You can’t deny that the physical part of the game of hockey is where it gets a lot of its excitement. However, it’s no fun when guys start carelessly throwing dirty hits with an intent to injure other players. After all, they are humans at the end of the day. With the increase in dirty hits, such as head shots, in the last few years, the NHL has been doing the best it can to limit the amount of dirty hits being thrown on the ice.
If you’re a fan who’s witnessed one of your team’s players get injured because of a dirty hit, your initial reaction would likely be that you want that player to immediately be taken out of the game in what ever way possible. This list features 15 dirty players who were guilty of playing the game with an edge that sometimes was taken too far, and because of that, faced pay back in some sort of fashion. Whether it’s a lengthy suspension, revenge, or karma, many can say these guys got what they deserved at some point in their careers. Here are 15 dirty hockey players who got what they deserved.
15. Chris Pronger
A former second overall pick in 1993, Chris Pronger had a successful career which includes winning a Stanley Cup and Hart trophy. Unfortunately, Pronger also earned himself the reputation of being one of the dirtiest players in the NHL.
The 6-foot-6, 220-pound defenseman was suspended eight times during his career for a total of 22 games. His most notable offense came in 2008 when he was suspended eight games for intentionally stomping on the foot of Vancouver Canucks forward Ryan Kesler.
While the 2015 Hall of Fame inductee may go down as one of the best defensemen to play the game, Pronger was rightfully disciplined by the league on several occasions for his dirty antics. Towards the end of his career, injuries starting to catch up to Pronger and made him miss lots of action before being forced to retire prior to the end of his contract, something many fans might feel he deserved after injuring several players during his career.
14. Raffi Torres
Raffi Torres is well known across the NHL for all the wrong reasons. He’s been at the front and center of the NHL’s dirtiest players in the last few seasons. Torres has been a repeat offender for throwing late hits to the head, in which he has been suspended five times for in his career.
The Toronto native received the NHL’s fourth-longest suspension after a late hit to the head of Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa in Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarter Finals in 2012, which lasted 21 games. Just a few years later in October 2015, Torres received a 41-game suspension for another late hit to the head of Anaheim Ducks forward Jakub Silfverberg which is the longest suspension in NHL history.
The 6-foot, 215-pound forward retired in November of 2016 and never played another game in the NHL after his suspension. This surely made the game a much safer place as Torres deservingly had himself practically suspended into his own retirement.
13. Claude Lemieux
Claude Lemieux was hated by many of his opponents for the majority of his career. He had the ability to get under his opponents’ skin by either chirping or throwing a hit. One game, however, Lemieux threw a hit that would certify his status as one of the NHL’s dirtiest players.
During a playoff matchup with the Detroit Red Wings, Lemieux threw a huge hit from behind on Kris Draper which broke Draper’s orbital, cheek and jaw bones. Lemieux was suspended just two games for the incident.
This hit was believed to have brewed a hateful rivalry between the Red Wings and Avalanche. As the teams kept on playing each other in the following 1996-97 season, tensions would rise, eventually leading to a brawl between the two teams in their fourth meeting of the season. During the brawl, Red Wings enforcer Darren McCarty went after Lemieux to get him back for what he did to his teammate. McCarty unleashed as many right hooks as he could, leaving Lemieux turtled on the ice. While I’m sure Red Wings fans would’ve liked to see Lemieux pay a much bigger price for his dirty hit on Draper, there was no way he was going to get away with it without taking a beating.
12. Darcy Tucker
Darcy Tucker earned himself the reputation of a dirty player in his career by throwing a few low and late hits which earned him many enemies throughout the NHL. Tucker’s most infamous hit came in the 2002 NHL playoffs when he took out the knees of New York Islanders’ forward Mike Peca. Tucker is also known for delivering a dirty hit to Buffalo Sabres forward Jochen Hecht in 2006.
Delivering dirty hits in his career, Tucker had become a target himself and one day paid the price from an unsuspecting player. Not long after delivering a season-ending injury to Mike Peca in the 2002 playoffs, Daniel Alfredsson took out Tucker with a big hit in a game between the Leafs and Senators during the second round. Tucker was also the recipient of a huge hit by Alex Kovalev in 2006. You can say Tucker deservingly paid the price for some of the dirty hits he threw during his career.
11. Matt Cooke
Matt Cooke is another player who was known for his history of throwing cheap shots in the NHL. He’s received several suspensions during his career and is infamously known for throwing a hit to the head of Boston Bruins forward Marc Savard in March, 2010, which kept Savard out for months.
Cooke is also known for ending Erik Karlsson’s season in 2013 after he stepped on the back of Karlsson’s leg with his skate, cutting his achille’s tendon. The league deemed Cooke’s action unintentional and he received no supplemental discipline.
During a game against the Nashville Predators in January, 2015, Cooke gave Predators captain Shea Weber a cross-check to the face. Weber quickly lost it on Cooke, dropping the gloves with the cheap shot artist and bringing him to the ground. That certainly showed Cooke that he won’t get away with every cheap shot he takes.
10. Marty McSorley
Marty McSorley was mostly known for being the tough guy who played on a line with Wayne Gretzky to protect him. While he wasn’t the dirtiest of players in terms of number of suspensions, McSorley was the cause of one serious infraction in his career which has him locked in as a dirty player.
In a game against the Vancouver Canucks in February of 2000, McSorely swung his stick at the head of Donald Brashear, leaving him laying on the ice unconscious. McSorely paid a heavy price for his actions, being suspended for the rest of the season and was even charged with assault. He was found guilty and sentenced to 18 months probation. After his conviction, his suspension had been extended until exactly one year after the incident occurred. McSorley never ended up playing another game in his NHL career.
9. Todd Bertuzzi
One of the NHL’s dirtiest plays ever came courtesy of Todd Bertuzzi sucker punching Steve Moore in March, 2004. In a heated game between the Vancouver Canucks and Colorado Avalanche, Bertuzzi attempted to instigate a fight with Moore, in which Moore rejected. Bertuzzi then decided to grab Moore and punch him in the back of the head, knocking him unconscious. The 6-foot-3, 246-pound Bertuzzi had landed on Moore and drove his face into the ice as well. The combination of all that resulted in Moore having three fractured vertebrae, facial cuts and a concussion.
Bertuzzi was obviously in for a hefty suspension after this. Not only was he suspended for a 17-month period, he also was sentenced to one year’s probation and 80 hours of community service. During that time, Bertuzzi forfeited over $500,000 in salary and lost roughly $350,000 in endorsements.
8. Sean Avery
There simply couldn’t be a list of dirty players in the NHL without Sean Avery in it. Where to even start with this guy? From his dirty slashes, to cheap shots, to standing in front of Martin Brodeur while waving his stick in the air, these are just some of Avery’s classless on-ice antics. Avery has also publicly made inappropriate comments about women he’s dated and other NHL players. He managed to agitate everyone, including his own teammates and coaches.
Avery was constantly being disciplined by the league for his actions on and off the ice, even by his own team. After being eligible to return from a six-game suspension by the league back in 2009, Avery’s team at the time, the Dallas Stars, stated that Avery would never play for the Stars again after his remarks about an ex-girlfriend. Shortly after, he was bought out by the Stars. One thing that’s worse than being hated by your opponents is being hated by your own team.
7. Chris Simon
Chris Simon got himself into a lot of trouble on the ice during his NHL career. He was suspended eight times during his career, for a total of 65 games. Despite being suspended so many times, his most severe suspensions came after intentionally stomping on the foot of Jarkko Ruutu and two-handing Ryan Hollweg in the face. Both incidents came less than a year apart. After the Hollweg incident, Simon was suspended indefinitely. His career would end shortly after, as there was simply no place for someone like him in the game of hockey.
6. Patrick Kaleta
At 6-feet-1, 206 pounds, Patrick Kaleta threw his big body around on the ice and quickly earned the reputation of a hard hitter. Unfortunately, Kaleta would take his big hits one step too far and would be suspended for some dirty hits during his career. His most notable hit was an illegal hit to the head of Jack Johnson in 2013, which the league suspended him for ten games. He’s also been suspended for head-butting and hitting from behind.
With Kaleta’s repeat offenses, it’s not surprising to find out that he had pay back coming. In a game between the Jets and Sabres in 2014, Kaleta took a hit from behind from Adam Lowry while making a play behind his own net. Kaleta’s face went straight into the glass but he would get up shortly after. Lowry was suspended one game for the incident and the Sabres’ agitator got a taste of his own medicine.
5. Brad Marchand
Any current hockey fan knows just how annoying and dirty Brad Marchand is. Recently, Marchand has been involved in slew footing and spearing incidents and his league-wide hate has continued to grow. While we saw a lot of Marchand’s dirty antics this season, he’s been a pest for basically all of his NHL career. One day, an NHL star took action against the Bruins’ pest and did what everyone in the NHL has been waiting to see.
During a game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins in 2015, Steven Stamkos was chirping Marchand and they mutually agreed to drop the gloves. Stamkos managed to pin down the much smaller Marchand to the ice, something the whole league was happy to see.
4. Steve Downie
Steve Downie threw some dirty hits in the earlier part of his NHL career. In 2007, Downie was sentenced to a 20-game suspension after throwing an unsuspecting hit to the head on Dean McAmmond with his feet off the ice. Downie’s offense was ruled as an intent to injure McAmmond, therefore resulting in the lengthy suspension. Downie has also been fined by the league in 2010 for deliberately bringing superstar Sidney Crosby to the ground in a scary situation in which Crosby’s leg bent backwards.
Downie has been on the receiving end of some big hits and punches as well. Most notably, he was on the receiving end of an elbow to the head courtesy of Ryan Suter in 2015. Suter was suspended two games for the offense, but many people might feel that Downie got what he deserved given his history of being a dirty player.
3. Tie Domi
Tie Domi is widely known for his goon-like antics during his NHL career. At certain times, however, Domi would cross the line. For instance, his elbow to the head of Scott Niedermayer during the 2001 playoffs is considered as one of the dirtiest the NHL has seen.
While not many people had the guts to go after him, Domi still got his fair share of pay back in his career. Shortly after the Niedermayer incident, Scott Stevens laid a perfectly clean open-ice hit on Domi, knocking his helmet off as he fell to the ground. Kris Draper is another player to throw a big hit on Domi, which came during a game between the Leafs and Red Wings in 2003, which ended up causing a scrum to ensue shortly after.
2. Dale Hunter
Dale Hunter put up over 1,000 points as well as over 3,500 penalty minutes in his career. Hunter always played with a physical force to his game, but one day took it a step too far. During a game against the Islanders in the 1993 playoffs, Hunter threw a blindside hit on Pierre Turgeon after he celebrated scoring a goal. The hit would separate Turgeon’s shoulder and would eventually lead to ending Turgeon’s career. Hunter was given a severe punishment for his dirty play. He was sentenced to a 21-game suspension which was the longest suspension in NHL history during that time.
1. Ulf Samuelsson
Ulf Samuelsson was one of the dirtiest and most hated NHLers during his time. He agitated many players across the league and quickly gained the reputation of being a knee hitter. He is infamously known for when he hit Cam Neely in the knee during the 1991 playoffs, which eventually forced Neely to retire as he was never able to make a full recovery from the injury.
In 1995, Samuelsson was a member of the New York Rangers and for once was on the receiving end of a dirty play. During a game with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Samuelsson took a sucker punch to the face from Tie Domi, which is known until today as one of the cheapest shots ever taken in the NHL. The punch left Samuelsson unconscious. Domi justified his actions by saying Samuelsson was asking for it by repeatedly calling him a “dummy.” Unfortunately for Ulf, he may have gotten what he deserved.
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