Toughest active NHL goalies
By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in the Other Press. Nov. 2013
Philadelphia Flyers’ Ray Emery has a reputation: he’s a fighter and a competitor, which are quality traits for any professional athlete—most of the time. He’s bounced back from avascular necrosis, a disease that interrupts blood supply to joints, to win the Stanley Cup and the Williams Jennings Trophy, along with Corey Crawford, as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks. There is no doubt that Emery is as tough as they come, but despite all his achievements, his legacy might simply be the hotheaded bully who strayed too far from the crease.
While others debate whether “Sugar Ray” Emery’s actions—which include an altercation with his then team trainer in 2009 when he was with the Atlant Moscow Oblast, and recently instigating a fight against a passive Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals—are appropriate for the sport of hockey, I can’t help but wonder, if goaltenders were to enforce each other, whom would I choose to go 20 rounds, fist to fist against the undisputed heavyweight of goalies.
5. Mike Smith: The Phoenix ‘tender is known for having an aggressive style in net—and for pulling Flames’ right winger David Jones’ hair after the player crashed into Smith. More often than not, Smith lets the opposition know when they are too deep in his crease by giving them a slash or a trapper to the face. He doesn’t wait for the defencemen to come in to protect him. Smith is always a part of the kerfuffle around the net.
4. Tim Thomas: After his yearlong sabbatical, the goalie we remember so well from the 2011 playoffs has returned to the NHL as a Florida Panther, only to be injured early in the season. Although he isn’t at his healthiest state, I believe his track record can speak loudly for him. Thomas is as blue-collared as a goalie can get, and he has often made claims to being a big fan of mixed martial arts. When it comes to his style, he’s as active in the crease as he is out of it. He has scrapped with the likes of Alexandre Burrows, Sean Avery, and Jason Chimera—all tough guys.
3. Jonathan Bernier: The Toronto Maple Leafs finally have a tough goalie. Gone are the days of Vesa Toskala, Mikael Tellqvist, and Jonas Gustavsson. Although his only NHL fight was against the often tepid Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres in a preseason game, Bernier showed that he indeed has some tenacity. He is young and so is his career, but I foresee many more bouts involving him.
2. Carey Price: The Montreal Canadiens’ goaltender has never shied away from confrontations, and his spunky attitude has both won and lost approval from fans. The days of him mocking the home crowd are now replaced with him standing up for his teammates. Price has matured as a player and is no longer simply looking out for himself. His most recent fight with our number four ranked Thomas showed off Price’s strength, when he pulled Thomas’ jersey over his head and dragged him a few feet across the ice. As tension builds in games, I’m no longer surprised to see Price drop the mitts and throw some hits.
1. Semyon Varlamov: The Avalanche’s goalie has never been in a fight, but due to the charges he is currently facing, I feel he deserves to be first on the list—if for no other reason than to picture him being pummelled by Emery. Varlamov may not have fought any opposing hockey players, but he did allegedly kick his girlfriend, Evgeniya Vavrinyuk, in the chest, knocked her down, and then continued to stomp on her. On October 30, he turned himself in on charges of domestic violence, including second-degree kidnapping and third-degree assault. So, wouldn’t we all like to see this tough guy get what’s coming to him?