Enforcer Olympics – Washington Capitals
For this week’s edition of Enforcer Olympics, we travel to the birthplace of Dave Chappelle, Bill Nye, and most importantly, Maury Povich. This is of course Washington D.C. or otherwise known as, the home of the Capitals. The Capitals may not have a history like the original six, but since their 1974 debut, they have left a unique mark on the NHL. While their 8-67-5 inaugural season record was a rough one, even by expansion standards. After dropping 39 of 40 they held the record for most road losses in NHL history until the 1992-93 Ottawa Senators stole that dubious title. The consistent losing was so painful that Head coach Jim Anderson famously said “I’d rather find out my wife was cheating on me than keep losing like this. At least I could tell my wife to cut it out.” Luckily, they persevered and gradually improved until they made their playoff debut in the 1982-83 season. But let’s get to why we are all here. Enforcers. Throughout the years, the Capitals have had some heavyweights amongst their ranks. Many of them throwing down in some epic rivalry battles with Pittsburgh, Boston, New York, and Philly. Those bouts make picking only three warriors so difficult, and so as always, please let us know your medalists. The more the merrier.
Bronze – Craig Berube
Our Bronze medalist this week is none other than Craig “Chief” Berube. No, I didn’t pick him because we are both Craigs, OK, that may have swayed my opinion somewhat. But the real reason is that Chief dropped-the-gloves 87 times for the Caps’, rarely lost a fight, and never backed down from anyone. Combine that with his 3149 points and that flowing head of hair and you have a well-deserved Bronze medalist enforcer. Besides, Berube has defied the odds his entire hockey life. From going undrafted to playing for over two decades in the NHL and then managing to etch himself in history as the seventh all-time penalty leader. Combine that with the fact that after Mike Yeo was fired, Berube took over as Head coach and led the lowly Blues to their first Stanley Cup. And that is what we call a hockey success story. Enough talk though, let’s get to the scraps.
Craig Berube vs Eric Cairns – November 09, 1996 – 1st period – 2:38
Two people got TKOed on November 09, 1996. Evander Holyfield dropped Mike Tyson and our Bronze medalist dropped Eric Cairns. Today though, we are going to focus on the TKO in US Airways Arena. The Capitals wanted to make it clear that they weren’t going to be pushed around and what better way than throwing down less than three minutes into the game. In this bout, the linesmen almost jumped in early when the two heavyweights were doing more staring than throwing. But once they locked up, it was well worth the wait. Cairns started the bout very strong with five big right hands. Berube looked like he was going to be on the losing end of the scrap until they went round, and round and round…until Cairns went down. When Chief landed that massive right-hand directly on Cairns’s chin, he didn’t stand a chance. Our Bronze medalist showcased his power for years and this was fight was a prime example. One big right was all he needed. It’s hilarious when the camera pans to his Head coach Jim Schoenfeld who couldn’t help but let out a little smirk. Luckily, Cairns was able to skate to the box, but the Caps’ left with a 3-2 win, and Berube left with the same feeling Holyfield did – Victorious!
Craig Berube vs Rudy Poeschek – February 14, 1997 – 3rd period – 9:10
There’s nothing better for fight fans than when the linesmen are busy dealing with a scuffle because it leaves the heavyweights undisturbed. That’s exactly what happened when Berube and Poescheck did their Valentine dance in 1997. It should also come as no surprise that this was a great bout considering Rudy Poeschek was the Bronze medalist for Tampa Bay’s Enforcer Olympics. The two medalists started the bout off by showcasing their shadowboxing routine until they simultaneously lunged at each other with grabs and right hands. If my count is correct, Berube fired off 18 right-hooks, and Poeschek unloaded 16. Oh, and they landed all of them. This is likely why both warriors skated off-the-ice bloodied and beaten. But as always, it was to a deafening roar from the crowd. The judges would likely score this bout a draw because you can’t tell if Berube had Poeschek’s blood on him, or if it was Poeschek’s cheap shot that opened Chief up. Regardless, I feel sorry for anyone that was at the concession stand when these two battled it out in the Nation’s Capital.
Silver – Donald Brashear
Anyone who watched Donald Brashear fight in his career knows how powerful ‘The Basher’ was. While he may have been at the tail end of his career when he arrived in Washington, there’s no denying that the 270 lbs Enforcer was one of the toughest enforcers to don the Capitals jersey. Brashear was so dedicated to his craft that during the lockout year of 2004, he trained with former heavyweight champion ‘Smokin’ Joe Frazier to improve his technique. This certainly wasn’t good news for his opponents. The power was already there, only now, he knew the best way to deliver it. Brashear is more than deserving to be our Silver medalist, not only because of his fighting skills but because he sacrificed everything for our entertainment. Many may already know the story, but for those that don’t, Brashear struggled once he up hung his skates. Following a series of legal disputes, ‘The Basher’ was spotted working at a Tim Horton’s owned by his former teammate Pierre Sévigny. These personal problems are largely due to the injuries he incurred standing up for his teammates. That’s why it infuriates me when I see countless disparaging comments mocking the former enforcer. If you want to read more about the big man, check out his appearance in the Enforcer Advent Calendar. Without further ado, our Silver medalist and fight legend, Mr. Donald Brashear.
Donald Brashear vs Aaron Downey – December 27, 2006 – 2nd period – 2:57
I’m thinking Brashear was listening to a little Elvis at Christmas because in this bout he embodied, A little less conversation, a little more action. Nobody should blame Downey for not wanting to make the first move, because Brashear was legendary for capitalizing on his opponents’ mistakes. But when Bash dropped his hands and did everything but yawn in Downey’s face, the Habs’ enforcer had no choice but to attack first. Downey landed two decent punches before Brashear was wrapped him up. That’s when things got interesting. Brashear was unceremoniously known as ‘Huggy Bear’ for his tendency to do more grappling than fighting. However, in this bout, he used the bear-hug to get the grip he wanted before pouncing like a lion. Downey was vulnerable when our Silver Medalist jerked him so hard his helmet came clean off. That’s when Brashear let off 24 unanswered left hooks and connected on about 80% of them. This scrap was a prime example of ‘The Basher’s’ strength, fight intelligence, and uncanny ability to inflict serious damage. The Indiana native reminded everyone that even though he’d been fighting for 15 years, he still had the goods.
Donald Brashear vs Chris Neil – December 29, 2007 – 2nd period – 20:00
Both of these men deserve respect for throwing down at the end of the 2nd period in a 5-2 game. Brashear for agreeing to take the fight when he didn’t need to, and Neil for taking on a guy that was 2 inches taller and 30 lbs heavier than him. It’s obvious that Neil wanted to amp his team up before heading into the dressing room and it almost worked…despite the beat down. Neil tried to get the jump on Brashear, but ‘The Basher’ was just too strong. He was able to grab ahold of the Ottawa enforcer and land 10 straight left hands. The fight wasn’t over there though. Brashear shook his elbow pad off and unloaded 10 more unanswered left hands. These punches were a mix of hooks, jabs, and uppercuts. The only saving grace for Neil was when the announcer was pleading with him to just go down, he opted to channel his inner Goldberg and spear Brashear to-the-ice. Brashear had no doubt who won the scrap because he dusted his hands-off as the two warriors skated off. Neil’s plan almost worked when Jason Spezza and Mike Fisher popped in two quick goals to make it a 5-4 game. Unfortunately, thanks to a hat-trick from Alexander Ovechkin, that’s as close as they got. The Caps’ cruised to an 8-6 win and Brashear reminded Neil that next time you want to get your team going, don’t pick him.
Gold – Alan May
Our Gold medalist Alan May is a true Renaissance man. First player from the ECHL to make it to the NHL, most fights in Capitals in history, AHL coach, Roller-hockey coach, and most recently, NHL TV analyst. That’s quite the resume for an undrafted enforcer from Alberta. Especially considering the route he had to take to get to the show. It all started by May getting invited to play for the Flint Generals in the IHL and finding out that he was trying out against 150 guys. Despite leading the camp in scoring and fights, May got cut and was forced to go to the Coast. That’s where he grinded and grinded until he got the chance to make the jump to the AHL. After years of battling, May got his chance at the NHL and didn’t disappoint. From playing alongside the legendary Cam Neely, to scoring the game-winning breakaway goal for his hometown club, or setting the Capitals single-season penalty minutes record, he did it all with class. These are a few of the many reasons that Alan May is our Enforcer Olympics Gold medalist.
Alan May vs Gord Dineen – November 24, 1989 – 3rd period – 18:38
Pittsburgh doesn’t like Washington, and Washington sure as hell doesn’t like Pittsburgh. And we folks, get to reap the benefits. This rivalry resulted in countless brawls, including this Friday night melee at the Capital Center. In this scrap, Gord Dineen and Alan May were able to lock up while everyone else was in a doggy pile, which meant no interruptions. The two lefties started the bout by exchanging blows until May got Dineen against the boards. That’s when our Gold medalist landed two big uppercuts and a huge left hook. Dineen tried to cover up but he couldn’t stop the onslaught. At one point, Dineen must have thought May was ambidextrous because the Caps’ enforcer’s right hands were as powerful as his lefts. After he landed about five right hooks, May connected with a massive uppercut that buckled Dineen. But May wasn’t done. May unloaded two more rights while Dineen was down on the ice until the goalie Wendell Young jumped in for his fallen teammate. The night ended with 37 penalties and the Capitals walked away with a hard-fought 7-4 win.
You can always expect a few scraps on a Friday the 13th, but this one was a little different. October 13, 1989, is referred to as the mini-crash, or Black Friday, because of a news story of the breakdown of a $6.75 billion leveraged buyout deal of the UAL, the parent company of United Airlines. If the warriors were trying to give us something to keep our minds off the madness, it worked. King gained the early advantage in the bout when he quickly got May’s helmet off to land a few big blows. May responded with a huge hook-uppercut-hook combo until King was able to answer back with a few rights of his own. That’s when May smartly used his height advantage and leaned on King as a professional boxer would. A couple of sneaky jabs and few uppercuts later, May threw down King and the crowd absolutely erupted. These two got the party started with their scrap, and seven goals followed. The Capitals left victorious with the 7-4 win and shone a little light on a Black Friday.
This concludes the Washington Capitals Enforcer Olympics. As always we must give honorable mentions to all the enforcers that stood toe-to-toe for our entertainment. Dale Hunter, Randy Holt, Matt Bradley, Matt Hendricks, Brendan Witt, and our modern-day gladiator, Tom Wilson. Countless warriors should be named, so please let us know those we missed so they get their much-deserved credit. Next week, we head to The Gateway to the West, beautiful St. Louis. The Blues have had some monsters get after it, including one enforcer who threw a right-hand so powerful it cracked a guy’s helmet. Tune in next week to find out who it was.