And then there were four...
And then there were four...
Sunday, February 25, 2007
It's taken 28 bouts, but you've helped our panellists determine a final four that any fight fan could be proud of.
The semifinals of our imaginary tournament to determine the NHL's All-Time Heavyweight Champ feature Bob Probert versus Dave Semenko on one side of the draw, and Dave Brown versus Joe Kocur on the other.
Cast your vote in the semifinals
They were all in the league at the same time during mid-'80s, but surprisingly, they seldom clashed.
According to dropyourgloves.com, which tracks every NHL fight, Probert and Semenko fought twice. Semenko, who was then with the Leafs after Marty McSorley had become Wayne Gretzky's protector in Edmonton, was past his prime and Probert hadn't yet hit his. They split the series.
Brown and Kocur were in the league 12 years together and never fought, which is a tragedy. You'll have to let your imaginations run wild on that one, and get your votes in at theprovince.com/champ before Wednesday at midnight!
Vote until Wednesday at theprovince.com/champ
PROBERT vs. SEMENKO
Nickname: Bruise Brother (with Joe Kocur)
Stats: 6-3, 225 lbs, 3,300 PIM
Teams: Red Wings, Blackhawks
Dance partners: Craig Coxe, Tony Twist, Tie Domi, Stu Grimson, Marty McSorley.
Quarterfinal: Defeated Tony Twist
Final weighted score: 1,746-551
Panellists: 5-2 (Taylor, Willes opposed)
Several readers said this one would be worth the price of admission. As Taylor pointed out, Twist won when these two met later in Probert's career. "Tony would out-muscle Bob in this bout, but Bob is smart and lets Twister get tired," Sawyer said. "After the barrage of right-handed scud missiles slowed, Probie starts in with bombs of his own from the east and the west. Tony's a tank, but Bob's a one-man army."
"Twister is the only opponent (and Kocur) who'd stand a chance against Probert," reader Dave Worden wrote. "But even in his prime, Twist wouldn't stand up against the size, strength and fighting prowess of the most-feared pugilist in the history of the NHL."
Willes liked Probert at his peak, but "he battled assorted demons and struggled to stay in shape the rest of his career. Twist's reign was cut short by injury, but he was always ready and was a fearsome puncher."
Stats: 6-3, 215 lbs, 1,473 PIM
Teams: Oilers, Whalers, Maple Leafs
Dance partners: Tim Hunter, Behn Wilson, Ron Delorme, Dave Brown, Jack Carlson, Ed Hospodar
Quarterfinal: Defeated Georges Laraque
Final weighted score: 1,490-821
Panellists: 5-2 (Taylor, Willes)
This one was close, even in hat size. "Semenko had a head too big for any helmet and fists the size of bricks," reader Tim Burr wrote. "Laraque did too, but sentimental favourite is Semenko for all the years he pounded everyone when it was still acceptable to protect stars." "Laraque is big and strong, but Dave is a better fighter," Odjick agreed.
Those who liked Laraque chose bulk over style. "Semenko's reputation speaks for itself, but Laraque ... is the one guy in this field you could see as a prize-fighter with his size, athleticism, power with both hands," said Willes.
Sawyer made his point: "George is the strongest fighter I have ever come by, but Dave isn't so concerned with making friends and is a hell of a lot nastier. Both guys throw hard and heavy, but Semenko gets more pissed off when he gets hit. You tell Semenko he was the second toughest player to ever wear an Oilers sweater. Be my guest."
BROWN vs. KOCUR
Stats: 6-5, 215 lbs, 1,789 PIM
Teams: Flyers, Oilers, Sharks
Dance partners: Gino Odjick, Chris Nilan, Jay Miller, Stu Grimson, Jim Kyte, Ken Baumgartner, Dave Semenko
Quarterfinal: Defeated Gordie Howe
Final weighted score: 1,264-1,114
Readers: Howe 604-584
Panellists: Brown 4-3 (Sawyer, Taylor, Willes)
Two Saskatonians who most players shied away from. Reader Jeff Stevenson: "Brown throws them like he means it, inside punches, outside, over the top, past the refs."
"Body parts were hanging at the end of this one, but Howe gets my vote," said Sawyer.
A reader identifying himself only as A. Agnew called the play-by-lay for us: "Brownie makes the mistake of pissing off Gordie. A furious Howe grabs a piece of the hatred of hell as he winds up and unloads it on Killer Brownie's coconut to do what few were able to do: Put Brownie and his devastating left on the ice! Gordie mutters something disrespectful about young guys and his own goal and assist in the previous period on his way to the penalty box."
Errol Hannigan, however, begged to differ, saying Brown would leave Howe bloodied and deflated, like an octopus splattered on the Detroit ice.
Nickname: Bruise Brother (with Bob Probert)
Stats: 6-0, 220 lbs, 2,519 PIM
Teams: Wings, Rangers, Canucks
Dance partners: Link Gaetz, Cam Neely, Tim Hunter, Bob Probert, Marty McSorley
Quarterfinal: Defeated Marty McSorley
Final weighted score: 1,155-1,140
Readers: McSorley 648-499
Panellists: Kocur 4-3 (Ferraro, Kypreos, Odjick)
They don't get much closer than this -- both fighters benefitted from being on the weaker side of the bracket. Taylor moved to 0-3 picking against Kocur: "How could I pick him against McSorley, the only player to look tough in a Jofa helmet?"
Readers were split fairly evenly over who'd win -- and on what to call McSorley. "So sorry, Joey, no contest. You're one tough SOB, but McFly's size and strength prove too much for Kocur's game toughness," Tim Burr wrote. Added Errol Hannigan: "Kocur would finally drop McSquirley with a barrage of heavy punches. Marty could throw 'em, but he didn't learn how to duck and Joey had pretty good aim."
Our panellists thought this dance would last as long as "Stairway to Heaven", but those who chose Kocur liked his KO punch. "Kocur punches harder. At least it looked like it from where I watched," Ferraro said.
© The Vancouver Province 2007
Imaginary contests of this ilk are interesting but ultimately without merit for the simple reason that they are imaginary. I would have loved to see Gordie Howe fight all these characters and I believe he would have been the winner...but then that is only MY imagination. Sadly, these imaginary bouts will remain just that: imaginary. It was said of Howe that had he wanted he could have been heavyweight champion of the world...but of course that too was speculation on the commentator's part.