Hockey enforcers are players on an ice hockey team designated to physically respond to cheap shots or violence aimed at any of their teammates.
This is a violent position in hockey and very controversial. If any cheap shots or unnecessary violence occurs during a game, it is the enforcer's responsibility to step in and take charge, even if they weren't initially involved in the altercation. They are big, strong players programmed to fight, but are not necessarily the most skilled.
Although this unofficial position has been an important role in the game of hockey, there seems to be a dramatic decrease in fighting. In recent years, fighting has been at its lowest rate in NHL history, with approximately less than one fight in every five games. With more knowledge about concussions and the lasting psychological impacts fighting has on players, enforcers may soon be a thing of the past.
One of the most famous NHL players of all time was Wayne Gretzky. Many have heard of his name, but not teammate Marty McSorely. McSorely was a teammate of Gretzky during their time together on the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings. It is argued Gretzky reached his elite status in part to McSorely looking out for him on the ice as an enforcer. McSorely was one of the scariest and toughest enforcers to date.
Fighting has always been an essential part of hockey. Although fighting is a violation, hockey is the only professional sport where fighting is allowed and tolerated. If a fight breaks out, the two players will both face five minutes in the penalty box as a consequence. Fighting usually happens after a dirty hit aimed at an individual or one of their teammates.
The sports documentary Ice Guardians can be found on Netflix and dives into the controversial position of enforcers. In this documentary, you are able to watch encounters and interviews with some of the more famous enforcers of the National Hockey League. Viewers are able to watch and understand the physical and psychological effects this position had on these players. If you want to learn about enforcers in the NHL, watch this documentary.
Many professional organizations, players, fans and critics have their opinion regarding the debate over the necessity of an enforcer in hockey. Some professional players, like Sydney Crosby, enjoy having enforcers on the team to add an extra layer of protection to look out for the star players. The continued use of enforcers make many professional players more comfortable and feel more protected during their matches.