Fans of hockey are well-acclimated to the sport’s fast-paced, adrenaline fueled play. Whether it’s a well-timed pass, a rocket shot, scintillating saves, dropping the gloves for some fisticuffs, or a ferocious hit that crushes the opponent’s will, hockey really has it all. But let’s focus on hits for this feature, because who doesn’t love to witness a perfectly timed, crushing body check that obliterates another player? It’s vicious, it’s raw, it’s hockey personified. It can be used as a defensive tactic to separate the player from the puck or simply as a tool for revenge. No matter why or how a player decides to unload a hit, they’re rarely devoid of excitement, lifting the crowd to their feet or generating a chorus of boos. Some hits are clean while others are dirty, such is the nature of the game, but that aside, try not to let that alter your judgement on how punishing these hits are…morals and team allegiances be damned.
Some players are notorious around the league for delivering risky and subsequently dangerous hits, not taking into account the opposition player’s well-being. Most of the players who made this list fit that description and it’s probably why they’ve delivered such punishing hits worthy of the top 10 in NHL history. So without further ado, it’s with great pleasure that we present the 10 most devastating hits in NHL history. Keep your head up and enjoy the read. If you disagree with the list and have other hits in mind that you think should have made the list, feel free to drop a reply below.
10 Dion Phaneuf on Mike Sauer
This all started with Dion Phaneuf playing the puck behind his own net and passing it up the boards straight to the stick of, you guessed it, Mike Sauer. It's almost as if Phaneuf set him up on purpose because he didn't hesitate for a second. He skated straight up the zone like a freight train and collided with Sauer, popping his helmet in the air from the sheer force of the body check. That game was, in fact, Sauer's last in the NHL as he suffered from a major concussion and could never recover. Phaneuf has formed quite the reputation as a hard hitter in the league, but none was more devastating than this one.
9 Chris Neil on Johnny Boychuk
Poor Johnny Boychuk had no idea what was in store for him as he skated to the half boards in his own end. Boychuk had the puck on his stick looking for an outlet pass when all of the sudden Chris Neil blistered through the neutral zone and exploded through the defenseman, sending him straight on his back. Boychuk looked the ceiling in confusion as Neil writhed in pain on the ice, feeling the impact of his own hit. In the end, it was worth it for the Ottawa Senators pest. And the hit was completely clean, which made it even more fun to watch.
8 Scott Stevens on Viktor Kozlov
Just a heads up, get used to seeing Scott Stevens on this list. Viktor Kozlov definitely did not have his head up as he entered the New Jersey Devils zone and cut to the high slot. That is, before Stevens lined him up and unloaded a crushing body check that dropped the Russian to the ice like a sack of potatoes. Not only did Stevens deliver some of the most punishing body checks in the NHL, but Kozlov never saw it coming, so it’s as if he skated into a brick wall. What’s worse, this is the tamest of Stevens’ hits on this list.
7 Niklas Kronwall on Martin Havlat
Once Niklas Kronwall has you in his sights, you’re probably getting destroyed. That’s certainly what happened to Martin Havlat as he had the puck between his legs and quickly glanced up to see his options before Kronwall rocketed through the Czech, leaving him motionless on the ice as chaos ensued after the hit. Kronwall received a game misconduct for the hit but not without controversy as Havlat had the puck in his proximity and the timing was impeccable. Still, seeing Havlat lose consciousness for a few seconds was a scary sight, one that highlighted the dangers of such a fast-paced sport.
6 Darcy Tucker on Sami Kapanen
Sami Kapanen tried his best to regain his footing but it was clear he was simply rocked after receiving a hit against the boards by Darcy Tucker. The body check connected with such velocity that Kapanen was lifted from his feet and pinned momentarily against the boards before crashing down on the ice. What followed was a disoriented Kapanen shuffling around the ice, falling to his knees repeatedly before finally reaching the bench. There was no hiding the effects of that hit as his teammates had to help him over the boards to receive medical attention. For a small player, Tucker could unleash some monster hits.
5 Andy Sutton on Jordan Leopold
If you didn’t know any better you’d think Andy Sutton straight up murdered Jordan Leopold after exploding through the defenseman in the neutral zone. Leopold carried the puck through the neutral zone evading the stick checks of Nick Foligno before the 6’6, 245-pound Sutton came crashing through, leaving a limp body in his wake. Leopold had laid face first on the ice before finally showing signs of life a few moments later. Sutton delivered the hit with such force that he actually stumbled into the penalty box, forcing the door open from the follow through. We’re just thankful we didn’t witness a death.
4 Aaron Rome on Nathan Horton
Nathan Horton had no idea what hit him as he lay motionless on the ice, his right arm stiff as a board pointing to the rafters. He tried to move his left arm but it quickly collapsed to the ice, his eyes locked straight ahead as he tried to get his bearings. This all happened after Aaron Rome caught the Canadian across the blueline, driving his left shoulder into Horton’s head and sending him crashing to the ice. Horton was eventually carried off the ice on a stretcher, with Rome receiving a four-game suspension en route to a Boston Bruins Stanley Cup victory.
3 Brian Campbell on R.J. Umberger
There’s no other way to describe it…Brian Campbell absolutely destroyed R.J. Umberger. After the Philadelphia Flyer picked up the puck he approached the neutral zone to start a breakout, but Brian Campbell had other plans for Umberger. Campbell’s massive hit stopped his opponent dead in his tracks as he crumpled to the ice in a state of unconsciousness. The body check was clean, too, with Campbell connecting head on with his shoulder, driving it straight through Umberger. Unfortunately in today’s NHL that means having to drop the gloves to honour some sort of silly code, but there was really no reason for it.
2 Scott Stevens on Paul Kariya
This hit was just straight up terrifying. Scott Stevens literally took Paul Kariya’s breath away as he caught the Anaheim Mighty Ducks captain skating west to east after dumping the puck in. Stevens connected late but drove his shoulder into the upper body of Kariya, who crashed to the ice in a daze. After a few seconds, Kariya’s breath suddenly returned to him, fogging his visor as he regained consciousness. It was one of Stevens’ most vicious hits, one that is still debated to this day. Fortunately for Kariya, he returned to the game and scored the game-winner in overtime as if this script came straight from Hollywood.
1 Scott Stevens on Eric Lindros
Eric Lindros battled concussions throughout his career, but no hit set him off rails quite like that of Scott Stevens. Much like the Kariya hit, Lindros was skating through the neutral zone before deciding to cut through the offensive zone to create some space. Stevens didn’t hesitate a second as he ripped across the ice and exploded his shoulder into Lindros’ jaw, sending the power forward flailing to the ice. Following the hit, Lindros put up one more 70-point season before suffering a steady decline in production. The moral of the story here is that Stevens is one bad mother effer.