From the penalty box to the jail cell, the NHL really isn’t all that different from the other major sporting organizations when it comes to their players getting into trouble.
The only difference is, of course, fighting is sort of allowed in hockey. Technically it’s against the rules, a player does get a penalty when it happens, but the rules are pretty laid back. In most other sports (except actual fighting), players get ejected when they get into a fight. In the NHL, you sit in the box long enough to catch your breath.
To some players, being a bad boy is their job. They’re getting paid to try to get under the opposing team’s skin, to pester them and agitate them in an attempt to get their head out of the game. It’s a fine line to tip toe, because agitators have to bend and break the rules a little bit, and in doing so, they’ve become hated and marked by teams, officials and the league itself.
A lot of players off the ice are really pleasant and enjoyable; complete professionals, but this list isn’t just about on-ice behaviour though. Some players on this list, just can’t get it together when they’re away from the rink.
Even though Patrick Kane has made headlines recently due to an ongoing rape investigation, the fact that the case is still under investigation and Kane hasn't been charged with any crime yet, he will not be on this list.
This is a list of the top 15 bad boys of the NHL, both on and off the ice.
15 Jarret Stoll
On the ice, Stoll is really an average, every-day kind of player. For a while, after he broke into the league he scored more than 10 goals a year seven seasons in a row. He’s never had more than 75 penalty minutes in a season and he’s won a couple Stanley Cups with the Los Angeles Kings.
In April of this year, Stoll’s off-ice habits got him arrested in Las Vegas. Stoll was on his way to a pool party at the MGM Grand, but when he was searched going through security, the guard found a little baggy. According to the police report, Stoll admitted the powder was coke and after testing, he was found to have 3.3 grams of cocaine and 8.1 grams of MDMA.
He signed with the New York Rangers as a free agent less than four months later.
14 Ed Belfour
A Hockey Hall of Famer, ‘The Eagle’ was no stranger to getting involved in funny business while playing. Over the course of his 17-year career, Belfour was also penalized for 380 penalty minutes but his off-ice behavior has gotten him arrested a couple of times.
In March 2000, police were called to a hotel where Belfour and a woman had gotten themselves a room. The very intoxicated Belfour got so loud, security was called. Belfour eventually slammed a guard against a wall, until the cops came, at which point Belfour fought with them, until he was pepper sprayed. He then offered them $1 billion to not arrest him. He eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge.
Then in 2007, he was arrested again and charged with disorderly intoxication and resisting an officer without violence.
He was sentenced to two years probation and a $3,000 fine.
13 Theo Fleury
Theoren Fleury has come a long, long way since his playing days officially came to an end following a comeback attempt with the Calgary Flames.
Fleury’s issues have been well documented, both by the media and himself, in autobiography ‘Playing With Fire’.
Fleury battled drug, alcohol, and gambling addictions throughout his career, which led him to entering the league’s substance abuse program in 2000. The next season, he entered the program again and wound up getting suspended a few times because he kept violating the terms of the program. In 2003, a suspension ended his NHL career.
In his autobiography, released in 2009, Theo revealed he had been sexually abused by his former coach, Graham James. Fleury used drugs and alcohol in an attempt to cope with the abuse.
He’s now a motivational speaker, hoping to help with overcoming addictions and helps raise money for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada.
12 Patrick Kaleta
At one point, things were so bad for Kaleta that the Buffalo Sabres sent him to the AHL and he was basically told to change his game, or his NHL career was over.
Leading up to that point, Kaleta had been suspended for head-butting (four games), boarding (five games), and checking to the head (ten games). The suspensions were all within a two-year span between November 2011 and November 2013.
Kaleta found his way back into the NHL late in 2014, on a very terrible Sabres team.
11 Mike Danton
Danton appeared in 87 games with the New Jersey Devils and St. Louis.
During his time with the Devils, he changed his last name from Jefferson because his relationship with his family was so strained, he hadn’t spoken with his father in years.
In 2004, just days after the St. Louis were eliminated from playoffs, Danton was arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit murder. He later pleaded guilty for attempting to hire a hitman and was sentenced to 7 and half years in prison.
Since being released in 2009, Danton has returned to play pro hockey overseas.
10 Sean Avery
Avery took being a NHL pest to a new level. He went so far in trying to get on people’s nerves, he ended up being disliked by his own teammates and coaches.
He was part of so many controversies, there isn’t room to go into all of them.
The most known one was probably when he gathered the media in Calgary to make the ‘Sloppy Seconds’ comment, in reference to Dion Phanuef dating Avery’s ex-girlfriend. Avery was suspended by the league, and the Dallas Stars announced Avery wouldn’t be with the team anymore.
He received 1,533 penalty minutes during his career, and even has his own rule. The NHL had to clarify what counted as unsportsmanlike conduct after Avery waved his arms in Martin Brodeur’s face, giving us the ‘Avery Rule’.
9 Chris Pronger
Pronger is the epitome of a player that you’d love to have on your team, but hate to play against.
During his career he was viewed as a bit of a throwback player, one that would make you pay if you went into the corners with him. He was willing, and it seems, trying to hurt other players.
During the 2007 playoffs, Pronger was suspended twice for blows to the head to Tomas Holmstrom and Dean McAmmond.
The following season, Pronger was suspended for eight games after the NHL reviewed video of Pronger stomping on Ryan Kesler’s leg.
He received 1,590 penalty minutes during his career, and was suspended eight times, which carried 22 games in total.
8 Claude Lemieux
Lemieux is another guy that has a list of incidents that make him a bad boy, including a bunch of sucker punches. The most famous one was probably the one he landed on Brett Lindros. Lemieux wasn’t even on the ice, he was sitting on the bench when a scrum broke out in front of the bench. In the replay, you can see him look for officials, before delivering an uppercut.
He was also at the center the most famous brawl between the Detroit Red Wings and the Colorado Avalanche.
The postseason before, Lemieux ran Kris Draper face first into the boards with a brutal hit from behind, breaking Draper’s jaw.
The Red Wings vowed revenge, and in the last regular season game in 1997, the brawl known as ‘Bloody Wednesday’ ensued.
7 Maxim Lapierre
Lapierre is another player who’s considered a pest in the NHL, and he’s a good one at that, but he has stepped over the line.
In the 2011 playoffs, he drew the ire of the Boston Bruins, taunting Patrice Bergeron to bite him by extending his finger right in front of Bergeron's mouth, in reference to an alleged incident where Bergeron bit Alex Burrows.
In 2013, Lapierre was suspended for five games for hitting San Jose Sharks defenseman, Dan Boyle, from behind. The hit sent Boyle, who has a well-known history of concussions, to the hospital.
He was also suspended in in 2010 for four games for a late hit on Scott Nichol.
6 Matt Cooke
A couple of years ago, Cooke would have been higher up on this list, but he’s made some strides in trying to change his style of play.
Cooke has been suspended five times, but his most notable dirty play didn’t result in a suspension at all. In 2010, after already serving three suspensions for questionable hits, Cooke hit Marc Savard with a blindside hit directly to the head.
At the time, the NHL viewed the hit as a clean hit, but subsequently went about some rule changes in order to eliminate hits to the head.
Cooke has received 1,135 penalty minutes in his career, but has cleaned up his game a bit since a 10-game regular season ban, plus the first round of playoffs following an elbow to the head of Ryan McDonagh in 2011.
5 Darcy Tucker
Another pest, Tucker gained his notoriety while playing with the Toronto Maple Leafs, specifically during the 2002 playoffs.
During the first round, Tucker caught New York Islanders’ Michael Peca with a low hit, which blew out Peca’s ACL and MCL. Tucker wasn’t penalized on the play, and Peca missed the rest of the season and part of the next.
Then in the second round against the Ottawa Senators, Tucker hit Daniel Alfredsson from behind and followed the hit up by scoring a game-winning goal. The hit helped ignite the Battle of Ontario. The next season, during a scrum, Tucker dove into the Senators bench to go after Chris Neil, earning him a 5 game suspension.
4 Slava Voynov
On the ice, Voynov proved himself to be a very dependable defenseman who played a clean and positionally sound game, only accruing 72 penalty minutes in 190 games.
Off the ice, Voynov’s behavior landed him in jail. Early in the 2014-15 season, Voynov was arrested and charged with one felony count of corporal injury to a spouse with great bodily injury. He was suspended indefinitely and missed the remainder of the season.
In the offseason, Voynov pleaded no contest and was sentenced to 90 days in jail and received three years of probation.
3 Dan Carcillo
Another pest on the list, Carcillo’s bad boy tendencies have been on the ice, but he’s has also struggled with off-ice matters.
On the ice, Carcillo has been suspended numerous times for boarding (seven games), abuse of an official (automatic ten games, which was reduced to six), and cross-checking (six games).
Off the ice, Carcillo has revealed his struggles with battling alcohol and substance abuse. The recent death of his close friend and former teammate, Steve Montador, pushed Carcillo to make a public plea for better support for players once their NHL careers have ended.
2 Matthew Barnaby
Barnaby’s on ice persona can be summed up in one incident.
In 1996, in a game between the Buffalo Sabres and the Philadelphia Flyers, Barnaby was battling in front of the net and took a couple shots up high, causing him to drop to the ice. A scrum started behind the net while Barnaby laid face first on the ice, motionless.
After getting tended to by his trainer for about 40 seconds, Barnaby jumped up, grabbed goaltender Garth Snow and started to feed him shot after shot. It wasn’t the only time he faked an injury only to get involved.
In 2011, Barnaby was arrested for domestic violence after an incident with his estranged wife. He made a plea deal, but was then arrested for drinking and driving, which got him fired from ESPN.
1 Chris Simon
Chris Simon gets the top spot for the amount of times he faced heavy suspensions, with some bordering on, if not full-fledged assault. He was once accused of making racial comments to Mike Grier, cross-checked Peter Popovic across the throat, cross-checked and struck Ruslan Fedetenko when he was down, slashed Ryan Hollweg in the face with his stick, etc... He was officially a seven-time repeat offender in the NHL. Simon may have been known as a nice guy off the ice, but his actions on the ice were simply deplorable.