Enduring staggering pain is just part of the gig for NHL players. Even the supposed “finesse” guys grit their teeth through some serious agony; merely look back to Steve Stamkos shaking off a puck to the face in the 2011 playoffs if you need a good example.
NHL.com’s John Kreiser put together a list of players who seem most fearless, or at least most willing to sacrifice their bodies by diving in front of pucks and give/take big hits.
He chose six defensemen (including shot-blocking maestro Dan Girardi) and one forward: Matt Martin.
The entry on Martin is quite interesting:
The Islanders don’t have the reputation of being one of the NHL’s more physical teams, but opponents know they have to keep their heads up when Martin is on the ice. The 24-year-old forward led the League in hits last season with 234 after setting an NHL record with 374 in 2011-12. Despite banging bodies at every opportunity, Martin did not miss a game in either of the past two seasons. Ironically, one of his linemates this season could be Cal Clutterbuck, who preceded Martin as the NHL leader in hits from 2008-09 through 2010-11 while playing for the Minnesota Wild; they traded him to the Islanders in June.
Naturally, there are plenty of honorable mentions. Ryan Callahan has been the New York Rangers forward equivalent to Girardi, though both may not block shots with the same vigor under Alain Vigneault instead of John Tortorella. Obviously there are plenty of enforcers who would rank among the league’s most courageous players, too.
Still, it’s an interesting list that will surely open the door for fascinating discussions in the comments.