On the surface, being a professional athlete should be all rainbows and lollipops. There's money, fame, ladies and all sorts of other perks that come with a job that asks its athletes to play a game they love for a living. What could be so hard about that?
For many, like 99 percent of professional NHL players, these athletes don't take for granted what it means to play in the NHL. Then there is the one percent. These are the players that abuse drugs and alcohol, let money and status get to their heads and forget the game and its beauty. These athletes simply forgot how hard they worked or the breaks they were given as they climbed the ladder to success. In the end, they made stupid decisions and threw up obstacles in their own career. Some decisions were so bad, it forced these players to kiss their careers goodbye.
From former to current players, very few if any of these 15 stars are still in the NHL. Any who are, are on their last legs and will have all but disappeared from the league in only a matter of time. Who are these 15 good to great hockey players who made awful life decisions? Keep reading and let us know if we missed any.
Just for fun, we threw in a former player who didn't actually do anything wrong or illegal. He simply overthought the situation he was in and his reputation around the NHL took a major hit. Can you guess who this person was? I'll give you a hint... he's a coach now!
15 Dennis Wideman Knocks Out Referee
In 2014-15, Dennis Wideman had 56 points as a defenseman with the Calgary Flames. That's pretty awesome offensive production. In 2016, Wideman was suspended for 20 games for cross-checking linesman Don Henderson from behind with his stick. Wideman had just been hit by an opponent in a series leading up to the contact with the ref and Wideman used the concussion and wooziness to excuse his actions, but it was clear that Wideman had simply just lost his temper and broke the most cardinal rule in hockey (don't put your hands on a referee). There was absolutely no need for contact and the hit could have been completely avoided. Wideman simply chose not to.
Since the incident, Wideman has become almost a forgotten man in Calgary. He's on a short leash if not on the way out of the organization and there aren't too many teams likely willing to take another chance on him.
14 Marty McSorley Slashed Donald Brashear
Marty McSorley was a traveled veteran hockey player who made a name for himself as a talented defenseman who could chip in on the scoreboard, but more importantly, protect the superstars of the game. He was literally traded in 1988 because Wayne Gretzky demanded it (not wanting to lose McSorley as his bodyguard).
In 2000, was charged criminally for losing his cool and slashing enforcer Donald Brashear directly in the head. It knocked Brashear out and basically ended McSorley's career. He played one more season in the IHL after that but called it quits not long after. It was only the second time since 1988 that a player was charged outside of the NHL for an act on the ice. It was a crappy way to go out, especially since it all happened because Brashear refused to fight him.
13 Marc Crawford Sits Gretzky
Marc Crawford isn't exactly considered a "great" player, but after you win two back-to-back Memorial Cup trophies and then get to the NHL, where you spend six seasons back and forth between the minors and the pros, you have to be considered pretty good. But, it's not what Crawford did to his own playing career that has him on this list. It's what he did to an entire nation and to the greatest player ever in Wayne Gretzky.
At the 1988 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Team Canada's men's hockey team was being coached by Crawford. The semi-final game came down to a shootout and Crawford neglected to nominate Wayne Gretzky as one of Canada's five shooters. Czech goalie Dominik Hasek stopped all five Canadian shooters and Canada would be forced to play for bronze. They ended up losing that game. Crawford has coached since, but he's missed out on a ton of great opportunities based on that decision.
12 Sean Avery Calls Cuthbert "Sloppy Seconds"
Sean Avery had a pretty good career going for himself in the NHL. Unfortunately, his loud mouth starting writing checks his talent couldn't cash and he became such a nuisance that no NHL team wanted to touch him knowing he'd eventually do something insane and cost himself, and any team who employed him, money and a headache. There's no better example than the comments he made about Elisha Cuthbert.
In 2008, Avery was trying to ruffle the feathers of Dion Phaneuf (who Cuthbert was now dating). Avery was Cuthbert's ex and his team was about to play Phaneuf's team when he referred to Cuthbert as his sloppy seconds. The Dallas Stars publicly reprimanded Avery for his comments and Avery essentially irreparably damaged his relationship with the organization who moved him out as soon as they could. He was a marked man in the eyes of the NHL and he ultimately left one of the league's most hated players.
11 Todd Bertuzzi Suckers Steve Moore
During his playing days, Todd Bertuzzi was known as a pesky player. He was highly skilled and had a bright future ahead of him, but he had a temper. In 2004, in an attempt to avenge a hit he didn't like on teammate Markus Naslund, he sucker-punched Steve Moore of the Colorado Avalanche. If the punch wasn't bad enough, as Moore was falling, Bertuzzi laid his weight onto Moore's head which hit the ice. The attack left Moore with a severe concussion and three broken vertebrae in his neck. Moore was forced to retire not long after the incident and Bertuzzi was handed an indefinite suspension.
Over the next ten years, the incident was always present for Bertuzzi. He eventually settled out of court in 2010 and while Bertuzzi did come back, his career was never the same. Once a top-line player, after 2005 he never again broke the mid-forties in points.
10 Dany Heatley and His Ego Refused To Be Traded
There was a time that Dany Heatley was one of the NHL's most potent offensive weapons. Earlier in his career, he was involved in a car accident that cost his friend his life and saw him indicted on six charges. That was bad, but Heatley was able to move on and refocus on hockey in Ottawa.
A few years later, the Senators were looking to make some organizational changes and consummated a trade with the Edmonton Oilers that would see Heatley shipped to Edmonton. There was only one problem. Heatley had a no-trade clause and refused to waive it to go to a team like Edmonton who was struggling in the standings. Instead, he pretty much refused to play anywhere except San Jose and waited until all parties made the trade happen. He basically said he wouldn't stay in Ottawa and he wouldn't go to Edmonton. He didn't want to go to a ton of other places which made him very hard to trade for fair value. He forced everyone's hand because he felt he was just that big a deal.
He had one good season in San Jose and his game regressed terribly. It was one of those situations where he thought he was hot stuff and called his shots. Clearly, his ego slipped into his game and he didn't stay nearly as productive. He disappeared from the NHL in only a matter of a few seasons.
9 Evander Kane Money Selfie
Evander Kane is a very good hockey player. He can score frequently and contribute to a team's offense but he's got a tendency to become a public relations nightmare. One can make the argument that he's not as bad as people assume, but it's hard not to link his off-ice activities with his on-ice performance. Many feel Kane isn’t living up to his potential and had he not taken the infamous photo of himself with a bunch of money, people might not have started off on the wrong foot with him.
In much the same way people feel contempt toward an athlete like Floyd Mayweather, Kane doesn't seem to understand the backlash his photos create. As such, he's spent the majority of his career as a player never sure if he's going to be traded, sent packing or have to answer questions about his behavior. Perhaps that's what he wants (the attention), but it can't help his play and his teammates can't stand the negative press.
8 Mike Ribeiro Alcohol Issues
Mike Ribeiro was dynamic and there was a time that one or two out of ten NHL highlight reels would consistently include something Ribeiro had done to an opponent. Unfortunately, he also had off-the-ice issues. While playing for the Arizona Coyotes, he was heavily swayed by alcohol and the team basically released him (officially a buyout). A source from the team said it was because he was late for practices, missed meetings, missed buses, and even engaged in a shouting match with (Head Coach Dave) Tippett in the locker room. To make matters worse, he settled a lawsuit out of court with a hired nanny who claimed she was assaulted. He tried to make a resurgence in Nashville, but he's pretty much out of the NHL now. Teams have wanted to bring in offense and while Ribeiro can provide it, he's often overlooked now.
7 Eric Lindros Refuses To Play In Quebec
In 1991, Lindros was about as highly touted as an NHL draft pick can be. He was clearly the top-overall selection at that year's draft and he was going to be a star in the NHL, but he had absolutely no desire to play for Quebec who was about to draft him. They did and out of defiance, Lindros refused to wear the team's jersey.
In what became a very confusing year, the NHL saw two teams trade for Lindros at the same time. An arbitrator was required to sort the situation out and Lindros went on to have a Hall of Fame career but was excluded from the Hall of Fame until a decade later. He spent his entire career as a star who always had that asterisk of being the guy who refused to be drafted. I'm not suggesting his shortened career due to injury had anything to do with his decision, but some people viewed it as karma. He could have been one of the greats, but instead he's sort of looked at as really really good.
6 Slava Voynov Arrested For Domestic Violence
If we're talking about a player who had everything ahead of him but threw it all away, you have to be thinking Slava Voynov. Voynov was arrested and charged with domestic violence charges against his wife and the NHL immediately suspended and condemned him. The Los Angeles Kings tried to give him the benefit of the doubt but with no luck. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail and was about to be deported from the U.S. after his release. Instead, he fled the country on his own and made a statement apologizing for his actions but that he'd decided he and his family were headed back to Russia. He basically forfeited $20 million dollars and can't come back to the U.S. He was the Kings second-best defenseman and their blue line has struggled since.
5 Steve Downie Doesn't Understand The Objective Of Hockey
If Steve Downie truly understood the objective of a hockey game is to score more goals than your opponent, he might have had a longer career in the NHL. Instead, Downie seemed to believe that trying to cripple an opponent and use every dirty way to hit someone was as a job or a way to carve out an NHL career. He was very, very wrong.
Downie was suspended so many times he became a player nobody wanted to touch. The sad thing is, while he wasn't necessarily great, he had real talent and was a first-round draft pick. The writing was on the wall when, while in the OHL, Downie tried to haze a rookie by getting him naked and shoving him into a very small bathroom on a bus. 16-year-old Akim Aliu refused to participate and as a result, Downie blindsided Aliu and crosschecked him in the face with his stick during a practice. He knocked out three teeth before Aliu fought back. The game has no time for players like Downie and he's out of the NHL because of it.
4 Mike Richards Crosses Border With Drugs
Mike Richards was a heck of a hockey player. At one time he was the face of the Philadelphia Flyers franchise and a member of Team Canada. Unfortunately, his game regressed a bit and he wound up viewed as a player who wasn't worth what he was getting paid.
During the latter half of his career, and while playing for the Los Angeles Kings, Richards was charged with possession of a controlled substance which court documents listed as oxycodone. He was arrested by Canada Border Services Agency officials in Emerson, Manitoba after trying to cross the border from North Dakota. Following the arrest, the Los Angeles Kings immediately terminated Richards’ deal, which had five years and US$22 million remaining. The Kings called it a material breach of his contract but it was clear they were just trying to get his contracts off the books. They did so and Richards had a very short NHL career following the trouble. It was a lot of money he gave up and he basically gave the Kings an excuse to get out of a high-priced agreement with him.
3 Jarret Stoll Gets Patted Down
Jarret Stoll isn't going to make anyone's top-ten list of talented NHL players, but he had carved out a pretty good career as a depth forward, faceoff guy and power play specialist. He'd played on more than one Stanley Cup Championship team and hooked up with some of the hottest women in Hollywood. A few people would have envied him. That is until he got caught with possession of cocaine entering the Wet Republic pool area at MGM Grand in Vegas.
Stoll was asked if he could be searched and he said OK, all while holding 3.3 grams cocaine and several capsules of MDMA. It was illegal, it was embarrassing and it pretty much cost him the trust of a number of NHL teams. He floated around for a little while afterward, but he's out of the NHL now and one has to guess it had both to do with his game going downhill and the fact managers and coaches didn't know if they could trust him.
2 Mike Danton Hires Hitman
Ok, Danton wasn't a great player. But, I had to include him because his exit from the NHL has to be among the strangest ever. He literally tried to hire someone to murder someone else.
Mike Danton played for the New Jersey Devils and St. Louis Blues between 2000 and 2004. In April of 2004, he was charged with conspiracy to commit murder. Meaning, he attempted to hire a hitman to kill his agent David Frost. The hitman was actually an undercover police officer and Danton served 63 months in jail, after initially being hit with a 90-month sentence. Since being released, he has resumed his professional ice hockey career in Europe but, needless to say, that pretty much put an end to his hockey career in the NHL.
1 Kevin Stevens Crack Dependency
70, 86, 123, 111 and 88. Those were the point totals each year for Pittsburgh Penguins forward Kevin Stevens between 1989 and 1994. He was a gifted forward. He was also a crack addict.
In June of 2000, he was celebrating a win over the St. Louis Blues (Steven's was a New York Ranger at the time) and he was in south St. Louis when he decided to pick up a prostitute and buy hundreds of dollars worth of crack cocaine. Stevens was a husband and father of two children but that didn't seem to matter, as he was arrested in a motel room where his inability to control his habit had finally caught up with him. He tried to make a comeback and spent one year with the Flyers scoring only 9 points in 23 games. He then went back to Pittsburgh where he had most of his success to finish his career. There he tallied only 28 points in 64 games before retiring in 2002. It was one of the saddest falls in NHL history.
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