No matter how you feel about fighting in hockey, it has long been a part of the game and only nine of the game’s greatest enforcers have racked up over 3,000 penalty minutes during the regular season over their respective careers. When it comes to collecting, though, most of this group have a loyal following and there are plenty of options out there for collectors to consider in terms of rookie cards and more.
The 3,000 Club is a fairly recent phenomenon as Dave “Tiger” Williams became the first member during his lone season with the Detroit Red Wings in 1984-85. At that time, he was already well-established as the NHL’s all-time penalty minutes leader as he had surpassed Dave “The Hammer” Schultz while skating for the Vancouver Canucks back in 1981-82. The magic number was reached on October 13, 1984 at the Joe Louis Arena thanks to a scrap with rookie John MacLean of the visiting New Jersey Devils in a contest which also featured three assists and a rare fight from Steve Yzerman and Kirk Muller’s first career goal.
Here is a look at the members of hockey’s 3,000 Club and their rookie cards:
Dave “Tiger” Williams – 3,971 Penalty Minutes
Even though Williams debuted with the Toronto Maple Leafs as a 20-year-old in 1974-75, Canadian kids were forced to wait until his third season in the NHL before he was included in the 1976-77 O-Pee-Chee set. With a great posed studio shot, the card has long been regarded as the set’s second-best rookie issue behind Bryan Trottier and came during his first year of leading the league in penalty minutes (338). He was the NHL’s top enforcer in 1978-79, but was shockingly traded away to the Vancouver Canucks late in the following season as cantankerous Maple Leafs owner Harold Ballard engaged in psychological warfare with team captain Darryl Sittler and traded away his closest friends on the team.
In Vancouver, Williams delivered a 35-goal season in 1980-81 and led all players with 343 penalty minutes. He played a part in the club’s run to the Stanley Cup Final in 1981-82 and was traded to Detroit in 1984. He did not last long in the Motor City and finished out 1984-85 with the Los Angeles Kings. He recorded two more heavily-penalized campaigns (320 and a career-high 358 minutes respectively) before splitting 1987-88 between the Kings and the Hartford Whalers. During his active days, he never had a card in a Red Wings or Whalers uniform.
Williams ultimately returned to the hockey card world in 2001-02 thanks to issues from Fleer and Be A Player and collectors could finally get their hands on game-used memorabilia pieces and certified autographs. Since that time, he has had plenty of cardboard and even was occasionally featured on base set cards with Detroit and Hartford in addition to his other clubs.
Dale Hunter – 3,565 Penalty Minutes
Next up on the list is a veteran of 19 NHL seasons who carved out a reputation as one of hockey’s toughest of all-time. Hunter was part of a tough trio of brothers that made it to the NHL and he hit the ice with the Quebec Nordiques in 1980-81. The following season saw him earn his first hockey card in 1981-82 O-Pee-Chee and he remained part of the game long after the hobby boomed. As a side note, the photo for Hunter’s rookie card was taken on February 8, 1981 as the Nordiques paid a visit to Boston Garden. This date was determined by the fact that goalie Dan Bouchard is in the background and Quebec only visited once in 1980-81 after the netminder was acquired from the Calgary Flames. He was a pivotal figure in the Battle of Quebec between the Nordiques and the Montreal Canadiens – even fighting his brother, Mark, during the 1984 playoff contest known as the Good Friday Massacre.
Hunter was hardly a one-dimension player, though, as he had nine seasons with at least 20 goals and had four overtime goals during the playoffs. On June 13, 1987, the Nords sent him to the Washington Capitals as part of a deal with saw a draft pick that turned out to be Joe Sakic go to Quebec. He remained popular in D.C. thanks to his mix of toughness and leadership and was part of the franchise’s first appearance in the Stanley Cup Final in 1998. During that era, he did get a first certfied autograph in 1995-96 Be A Player. His last season in the NHL was a homecoming of sorts with the Colorado Avalanche, who had transferred from Quebec in 1995.
Hunter’s last card as an active player was in 1999-00 Pacific, but it was not long until he got a post-retirment card in 2001-02 Fleer Greats of the Game. Since then, he has been depicted in many releases from Upper Deck, Panini, and In The Game.
Tie Domi – 3,515 Penalty Minutes
Relative small in stature but tough as nails, Domi was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1988 and rose to fame during his time with the New York Rangers. A highly-hyped series of clashes with Bob Probert helped him established a reputation and fostered interest in his only rookie card, which was found in the landmark 1990-91 O-Pee-Chee Premier collection. He was only sporadically featured in sets during the early stages of his career, but his popularity was steadily on the rise.
In 1994-95, Domi’s first certified autograph arrived in the first Be A Player release and he was a member of the Winnipeg Jets at the time. Later that season, he was re-acquired by the Maple Leafs and would spend the rest of his career there. He was a cult hero in Toronto and occasionally reached double digits in goals and backed down from no one on the ice. He had a major rivalry with Rob Ray of the Buffalo Sabres and even laid a few punches on a fan in Philadelphia that dared to attack him while in the penalty box.
Throughout his 16 seasons in the NHL, Domi was on plenty of cards, but seemed to accumulate even more in retirement. His memorabilia cards started to surface in packs in 2000-01 and even has some cards today – even as his son, Max, stars for the Montreal Canadiens.
Marty McSorley – 3,381 Penalty Minutes
McSorley proved that hard work will take you far as he proved his doubters wrong and enjoyed a successful NHL career. He debuted with a notoriously bad Pittsburgh Penguins team in 1983-84 and found himself going from worst to first thanks to a trade to Edmonton before the start of the 1985-86 campaign. He protected Wayne Gretzky and his Oilers teammates on the road to a pair of Stanley Cup victories and was off to Los Angeles as part of the deal that sent the Great One to the Los Angeles Kings.
In sunny California, McSorley continued to rack up penalty minutes and recorded the best offensive totals of his playing days. He led the league with 399 penalty minutes in 1992-93 and was involved with a controversial call during the Stanley Cup Final as the Montreal Canadiens called for an examination of the curve of his stick – resulting in penalty and a power play which generating the tying goal before Montreal won in overtime. For the rest of his career, McSorley played for several clubs, but his career came to an abrupt end on February 21, 2000 when he swung his stick and hit Donald Brashear in the head.
Bob Probert – 3,300 Penalty Minutes
Regarded by many as the toughest player of his generation, if not all-time, Probert battled opponents on the ice and experienced legal troubles off the ice. As a member of the Detroit Red Wings, he became a sensation for his willingness to drop the gloves and delivering punishing blows. He broke onto the scene in 1985-86 and was part of two straight runs to the Campbell Conference Final in 1986-87 and 1987-88. In that latter campaign, he led the NHL with 398 penalty minutes and scored 29 goals in addition to skating in the 1988 NHL All-Star Game.
In 1989, everything went sour for Probert as he was arrested at the border with cocaine on his person and was sent to jail for three months in addition to being handed an indefinite suspension by the league. It was around this time when he was finally featured in both the 1988-89 O-Pee-Chee and Topps sets. He returned to action late in 1989-90 and spent a few more seasons in Detroit before missing the 1994-95 season due to another incident. In 1995-96, he was back again in a Chicago Blackhawks uniform and provided his teammates with protection for the remainder of his career. His last NHL action came in 2001-02, but he did not officially retire until 2003. While he had a couple of minor issues with the law in retirement, he led a largely peaceful existence until his untimely death due to a heart attack on July 5, 2010. He was only 45 years old. To this day, collectors still compete heavily when his key memorabilia cards come up for bids and there is a strong demand for his certified autograph cards.
Rob Ray – 3,207 Penalty Minutes
One of the most popular players in the history of the Buffalo Sabres, Ray debuted with the team in 1989-90 and scored on his first-ever shot in his first game (against the Pittsburgh Penguins on October 21, 1989). His first of many fights, however, did not come until his fourth outing and it was a sign of great things to come. As a second-year skater in 1990-91, he led the NHL with 350 penalty minutes and topped that with 354 the next season (but did not lead the league). His first NHL cards surfaced in update or second series sets from Pro Set and Upper Deck in 1990-91. In subsequent years, he would be featured on some great cards such as those from 1991-92 Upper Deck and 1996-97 Score and his first certified autograph card was in 1995-96 Be A Player.
Ray was a fixture in Buffalo for 14 seasons and had an NHL-best 261 minutes in the penalty box as the Sabres made it to the Stanley Cup Final in 1998-99. During this phase of his career, he was often included in many sets from Pacific Trading Cards and Be A Player and both companies gave collectors a shot at a piece of his game-used jersey. He retired after a short stint with the Ottawa Senators but returned to cards thanks to In The Game and Panini with products released from 2011-12 to 2013-14.
Craig Berube – 3,149 Penalty Minutes
Berube is the present coach of the St. Louis Blues, who recently defeated the Boston Bruins for the Stanley Cup. However, long-time fans will recall that he was a feared pugilist during his time as an active NHL player. Debuting as part of a Philadelphia Flyers squad that went to the Stanley Cup Final in 1987, he split the next two seasons between the NHL and the minors before earning a full-time role. While he flirted with the 300-minute mark in 1989-90 and 1990-91, he was part of the rare three-team deal with Edmonton which involved Jari Kurri moving to the Flyers before being shipped to the Los Angeles Kings on May 30, 1991.
Berube never got to skate for the Oilers as he was included in a monumental deal that saw him and future Hall of Famers Grant Fuhr and Glenn Anderson become members of the Toronto Maple Leafs on September 30 of that year. His time in Toronto was short – a mere 40 games – before he was included in the 10-player swap with the Calgary Flames on January 2, 1992 that brought Doug Gilmour to Toronto. After parts of two seasons in Cow Town, the Washington Capitals dangled a fifth round draft pick and the Flames took the bait. For nearly six seasons, Berube provided the Caps with lots of toughness and put up a career-best 305 minutes during his first year there. He was also involved in the team’s run to the Stanley Cup Final in 1997-98.
Back in Philadelphia late in 1998-99, he was regularly in transit for the rest of his career and he went back to Washington in 2000-01 and spent 38 games with the New York Islanders before finishing things up with a two-year stint in Calgary once again.
Berube did have local junior cards during his days in the WHL, but his rookie cards were included in 1990-91’s O-Pee-Chee, Pro Set, and Upper Deck sets – in the second series for the latter two releases. His first certified autograph could be pulled from 1994-95 Be A Player and he was part of that set in 1996-97 and 1998-99. As for memorabilia cards, they started to surface during his playing days as part of the Tough Customers sets in the 2000-01 and 2001-02 Be A Player Update Sets. He returned to cards with the In The Game Enforcers and Broad Street Boys releases in 2011-12.
Tim Hunter – 3,146 Penalty Minutes
With an unforgettable face that took the brunt of countless battles, Hunter was a gritty force to be reckoned with on the ice. Even as a junior with the Seattle Breakers, accumulated tons of penalty minutes in the rugged Western Hockey League before the Atlanta Flames made him a third round pick (54th overall) in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft. By 1981-82, he was ready to debut with the team in their new home in Calgary and saw regular duty with the Flames starting in 1982-83. With the Battle of Alberta against the Edmonton Oilers raging at the mid-point of the decade, Hunter led the NHL in penalty minutes twice (361 PIM in 1986-87 and a career-high 375 in 1988-89).
Even though he helped hoist the Stanley Cup with Calgary in 1988-89, he would not find his way into a mass-market trading card issue until the hobby boomed two years later. Even in a season where almost everyone seemed to have several cards, he was only included in 1990-91 O-Pee-Chee and the second series of 1990-91 Pro Set. His most memorable piece of cardboard came in 1991-92 Upper Deck as it featured an awesome profile pic which demonstrated the toll of being an enforcer.
Hunter bounced around for the last five seasons of his career. He split 1992-93 between the Quebec Nordiques and Vancouver Canucks and went to the Stanley Cup Final during his second year there. His final season came as part of a veteran-laden San Jose Sharks roster in 1996-97 that failed to reach the playoffs. Incredibly, he was not included in any major NHL sets between 1993-94 and 1996-97. After his career ended, Hunter made sporadic appearances in card sets, but he did not have a certified autograph until the Tough Times inserts arrived in 2010-11 Donruss and had a wide selection of memorabilia cards in 2013-14 In The Game Enforcers.
Chris Nilan – 3,043 Penalty Minutes
The man known as “Knuckles” rose up from the streets of Boston to become one of the game’s most feared fighters during the 1980s. Selected in the 19th round of the 1978 NHL Amateur Draft, he made the seemingly improbable leap from Northeastern University to the roster of the mighty Montreal Canadiens.
Despite heavy exposure throughout Canada due to his ominous presence on Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts, he did not make it onto a hockey card until O-Pee-Chee included them into their 1983-84 collection. It was the first of two straight seasons where he paced the NHL in penalty minutes and even scored 21 goals in 1984-85. He went on to capture a Stanley Cup in 1985-86 – the same year where he finally appeared on an O-Pee-Chee hockey sticker.
Late in the 1987-88 season, one where he was not included in the O-Pee-Chee card set, he was traded to the New York Rangers and only saw limited action there as injuries kept him out of the lineup. He was on the move again to his hometown Bruins on June 28, 1990 and kept racking up time in the sin bin. During his first campaign with the club, he was named to the Wales Conference side for the 1991 NHL All-Star Game, but did not end up playing. However, his selection to the squad by Bruins coach Mike Milbury received a great deal of criticism and changed the way players would be added to the roster. His 1990-91 Pro Set card can be found with or without the traded notation as well.
Nilan was eventually shipped back to Montreal through the waiver wire and he chose to call it a career at the end of the 1991-92 season. His last card from his playing days came in 1992-93 Score and is the only one depicting his second stint with the Habs. In retirement, he remained popular with collectors and manufacturers have included him in sets. He has a decent selection of autograph and memorabilia cards on the market today. However, he has not had a new issue since the 2013-14 season.