Editor’s note: NESN.com is running a five-part series on Shawn Thornton this week. Part I looks at his early years.
Boston Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton has become one of the most beloved sports figures in Boston over the course of his first four seasons with the club. But Thornton is just continuing a long and proud tradition of tough guys in Boston, and the players who have performed that most difficult of jobs have always held a special spot inside the hearts of the region’s fans.
There have been notable tough guys donning the Black and Gold since the club began play in 1924, but the role of the enforcer — a specific player designated to handle the bulk of the pugilistic duties and protect his teammates when necessary — didn’t evolve until after the first major expansion from the Original Six era in 1967. Still, in the four-plus decades that have followed, the Bruins have had plenty of memorable players perform that role.
So who are the best of the best when it comes to handing out beatdowns in Boston?
The best enforcers obviously can handle the rough stuff and protect their teammates and spark the club when necessary with a well-timed bout. But they also have to be able to play a regular shift and contribute in other areas of the game. With those criteria, and basing it only on their time spent in Boston, here’s a look at the top 10 enforcers in Bruins history.