In ice hockey, grinders are players who are better known for checking than scoring. In fact, a grinder usually has limited offensive skills but is valuable to any team due to his or her fore-checking skills. Similarly, a grinder puts in strong work in every game — especially when it comes to “grinding along the boards.” Due to their work effort in matches, many grinders are fan favorites who always play hard and possess strong defensive skills.

Grinders are also willing to endure physical abuse in games. This includes going into corners to dig out pucks, as well as passing them to their teammates for scoring. According to ice hockey experts, no team is ever complete without a good balance of scoring specialists and grinders.

The Best Grinders Over the Years

Dave Bolland, who played for the Chicago Blackhawks, was named best grinder by The Hockey News in 2012. However, Bobby Clarke of the ’70s and ’80s Philadelphia Flyers is considered the best grinder overall. In fact, this NHL Hall of Fame inductee was also known for his highly productive offensive skills. It is also important to know that grinders are not considered “enforcers.” The latter refers to players who are known to physically intimidate and even fight with opponents, which are tactics that come with heavy penalties.

Grinders specialize in defensive hockey skills that are well within the rules. They are even known as “muckers,” and Mike Eruzione was also among the best in this category. Let’s take a look at some of the top grinders in the NHL today.

Daniel Girardi

Daniel Girardi is a veteran player who is known for his grinding and checking skills. Formerly with the Rangers, Girardi currently plays for the Tampa Bay Lightning and has strong-defensive and offensive skills. Take a look at this video of Girardi in action with a board check.

Alexei Emelin

Alexei Emelin is also a seasoned grinder who currently plays for the Nashville Predators. Formerly with the Canadiens, this powerhouse Russian defenseman is known for his punishing body checks. Take a look for yourself in this video.

Martin Hanzal

At 6’6″ and 246 pounds, Martin Hanzal continues to send fear into the hearts of even the bravest of souls. The Czech-born Dallas Star is known for his rugged — but legal — open-ice and board checks. In fact, he played an instrumental role in helping his former team, the Arizona Coyotes, achieve true defensive success. Take a look at this powerhouse in action against the Canucks.

Matt Martin

Matt Martin plays for the Toronto Maple Leafs and is also known for his great checking skills. As a former Islander, Martin holds the record for the most hits in a single season. He is also known as both a grinder and enforcer — take a look.

Brooks Orpik

Brooks Orpik plays for the Capitals and is known for his immense strength and power. Take a look at this open-ice check courtesy of the American juggernaut!

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