With the release of the On-Ice Guardians documentary, it seems fitting that one of the most memorable enforcers in recent memory (and a former Capital) be celebrated. He was mean, he was nasty, and his name was Donald Brashear.
Known affectionately as The Donald, the Capitals signed Brashear in the 2006 offseason to serve as a protector for their star players; primarily young superstar Alex Ovechkin. Prior to signing with the Caps, Brashear played with the Philadelphia Flyers, Vancouver Canucks, and Montreal Canadiens. Soon after he entered the league, Brashear established himself as a no-nonsense, rigged enforcer, something that would become his trademark style of play.
From the moment he first dropped his gloves as a member of the Caps, Brashear became an instant fan favorite. He did not disappoint, as he willingly dropped the mitts whenever he felt the need to protect or stand up for his teammates arose. Below is just one of his many bouts:
Brashear ranks 15th on the all-time penalty minutes list with 2,634 PIM, a clear indication of his purpose. Brashear provided little in the way of offense for the Caps (his best offensive season in DC was a four-goal, 13-point performance in his first season with the team), but he did become one of the team’s most valued leaders, becoming an alternate captain during his tenure in the District.
One of the most memorable moments of Brashear’s Washington career came in the team’s first round playoff series against the Philadelphia Flyers in 2008. With Game 1 tied early in the first, Brashear came onto the ice off a line change. Skating straight towards the cage, he put a rebound past Philly goalie Martin Biron.
While that goal may have been a highlight, Brashear was known almost exclusively for his physical and pugilistic style of play. The enforcer role has all but disappeared from the NHL and Brashear may have been one of the last true enforcers to play the game. While it’s a role that is basically nonexistent, there’s no doubt that Brashear was a master of the fisticuffs.
By Michael Fleetwood