The Colorado Avalanche have had a bevy of knuckle-chuckers over the years. This is a look at who is on my Mt. Rushmore.
The Colorado Avalanche franchise has had a number of pugilists over its, nearly, five decades of existence. Yes, I’m including the Quebec years in that statement. But, who is the best is a question that could have a million answers. It depends on who is answering the question.
Several months ago, I was a guest on an enforcer-centric podcast. I was asked to name my Top Five enforcers of all time. Despite my awareness of being a guest on an enforcer-based podcast, the question took me by surprise. In fact, I’m ashamed to admit, it tied me up and hit me in the head like Probert on McSorely.
I stumbled, tripped, and hemmed and hawed my way through my gaffe of an answer, and pretty much just embarrassed myself. I freely admit I’m no expert on fights or fighters, but my terrible answer haunts me; so much so that I’m writing this article several months later. Now we come to the purpose of this post. Who are my favorites that I’d put on my Mt. Rushmore of Avs/Nords fighters?
So, why not do a Top Five? Why not take a second crack at the task given to me on the podcast? Well, because everyone has a Mt. Rushmore of something, right? But really I chose the famous monument for the exact reason it has but four spots; this makes the exercise all the more difficult.
In my quest to redeem myself—if only in my own eyes—I needed some criteria for my favorite guys. I know who they are on a gut-level, but felt I needed more info to present here. Simply saying these guys are my favorites makes for a rather short article. What is each player’s worthiness based on exactly?
To answer that question, I brought in some help. After some reduced-price consultations with a couple friends who are huge fight fans, the following criteria were set in place. Heart/toughness, PIMs, and longevity. I’ll explain a bit of each below.
Heart/toughness regardless of wins. Wins are great, but I also love a dude who will just answer the bell. PIMs with the franchise; it shows how busy they were during their tenure. Longevity playing with and fighting for the franchise; because I don’t want to pick a guy who played six games.
The faces on the mountain, of course, appear in no particular order. This isn’t a 1-4 ranking. Judging who is the best of the best isn’t something I can do. I’ll leave that up to you all, the readers.
First, we have Dale Hunter.
Hunter played for the Quebec Nordiques from the 1980-81 season to 1986-87, and with the Colorado Avalanche in 1998-99. During his tenure with Quebec he played in 523 regular season games and added another sixty-seven in the post season. He notched an eye-popping (perhaps literally) 1,864 penalty minutes combined during those appearances. In Denver, he played in thirty-one games after being acquired from Washington on March 23, 1999; racking up fifty-five PIMs.
Dale wasn’t just a guy opponents didn’t want to run into on the wrong night, or any night for that matter. He wasn’t just a guy who would tune someone up for looking at him, or his team, sideways. Dale could score. In his NHL career, he eclipsed over 1,000 points while still having more than 3,500 penalty minutes; the only player to ever accomplish this.
Next to have his chiseled cheekbones chiseled into the rock is Cody McLeod.
Ever since McLeod’s time in the Manitoba Junior League with the Waywayseecappo Wolverines, he’s been raking in the PIMs. His NHL debut came with the Colorado Avalanche in 2007; he had fifty-nine appearances and 146 minutes in the box (combined regular and post season). Though he was never much of a points-threat, it didn’t matter. He was just as happy caving-in someone’s head for the team.
When it came to actual fights, McLeod didn’t care if the fisticuffs came after the opening face-off, or in the dying seconds of a game. I really enjoyed watching that guy smack around whomever needed it. He could beat guys down, or he could stand toe-to-toe and exchange bombs until someone dropped. In his ten seasons with the club (including a short stint in Cleveland), McLeod netted 1,460 PIMs.
McLeod stayed with the Avalanche permanently from 2008-09 onward until moving on to Nashville in 2017. During his time with the Avs, the man gave us just about everything we could have asked of him. I only wish he’d been on more winning Avs teams as I would have loved to have seen what he’d have done in a deep playoff run. He had an additional 27 PIMs in just thirteen playoff games after his 2007-08 debut.
The next mug we’ll need to carve into the mountain is Adam Deadmarsh.
Deadmarsh played for the organization from its final year in Quebec (1994-95) until 2001 when he was dealt to the LA Kings for Rob Blake. Deadmarsh appeared in a grand total of 541 games for the organization earning every bit of his 817 PIMs. He got his ass beat, certainly, but often gave as good as he got. If I’m remembering correctly, Bill Clement once referred to him as a “little Tasmanian devil”.
I couldn’t put my finger on why, exactly, but I always liked Deadmarsh. I remember quite vividly as a kid telling people he was one of my favorite players. I loved his commitment to the cause during the Brawl in Hockeytown where he attempted to take on Darren McCarty. That didn’t end so well, but I have a lot of respect for anyone who tries.
If there was any concern over who the fourth—and final—spot would go to, let this clear things up now. It’s Scott Parker. I’m about to get all mushy goo-goo on ya. So, let’s go.
Scott the sheriff Parker. Good god almighty. What can one say about a near-perfect human? This dude was a straight-up murderer; there was no one he wouldn’t fight.
Though he spent parts of only six seasons with the Colorado Avalanche, he’s one of the most well known tough guys in team history. He might be the most well known, in fact. That could be because he did so much damage during his tenure. In only 237 regular season games with the team, he compiled 538 blood-soaked PIMs.
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It can probably be said about all tough guys that they’re team-first guys, but the title definitely applies to Parker. If you’ve never seen the documentary film Ice Guardians, for the love of all that is holy, please see it. In the film, Parker lays out how he’d fight for his teammates even if it was his team that had done something wrong. It was all about answering the bell.
Parker, for my money, redefined barbarism. Also from the above mentioned film, he discussed his training regimen. What is it? Oh not much; just wrapping chains around his fists and punching trees. Trees!
Whether he was rag-dolling his opponents, fighting to a draw, or getting tuned up by the legendary Bob Probert, Scott Parker was an absolute blast to watch. Rarely, if ever, was he involved in a fight that could be termed a snooze. If you never saw the man fight in person, I encourage you look up his fight videos. It’s not time wasted.
Closing out on Parker here, his career playoff games in an Avalanche sweater top out at five with just four penalty minutes. Normally, these games might not even be worth mentioning; but the four games in 2001 lead to him getting a Stanley Cup ring. I’m more than happy to give this guy a spot on the mountain. I don’t think many would disagree.
So, there’s my Mt. (C)Rushmore of Colorado Avalanche/Nordiques tough guys. Dale Hunter, Cody McLeod, Adam Deadmarsh, and Scott Parker. Maybe you agree with my selections, maybe you don’t. Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn. It’s my mountain.