Growing up watching hockey in Boston you understood early on what an NHL enforcer was. It wasn’t ‘when will the Bruins enforcer step up?’ It was, ‘which Bruins enforcer will step up?’
If you can play, the fact that you can fight shouldn’t take away from the fact that you can play. -Shawn Thornton, Former NHL Enforcer
Times have changed and “goon” hockey has tailed off. These days holding a roster spot for a one-dimensional enforcer doesn’t make sense for a competing club. In reality, the “Mike Tyson-on-skates” type players I watched as a kid would have a hard time finding full-time NHL jobs today.
Which is why today’s enforcer has to be more like Ryan Reaves, a hybrid of equal parts power forward and sheriff. Being tough isn’t good enough anymore. Teams expect “heavies” to forecheck, create traffic, add points, and knock opponents on their ass.
None of us really love it. We do it because we’re good at it. You work on the other part of the game, because that’s what will keep you around. You work twice, three times as hard on being a better hockey player every single day so you can contribute. -Thornton