While the scorers and the playmakers tend to get all of the press, it's the grinders who turn good teams into great ones; when figuring out who the 10 best hockey grinders of all time are, it's about finding players who helped their team win no matter what the cost. The 10 best hockey grinders of all time hit hard, went up against great players to stop them from scoring, and agitated other teams to get them off their game. Some were big, some were small, but all played with heart; the 10 best hockey grinders of all time:
- Bobby Clarke – The face of the Broad Street Bullies Flyer teams of the 70s, Bobby Clarke was a great scorer, but he was also a tough-as-nails, hard-hitting defensive player who would do anything to win. His combination of skill and toughness, scoring greatness and hard-nosed two-way play puts him atop the list of 10 best hockey grinders of all time.
- Bob Gainey – A defensive specialist for the Canadiens' dynasty, Gainey won four consecutive Selke awards for best defensive forward and his play was essential to five Stanley Cup wins, making him a rival for the top position on the list of 10 best hockey grinders of all time.
- Esa Tikkanen – This Finnish forward had the skills to be a star, but that was not the role the great Edmonton Oilers teams of the 1980s needed from him. Instead, he played the defensive role on the forward line with Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri while agitating the other teams' best players with his feisty play and jumbled trash talk in a number of languages, which was referred to by teammates as "Tikkanese" or "Tik-speak." He won four cups with the Oilers and one with the New York Rangers, and brought his unique style of agitation to the contending St. Louis Blues in the 90s.
- Claude Lemieux – Another player with the skill of a star, Claude Lemieux was regarded as one of the dirtiest players in hockey history though his playoff success is undeniable, having won cups with Montreal, New Jersey, and Colorado while playing rough and dirty enough to make him hated by all.
- Kris Draper – Along with the list's number six, Kirk Maltby, Draper's heart-and-soul checking play got the other teams' best lines off of their game so that the Red Wings' skill players could get the job done and become the most dominant team of the late 90s and early 2000s.
- Kirk Maltby – Playing with Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby turned dirty play into an art form in helping the 90s and 2000s Red Wings become the dynasty they are today.
- Guy Carbonneau – The Montreal Canadiens' king of penalty killing won the Selke trophy for best defensive forward in the NHL three times and earned two cup rings with the Habs, as well as one with the Dallas Stars, before retiring.
- Dirk Graham – Along with having one of the best mustaches in hockey history, Graham was one of the best defensive agitators in league history and won the Selke as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks.
- Steve Kasper – "The Friendly Ghost" won the Selke in just his second season in the league and haunted opposing teams' scoring centers for thirteen seasons.
- Mike Peca – Small in size but tall in stature, Peca won the Selke award as a Buffalo Sabre and a New York Islander and shut down many a scorer in the process.
The list of the 10 best hockey grinders is filled with players with different skills, temperaments, and achievements, but the fact of the matter was, these players gave it all to help their teams win, and that's what being one of the 10 best hockey grinders is all about.
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