The toughest New York Rangers of all-time takes us from Hockey Hall of Famers to your regular NHL goon.
From 50 goal scorers to Norris winning defenseman to Vezina caliber goaltending, the New York Rangers have seen it all. Now, ESNY takes a look at what could be the most intriguing and discussed category in professional hockey, the toughest player.
Defining toughest is not as simple as who fights the most or who takes the most penalties in a season or career. The category has to include criteria such as who hit the hardest, who was feared when on the ice, and who took a beating standing in front of the goal defending it or attacking it.
The Rangers employed had many players who fit into this category. Exploring only seven of them may not be fair, yet let’s have some fun with it anyway.
Here is a list of seven, not in any particular order, that stand out in a list of so many in New York Rangers history.
Nick Fotiu played 455 games for the Rangers in eight seasons. The Staten Island, NY native started his Ranger career on July 23, 1976, when he signed as a free agent. He played for the Rangers until 1979 when he was claimed in the NHL expansion draft by the Hartford Whalers. He then returned to the Rangers in 1981 in which he played with the team until 1986 when he was traded to the Calgary Flames.
Fotiu was beloved by the fans, not because of his great skating ability or puck handling skill.
Nick was hitter, fighter, and defender of his teammates. In his Rangers career, Fotiu racked up 970 penalty minutes. There weren’t too many people who really wanted to fight him. Dave “The Hammer” Schultz, one of hockey’s most tough guys, wrote in his book that Fotiu was the only man he was afraid to fight in his NHL career.
The left winger was a Rangers fan since he was a kid and he loved the opportunity to skate on the ice at the Garden. His special bond with the fans became more evident as at the conclusion of warm-ups, Fotiu would remain on the ice until he was the last skater and then would throw pucks high into the stands for the fans to grab.
Jeff Beukeboom represents one of the nastiest, toughest defenseman the Rangers has put out on the ice. “Boom” played for the Blueshirts from 1991-1999, winning the Stanley Cup in 1994. At 6-foot-5, the 230-pound defenseman was a force to be reckoned with on the ice. Size, strength and a tenacity to make a big hit at a big moment in the game brought the garden fans to their feet on a nightly basis.
Beukeboom’s play was the main factor in goaltender Mike Richter’s playing career. Jeff was always there in front of Richter clearing the net so that he could grab a rebound and focus in on a long shot. The defenseman appeared in 520 games for the Rangers, accumulating 1,157 penalty minutes.
He was acquired by New York in a trade with the Edmonton Oilers in November 1991 that completed the transaction of the Mark Messier trade.
Beukeboom was often paired with Brian Leetch through most of his career. The two made a one-two punch against their opponents as Leetch was the offensive defenseman with sped and great hands and Beukeboom was the stay at home defenseman with punishing hitting skills. It was a true New York dynamic duo.