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Enforcer is an unofficial role in hockey. The term is sometimes used synonymously with "fighter", "tough guy" or "goon".

An enforcer's job is to deter and respond to dirty or violent play by the opposition. When such play occurs, the enforcer is expected to respond aggressively, by fighting or checking the offender. Enforcers are expected to react particularly harshly to violence against star players.

Enforcers are different from pests, players who seek to agitate opponents and distract them from the game, without necessarily fighting them.

The enforcer in the NHL[]

At the NHL level, teams generally do not carry more than one player whose primary role is enforcer. Enforcers can play either forward or defense, although they are most frequently used as wingers on the 4th forward checking line. Prized for their aggression, size, checking ability, and fists, enforcers are typically less gifted at skill areas of the game than their teammates. Enforcers are typically among the lowest scoring players on the team and receive a smaller share of ice time.

Some players combine aspects of the enforcer role with strong play in other areas of the game. Scott Stevens and Lyle Odelein are examples of players that combine intimidation with good fundamental defensive skills, while Bob Probert and Chris Simon are examples of enforcers who show an occasional scoring flair. Sometimes enforcers can do their job by virtue of their reputation. Clark Gillies was among the best fighters in the NHL during his prime, but over time he rarely had to fight because opponents respected and feared him enough that they would not go after his teammates.[1] As well, some skilled players, such as legends Gordie Howe and Maurice Richard and current NHL all-star Jarome Iginla, occasionally fight and can function effectively as their own enforcer.

Changing role of the enforcer in the NHL[]

The changes in rule enforcement following the 2004-05 NHL season lockout aimed to increase game speed and scoring. Since then, the role of the enforcer has been in flux. With fighting decreasing, teams are less inclined to keep a roster spot available for a one-dimensional fighter who is a liability as a scorer and defender.[2] This has led to a decrease in the number of players whose predominant role is enforcer. Instead, other players are expected to contribute aspects of the enforcer role.


See also[]

Positions on the Hockey Rink
Forwards: HockeyRink.png
Left winger | Centre | Right winger
Left defenceman | Right defenceman
Power forward | Enforcer | Captain | Head coach | Referee & linesman