The Toughest Players

Recently, I’ve had a lot of conversations with friends about sports, debating our favorite teams, athletes, and games. And as the end of another great NHL season approaches, I figured what better time to comment on my favorite sport, and also the toughest sport out there: hockey.

Just imagine, for a second, football being played like hockey.

Put boards around the field, so instead of being tackled out of bounds safely on the soft ground, players would be falling into an unmovable reinforced wall. Instead of skidding off the field in a controlled manner, they’d be hitting solid boards.

Next, add in the speed. On skates, hockey players are moving three times faster than your average football player.

Instead of playing with an air-filled ball, a hard rubber puck—that has a maximum velocity of 170 km/h—will be used instead.

photo courtesy of

Lastly, give everyone a weapon. A hockey stick.

Football players wouldn’t seem so tough then, would they?

Now, let’s factor in playing time:

There are only 16 games in the NFL’s season, which is a stark comparison to the 82 games played in the NHL’s regular season.

Football games may be longer than hockey, but the playing time for an individual is lessened due to the alternating of offense and defense lines. In hockey, a starting forward typically plays one third of the fast-paced sixty-minute game. And in just one shift, a hockey player could endure two to three checks.

Though football games are filled with tackles and high-speed collisions and NFL football is my close second favorite sport, there’s no question that hockey players are still the toughest athletes out there, playing the toughest—and greatest—game out there.

As for baseball and soccer—well, these videos can speak for themselves:

Now, let the discussion begin! :)


33 thoughts on “The Toughest Players

  1. Something to keep in mind, are we measuring toughness or sports?
    Its hard to measure the toughest players in different sports because players need to have different skills. But if we are measure toughest players within the same sport; then we can compare toughness.

  2. There are definitely some tough sports and great athletes out there. Many of them have been mentioned here. American Football and Hockey are both very popular sports. The Stanley Cup is viewed by over 25 million people and the Super Bowl is watched by over 111.5 million people worldwide.

    However, no one has yet mentioned the toughest sport or the greatest athletes. A sport that runs from January to October, in which competitions can run from a single day up to three weeks. One in which competition goes on for 5+ hours without any breaks at all. One in which athletes can have concussions, broken arms, broken collar bones and still continue to compete for days and sometimes weeks to help their team.

    The main event of the sport is viewed by over 12 million people live and over 3.5 billion one television worldwide. It takes place over three weeks and covers 3,500 km up and down mountain, through rain and snow.

    Professional cyclists are the best conditioned and toughest athletes in the world, participating in the greatest sport in the world.


  3. Without question hockey is the toughest of the mainstream sports-basketball, football, soccer, baseball, hockey (and I’ll even throw lacrosse in there too). And in general, I believe hockey players are some of the absolute toughest athletes there are.

    But, there are some sports out there that I believe are tougher, and require ever greater mental toughness. College wrestling, bull riding (could be debated that these guys are just plain crazy), and what I believe is at the top of the list, MMA fighting.

    To compete, you have to be in the greasiest condition of any athlete, willing to get punched, beaten, choked, submitted, and humiliated in front of thousands of people with no teammates to hide behind- repeatedly; be an expert at multiple fighting disciplines, monitor your weight, eat very healthy, and be able to endure excruciating pain, not just during competition, but throughout months and months of training.

  4. Never having been on skates therefore no Hockey, I consider the man to man,(no protection or stick) bone on bone, skin on skin and flesh on flesh contact of Rugby, both League and Union, to be my toughest athlete’s and therefore sport. I was a fullback in both types so like Kody, 80 mins is a long time to be out there continually, no breaks except for half time. Fit as ten fiddles then there is the beer and singing afterwards, not so much nowadays but in the 50’s and 60’s it was the sport of all armed forces, especially the Royal Navy.

  5. Hey Claude,
    So I did play both high level hockey and high level rugby. Both sports are very intense and tough.

    As for hockey, you are right with boards, the speed and the length of game the players play. Plus add on that we are on skates and it makes a totally different animal out of the sport. Very exhausting and a much tougher sport then football.

    But, rugby is also a very tough sport as well. It is an 80 minute game (so longer than hockey). It is very continuous like soccer so it requires a lot of endurance out of many of the players. And yes there are no pads! So I think it takes a lot of grit to play a contact sport that requires no pads at all with the hits that you will come across with only a mouthguard to protect your jibs.

    Both are hard to decide between (and rugby is in the Olympics in 2016). If you play in the forward position in rugby (so either a prop, hooker, lock or flank) I would argue and say it is a tougher sport then hockey. But if you play in the backs in rugby (so scrum half all the way down to wing) hockey will come out on top for toughness.

    Overall no matter what position you play in hockey it is tough and you will always be on your toes. In rugby there are only about 8 positions out of the 15 on the field that could rival and beat hockey players for toughness.

    Kody Ellis

    • That is just untrue. As a tiny fly half lined up against a crazy flanker I would say it’s pretty tough to get hit that hard and get back up. That being said, forwards are definitely way tougher than us backs.

        • Lol Claude, I have heard some male Rugby players say that they would hate to play Rugby against the girls!

          • I’ve never played rugby. I have only ever played non-contact hockey on a pond as a kid.
            But I have played varsity basketball in the AUS. Most recently I played in the MELBA (Metro Ladies Basketball Association). There’s no rock ’em sockem’ in our league, but we can get pretty dirty at time throwing the body around. It’s easy to injure and re-injure backs and knees, especially as we age.

            One night, at a mini basketball game I came across, I met a woman I recognized from MELBA. I asked her if she was going to be playing that season. She said, “No. It’s too rough. Other players act too dangerously and I don’t want to risk hurting my back.” She said she would actually rather play hockey, because at least (most of the time) you know when the checks are coming and you can manoeuvre away from them so as to not get slammed into the boards.

            Yes, Claude, she does play girl’s hockey. But, the point is, even though you are going at breakneck speeds, you can still avoid a check. Don Cherry might call you a sissy for doing so, but, you can avoid them – unless they are illegal and you’re blindsided.

            Personally, and I know this is off topic, but I miss the hockey that I used to see in the 1980’s. As far as I remember, there was less of the physical and more of the finesse and speed. That was when it was fun to see Wayne Gretzky do crazy weaving moves. Today, it’s all boards, fights, wrestling, dump and run. I find it frustrating to watch and not very exciting.

            On the toughness note: I’m inclined to think the UFC might be the toughest sport out there. Regardless of the fact the ref calls a fight the minute a fighter drops their guard due to a split second unconsciousness, the fact that fighters put themselves out there every fight and risk brain damage, broken limbs, bloody faces, scars and cauliflower ears, is a pretty amazing thing. It’s also mentally tough – GSP and any champ has to train hard and endure guys coming after them fight after fight to knock them out and knock them off the podium. It’s a strain to keep the momentum going for each fight and between them. To maintain the belt, you always have to play a championship game. And you’re pretty much always going five rounds (as opposed to three rounds).

    • Finally someone who has actual experience and not just facts and statistics. This is an excellent reply to which is tougher and who are the tougher players. Clearly its Rugby NOT PoKey or PootBall. Thanks for taking your valuable time Kody Ellis to set the record straight on a long and debated discussion. I will sleep well tonight knowing that this discussion has been put to bed.

    • Kody, well said, and my 3 basketball players and 1 football player agree with you. But there are times I have seen some things up close in mens basketball games that require some serious toughness. It just few and far between unlike hockey and rugby.

  6. No question, hockey! Claude, my two boys, Cary and Robby, both played hockey. Debby was a score keeper in many of the games, so we got to know hockey pretty well. Longer season, more games, longer play times, and the hard hitting all say hockey. I watched Cary take a check on the boards hard, and hit his head on the boards as he fell to the ice. Debby and I both stopped breathing as the game was stopped and the coach went on the ice. He got up after several minutes.

    Yep, I vote hockey.

  7. We can’t forget Canada’s national Summer sport!!! Lacrosse. A game to which most (North American) NHL players can attest to being a great part of they’re growth process coming up through their youth. There just happens to be more $$ in the NHL. I would also like to say on a second minor note that you could take any team in the NLL, put them on ice and they would rival most any NHL team. But I doubt that would work the other way around. Just sayin’.

    • eric…………..i don’t even know what to say to this….. is Lacrosse in the olympics???? whateve…..also how would the lacrosse players run on the ice without skates??? also the National Lacrosse League supports casual marijuana use……

  8. Hockey to football and discussing which players or sport is tougher . Its like comparing snakes and ladders and trivial pursuit. Compare either of them to Rugby Union or Rugby League, hockey and football players may take up snakes and ladders after the comparison LOL.

  9. It’s not even necessary to have a helmet – let alone a requirement to ‘keep your helmet on’… so hockey it is!

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