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Former Wings F Thomas Vanek says NHL ‘Isn’t that tough anymore’

Former Detroit Red Wings forward Thomas Vanek is a veteran of 14 seasons in the National Hockey League, and he’s seen just about everything over the course of the 1,029 career games he appeared in.

And to that end, he apparently wants to make one thing clear – the NHL isn’t as tough as it once was.

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Vanek offered a rather frank assessment of the League’s toughness, or rather lack thereof during a recent appearance on “The Instigators” podcast.

“The last four-to-five years, besides (Zdeno) Chara, the league isn’t that tough anymore. I think we can all agree on that,” Vanek explained. “I think early on when we all played together and you got the (Chris) Pronger’s, the (Derian) Hatcher’s, that was tough.”

“Standing in front of the net, there were no penalties back then. The ref would say, ‘Hey, loosen up Pronger’ and Pronger would look at the ref and was like ‘Don’t ever talk to me again.'”

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Of course, fans of the Red Wings are all too familiar with the bruising Pronger, who had plenty of run-ins with the team during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Fellow defenseman (and one-time Red Wing) Derian Hatcher was also known for his physical presence, while 6’9 Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara continues to intimidate opponents.

However, the NHL has seen a reduction in so-called “goon” players, who offered little in terms of offense and made their living with their fists while protecting their squad’s star players with physicality.

“I don’t know if it was really dirty (in the past), that’s the way it was – if you go in front of the net, you’re taking a punishment,” Vanek said. “Now the game has changed. You’ve got a lot of smaller defensemen who are more mobile. They cross-check a little bit, but those guys are nonexistent really anymore.”

Vanek, while not officially retired, currently coaches an under-14 single-A team in Stillwater, Minnesota. During his career, he tallied 373 goals and 789 total points.

– – Quotes via Brandon Maron of TheScore.com Link – –

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