Enforcer Olympics – Columbus Blue Jackets

Enforcer Olympics – Columbus Blue Jackets

Cannon to right of them, Cannon to left of them, Cannon in front of them, Volleyed and thundered!

Neither Alfred Tennyson, nor Geoffrey in his classic portrayal of Raphael de la Ghetto in Fresh Prince were talking about Columbus in this poem, but since 2007, the cannon has become synonymous with the Blue Jackets. When the state of Ohio finally got their NHL franchise they didn’t waste any time snagging a few enforcers. They started by making Lyle Odelein, the man with over 140 fights and 2000 penalty minutes as their franchise’s first captain. They bolstered their grit and toughness by adding the likes of Krzysztof ‘The Polish Hammer’ Oliwa and Jody Shelley. These selections weren’t made because of their ability to light-the-lamp, they were made because GM Doug MacLean knew they needed some big boys in the lineup if they had any intention of competing in the Western Conference. Unfortunately, for the first five years in the league, Ohio’s newest team struggled to win 30 games. But despite their lack of playoff success, they were able to make history in 2019 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, when they became the first team to ever sweep the Presidents’ Trophy winner. Columbus may not have the most storied enforcers past, but they’ve certainly had some gladiators don the burgee logo. Enough chit-chat, let’s start handing out some medals!

Bronze – Josh Anderson

Our Bronze medalist may not fit the mold of the 70s, 80s, or 90s enforcer, but there’s no denying that during his time in Columbus, he was always down to mix it up. The Blue Jackets selected Anderson in the fourth round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, and honestly, it couldn’t have come at a better time. Lyle Odelein was a distant memory, Jody Shelley had already traded his skates in for a suit, Jared Boll was on his last legs, and as the game was transitioning away from the stereotypical enforcer, Columbus needed someone that could fight, score and not be a liability on the ice. Anderson’s all-around game helped him rack up over 200 penalty minutes, 10 fights, and 80 goals for six seasons in Ohio’s capital. What’s amazing is that somehow the former London Knight was initially passed over in the OHL draft because scouts labeled him undersized. I think it’s safe to say those “scouts” should be fired because Anderson now stands 6’3” and 226 lbs. But after being traded for Max Domi and a third-round pick, the new-age enforcer is currently plying his trade north of the border. Whether Columbus regrets trading our Bronze medalist remains to be seen, either way, Anderson deserves his spot on the Blue Jackets enforcer podium.

Josh Anderson vs Alex Killorn – January 13, 2017 – 1st period – 17:46 

I’m not sure if Josh Anderson is scared of anything, but he sure as hell isn’t afraid of creases. This scrap started when a couple of Bolts took exception with our Bronze medalist doing his job crashing the net. After a little pushing and shoving, Anderson and Alex Killorn emerged from the scrum. The former fourth-rounder clearly works the speed bag because in a matter of seconds he was able to unload eight massive punches. And after landing a few jersey-jabs, he switched hands and fed Killorn three left hooks. Killorn tried to limit the damage by pushing Anderson into the net, but the Jackets’ enforcer kept his balance and tossed the Tampa winger to the ice. Anderson was pumped up after this bout because he followed this beatdown up with a game-tying goal and helped Columbus leave The Sunshine State with a 3-1 win.

Josh Anderson vs Zdeno Chara – October 13, 2017 – 2nd period – 0:40

While there’s a lot of guys that avoid fighting Zdeno Chara like the plague, these aren’t the dudes that are stepping up on the podium. This scrap was instigated by the big d-man after he hammered Anderson headfirst into the boards. There was no way our Bronze medalist was going to let that slide, so the two squared up in front of Tukka Rask. Chara had been used to dominating opponents with his reach advantage, but after blocking a few punches, Anderson caught the Slovakian national by surprise with his strength. In fact, at about the 30-second mark, Anderson hit Chara so hard that he responded with a good ol’ wrestling-style headlock to end the fight. In the end, Anderson’s night finished with an apple, a draw against one of the biggest guys in the league, and he rewarded the rowdy fans at Nationwide Arena with a 4-3 shootout win.

Silver – Jared Boll

Our Silver medalist today is a man that tallied over 1000 penalty minutes, 150 fights, and a whopping 27 goals during his tenure in Ohio. Yes, the goals may not be the most impressive, but the Jackets didn’t draft Jared Boll in the fourth round of the 2005 NHL Entry for his ability to snipe the puck. They brought him in for his intensity and love for hitting anything and anyone that had it on their stick. Boll’s presence was so impactful that he made Jody Shelley somewhat expendable. This is exactly why Columbus traded Shelley for a sixth-round pick in 2009, they needed to make room for the young enforcer blood. The former Plymouth Whaler currently holds the record for most penalty minutes and most fights in a Blue Jackets jersey. Boll has always loved Columbus, and other than a brief stint in Anaheim at the tail end, he nearly played his entire career in Ohio’s capital city. He loves Columbus, and they love him. This is why fans were ecstatic when the Blue Jackets offered Boll a position as an assistant development coach back in 2018. The enforcer role may be diminishing, but the fans’ love of them sure as hell isn’t.

Jared Boll vs Tim Gleason – December 29, 2007 – 1st period – 5:20

Gleason may have won the Bronze medal for the Hurricanes, but on that Saturday night in December, Boll was intent on showing him what a Silver medalist can do. The 6’3” winger was never shy about throwing his body around and knew a scrap might be coming when he hammered Tim Gleason into the end boards. The bout started with Gleason gaining good position and firing off a few right hands. Boll waited. Gleason fired a couple more in. Boll waited. After Gleason got a couple more in, Boll pounced. Our Silver medalist threw some massive roundhouses that just missed. Then at about the 20-second mark, you can see Boll absolutely tagged Gleason with a big uppercut and straight right jab. He followed that combination up with two more hooks, before finally wrestling the Canes enforcer to the ice. Boll knew his job was to jumpstart the team, and he certainly did his job that night. The Jackets rattled off three straight goals in the 2nd period and cruised to an easy 4-1 win.

Jared Boll vs Jordin Tootoo – March 28, 2008 – 1st period – 2:53

The old saying “Spring is here and love is in the air” certainly didn’t apply to these two gladiators. Both Boll and Tootoo’s ability to hold their own in any scrap is exactly why the fans at the Nationwide arena erupted when these two decided to drop-the-gloves. Tootoo always had an uncanny ability to be able to get inside on big fighters and nullify their reach advantage. And while he was able to do so at the start of this scrap, Boll wasn’t some amateur, he knew what the Preds scrapper was doing. Our Silver medalist patiently survived the initial onslaught before he tagged Tootoo with a massive right uppercut. He followed it up with two big hooks right to Tootoo’s jaw. The impressive thing about watching Boll fight was always his ability to stay calm and cool. The former enforcer had an almost zen-like quality about him when he fought. I find this so fascinating because they say showing emotion is showing weakness, and Boll didn’t show an ounce of weakness in this bout. Credit to Tootoo for taking on a much larger fighter, but in the end, Boll was on top of Tootoo and the Columbus fans loved every minute of it.

Gold – Jody Shelley

Our Gold medalist today always had a certain aura about him. Maybe it was his 6’3”, 230-pound frame, but if you passed Jody Shelley on the street, you just knew that man could throw hands. Well, considering the fact that he fought the likes of Bob Probert, Cam Janssen, Derek Boogaard, Georges Laraque, George Parros and Darcy Hordichuk, I think it’s safe to say that assumption was correct. Shelley was the original Jackets’ enforcer and started his tenure by tallying 10 penalty minutes in his one appearance during Columbus’ inaugural season. He followed that up with three straight seasons of over 200 penalty minutes and some pretty memorable scraps. While it may be tough to compare fighters from different eras, there’s no doubt that Shelley could have held his own no matter what decade he played in. This is exactly why he is the perfect nominee for our Enforcer Olympics Gold medal. Similar to our Silver medalist, Shelley continues to be a part of the Blue Jackets organization by proudly representing them as a team ambassador and remaining active in his charitable pursuits. The Nova Scotia native may have gone undrafted in the NHL, but his toughness and perseverance allowed him to terrify opponents for over a decade.

Jody Shelley vs Bob Probert – January 10, 2002 – 2nd period – 8:18

There had to be a certain je ne sais quoi whenever any enforcer had to fight the legendary Bob Probert. But imagine fighting him three times in one night? Shelley can. While I think it’s safe to say that our Gold medalist didn’t expect to fight Probey three times when he touched down at the O’Hare International Airport. Enforcers know you always have to expect the unexpected. Thankfully, the two warriors were nice enough to spread the fun out and gave fans a scrap every period. This second-period bout may not have yielded the biggest blows, but it showcased their incredible endurance. Shelley started the bout strong with two sneaky right hooks and then began to grapple with the legendary enforcer. Anyone that’s watched Probey fight knows that he gets stronger as the fight goes on, unfortunately for him, so did Shelley. Our Gold medalist was able to control Probey by keeping him against the boards and patiently landing a few more hooks. While Probert was able to respond with a couple of hooks of his own, it was Shelley who landed a vicious right jab that had the legendary enforcer leaking. There may not have been any massive blows landed, but both warriors looked absolutely exhausted when the linesmen finally intervened. The Hawks got the 2-1 win, while Shelley got the satisfaction of knowing he held his own against a legend not once, not twice, but three times. That folks, is exactly why he’s standing atop the Enforcer Olympics podium.

Jody Shelley vs Krzysztof Oliwa – November 09, 2002 – 1st period – 2:43

Thank goodness for instant replay, because without it, we would never have been able to see Shelley buckle Oliwa with three straight jabs. This may not have been the first time these two heavyweights locked up, but given the result, nobody would have blamed Oliwa if it was their last. ‘The Polish Hammer’ was looking for retribution and while Shelley was hesitant at first, as soon as the gloves came off, it was all business. In a matter of seconds, BAM, BAM, BAM, and Oliwa was on the ice. But considering our Gold medalist’s resume, this result should be no surprise. No disrespect to Oliwa, he just wasn’t on Shelley’s level. The undrafted enforcer fought his way through the QMJHL, AUAA, AHL, and ECHL before finally ending up in the NHL. This hard-fought grind was exactly why he was the perfect enforcer for the Blue Jackets. Columbus needed someone to allow Ray Whitney and Rick Nash to work their magic, and what better enforcer than a guy that had seen and fought anyone and everyone he came across. The Jackets pumped New York for a 6-3 win and Shelley made sure everyone knew that when they came to Ohio, they were going to meet a fearless fighter with a vicious right hand.

This concludes the Columbus Blue Jackets installment of the Enforcer Olympics. As always there were some names omitted from the list, but alas, there can only be three. Honorable mentions to Derek Dorsett, David Ling, Dalton Prout, Brandon Dubinsky, and former El Capitano Nick Foligno. Please let us know who you’d have proudly standing on your Enforcer Olympics podium because any warrior that threw down in the NHL is more than deserving of their spot. Next week we head to The Shark Tank, and I’m not talking about the one with Mark Cuban and Kevin O’Leary. Similar to Columbus, San Jose may not have the most storied enforcers past, but they had some monsters proudly wear the shark on their chest. Tune in next week to find out who gets their spot on the Enforcer Olympics podium.