Enforcer Olympics – Arizona Coyotes

Enforcer Olympics – Arizona Coyotes

On this week’s episode of The Enforcer Olympics, we head to the home of rattlesnakes, saguaro cactuses, the first-ever Mcdonald’s drive-thru, and since 1996, the home of the Coyotes. While we would normally attach the Winnipeg Jets 1.0 to this segment, the ‘Yotes have had enough warriors don their jerseys to stand on their own. Therefore, we will combine Jets 1.0 and 2.0 at a later date, but for now, it’s all ‘Zona. Thanks to the 1-2-3 punch of Jeremy Roenick, Keith Tkachuk, and Rick Tocchet, the Coyotes were able to make the playoffs five out of their first six years in the desert. Yet despite their early successes, financial insecurities continued to linger. That’s when the Desert Dogs ownership tried literally everything to put asses in seats. They lured Wayne ‘The Great One’ Gretzky to become a part-owner and head of hockey operations, while simultaneously bringing in an aging Brett Hull to bring some notoriety to the sandy franchise. In 2005, ownership decided to relieve Rick Bowness of his coaching duties, and despite his lack of coaching experience, they appointed #99 as the new bench boss. Unfortunately, Hull was on his last legs and retired a week later, while Gretzky joined fellow legends Bart Starr, and Ted Williams as generational talents who were god-awful coaches. To put it in perspective, before taking the ‘Yotes head coaching position, Gretzky spent more time hosting ‘Saturday Night Live’ than he did coaching hockey. Hence why after four straight playoff-less seasons, The Great One was replaced by the stoic Dave Tippett. But enough of the negative, it’s 2021, we have to stay positive. The likes of John Scott and Georges Laraque may have thrown down in The Copper State, but spoiler alert, they won’t be appearing on this week’s Enforcer Olympics. The podium is reserved for warriors who made the biggest impact on their main club. Let us know your picks, but until then, here are mine.

Bronze – Kris King

The former Jet turned Coyote was the definition of a little man with a big heart. Standing only 5’11” and 202 lbs, King never hesitated to fight the league’s heavyweights. The Ontario native may have only worn Arizona’s beautiful multi-colored jersey for one season, but his presence on the ice was undeniable and well-deserving of the Enforcer Olympics Bronze medal. During the Coyotes’ inaugural season, King racked up 14 points, 185 penalty minutes, and some serious scraps. Through his tenacity and fearlessness, the former fourth-rounder carved out over a decade in the league and helped the team transition from a Province to a State. In 2001, King hung up his skates and split his time between being the senior vice-president of Hockey Operations and supporting his Kris King Hockey School summer camp in Gravenhurst, Ontario. Since the former ‘Yotes enforcer continues to be an avid fisherman, it feels like the perfect time to relive some of the beatings his opponents caught.

Kris King vs Tim Hunter – October 10, 1996 – 3rd period – 15:55

A unique feature to the Enforcer Olympics is that we can enjoy a scrap between a Bronze and Gold medalist. Tim ‘Sharkey’ Hunter wasn’t as deadly in San Jose as he was in Calgary, but he was still a worthy adversary for our Bronze medalist. The two started the scrap off by grappling and trading a handful of shots. The momentum swung towards the ‘Yotes tough guy when he pinned Hunter against the boards and landed a flurry of big left-hands. But as fight fans know, Sharkey never gave up. Hunter responded with several blows that let our Bronze medalist know the fight was far from over. Luckily for us, King had no objections. The former Peterborough Pete responded with a series of hooks and took command of the fight when he jerseyed the former Atlanta Flames draft pick. Our Bronze medalist ended the scrap strong by getting the Flames’ penalty minutes leader on his knees and hammering a huge right-hand before the linesmen were able to intervene. In the end, Arizona overcame playing in their hideous America West Arena and sent the Sharks back to California with a dominant 4-1 win.

Kris King vs Kelly Chase – March 27, 1997 – 2nd period – 03:48

The beauty of the Enforcer Olympics is we get to see the best square off. We’ve already seen our Bronze medalist scrap a Gold medalist, well, now we get to watch him fight a fellow Bronze medalist. These two warriors got fans out of their seats for years, and King saw a heavyweight tilt as the best way to make the Grand Canyon State fall in love with hockey. In this scrap, King dominated Chase with his vicious left hand. After a brief grappling battle, Chase responded with a couple of hooks. But that’s all Chase could muster. King took control of the fight when he forced Chase to his knees with six massive right-hooks. While the former Saskatoon Blade could get back on his feet, he probably shouldn’t have in hindsight. Our Bronze medalist dominated the Leafs’ enforcer with his clever bob-and-weave tactics. Three punches landed, two punches avoided. Those are the skills needed to land yourself on the Enforcer Olympics podium. The two enforcers gave it their all and battled for a spirited one-minute scrap. In addition to a great fight, the fans got to witness a hard-fought 1-1 decision. Pretty good entertainment for a spring night in the desert.

Silver – Paul Bissonnette

Our Silver medalist today is none other than Paul ‘Biznasty’ Bissonnette. During his time with the Coyotes, Biz racked up over 300 penalty minutes and nearly 50 fights. Sure he may have only scored seven goals, but the Ontario native knew his job wasn’t to light-the-lamp, it was to protect his teammates. Biz proved his loyalty and worth for all five seasons in Arizona,  and when he finally decided to hang up his skates, the Coyotes rewarded those virtues by offering him an Ambassador role with the club. While some former players have had a tough time transitioning to life after hockey,  Bissonnette is absolutely flourishing. Alongside former player Ryan Whitney and Brian McGonagle (Rear Admiral), the trio is currently dominating the podcast world with their Spittin’ Chiclets podcast. Whether it’s awkward sex stories or getting pigeon-tossed by Anthony Kiedis, Biz and the boys are committed to giving the hockey world a regular dude’s perspective. But we aren’t here to discuss his off-ice successes, we’re here for the fights. Time to get after it!

Paul Bissonnette vs Jody Shelley – October 12, 2009 – 2nd period – 3:45

This was Biz’s first scrap in a Coyotes’ jersey, and while the game was in San Jose, he still let the fans watching at home in ‘Zona know they had a legit heavyweight amongst their ranks. The two gladiators were both looking to jumpstart their squads and what better way to do that than with a good ol’ center ice scrap. The announcers dared to question whether 6’2”, 216 lbs Biznasty was a legit heavyweight. Well, there was no doubting his weight class after the beating he laid on Jody Shelley that Monday night in Cali. The two started by trading a couple of right hooks, but Shelley’s missed, and Biz’s connected. That’s when Bissonnette used his long reach to restrain Shelley while simultaneously feeding him nine consecutive jersey-jabs. I’m sure they don’t look that painful to the untrained eye, but it’s the combination of pain and frustration that makes the jersey-jab so effective. Biz utilized this technique throughout his fighting career and it allowed him to control the majority of his fights. This scrap ended when Shelley became so frustrated with the jersey-jabs that he opened up and exposed himself to Biz’s huge right hand. Biz connected and sent the Sharks’ big-man sprawling to the ice. The Coyotes left the Golden State with a 1-0 shootout win.

Paul Bissonnette vs Jay Rosehill – January 04, 2014 – 2nd period – 8:52

You know you’ve done your job when a 21-year veteran emphatically pats you on the back after a scrap in the second period. Shane Doan was pumped for Biz after this tilt and so were the fans at the Arena. The two got talking at the faceoff – bless Dave Tippett’s heart for giving our Silver medalist the go-ahead, because the fans got to see two warriors absolutely chuck ’em. Rosehill started the bout off strong with some big left hands, and then pulled a Biznasty by unloading a series of jersey-jabs. The fight looked to be over when Rosehill spun Bissonnette to the ground, but thankfully the linesmen let the boys go. Both fighters shook off their elbow pads and kept the party going. Once the two locked up again, Biz utilized his strength and got the Flyers winger against the boards. Five jersey-jabs and two huge right hooks had Rosehill’s helmet dangling. The two stood and traded a few more blows until the linesmen stepped in and ruined the fun.  While the battle was definitely worth the price of admission, in hindsight it may have jump-started the Flyers more than the Coyotes. After the bout, the Flyers rattled off 4 straight goals, leaving the desert with a 5-3 victory. Whether the scrap was the catalyst or not is debatable but, for fight fans, seeing two guys trade punches to start off 2014 was the real reason it was a good night in Glendale, Arizona.

Gold – Jim McKenzie

Our Gold medalist today is just a tiny fella from Gull Lake, Saskatchewan. Okay, maybe tiny isn’t exactly the right name for an enforcer that played at 6’4” and 221 lbs. Let’s go with what his teammates and fans called him – ‘Big’ Jim McKenzie. Big Jim played nearly twenty years in the NHL and applied his trade for two seasons in the desert. McKenzie’s presence always gave superstars room to work, most notably, when he gave Keith Tkachuk the space he needed to tally 52 goals during the Coyotes inaugural season. While McKenzie was never able to win a Cup with the Coyotes, he was able to win at the tail end of his career with the New Jersey Devils. McKenzie was an enforcer through and through, which is likely why he holds the NHL’s unflattering record of playing 12 post-seasons without a point. But let’s be honest, who needs a playoff point when you have a Stanley Cup and an Enforcer Olympics Gold medal.

Jim McKenzie vs Todd Ewen – January 13, 1997 – 2nd period – 8:44

While the Coyotes and Sharks rivalry may not be as storied as Montreal against Boston, Islanders against Rangers, or the Battle of Alberta. There is no shortage of disdain between these two Pacific Division foes. This tension is why everyone knew what was coming when these two 6’3” monsters locked up midway through the second period. Ewen made the mistake of trying to strike the first blow, because as soon as he did that, McKenzie started unloading rights. McKenzie rained down 11 unanswered blows while the Sharks enforcer desperately tried to pin him against the boards. But they call him Big Jim for nothing. The former Moose Jaw Warrior got off the boards and unloaded five more bombs before slamming Ewen to the ice. McKenzie got the fight-win in San Jose’s barn, but thanks to Tony Granato’s late third-period goal, the Coyotes were forced to fly home with a loss.

Jim McKenzie vs Jim Cummins – October 13, 1997 – 3rd period – 01:31

I can only imagine the locker room conversation during the second intermission of this Monday night tilt. 23 penalties had been called heading into the final stretch, none of which were fights. McKenzie and Cummins had zero intention of following that trend. I just hope there weren’t many fans that were late getting back to their seats because the two Jim’s squared off, and only one was left standing. There’s nothing I love more than when heavyweights opt for the stand-and-trade technique. While these two gladiators traded several big blows, it was McKenzie who TKOed Cummins with a vicious left hook. This fight ended quickly, but it served its purpose. The stick-work and chippiness stopped in the third period, which allowed the Coyotes to hold on for a 2-1 win. McKenzie always understood his role and performed it to the best of his abilities. This is likely why that when asked about his most memorable fight, he simply said, “I probably have a bunch of them. Just different reasons. Funny stuff that went on before, during or after. Actually, quite a few of them [smiles]. But usually it’s the story around the fight itself.” That’s a man that knew he was there for one reason and one reason only, handle business.

The podium is officially filled, which means the Arizona Coyotes Enforcer Olympics has come to an end. As always, honorable mentions to John Scott, Georges Laraque, Andrei Nazarov, Kyle Chipchura, Josh Gratton, Louie Debrusk, and O Captain! My Captain! Shane Doan. The difficulty with picking enforcers is that they tend to be transient in the NHL, meaning there are several podiums these enforcers could stand on. That’s why we want to hear who your medalists would be. Next week we travel to Ohio to set up the podium for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Will Jody Shelley make an appearance? Maybe John Tortorella? Tune in next week to find out.