Enforcer Olympics – Nashville Predators
Whether you refer to it as Smashville, Cashville, Music City U.S.A. or the Buckle of the Bible Belt, everyone LOVES Nashville. The Predators are no different. Smashville has one of the most electric buildings in the league with their “All your fault” chants, catfish tosses, and overall rowdy atmosphere. Personally, it’s on my bucket list to go to a game in Bridgestone Arena because I want to feel that energy firsthand. Would it be even better if a couple of heavyweights dropped-the-gloves? Hell yes, it would, and in their 23 years in the league, the Preds have had an impressive list of studs wear the saber-toothed tiger on their chest. The unfortunate thing is that the Predators weren’t around in the 80s or early 90s, because Nashville would have been absolutely rocking if they could have watched their boys throw down during the glory days of fighting. But we play the hand we’re dealt, and luckily, the fans have still been able to enjoy some wild battles. However, before we begin let’s address the elephant in the room, Wade Belak. Belak may have only played one season in Smashville, but he made an instant impact. In fact, he has one of the biggest knockouts in Preds’ history when he dropped Donald Brashear on March 10, 2009. And even though he won’t be appearing on the podium, Belak deserves all of our respect and admiration. The Saskatchewan native was the ultimate teammate and died far too young. In 3 months we lost Belak, Derek Boogaard, and Canuck’s Bronze medalist, Rick Rypien to suicide. It breaks my heart when warriors die young, but more importantly, alone. Nobody should forget Wade Belak, because he died for the entertainment of you and I. Yes, he fought to provide for his wife and two daughters, and if given the opportunity, he would probably do it all over again. In the end, I can assume that many of us have lost loved ones to the dangers of mental illness, and that’s why we can’t ignore it. I’m a big believer that while we may not be able to change history, but if we acknowledge it, learn from it, and have empathy for those that went through it, there’s a chance we can avoid it happening again. So without further ado, let’s celebrate our warriors because they sure as hell deserve it.
Bronze – Patrick Côté
Our Bronze medalist may have only played two seasons in Smashville, but he has the second most fights in Predators history. Need I say more? Okay, Patrick Côté racked up over 40 fights and was an absolute beast during his time in Tennessee. The Québec native was drafted by the Dallas Stars in the second round of the 1995 NHL Entry Draft, but he didn’t make his splash in the NHL until he arrived in Nashville. In the Preds’ inaugural season, Côté racked up 242 penalty minutes, 1 goal, and 2 assists in 70 games, while fighting some absolute monsters. Bob Probert and Tony Twist are only a couple of the gladiators that Côté threw down with, but the former Beauport Harafang never turned down an invitation to dance. Unfortunately, we need to address the fact that during his time with the Laval Chiefs he was arrested with 30 lbs of marijuana in his car. The former enforcer was later arrested in 2014 for robbing two banks in Montreal and subsequently arrested in 2016 for another attempted bank heist in Québec. We can’t control the actions of others, and while I’m not in the habit of celebrating people’s tarnished pasts. We still listen to Michael Jackson, watch Woody Allen movies, and read Hunter S. Thompson novels, so let’s give Patrick Côté the Bronze medal for his performances on-the-ice, and not for his actions off of it.
Patrick Côté vs Jim Cummins – January 15, 1999 – 2nd period – 7:49
Jim Cummins may not be as famous as Jim Morrison, Jim Carrey or Jim Belushi, but he sure as hell could handle himself better than the others. This is likely why the Predators inaugural enforcer felt the need to throw down with the infamous Jim. The two traded some good blows on that Friday night in Bridgestone Arena and our Bronze medalist came out on top. The two heavyweights started throwing hands when Cummings took exception to Côté’s big hit. After a couple of jersey-jabs, both gladiators started tossing some over-hand bombs. Our Bronze medalist nearly landed a ridiculous uppercut which would have surely ended the bout, but luckily for the fourth famous Jim, he missed. But Côté still landed some vicious right-hands, before Cummins came back with some rights of his own. The best part of this fight is when there was a quick break and both fighters immediately shrugged the linesmen off to get back after it. Côté was able to shake off his elbow pad and it certainly allowed him some freedom to toss rights, while Cummins opted to respond with big left-hooks. The linesmen quickly jumped in and ended a spirited bout between two enforcers from some brand new clubs. Luckily, Nashville Arena got to celebrate a 2-0 win thanks to a goal from Cliff Ronning and an empty-netter from Greg Johnson.
Patrick Côté vs Bob Probert – November 17, 1998 – 1st period – 14:44
Test your might, Test your might, MORTAL KOMBAT! You better believe that’s the song I’d be listening to if I had known I had to fight Bob Probert. While Côté doesn’t strike me as a Mortal Kombat dude, I know he had his own pump-up song before he took on Probey on that Tuesday night in Nashville. And fortunately for the fans, neither team may have had a great record, but both teams had some gladiators eager to throw down. This marked the fourth round between these two giants, and while Probey was the usual winner, Côté finally got the best of the legend in this bout. Our Bronze medalist started the bout strong, but anyone who’s watched Probey fight knows he has no problem keeping the fight going. The former Stars draft pick was able to keep the legendary enforcer at bay with some tactical grappling, while simultaneously sneaking in some greasy right hands. Probey answered back with some big right-hands, but credit to Côté for handing his own, because lord knows that couldn’t have been easy. The Hawks got the 2-1 win thanks to a two-point win from the sniper Tony Amonte.
Silver – Darcy Hordichuk
Whether it’s because he played for six teams, Darcy Hordichuk tends to be the forgotten enforcer. Well, not today folks. Hordi threw some absolute bombs for all of those teams and certainly mangled a few faces during his time in Smashville. Hordi got drafted in the sixth round by the Atlanta Thrashers (RIP), but racked up a career-high 173 penalty minutes with the Preds. And even though he only played three seasons with Tennessee, he still ranks as third all-time in Predators history with over 30 fights. Hordi loved to fight and proved that by training with Chuck Liddell to make sure he was damn good at it. Did it help? I never fought the man, but it sure didn’t hurt. The Saskatchewan native played over a decade in the league and remains one of the league’s all-time fighters. Whether it’s his +10 fights against George Parros or the list of heavyweights he threw down with, Hordi deserves nothing but respect. So let’s give applause to a gladiator that is well-deserving of his spot as the Silver medalist on our Enforcer Olympics podium.
Darcy Hordichuk vs Zack Stortini – March 04, 2008 – 2nd period – 3:16
Ah, nothing beats two fights going on simultaneously, and thankfully the fans at Rexall Place got exactly that because they got their asses kicked 5-1 on that Tuesday night in Edmonton. I have to say that as I write these articles, I’ve been privileged to watch a lot of fights, and no disrespect to Zack Stortini, but sheeeeeesh, he doesn’t come out on the winning side of many. Well, the norm wasn’t broken on this one. There’s one certainty when you watch Hordi fight, you can tell he liked it. He loved the challenge and seized the opportunity to shift momentum with his fists. In this bout, Smithson and Staois started the fun, while our Silver medalist and Stortini finished it. Hordi’s a damn good fighter and proved it by inflicting maximum damage while receiving none. And when you allowed him to get his jersey off, you knew some bombs were coming. This bout wasn’t Hordi’s best, but it always fascinates me to wonder what would happen if there were no linesmen on the ice, and even though Dana “The White Don King” White will never pay fighters what they deserve, Hordi should jump in the cage, because we all know he would dominate some dudes.
Darcy Hordichuk vs George Parros – January 07, 2008 – 2nd period – 3:16
It’s only fitting that the same night that ‘No Country for Old Men’ won the best film, two young men danced again in Anaheim. Heading into the battle with Nashville, Parros boasted a league-leading 12 fighting majors. Hordichuk was glad to make it 13. When the two faced off, mid-ice it wasn’t because of a cheap hit or slash, it was likely because Hordichuk wanted a little redemption after their last tilt. And, he got it. Some may call this fight a draw but Hordichuk was finally able to get inside on Parros, feed him a few shots, and spin him down… Parros DID pop up and land an uppercut as Hordichuk went down. Cheap shot? Maybe. But, with all that adrenaline pumping through their veins, I can only imagine these guys were on auto-pilot when they were throwing those haymakers. Regardless, while some may give it to Parros, Hordichuk deserves credit for fighting the league-leading fighter.
Gold – Jordin Tootoo
Alright, let me be blunt, I’m a huge Jordin Tootoo fan. I’m a Canadian boy and this man was an absolute wrecking-ball in the 2003 World Juniors Tournament. He laid out anyone and everyone in sight. Ryan Whitney from the Spittin’ Chiclets podcast joked that he still has nightmares about the ‘Tootoo train’ coming at him during the Halifax tourney’s semi-finals. Unfortunately, Team Canada fell short against Russia in the finals, but the hockey world knew they had to pay attention to Tootoo. Tootoo was the first player of Inuk descent to play in the NHL and has always been proud of his heritage, wearing it as a badge of honor as he rightfully should. Maybe there’s something in the name, but Tootoo’s middle name, Kudiuk means thunder in Inuktitut, which is pretty fitting for a player who always brought the BANG. I just want to say that I’m writing this article on a Canada Day that is different from all the others. The uncovering of mass graves on Residential school sites is beyond heartbreaking, and as I mentioned earlier we can’t run from our history. We need to acknowledge it, understand it and grow, because Tootoo has been an advocate for years to ensure that Canada’s Indigenous population has the resources they need to be successful. Let’s jump aboard the “Tootoo train” because it’s a ride we should all celebrate and appreciate.
Jordin Tootoo vs Jarome Iginla – January 22, 2004 – 3rd period – 15:24
It didn’t take the fans in Music City USA long to start chanting ‘Tooooooooo-Toooooooo.’ Jerome Iginla became acquainted with the product of Rankin Inlet, Nunavut during their 3rd-period tilt after Iginla took offense to a hit Tootoo delivered to his Flames teammate. Unfortunately for the Flames captain, he was on the losing end of this bout and left with a gash that left a friendly reminder that Tootoo wasn’t going to back down.to anyone. Iginla sought out Tootoo in front of Roman Turek’s crease and Tootoo landed two big left hooks early. Iginla responded with a couple of right hands of his own but, throwing a right that missed, Tootoo was able to throw down the Flames Captain and hammer a huge right hand before the linesmen intervened. Iginla was absolutely enraged. Regardless, Iginla and the Flames left Nashville with a 4-0 win. That 2003-04 season, the Flames would go on a ‘Cinderella run’ that culminated in a devastating Game 7 loss in the Stanley Cup Finals. This started a heart-breaking run of Canadian teams losing Game 7s in the Finals. It’s a curse that has yet to be broken and with the Canadiens down 2-0 against Tampa, I doubt this is the year the curse will be broken.
Jordin Tootoo vs Matt Bradley – March 10, 2009 – 1st period – 12:30
To have the wherewithal to untape your fingers before a scrap to avoid costing your team an extra 2 minutes speaks to Tootoo’s on-ice intelligence. And that’s exactly what he did before he laid a beating on Matt Bradley that Tuesday night in the Sommet Center. The two chatted at the faceoff and looked to follow up on the aforementioned tilt between the legend Wade Belak and Donald Brashear. The former Brandon Wheat King gave up 5 inches and 10 lbs to the Capitals enforcer, but size doesn’t matter when you’re fearless. Tootoo knew that if anyone wanted to trade with him, more often than not, the opposition was going to be on the losing end. Bradley got introduced to Tootoo’s fearless nature when he landed a huge right hand to start the bout….and Tootoo didn’t bat an eye. Instead, he responded with two huge left hands of his own, followed up by a devastating right that forced Bradley to the dressing room for repairs. When Tootoo glanced at his jersey donning Bradley’s blood, he flashed a coy smirk that encapsulated the heart of an absolute warrior. The Capitals may have escaped Tennessee with a 2-1 OT win, but Bradley’s face left a reminder of what a 5’9” powerhouse from Nunavut was capable of.
While this marks the end of Smashville’s Enforcer Olympics, let’s not forget to give some love to other studs. Austin Watson, Richard Clune, Scott Hartnell, Scott Walker, and the current Stanley Cup finalist Shea Weber deserve all of our respect. It hurts that we can’t tag Wade Belak in this post, but now more than ever, fire out a text, call, or pop-in on anyone that you think is struggling. While it may seem like a frivolous act, it could literally change that person’s life. Thank you for tuning in to this week’s Enforcer Olympics, and even though my list may not match yours, the fun part is celebrating legends that put their body on the line to entertain all of us. In honor of The Many Saints of Newark coming out this fall, we head to beautiful New Jersey next week to give some medals to the Devils’ finest. Will Scott Stevens be there? It’s going to be tough not to put one of the best mid-ice hitters on the list, but who knows. Tune in next week to find out.