that barely missed the cut.
Perry Turnbull: He averaged 8 fights a year and could also put the puck in the net, but barely missed the cut because his fight card record wasn’t nearly as sound as Reaves’, and they tied in every other category.
Rob Ramage: Great tough guy and a solid enforcer, but he played a long time, so his average fights per season (7.63) were lower than those who made the cut, and his fight record was too sporadic to consider unfortunately.
Garth Butcher: Butcher was heavily considered for the final list, and could’ve easily replaced Reaves at number 5, but with Reaves playing in today’s NHL where fights happen less you have to adjust the grading criteria slightly. So even though Butcher’s 7.90 fights per year barely outweigh Reaves’ 7.80, Butcher played in a time where fighting happened more frequently than does Reaves. Also, Reaves tends to win just slightly more bouts than Butcher did, which is why Butcher barely missed the cut.
The Plagers: While Bob and Barclay were among the toughest customers in the game, they didn’t actually drop the gloves enough to make the list (averaging just over 4 fights a season between the 2 of them). They are both some of the best to ever don the Blue note, but just missed the list due to excellent competition and a short list.
There you have it folks, the top 5 biggest enforcers in St. Louis Blues history. Let’s hope Reaves continues to fight out of necessity for the team, and let’s congratulate all those mentioned in this piece for their blood, sweat, and tears poured out all in a quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup to make a trip to the home of the Blues. Like what you’ve just read? Follow me on Twitter: Follow @pep30
Mike has covered the St. Louis Blues and Tampa Bay Lightning in depth for The Hockey Writers since 2013. He is also a contributing writer for KSDK News Channel 5, the St. Louis area NBC affiliate, and has been a credentialed media member of the Blues since 2014. Follow him on Twitter @pep30.