If you’ve ever played competitive hockey, you’ve probably heard a couple of these classic one-liners (and you’ve probably chirped some opposing players with them yourself): something along the lines of “didn’t know you were on the (insert your country here) diving team, too!” or something more subtle like “do you want a towel to dry off (after that dive?”
It’s unfortunate that it has come to this, but the art of diving (or flopping, if you’re more of a basketball person) has slowly but surely crept into the fastest game on Earth. The fact that hockey moves at a breakneck pace probably helps the mischievous few who like to embellish their falls, because the referees don’t have as much time to process what happened as they might be able to in soccer or basketball.
Over the past few seasons, the “diver” tag was used loosely – but as the incidents piled up, players began to earn reputations as individuals who felt no shame in adding some acting tricks to their repertoire of on-ice skills. Don’t be too surprised if some of the names on this list have a future on the big-screen or on Broadway.
The National Hockey League, to their credit, has decided it has had just about enough of the flopping in their ultra-macho sport, and have taken a stand by beginning to hand out fines to perpetrators who dare make a mockery of the sport.
Unsurprisingly, this still hasn’t fully dealt with the issue, and you’ll still see fully grown men on skates flop around any particular NHL ice-surface like a fish out of water. If the hit to their wallets won’t do the trick, perhaps a shot at their dignity will do the trick.
10. Vincent Trocheck, Florida Panthers
Florida Panthers forward Vincent Trocheck is a recent edition to the NHL-diver discussion, but his actions last week, that landed him one of the first ever fines from the league, was enough to land him on the list. His incredible flop during the Panthers game against the Washington Capitals somehow only drew a penalty on Brooks Orpik, who gave Trocheck what can only be classified as a love-tap in front of the Washington net. How the official blew the embellishment call, we will never know – but the NHL made up for it by hitting Trocheck with a fine. We’ll see if the message got across, or if this is just the beginning of a new diving legacy.
9. Daniel Carcillo, Chicago Blackhawks
It’s hard to picture a hard-nosed tough guy like Daniel Carcillo having a reputation as a diver, but there’s enough video evidence now to safely put him on this list. For the most part, the videos you’ll find of Carcillo are of him fighting, but Carcillo’s reputation as an embellisher came about several years ago when he blatantly faked getting hit in the face with a high-stick – the acting job was so bad that you don’t even need to slow down the video to clearly see that the stick came nowhere near his face. While he’s “behaved” of late, it’s hard to ignore the incidents that marred him reputation earlier in his career.
8. Alex Semin, Carolina Hurricanes
Alex Semin has put himself in the difficult position over the past couple years of digging himself out of his reputation as a “soft” player. Semin, who has shown to be immensely talented, has often been referred to as gutless, selfish, and someone who has already checked out (or chequed out, thanks to his big contract). He’s also put on tape his ability to embellish on several occasions, but most notably when he faked taking a shot to the head from Blackhawks defenceman Peter Leblanc. It’s bad enough for Semin that he takes incessant criticism for his heart and effort level – he’s not helping himself by flopping around the ice like he just got shot.
7. Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
It’s almost disheartening that a player as talented as Henrik Sedin has found his way onto this list as one of the NHL’s premier divers. Sedin is one of the most talented players in the league, but he’s also earned a reputation as one of the league’s most notorious divers – in fact, for awhile the Vancouver Canucks were often referred to as the NHL’s version of the Canadian Diving Team (convenient, thanks to the Olympics being held in Vancouver in 2010). Sedin has multiple embellishment offences on his record; and the worst part is that for the most part the diving has occurred when things were getting chippy during the playoffs, earning him and his brother Daniel the dreaded “soft” label.
6. P.K. Subban, Montreal Canadiens
If you ask anyone in Boston where P.K. Subban should be ranked on this list, they would tell you that Subban belongs in the top slot, and they might also add that the list should end there – that Subban is the world’s premier diver and the gap is so wide that there shouldn’t be anyone else to contend with his spot at the top of the diving world.
The rest of us will take a more measured approach, perhaps taking the stance that for all the good Subban does on the ice, the recurring acts of embellishment to draw penalties are almost sickening – especially for those who try to defend him. Subban is already as a polarizing a figure as the NHL has ever had, so the diving certainly does not help his case.
5. Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins
Take everything from the opening paragraph of the Subban entry and reverse it for Brad Marchand. If you took an informal poll in Montreal, Brad Marchand would win the award for the NHL’s worst person, player, and diver.
In general, Marchand plays his role as a pest to perfection, as it’s not just Montreal Canadiens fans that despise the Bruins forward, it’s practically the entire league. There have been too many times, though, where Marchand takes his role as pest and transforms it into an opportunity to try and act his way into drawing a penalty. Unfortunately for Marchand, he can’t even do that right – he once stayed on the ice clutching one knee, only to limp off on the other leg.
If you’re going to embellish an injury, at least get the limbs right.
4. Mike Ribiero, Nashville Predators
Mike Ribiero is one of the NHL’s “original” floppers, going back to his days with the Montreal Canadiens. Who can forget Ribeiro writhing around the Bell Centre ice after a “collision” with a Bruins defenceman during the 2004 playoffs, only to come back minutes later perfectly fine? Or the absolutely awful dive while with the Dallas Stars, when he was “tripped” by Chris Osgood coming around the net? To say Ribeiro overexaggerated that incident would be quite the understatement. Ribeiro has never been the most popular player around the league, and he hasn’t helped his rep with his knack for embellishing minor collisions with other players.
3. Mike Smith, Arizona Coyotes
Mike Smith, as a goaltender, is rarely contacted by the opposing teams players – and yet he has found his way onto this list. That’s because on the rare occasion that he is contacted, he manages to make it appear like he just got run over by a dump truck. Let’s get one thing clear – most goalies will sell any contact made with them because they know that referees have little to no tolerance for goaltender interference.
Smith takes this way to far on a regular basis – getting clipped in the skate and falling is one thing, but getting clipped and pretending to go flying through the air the way a player would after getting run over by Scott Stevens is another.
2. Ryan Kesler, Anaheim Ducks
If the aforementioned Vancouver Canucks diving team was in fact a real entity, then Ryan Kesler would be the team captain. Kesler is one of the league’s most notorious embellishers, thanks to his habit of hitting the deck as soon as a stick, leg, or passing gust of air from another player crosses his path. Kesler falls into the category of excellent hockey players who for some reason felt the need to add the art of diving to their repertoire of “talents.”
Don’t believe me? A couple of years ago, when the talk of eliminating diving from the league began to truly heat up, Kesler was reportedly at the top of the NHL’s diving “watchlist,” according to TSN’s Darren Dreger.
1. James Neal, Nashville Predators
Ryan Kesler can thank James Neal for Neal’s own penchant for diving, because Neal is the only reason Kesler is not holding down the top spot on this list.
Neal has been labeled as a diver going back to his glory days with the Penguins, and has earned a reputation not only as a diver, but a blatant diver – there are several instances where Neal doesn’t even argue the embellishment call, because he knows how awful his acting job was. Neal also holds the “distinct” honor of being the first player in the league to be fined by the NHL for embellishing. Nothing like being branded as a faker and having it publicized to the entire hockey world, is there?
The incident that pushed the league over the edge – a blatant dive after being tapped on the leg by the San Jose Sharks Barclay Goodrow – encapsulates Neal’s image as a flopper perfectly. Hopefully the $2,000 fine finally gets the message across to an otherwise excellent goalscorer.
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