Like every major professional sports league, the National Hockey League (NHL) has had its share of on- and off-ice distractions. For all can't-do-wrong poster boys of the league who provide nothing but positive press, there's a troubled player who has provided nothing but negative press for the league, whether during his playing career or in retirement.
As a preface for this list, there's a difference between being a pest on the ice and acting like a reckless jerk. There's also a long list of players who fill the role of on-ice pest but, outside of the rink, are humbled individuals who do plenty of good in their community. Someone like Brad Marchand is a great example of this; the Bruins winger is hated by players and fans alike, but is one of the most charitable athletes in Boston.
For instance, Marchand hasn't assaulted a player on ice with his stick nor has he committed major crimes off the ice. He also hasn't gone into the crowd and attacked a fan with a shoe at any point in his career. The following players, however, have done at least one of the above offenses and, in turn, gave the league's executives a collective headache.
15 Marty McSorley
Prior to 2000, Ontario native Marty McSorley had a reputation as a physical defenseman who played the game hard but fair - at least for the most part. He had his run-ins with opponents, but nothing came close to the February 21 incident in which he struck Vancouver Canucks player Donald Brashear in the head with his stick. McSorley's use of his stick wasn't just reckless, it was downright vicious, so much so that he was suspended for the rest of the season (23 games) and faced a criminal charge of assault with a weapon.
14 Rick Tocchet
Rick Tocchet is a veteran of 1,144 career NHL games, but the former winger was an assistant coach with the Phoenix Coyotes when he was involved in a major criminal case which tarnished his image and hurt the league's reputation. In February of 2006 it was made public that Tocchet, along with Janet Jones, the wife of Wayne Gretzky, was the subject of an undercover police operation led by New Jersey state police and aptly titled "Operation Slapshot".
13 Tie Domi
Unlike many on this list, Tie Domi doesn't necessarily have one instance in which he disgraced the NHL; rather, the former Toronto Maple Leafs pugilist has accumulated a variety of grey-area incidents. No, we're not talking about his career 3,515 penalty minutes and his ability to take multiple punches to the forehead without flinching. It's his elbow on Hall of Fame defenseman Scott Neidermayer that not only tarnished his reputation, but confirmed the idea held by some that the NHL was a goon league at the time.
12 Todd Bertuzzi
Todd Bertuzzi might not have been trying to one-up the vicious intent-to-injure a player committed by the aforementioned Marty McSorley and Tie Domi, but he did exactly that during a March 8 contest against the Colorado Avalanche. Playing for the Vancouver Canucks, the power forward sought retribution on Colorado's Steve Moore for a questionable hit he landed on Canucks' Markus Naslund in a previous game.
11 Mike Milbury
You might think there's nothing more Mike Milbury could have done to hurt the reputation of the league than his terrible resume as a General Manager and the brutal analysis he provides for NBC, but think again. Prior to becoming an executive, Milbury played 11 seasons with the Boston Bruins and was a fairly effective defenseman, having recorded 238 points in 754 career games.
10 Chris Simon
Winger Chris Simon was a grey-area player for much of his 18-year career in the NHL, but, for the most part, he managed to avoid doing anything terribly stupid. That's because, despite being a pest, he could add some offense in a limited role. For instance, he scored a career-high 29 goals and added 146 penalty minutes in 75 games with the Washington Capitals in 1999-00.
9 Raffi Torres
The aforementioned Chris Simon held the record for longest suspension for just eight years. While it seemed as though 30 games might be a tough punishment to top, Raffi Torres was the one player we all believed could do it. Like Simon, Torres played a rough-and-tumble game, but he also had some skill, twice topping 20 goals as a member of the Edmonton Oilers. He was also a speedy skater, which made his hits all the more vicious.
8 Patrick Cote
Before the UFC fighter of the same name earned recognition as a champion, the hockey-playing Patrick Cote was the known tough guy. A native of La Salle, Quebec, Cote was selected by the Dallas Stars in the second round of the 1995 NHL Entry Draft, but only played 105 career games in the league between the Stars, Nashville Predators, and Edmonton Oilers.
7 Slava Voynov
Slava Voynov was an integral part of two Stanley Cup-winning teams in Los Angeles. Along with Drew Doughty, the Russian defenseman gave the team a potent one-two punch on the blue-line for three seasons and appeared poised to be a stud for a number of years. However, early in the 2014-15 season, Voynov was charged with felony domestic violence after being accused of kicking and choking his wife during an October incident. His wife, Marta Varlamova, received eight stitches to close a cut over her eye, according to a police report.
6 Mike Richards
Mike Richards is another member of the Los Angeles Kings who had a drastic fall from grace. Once a top-ten center in the league, Richards played well with the Kings and the Philadelphia Flyers, but in the summer of 2015 his career came to a screeching halt. His play began to fade in the years prior, and, according to reports, he was to be traded to the Boston Bruins at the 2015 NHL Draft, but that was derailed following a possession charge at the Canadian border.
5 Dino Ciccarelli
Luckily for Dino Ciccarelli, he's a Hockey Hall of Famer who had an incredible career with the Minnesota North Stars, Washington Capitals, Detroit Red Wings, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Florida Panthers. Had he been an average player, the one thing we would remember about his career was the stick-swinging incident in a 1988 game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
4 Craig MacTavish
Craig MacTavish's management of the Edmonton Oilers has been so bad you might have forgotten - or simply not known - that he once killed a woman. While playing for the Boston Bruins in 1984, MacTavish served a one-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to vehicular homicide. He was driving while drunk and struck another vehicle, which resulted in the death of a 26-year-old woman.
3 Mike Danton
The story of Mike Danton is not only one the NHL wishes to forget, but it might be the strangest drama to have played out in league history. After finally earning a full-time NHL job with the St. Louis Blues during the 2003-04 season, Danton was arrested by FBI officials prior to a first-round playoff game against the San Jose Sharks for his role in a murder-for-hire plot.
2 Billy Coutu
Former Montreal Canadien Billy Coutu was long dead by the time players like Marty McSorley, Todd Bertuzzi, and Raffi Torres committed heinous on-ice acts leading to record-setting suspensions, but his legacy remains intact. It's not a great legacy, however; the former Montreal Canadiens captain was playing for the Boston Bruins in the 1927 Stanley Cup Finals when he started a bench-clearing brawl, assaulted referee Jerry Laflamme and later tackled referee Billy Bell in the hallway.
1 Sean Avery
Few players embarrassed the NHL as much as Sean Avery, who, despite having a decent skill set, opted to act like a goon at just about every possible opportunity. Avery was a prima donna in every sense of the word during his playing days. On the ice, he was a noted diver who had one particularly embarrassing dive following a shove from Jaromir Jagr and he's the reason behind the "Avery Rule," which outlaws a player from turning his back to the play in front of the net and screening the goalie. It seemed almost genius when he did it during a playoff game against the New Jersey Devils, but the league deemed it unsportsmanlike the following day and created the rule.
Then there's everything Avery has said in interviews and his reputation as a locker room bully. The worst instance came prior to a game against the Calgary Flames, where Avery went out of his way to seek members of the media and made the following comment: "I just want to comment on how it's become like a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my sloppy seconds. I don't know what that's about, but enjoy the game tonight." Dion Phaneuf was dating his ex-girlfriend Elisha Cuthbert at the time. Avery was suspended indefinitely and his teammates made it clear they weren't going to allow him back in the locker room.
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