Craig Coxe

Craig Coxe had one memorable fight against big bad Bob Probert which really solidified his reputation as an NHL elite tough guy.

Probert was on his reign of terror as the NHL's heavyweight champion. Only Dave Brown was a serious contender to the unofficial title, but then came along this kid from Chula Vista, California of all places. Right in the appropriately named Joe Louis Arena, Coxe dropped his gloves with Probert and instantly made a name for himself. He didn't win the fight, but he didn't lose it either. The two threw fists of fury, landing a few dozen punches total in a long fight in which the linesmen just left them alone until they were too tired to throw any more. It was one of the few times that Probert didn't destroy a guy, at least in his prime years.

The fight was shown on highlight films for days following the showdown, and everyone was under the impression that the Canucks had a new heavyweight to be reckoned with. In actuality, he wasn't even that great a fighter to be honest. Yes, he had a great tilt with Probert, but he got hit a lot in that fight too. He was all offense and had trouble staying away from blows. With his new reputation as the guy who took Probert the distance, he became an obvious target for other NHL tough guys looking to make a name for themselves. While Coxe would show up for the fight, he could be defeated handily by a quick punch that he probably should have gotten out of the way from.

Unlike Probert and other valuable tough guys, Coxe had no game at all. He was a lanky and very clumsy skater. Thus his skating limited his effectiveness and ice time. Since he couldn't keep up he couldn't be an effective checker. His puck skills were below average, and if he held on to the puck for more than a few seconds, he was in trouble. In short, Coxe played maybe 5 minutes a game, most of that against the other team's slow, lumbering tough guy or just when the coach wanted Coxe to send a message to the other team.

Originally drafted by the Red Wings, he was signed as a free agent with the Canucks in 1984. For years the Canucks were little smurfs on the ice and were desperately looking for someone to protect their small players. After after an impressive year of goonery at the AHL level Coxe was called up for the 1985-86 season. He spent the majority of the 1986-87 season back in the AHL but returned to the Canucks for 1987-88.

He didn't finish the year in a Vancouver uniform however, as on March 6, 1988 he was traded to Calgary for Brian Bradley, Peter Bakovic and Kevin Guy. Coxe played 9 games in a Calgary uniform, including 2 playoff games. He was brought in strictly for toughness as the Flames were anticipating a tough, fight filled playoff with their arch rivals in Edmonton. Coxe, however, surprisingly added a little offense in his stint in Calgary. He scored 2 goals on 5 shots plus 3 assists in the final 7 regular season games and added a goal in the playoffs!

The Flames GM Cliff Fletcher was no dummy however, and knew that Coxe wasn't as good as his stats suggested. He sent him packing in the summertime as a small part of a large package which also saw Mike Bullard and Tim Corkey go to St. Louis for Doug Gilmour, Mark Hunter, Steve Bozek and Micahel Dark. And I thought Quinn fleeced Fletcher! Man, what a great trade from the Flames standpoint - trading one effective NHLer (Bullard) for three (Gilmour, Hunter and Bozek), one of which (Gilmour) would go onto become a superstar.

Coxe played in 41 games for the Blues, scoring no goals and 7 assists. More often than not he was a healthy scratch as the Blues too found out his limitations as a player.

Traded to Chicago in the summer of 1989, the Canucks reclaimed their former tough guy in the preseason waiver draft. However he spent only 32 games in the Canucks uniform in stint two, spending more time in the minors and even more time as a healthy scratch.

When the expansion San Jose Sharks came along in 1991, Coxe was the last player selected in the expansion draft. The Sharks were stockpiling on tough guys - they knew they'd lose a lot in the first year but they were determined not to get pushed around. But Coxe was also a smart pick from a Sharks marketing department standpoint too. Born in Chula Vista, California, it was a small little tidbit to entice the virgin market to come to games.

Craig Coxe started the 1991-92 season in San Jose, playing in 10 games before he was banished the minor leagues. I remember Coxe's first game in a Sharks game well, as it came ironically enough against the Vancouver Canucks. It was a 3-2 'Nucks win that saw Sharks goalie Jeff Hackett play admirably. And guess who scored the Sharks first goal in team history? The California native himself - Craig Coxe!

As mentioned Coxe was demoted to the minor leagues where he toiled for many years after his NHL years were done. He also became a regular on the summer roller hockey circuit as well.


Anonymous,  10:43 PM  

Actually Coxe had really good puckhandling skills. He just wasn't able to put it all together at top speed.

Probert was not winning all his fights either when he fought Coxe for the second time in the NHL.

  © Blogger templates Newspaper III by 2008

Back to TOP