There are a lot of perfectly understandable reasons to hate a guy in the NHL. The very nature of the game can trigger a deep, loathsome revulsion, often manifesting itself in a physical explosion of on-ice brutality.
Aggressors and goons make up the vast majority of the most hated players in the league. Dirty play, illegal stick work and constant obnoxious chirping all can fuel the rage of an entire team, fan base and beyond. It’s the nasty spats and long-held grudges that the mere mention of names like Claude Lemieux, Dale Hunter and Tie Domi can cause certain fans’ blood to boil even still today.
But then you have the arrogant showoffs, the incessant complainers and the abject cowards. Also, there are the overpaid underperformers and ungrateful punks who get so deep under your skin that your face turns red at the sight of their sniveling, ugly faces.
Whatever the reason may be, a lot of these players develop a bad reputation for attracting the ire of a lot of people, both on the ice and off. They’re the ones we love to hate, love to root against and especially love to watch lose.
We cheer them when they’re on our favorite team but hate them even more when they line up on the other side of the faceoff dot.
So grab yourself a stress ball and try to maintain a healthy blood pressure as we journey one-by-one through the most hated player in every NHL team’s history.
30 Anaheim Ducks: Corey Perry
Corey Perry is, for lack of a better word, a d**k. He’s got one of the worst reputations in the entire league for the dirty stuff he does beyond the watchful eye of the men with the orange armbands – and that’s just the stuff he gets away with. For everything else, he’s got a rap sheet a country mile long, full of illegal hits and violent stick work, which, as you might guess, matches his childish, petty attitude. He also over-retaliates to perfectly legal contact like an entitled little brat who’s never been told “no.” Ducks fans have no problem overlooking all that, though, because he’s one of the best playmakers on the team, but Perry’s definitely not touching many hearts outside of Southern California.
29 Arizona Coyotes/Winnipeg Jets: Steve Downie
Steve “Unnecessary Roughness” Downie was a dirty, spiteful hockey player who stampeded through the NHL for parts of nine seasons, creating enemies all along the way and leaving a whole lot of haters in his wake. An equal opportunity aggressor, Downie didn’t limit his malicious behavior to opposing teams and players. When he wasn’t throwing blind-sided hits and sucker punches, he was fighting his own teammates and abusing officials. He only played in 26 games for the Arizona Coyotes towards the very end of his professional career, but his belligerent 2016 Christmastime Twitter tirade against the entire Coyotes organization – and Don Cherry, of all people – condemning the attitude of violence in the NHL well after his retirement, is enough to make him Arizona’s most-hated player ever.
28 Boston Bruins: Eddie Shore
For a team with Brad Marchand, Milan Lucic and Marty McSorley among its lengthy list of alumni, you know Eddie Shore must have manufactured a lot of hate among his peers all those years ago. Shore, who would have been 115 years old this year, played parts of 14 seasons with the Bruins all the way back in the 1920s and 1930s and didn’t make many friends along the way. He was a bruiser with an explosive temper. He was flat mean, and it wasn’t uncommon for his overly aggressive antics to send both him and his victims to the hospital with serious injuries. Plus, Shore had a really punchable face that I would imagine was probably really easy to hate. You’re safe for now, Marchand.
27 Buffalo Sabres: Rob Ray
It wasn’t a true Sabres game until Rob Ray dropped the gloves on somebody. Ray was an imposing enforcer and all-around tough guy who plied the ice for the Buffalo Sabres for 13 seasons in the 1990s and early 2000s. He took pleasure in striking up and maintaining bitter rivalries with some of the most prolific fighters in the league and even learned to skirt the rules to win a lot of fights by shedding his jersey and shoulder pads. According to Jeremy Roenick, he also took trash-talking past the line of acceptability. Currently, Ray is sixth in the entire league with 3,207 career penalty minutes, so that ought to tell you a little bit about why Ray is on this list for the Sabres.
26 Calgary Flames: Theo Fleury
For a guy who stood all of 5-foot-6, Theo Fleury packed a lot of punch. He was angry, a man on a constant tirade with a temper as short as… well, he was. While it’s pretty understandable now, with the recent revelations of some of his deepest, darkest secrets detailed in his recently released memoir, it doesn’t take away from the fact that he was the target of a lot of hate from lot of people during his time in the league. Fast and aggressive, Fleury made up for his lack of size by never backing down from a fight and even made a point to go out looking for them. Because of that, he got under skin of a lot of opponents, who looked down on him in more ways than one.
25 Carolina Hurricanes/Hartford Whalers: Ulf Samuelsson
Public Enemy No. 1. That’s who Ulf Samuelsson was to pretty much everyone during his 16 years in the NHL between 1984 and 2000. Seriously, he was a nightmare on skates. Samuelsson had total disregard for his opponents’ safety and had apparently never heard of the concept of compassion. He had a habitually bad habit of targeting players’ knees when he threw a check, raising his elbows faceward when doing battle in the corners and using his stick more often as a weapon than what it was actually meant for. Lots of players were out-spoken about their disdain for Samuelsson back then, but he never seemed to care. Of course with a name like Ulf, I can understand why he might be a little bitter.
24 Chicago Blackhawks: Daniel Carcillo
He didn’t play for long – only parts of nine years in the league and just 39 games for the Blackhawks – but Daniel “Car Bomb” Carcillo quickly became Chicago’s most hated player ever for his past transgressions and repeated bad behavior. Over the course of his career, he antagonized both players and fans alike and poured on the dirty, chippy play on a nightly basis. He engaged in a lot of undisciplined hockey and oftentimes put his team in less-than-desirable positions. He was therefore no stranger to league discipline, earning eight different suspensions and shelling out tens of thousands of dollars to the league in fines. He once even used his stick against an official during the 2014 Eastern Conference Finals, which is a great way to top off a tarnished legacy forever.
23 Colorado Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques: Claude Lemieux
Perhaps the most universally hated player in league history, Claude Lemieux was a supervillain on skates. His on-ice behavior was downright despicable, and his ability to burrow himself deep under the skin of his opponents is what will haunt many in the league until their dying days. His ugly check from behind on Kris Draper in 1996 birthed the historically nasty rivalry between the Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings that endured for a good decade, and he once bit Calgary forward Jim Peplinski’s finger in a scrum. What opponents probably hated most about Lemieux, though, was the fact that not only was he a dirty player, but he was also highly skilled and scored a lot of big goals. Double-negative for anyone not wearing the same uniform he was.
22 Columbus Blue Jackets: Jeff Carter
In this rare instance, the player drew the bulk of the hate from his own teams and fans. Traded to Columbus during the 2011 offseason, Jeff Carter made it clear he never wanted to be in Ohio in the first place. What can only be described as a petulant protest, Carter put a bitter taste in the mouths of Columbus fans with his refusal to engage both the media and his teammates and his visible lack of effort every time he jumped over the boards for another shift. He basically forced Blue Jackets management to trade him late in 2012 after less than a season with the team and landed in Los Angeles, where he promptly rediscovered his talents and won a Stanley Cup championship with the Kings. Ugh.
21 Dallas Stars/Minnesota North Stars: Steve Ott
Steve Ott was one of the most polarizing players the Dallas Stars organization ever saw and easily the most hated man to play in the heart of Texas. Ott talked a big game and did a good job of getting opposing players off of theirs. He even learned to swear in several foreign languages in order to talk trash to players hailing from other countries. But Ott had a reputation for “turtling” and shrinking way like a coward when someone finally confronted him. He wasn’t above cheap shots, though, and he served well over 1,500 penalty minutes and was sentenced to several multi-game suspensions over his 15-year career. But more than anything, he mastered art of being a gigantic pest, and for that he was hated.
20 Detroit Red Wings: Bob Probert
Bob Probert almost single-handedly defined the culture of violence in the NHL’s rough and tumble 1980s and early 1990s. He was a hard-nosed player and a tough-guy enforcer who crossed the line both on and off the ice with his bellicose demeanor and habitual substance abuse. His fierce loyalty and willingness to mix it up at the drop of the hat ignited more than a handful of career-spanning rivalries with his most hated detractors. He thrice exceeded 300 penalty minutes, and in 1990-91, he averaged over five penalty minutes per game. But as much as his opponents hated him, his teammates loved him more. He dedicated blood, sweat and tears to earn his reputation, and these days, most guys who played against him appreciated his passion for the game.
19 Edmonton Oilers: Esa Tikkanen
If his ugly mug and receding hairline didn’t make you clench your jaw in boundless scorn, Esa Tikkanen’s insistence on being an annoying little gnat would surely do it. Tasked with protecting Wayne Gretzky in the 1980s, Tikkanen took his role way to seriously. Between his uncoherent half-English, half-Finnish “Tiki-Talk” dialect and tomahawking slashes, Tikkanen was one of the biggest, most-hated players ever.
The thing that caused just as much – if not more – hate for Tikkanen, though, was when he was with the Washington Capitals and missed a wide-open goal in Game 2 of the 1998 Stanley Cup Finals against the Detroit Red Wings. The goal would have put the game out of reach for the Wings and allowed the Capitals to tie the series at one. But the Wings would go on to tie the game and eventually win in overtime, a momentum-swinging sequence that changed the course of the series, as the Wings would go on to sweep the Finals 4-0.
18 Florida Panthers: Shawn Thornton
Shawn Thornton is one of those guys that you just can’t stand but you’re not exactly sure why. He’s not particularly good and really not that bad of a dude, but something about him just makes your skin crawl. Once a bruiser dishing out round after round of fisticuffs for the Boston Bruins, Thornton has had to reinvent his game in a post-enforcer world and now skates as a bottom-six forward for the Florida Panthers. He’s not innocent of hate-inducing conduct by any means. One look at a replay of his glove-handed assault on an innocent Brooks Orpik in 2013 is probably what tainted his reputation, but it’s not like he’s an egregiously terrible guy. He hasn’t even broken the 100 penalty mark in five seasons, although he also isn’t getting as much ice time as he used to.
17 Los Angeles Kings: Marty McSorley
You knew this was coming. You could be the most beloved favorite son in all the land before doing what Marty McSorley did and still be damned to the pits of hockey Hell for the wicked act he pulled. People already harbored a lot of hate for McSorley for his constant goon-like ways, but then he had to go and commit an actual crime by viciously clubbing Vancouver tough-guy Donald Brashear over the head with his stick near the end of a game in 2000 when he was with the Bruins. He ended up being convicted of assault in a British Columbia provincial court after the incident and was suspended by the NHL for an entire calendar year. He would never make it back into the league, which made the final act of his NHL career one of violence thus, cementing his place in hockey infamy forever.
16 Minnesota Wild: Matt Cooke
I have a sneaking suspicion that most fans – and even players – would hesitate for a couple seconds before throwing a life ring to a drowning Matt Cooke. Best known for his five tumultuous years in Pittsburgh with the Penguins, Matt Cooke spent his final two NHL seasons in Minnesota, immediately earning the title for the most hated player in Wild history. For nearly his entire career, Cooke took dirty to a whole different level. He disobeyed both written and unwritten rules of the game with reckless abandon, causing many to demand his permanent ouster time and again. He was constantly suspended for his inexcusable cheap shots and repeated deliberate attempts to injure opposing players and was generally just a total dirt bag through and through.
15 Montreal Canadiens: Chris Nilan
Chris “Knuckles” Nilan was that quintessential player who was hated by everyone else as much as he was adored by his teammates and hometown crowd. He played the agitator role for the Canadiens to a T, dishing out the occasional dirty hit while piling up the penalty by the hundreds every single season. He loved to fight. He even said so himself after he hung up his skates in 1992. It was his job to defend his Canadiens comrades, and his 251 fighting majors over the course of his career makes it clear he did it and did it well. He also HATED to lose and wasn’t afraid to push the envelope in order to avoid a loss. Canadiens fans loved it, but they were the only ones.
14 Nashville Predators: Jordin Tootoo
If you thought you saw Theo Fleury dash across the Nashville neutral zone and lay a brutal hit on an opponent nearly twice his size in the last few years, it was probably just Jordin Tootoo. The smallish forward who has a perpetual chip on his shoulder has a lot of similarities to the former Calgary bruiser, and the results are much the same. Beyond his ability to rough guys up and get under their skin with dirty and borderline illegal tactics, Tootoo seems to always be the center of a controversial drama with other guys in the league. Tootoo cut his teeth – and his knuckles – in the NHL with the Predators from 2006 until 2012 and is now making enemies as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks.
13 New Jersey Devils: Scott Stevens
It’s quite fitting that Scott Stevens spent his final 13 seasons in the NHL as a New Jersey Devil, because a lot of people in the ‘80s, ‘90s and early 2000s would have told you he was Lucifer incarnate. Stevens was mean – I mean, really mean. He was a big, bad defenseman who weighed in at over 215 pounds, and he had little regard for opposing players’ wellbeing. In fact, Steven’s aggressive tendencies were responsible for ending early more than a couple of guys’ careers along the way who couldn’t recover from their injuries. He didn’t make a whole lot of friends with his ruthless style of play, but his ability to finish checks with devastating brutality terrorized opposing forwards like very few before him.
12 New York Islanders: Darius Kasparaitis
Darius Kasparaitis didn’t take sh** from anybody, almost to a fault. He pushed the limits on every shift and delivered bone-rattling hits like it was his job – because it was. He got his start in the NHL with the Islanders in 1992 and immediately started pissing guys off. A lot of players said his imposing physicality strayed outside the bounds of the rules, and the occasional glove-handed facewash of a guy crowding the crease after the whistle would justify those notions. But it was his unabashed aggression and willingness to mix it up – either within the rules or not – in the corners, is what most people took issue with. Kaspar couldn’t have cared less what anyone thought and he embraced his role until his retirement in 2010.
11 New York Rangers: Sean Avery
You can’t not scowl at the mention of Sean Avery’s name. Avery is one of the dirtiest, smuggest, dastardly sons-of-a-you-know-what the game has ever seen. Players, fans, officials and even his own teammates hated his guts, especially opposing goalies before the NHL was forced to adopt the “Sean Avery Rule.” Not only was he a dirty pest on the ice, he even went so far as to attack people’s personal lives. Nothing was off limits for him. He loved nothing more than to create drama and cause strife within his organization, and he never displayed an ounce of remorse. The worst part is that he somehow managed to win the heart of smokeshow actress Elisha Cuthbert for a while. Fortunately, she wised up pretty quickly.
10 Ottawa Senators: Chris Neil
Bad-boy Chris Neil has been wreaking havoc on Ottawa Senators opponents for the past 16 years and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. At 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, Neil is built for business and isn’t afraid to use his big body as a weapon, although it’s not always with the cleanest intentions in mind. If you want to challenge Neil to a brawl at center ice, he’ll take you up on it in a heartbeat, and make you rethink your life decisions with one of his patented right hooks. He racks up hundreds of penalty minutes each season and is generally a thorn in the side of the players on the opposing bench. Word is, though, that he’s a pretty good guy off the ice, so take that as you will.
9 Philadelphia Flyers: Dave Schultz
Of all the Broad Street Bullies, Dave “The Hammer” Schultz was nastiest one of all. On a team that used extreme intimidation to beat up on teams on their way to two Stanley Cup championships in 1974 and 1975, Dave Schultz garnered more hate from players across the league than another man ever could. He was an overly-aggressive player and a brutal brawler who never backed down from a challenge. In 1974-75, Schultz set the NHL record for most penalty minutes in a single season with a whopping 472. That’s almost eight games worth of sitting in the Sin Bin. And as if one sport’s hate wasn’t enough, Schultz served as a referee for a match between The nasty Boys against Cactus Jack and Kevin Sullivan at WCW Slamboree in 1994.
8 Pittsburgh Penguins: Sidney Crosby
Sidney Crosby is a great player, no doubt about it. But his reputation for being a whiny little cry baby has quickly vaulted him to the top of the list for most hated Pittsburgh Penguins players ever. He’s spoiled for sure, and a lot of his detractors suspect the officials give him special treatment over other players on the ice. It also doesn’t help that he’s a total diver and tries to exploit his stardom to draw borderline calls. It’s just disrespectful to the game. Still, I get the feeling that everyone who’s not a Pittsburgh fan also hates him at least partly out of jealousy and the fact that he has probably, at some point, been a big reason for their team’s loss to the Pens.
7 St. Louis Blues: Chris Pronger
As if his hardened, gap-toothed mug wasn’t enough, Chris Pronger’s repeated malicious play could make even the most level-headed fan use the “H” word on him. Beyond his bush league tactics, his cocky attitude and total lack of remorse during his years in St. Louis are what make Pronger the most hated player to ever don a Blues sweater. He was suspended eight times in his career for his over-zealous physicality, including twice in the same playoffs in 2007. His most notable ugly moment came later on, in 2008, when he mercilessly stomped on Vancouver forward Ryan Kesler while he was down in the corner. He earned an eight-game banishment for that one, his last suspension before he stopped playing in 2011 due to multiple injuries. Karma?
6 San Jose Sharks: Bryan Marchment
Bryan Marchment will see Pronger’s eight suspensions and raise him five. That’s right; Marchment earned an incredible 13 banishments over the course of his 12-year NHL career for his low-down, dirty style of play. Knee-to-knee side swipes, face-level high sticks and slew-foot maneuvers were all on the table for beefy defenseman from Ontario. He was responsible for several serious injuries to opposing players and once even collapsed the lung of NHL legend Mike Gartner back in 1995 in an act of vengeance for a stick to the face in an game against the Rangers. He took pleasure for stirring the pot and wasn’t above risking disciplinary action for the dirty deeds he did. For all the pain he inflicted over the years, he earned double the hate from fans league-wide.
5 Tampa Bay Lighting: Eric Brewer
The Tampa Bay Lightning are a pretty likeable team. They always have been. So let me offer this disclaimer: Eric Brewer is a pretty upstanding guy. There isn’t a whole lot to hate about him off the ice. With that said, Lightning fans probably have more hate for Brewer than anyone else in the league. He came to Tampa Bay from the St. Louis Blues in 2011 riding a wave of upward potential. Unfortunately, that potential would dry up seemingly as soon as he landed in Florida, and he came to resemble more of a traffic cone the way he would just stand there and watch the play. That wasn’t well received by Lightning fans. He only lasted in Tampa for parts of five seasons before ending his career after the 2014-15 campaign.
4 Toronto Maple Leafs: Tie Domi
Built like a brick house, Tie Domi’s job was to reside firmly under the skin of his opponents and then proceed to beat them up when they had finally had enough. He used his stocky 5-foot-10, 210-pound frame to hit low, elbow high and push every button of every player in the opposite team’s jersey. Fans hated him too. He once squirted water on a fan before dishing out a couple of jabs to the face of another who had somehow ended up in his penalty box. Domi, though, always held his own and always had a smirk on his face like he was taunting anyone who didn’t like him. Currently, Domi is ranked third all-time for penalty minutes with 3,515, so you know he angered a lot of people during his career.
3 Vancouver Canucks: Todd Bertuzzi
One of the most disgraceful acts ever to take place during the course of a hockey game was committed by one Todd Bertuzzi while he was with the Canucks in 2004. After the Colorado Avalanche’s Steve Moore laid out Canucks star Markus Naslulnd with a legal hit in a game the previous month, Bertuzzi took exception when the teams met again and took out his revenge on Moore.
After Moore declined to engage Bertuzzi in the Avs’ offensive zone, Bertuzzi stocked Moore through the neutral zone, grabbed his jersey from behind and delivered a murderous sucker-punch to the unsuspecting Moore before landing on top of him, causing a career-ending neck injury. Bertuzzi was roundly condemned throughout the league and carried, quite literally, a criminal reputation with him for the rest of his career, one he never could live down.
2 Washington Capitals: Alexander Ovechkin
Ovechkin falls under the same category as Sidney Crosby. He’s a gritty player who can score almost at will and plays with a fiery intensity that makes him one of the greatest players in the game. But his showboating celebrations and constant flopping has drawn the ire of basically every single person outside of Washington D.C. He also has a habit of loafing around on the ice, waiting for his teammates to set him up with a pass and then taking all the credit for a goal, and that’s no way to be a team player. Rumors have it that Ovi can be a total jerk to people off the ice too, so that puts him over the edge for most hated Capitals player ever.
1 Winnipeg Jets/Atlanta Thrashers: Evander Kane
A bad attitude, lack of tact on social media, trouble with the law and skirmishes with his own teammates all combine to make a pretty good recipe for universal scorn that make Evander Kane the most hated Winnipeg Jets player in the franchise’s relatively short history. He came from Atlanta, where he was drafted fourth overall in 2009, to Winnipeg when the team relocated and immediately became a problem child. From demanding trades to posting homophobic tweets to clashing with his head coach to being accused of assault to violating team dress code, Kane was looked upon by nearly everyone associated with the Jets organization with hate-filled eyes. His trade demands were finally obliged in 2015 when he was sent to the Buffalo Sabres, and now he’s their problem.