The Greatest Goon Seasons in Hockey History

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Surprisingly, the true Golden Age of Goons was the 1991-92 season. The Stanley Cup Finals featured the Pittsburgh Penguins, who totaled a pedestrian 1907 penalty minutes during the regular season, against the Chicago Black Hawks, who didn't even lead the league with 2663. The Pens were lightweights, with power forwards Rick Tocchet and Kevin Stevens and legendary penalty-taker Ulf Samuelsson doing the bulk of the dirty work. They had just one pure goon, Jay Caufield, who didn't play enough to rack up gaudy penalty totals. The Hawks, on the other hand, assembled perhaps the biggest goon crew in history: Chris Chelios, Steve Smith, Bryan Marchment, Mike Peluso and Stu Grimson, all of whom dressed in the finals.

Those guys make the 1974-75 Johnstown Jets, who had all of 1594 PIMs and spawned the movie Slapshot, look like a skill-focused hockey team. The Jets' reputation for goonery is undeserved; the script writers took liberties with the truth: in real life, one of the Hanson brothers - Steve Carlson - never exceeded 100 penalty minutes in a single season. Our sepia-toned photographs of Terry O'Reilly breaking someone's teeth deceive us: the most penalty minutes any of Don Cherry's hard-ass Bruins teams had was 1229, which would have placed them dead last by more than 300 minutes in 1991-92.

Let's look at the single-season penalty minute leaders in the NHL:

Year Player GP G A PIM
1974-75 Dave Schultz 76 9 17 472
1981-82 Paul Baxter 76 9 34 409
1991-92 Mike Peluso 63 6 3 408
1992-93 Marty McSorley 81 15 26 399
1987-88 Bob Probert 74 29 33 398
1977-78 Dave Schultz 66 9 25 378
1987-88 Basil McRae 80 5 11 378
1985-86 Joey Kocur 59 9 6 377
1988-89 Tim Hunter 75 3 9 375
1997-98 Donald Brashear 77 9 9 372

Notice that six of those top ten seasons were put together between 1985 and 1993, by six different players. Schultz's goonery, on the other hand, stood out in his era. Not for his fights, mind you - he had 27 in his record-setting season, the same as Jared Boll did two seasons ago - but for his sheer stupidity on the ice. Schultz took 16 misconduct penalties that season along with five game misconducts, leaving him with a very pedestrian 262 minutes on legitimate penalties (thanks to Flyers History for this data). You couldn't do that today - you can't keep dropping the bench down to 16 guys for half a period to serve penalties and expect to win consistently. If you got five game misconducts, you'd probably also merit a lengthy suspension.

Some of the truly impressive penalty performances actually come from the minor leagues:

Year Leagues Player GP G A P
1997-98 WCHL/IHL Chad Wagner 56 5 5 649
1986-87 IHL Kevin Evans 73 19 31 648
1993-94 CoHL/ECHL Andy Bezeau 59 30 26 604
1995-96 IHL Andy Bezeau 74 10 11 590
2002-03 UHL/AHL Brad Wingfield 66 29 16 578
2001-02 UHL/AHL Brad Wingfield 57 18 11 561
1978-79 IHL Mark Toffolo 78 2 11 557
2004-05 AHL Brian McGrattan 71 7 1 551
1998-99 WCHL/IHL Chad Wagner 47 3 6 550
1985-86 IHL Chris McSorley 75 27 28 545
1995-96 ECHL/AHL Trevor Senn 59 18 31 529
1996-97 AHL Dennis Bonvie 73 9 20 522
2001-02 WCHL Ashlee Langdone 56 3 6 514
1995-96 ECHL Rob McCaig 55 3 11 512
2007-08 Rus Darcy Verot 43 2 1 511

What got me thinking about this question was watching some of Bezeau's fights from a decade ago. There are a huge number of videos of him on Youtube going completely nuts. The "code" about not wailing on a guy after you fall to the ice and the linesmen are separating you? Bezeau never heard of it. I'm surprised to see that he's not even the biggest penalty-getter ever: Wagner beats him out in a single-season and his two-year total is just slightly higher too.

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