Every star athlete dreams of one day playing their sport at the highest level possible and most players will tell you that it’s an honor just to be drafted regardless of what team takes them, but most players would also rather prefer to play for some teams than others. So when given the opportunity to pick their own team, not all teams are created equal.
When given the opportunity to choose a team there are often many factors at play and depending on the individual some may weigh more heavily than others. Of course money usually plays some sort of a role and some players will go wherever they’ll get paid the most, but for the majority of athletes there’s more to it than that. Some players crave the media spotlight and go to a place where they can get the most attention. Other players prefer piece and quiet and will choose a smaller town where they can be left alone when they’re away from the field of play.
Another factor players consider is the stability of a team’s ownership. Having a strong, well mannered owner who doesn’t mettle in personnel decisions is usually preferable to a loud mouthed owner who says and does questionable things, and uses his team as his own personal toy.
Other factors, like geography, coaching, and familiarity with other players can often influence a players choice, but at the end of the day, winning often trumps everything. If a player thinks he can win with a certain team than that team often holds more clout than a perennial loser. The pros of playing for all of the teams on this list are outweighed by the cons and many of them will become more desirable teams if they start winning, but some will require a bigger change than that.
Here are the 15 teams that no one wants to play for.
15. Toronto Raptors
For years the Toronto Raptors have dealt with American born players not wanting to play north of the border. Often they would draft a star player, only to see that player jettison Toronto for an American city when the opportunity arose. Many players found it tough to adjust to life in a different country. After Chris Bosh left to join the Miami Heat, he complained that in Toronto he didn’t have access to “the good cable”. Former Raptor Antonio Davis was concerned about his children being subjected to the metric system.
Many players have worried about the cold Canadian weather and the higher tax rates as well. In recent history the team has become better at attracting players because as previously stated, winning often trumps everything else.
14. New York Islanders
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
For a long time the New York Islanders were one of the most dysfunctional teams in all of sports. From the team’s sale to John Spano, who was discovered to be a fraud, to its ownership under the controversial Charles Wang and its years of mismanagement under Mike Milbury, all while playing in a crumbling arena with poor attendance, the Islanders were the laughingstock of the NHL.
Wang’s tenure as owner is nearing its end, the team has moved from Nassau Coliseum to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, and the team’s management and on ice product seemsto be heading in the right direction, built around budding superstar John Tavares. Still the Islanders aren’t a prime destination for players, not yet anyway.
13. Flint Firebirds
The OHL’s Flint Firebirds were temporarily without any players in November of 2015. Head coach John Gruden and assistant coach Dave Karpa were both fired by team owner Rolf Nilsen over a dispute about the amount of playing time that was being given to Nilsen’s son Hakon.
After the firing, all of the team’s players, including Hakon Nilsen, walked out on the team in protest. Gruden and Karpa were both reinstated and given three year-contract extensions, along with an assurance from Nilsen that he would no longer mettle in the team’s personnel decisions. This whole mess will make it difficult for the Firebirds to recruit players in the future.
12. University of Missouri Football
In November of 2015 a number of racially motivated incidents at the University of Missouri led to members of the Mizzou football team refusing to participate in all team activities until the school’s president, Tim Wolfe, either stepped down or was thrown out. Wolfe resigned from his position and the players returned to the field, but future recruits may be hesitant to join a school where they could be subjected to racial attacks.
11. Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers have always had trouble attracting players to Edmonton. It’s one of the pitfalls of being located in the Canadian prairies. Edmonton doesn’t exactly sound like the most glamorous place to live.
The most notable players to shun the Oilers were Chris Pronger and Dany Heatley. Pronger, after one season in Edmonton in which he helped take the team to the 2006 Stanley Cup Final, requested a trade.
A few years later Heatley, who had requested a trade from the Senators, rejected a trade to Edmonton. A recent poll of NHL player agents by ESPN’s Craig Custance listed Edmonton as one of the top two cities on most players’ no trade lists.
The fact that the Oilers have been in a constant state of rebuilding for years hasn’t helped matters either. Well have to wait and see if that changes with phenom Connor McDavid in town.
10. Buffalo Bills
The Buffalo Bills were a team in turmoil for years. During the latter portion of founder Ralph Wilson’s ownership the team made many questionable football decisions that has resulted in the Bills missing the playoffs every season since 1999. There were also concerns about the team’s long term viability in Buffalo with speculation of a move to Toronto that led to the Bills playing a number of regular season games north of the border.
Playing on a losing team with no secure future in Buffalo could dissuade any player from joining the Bills. Wilson passed away in March of 2014 and new owner Terry Pegula has promised to keep the Bills in Buffalo, but the team will have to turn it around on the field before players are convinced to join a team that ranked second on a 2014 ESPN poll of teams that NFL players don’t want to play for.
9. Toronto Blue Jays
It may seem strange to see the Blue Jays on this list given the team’s success in 2015, but much like the Raptors the idea of playing in a different country has been a deterrent for American players many of whom have the Blue Jays on their no-trade lists. The idea of playing on the artificial turf of the Rogers Centre also frightens players away. At the end of the day, when the Blue Jays were winning back-to-back World Series titles in 1992 and ’93 the team didn’t have trouble attracting players and now that the team’s 22 year playoff drought has come to an end, players may soon flock to Major League baseball’s lone Canadian team. We’ll have to wait and see.
8. Winnipeg Jets
When the Phoenix Coyotes were facing possible relocation, goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov professed concerns about potentially moving to Winnipeg, citing the cold weather, a lack of family entertainment, and a lack of parks. Since the Thrashers moved to Winnipeg, the Jets have had trouble attracting players. Winnipeg was the other one of the top two cities on most NHL players’ no trade lists according to Custance’s ESPN poll. As the Jets start winning, players’ attitudes towards the city should begin to change, but for now it’s a place everyone wants to avoid.
7. Oakland Raiders
The aforementioned 2014 ESPN poll of NFL players listed the Oakland Raiders as the number one team that players don’t want to play for and the team’s recent lack of success at luring free agents seems to suggest that is true. The reason seems to be pretty simple. Since getting blown in the 2002 Super Bowl the Raiders have failed to produce one winning season and have finished with 11 or more losses ten times. In addition to that, their future in Oakland is uncertain with ongoing stadium issues.
This perception of the Raiders might change very soon though, as they are stating to look like one of the emerging teams in the NFL, backed by young stars in Derek Carr, Amari Cooper and Khalil Mack.
6. Philadelphia 76ers
The 76ers have been a rebuilding team for a few years now. They finished the 2014-15 season with just 18 wins and only won 19 games the season prior. The team doesn’t look to be any better in 2015-16, beginning the season 0-7. Over the last few years Danny Granger and Andrei Kirilenko have both refused to play for the 76ers after getting traded to Philadelphia. No one wants to play in Philadelphia right now, but in a few years time when the team starts winning, that will change.
5. Cleveland Browns
In recent years both quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and the mother of wide receiver DeVante Parker expressed a desire to avoid Cleveland. Since the original Cleveland Browns team moved to Baltimore and the new Browns began play in the 1999 season, they’ve only produced two winning seasons and have finished with double digits in the loss column 12 times. They’ve also changed quarterbacks like underwear and have been the most unstable franchise, as coaches and GMs continuously get fired. No one wants to play for a bad, unstable team.
4. Belfast Giants (2008) Ltd.
In 2013 the Elite Ice Hockey League’s Belfast Giants were purchased by American Christopher Knight. A few weeks after the purchase, it was revealed that Knight was a registered sex offender in the state of Florida. Unable to buy the team from Knight, the owners of Odyssey Arena, the home of the Giants, terminated the team’s lease and all of the team’s players and staff abandoned their contracts.
The arena owners restarted the team, stating that it was a new company – separate from the Belfast Giants (2008) Ltd company owned by Knight – and all of the players and staff re-joined the new Belfast Giants. As a result, Knight was left with a team no one wants to for with no staff and no arena to play in.
3. SMU Football
The Southern Methodist University Mustangs were once one NCAA’s top teams, going undefeated in 1982 and compiling a record 49-9-1 record from 1980-84. However, on February 25, 1987 SMU was hit with the “death penalty” by the NCAA for numerous recruiting violations that included payments to their players. The Mustangs were forced to sit out the entire 1987 season and their 1988 season was canceled as well.
It’s been nearly three decades since, but the small Texas school has yet to fully recover. Top recruits don’t want to go SMU and recently former Mustangs running back Eric Dickerson suggested the school should kill its football program altogether.
2. Toronto Maple Leafs
You may be noticing a trend here, but unlike the Raptors and Blue Jays, the Maple Leafs ability to attract players is less about geography and more about wanting to avoid the media scrutiny that comes with playing in the center of the hockey universe. Given the team’s lack of on ice success and the media’s tendency to embrace role players and run star players out of town when the team doesn’t win, you can’t really blame anyone for staying away.
A new management group should help to turn the team’s on ice fortunes around and head coach Mike Babcock has promised to turn Toronto into a city where players will want to play.
1. Penn State Football
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
The Nittany Lions team were once one of the NCAA’s most well respected football programs, led by head coach Joe Paterno and his record 409 wins. That all changed in November of 2011 when the school was rocked by a scandal involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse of a number of children, a scandal that the Freeh report revealed Paterno and other school officials were complicit in covering up.
It’s been four years since the news of the scandal first broke and Paterno has since passed on and Sandusky is serving a life sentence in prison, while the Nittany Lions try to rebuild their once proud football program. It will be years before the team recovers and Penn State’s reputation will never be what it once was, making it the number one team no one wants to play for.
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