Enforcer Olympics – San Jose Sharks

Enforcer Olympics – San Jose Sharks

San Jose may only have a million people, but it’s the proud home of Joey Chestnut, AKA the fastest hot-dog eater, the largest Monopoly board, and Chuck E. Cheese statue in the world. 30 feet…sheeeesh. And in 1991, it was about damn time they welcomed a new member to its prestigious family – the San Jose Sharks. To put it in perspective, Jimmy Carter was president the last time the Bay area got to watch professional hockey in their neck of the woods. Yep, it took 15 years from the relocation of the California Golden Seals until the arrival of the Sharks to bring hockey back to one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Fortunately, today we aren’t playing Monopoly, so no second prizes in beauty contests will be handed out. This is the Enforcer Olympics, which means Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals. Besides, all these fellas would be shoo-ins for the top prize in the beauty contest. Okay, maybe not, but I sure as hell wouldn’t tell it to their face, and I don’t think you would either.

Bronze – Ryane Clowe

For those that haven’t read the previous editions, the podium is reserved for enforcers who never turned down a scrap, worked harder than the man next to him, and did anything and everything to help his team win. The aforementioned values are exactly why Ryane Clowe was an easy pick to be San Jose’s Bronze medalist. The man obviously threw bombs, but when he reached over the bench and poked the puck off Jarret Stoll’s stick, he proved he was willing to literally do whatever it took to get the W. While some people may not like it, I respect the fact that the proud Newfoundlander was willing to walk that fine line in sports because that’s certainly a difficult dance to master. Clowe racked up nearly 50 fights, 600 penalty minutes, and over 100 goals during his decade in San Jose. And the former Rimouski winger may have been unknown to scouts when he walked into the Sharks training camp, but he left the unofficial ‘Capital of Silicon Valley’ a Bronze medalist.

Ryane Clowe vs Zack Kassian – January 27, 2013 – 1st period – 8:38

Who’s hungrier, a sixth-rounder? Or a first-rounder? I think the answer’s crystal clear after this scrap. Clowe came to the rink looking to get into some trouble, and he sure as hell got it. 30 penalty minutes and the manhandling of Kassian was our Bronze medalist’s perfect way to spend a Sunday night. Clowe immediately showed off his 6’3,” 225 lbs frame by firing off a few rights and easily yanked Kassian off balance when the fight started.  Credit to Kassian for getting back up, but Clowe was too strong. Right, after right, after right, came raining down on Vancouver’s former first-round pick. The fans were out of their seats, and Kassian was out of his league. Summary of this scrap – Clowe showed off his eight seasons in the league, while Kassian’s three seasons in the league clearly showed.

Ryane Clowe vs Jordin Tootoo – April 13, 2007 – 3rd period – 19:00

Every fight fan was salivating at the thought of Ryane Clowe against Jordin Tootoo because both warriors were guaranteed entertainment, playoffs or not. In this scrap, both Mike Grier and Ryane Clowe wanted a piece of Scotty Hartnell to atone for his previous indiscretions, but Jordin Tootoo wasn’t having it. He quickly came to the aide of his teammate, which meant fighting our Bronze medalist. The fight looked like it was going to be over quickly when Tootoo caught Clowe off guard and landed three big right hands. But this was the playoffs and Clowe wasn’t about to get dropped the same night he netted a goal. The product of St. John’s responded to Tootoo’s onslaught with three huge jersey-jabs and two massive right hooks that sent the Nashville enforcer to his knees. The linesmen let the two exchange a few more punches until Clowe delivered a massive right bomb that forced them to intervene. Clowe was clearly fired up because as soon as he dealt with Tootoo he went looking for the next challenger. Unfortunately, he didn’t find one and the Preds got the 5-2 win. But the Sharks got the last laugh in Game 5 when they walked into Nashville’s barn and Clowe got the game-opener and helped the Sharks clinch the quarter-finals series.

Silver – Owen Nolan

“May your glass be ever full.

May the roof over your head be always strong.

And may you be in heaven

half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead”

There’s a handful of things that pop in my head when I hear someone mention Belfast. Most notably, this quote, and Owen Nolan. Owen Nolan was one of my favorite players growing up, solely because he embodied toughness. There was never any whining or complaints coming from Nolan, just goals and scraps. The former first-rounder racked up over 400 goals, over 400 assists, and over 1700 penalty minutes during his two-decade run in the NHL. Not to mention that he proudly tallied over 30 fights with a shark on his chest. Nolan was basically the James Bond of the NHL, he could do anything and everything that was asked of him, proving night after night that he was cut from a different cloth. While our Silver medalist will surely live in infamy for his called shot against Dominik Hasek in the 1997 All-Star game, this medal just reinforces his legendary status.

Owen Nolan vs Scott Stevens – November 28, 1997 – 2nd period – 4:38

Who would have thought that during a fight between Owen Nolan and Scott Stevens, the announcers would be talking more about Darren Gibbs than the two heavyweights? That was the 90s baby. These two warriors wanted a piece of each other, but Gibbs and his fellow linesmen were doing anything and everything to keep them apart. If this meant spearing Nolan to the ice, Gibbs was prepared to do so. Anyone who remembers the 90s knows that this wasn’t for show, these two players didn’t like each other and had no intention of singing kumbaya together. Considering Steven’s history of huge mid-ice hits ( ask Eric Lindros or Paul Kariya), it was ironic that this fight started because Stevens took exception to Mike Rathje’s hit on Dave Andreychuk. Stevens got the jump on Nolan with three big left hands while the linesmen held them both back. Nolan wasn’t about to let that nonsense slide and sought retribution as they both skated to the penalty box. Our Silver medalist could have inflicted a lot more damage if Darren Gibbs hadn’t channeled his inner Goldberg and speared Nolan to the ice. The former Cornwall Royal returned what Stevens gave to him, three big right hands in-between the arms of the linesmen. The Devils got the win and Nolan got revenge.

Owen Nolan vs Brendan Witt – December 02, 1995 – 1st period – 7:41

Nolan channeled his inner Rob Ray in this scrap with Washington’s rookie. Sans-jersey, meant more freedom to toss bombs. This battle fired our Silver medalist up because after laying the beatdown on Witt he tallied the good ol’ Gordie Howe Hat-trick with not only a goal and a scrap but two assists in a 5-3 win. Considering the Sharks had only three wins and 18 losses, this fight showed that regardless of their record, they were never going to back down. In this scrap, Nolan looked in trouble when he was quickly jerseyed, but his uncanny ability to throw hammers with both hands got him out of the predicament. This was Nolan’s first scrap in a Sharks jersey and two big uppercuts and three huge right hooks was a great way to endear himself to the San Jose fans. Credit to Brendan Witt for scrapping with a legend, but I’m sure this battle isn’t in his video collection.

Gold – Jeff Odgers

There seems to be a running theme in the Enforcer Olympics. Whether they won or lost, nearly all our Gold medalists have thrown down with Bob Probert. And while Odgie may not have won against Probey, he survived, and not everyone can say that. The former Brandon Wheat King dropped-the-gloves nearly 100 times for the Sharks and is the only San Jose player to register over 1000 penalty minutes. Pretty impressive for an undrafted kid from Saskatchewan. Odgers spent five seasons with the Sharks and it’s no surprise his favorite movie is Braveheart because he single-handedly gave his teammates FREEDOM to work. While he never dominated scraps or registered many TKOs, Odgers was the pioneer of Sharks enforcers. The city of San Jose loved him and that is why he stands atop the Enforcer Olympics podium.

 Jeff Odgers vs Mike Peluso – November 02, 1995 – 1st period – 12:59

Any band in the 90s missed the opportunity to drop a hit single called ‘Stand and Trade’ because it would have been an anthem in hockey barns around the league. In this scrap, these two warriors said forget defense, let’s just trade bombs. Peluso opted for lefts, while Odgers went with rights and on that Thursday night in San Jose, the fans got the pleasure of enjoying three fights in the first period. Credit to Peluso for his willingness to throw down after the scary TKO Tony Twist delivered on him two years prior. That’s why any warrior who is willing to fight for his teammates deserves all the credit in the world, whether they are on the podium or not. Odgers fought at 6’0’ and 200 lbs but controlled fights like he was 275 lbs. This strength allowed our Gold medalist to push Peluso’s head down and rain punch after punch until the linesmen felt the need to intervene. The fans in San Jose Arena were always electric after goals, but they were always a little bit louder when they got to watch their Sheriff lay a beat down. The teams left with a 3-3 tie, but the fans got their W with Odgers.

Jeff Odgers vs Rhett Warrener – January 16, 1996 – 1st period – 9:59

Take a second and imagine what you were doing at 19. Studying for college? Drinking with friends? Or maybe taking a certain someone out for a date? Well, Rhett Warrener was getting punished for challenging Gold medalists. This was one of those scraps that you hoped your friend wasn’t talking to you when it happened because it was over in a blink of an eye. Dody Wood delivered a big cross-check to Bill Lindsay and Warrener decided to be a hero. Unfortunately for him, Odgers was standing right next to his teammate and decided to take care of business. Two big right hands to Warrener’s chin and Florida’s D-man went down like a sack of potatoes. The Cats may have got the win, but the rookie was just happy his teammates weren’t handing him his teeth back in the penalty box.

This concludes the San Jose Enforcer Olympics. As always, this is completely subjective and some notable names were left off the podium. The Sharks had some heavyweights don their jersey, including the likes of Tim Hunter, Jody Shelley, Dave Brown, and Scott Parker. Honorable mentions need to be given to Dody Wood, Scott Thornton, Micheal Haley, and Doug ‘Crankshaft’ Murray. Tune in next week when we head to beautiful New York. No not the Rangers or the Islanders, we are going to Buffalo baby! The Sabres have had some monsters rock their iconic jerseys and next week we are going to celebrate them to the fullest. Tune in to find out who steps on the Enforcer Olympics podium.

Twitter: @Jonesinthezone