The enthralling sport of hockey encompasses a broad spectrum of emotions – including both happiness and hatred. There have been many intense and impassioned rivalries that have existed in the NHL since its inception in 1917. These rivalries certainly do not fade away with time, but instead, their rivalries are re-ignited every time the teams face-off against each other. Evidently, the unmatched intensity and emotions between NHL teams are what makes hockey such an exhilarating and electrifying sport to watch.
In most cases, particular fan bases will develop a hatred for a certain player or team, which usually stems from a rivalry between teams. So obviously, NHL fans are going to prefer certain NHL players over others – it depends on which end of the stick you get. However, there are many NHL players that are universally hated because of their various on-ice antics and behavior.
In today’s article, we will comprehensively explore the list of the top 15 current NHL players who we, as hockey fans, love to hate.
15. Dion Phaneuf
The 31-year-defenseman is known more for his physicality than his offensive skill. The big and burly Ottawa Senators defender has spent the last 12 seasons ruthlessly crushing other players. As evidenced by his unrelenting physicality, Phaneuf uses his entire 6-foot-3 body when he plays the game. Even though his hits are relatively clean, Phaneuf is the one you’ll likely find in a scrum during a Sens game, whether it’s sticking up for a teammate or simply creating bad blood between teams.
The Edmonton native has split his career between the team that drafted him, the Calgary Flames, the team that he captained, the Toronto Maple Leafs, and his current team, the Ottawa Senators. Although the powerful Senators defender isn’t known for giving cheap shots, his ability to bulldoze other players has created a bad reputation for himself.
14. Evander Kane
The 25-year-old left winger has been the subject of many trade rumors recently, but with the trade deadline over now, Kane can finally play in Buffalo with no distractions – or at least we think he will. You see, Kane has had multiple legal and behavioral issues in the past, which has given him the reputation of a problem child. Off the ice, he has had numerous incidents with fellow teammates and coaches, so it’s no surprise that his antics have given him a negative reputation.
However, on the ice, Kane is usually found in the middle of a scrum constantly yapping with the other team’s players. His “bad boy” habits have been made known to almost the entire league, so it shouldn’t be a surprise when other players take exception to his antics. In the same way, NHL fans dislike Kane because he does not own any leadership qualities nor does he take responsibility of his actions.
13. Alex Burrows
The newly acquired Ottawa Senator is widely known as an avid agitator in the NHL. Before being traded to Ottawa, Burrows spent 12 seasons in Vancouver where he often played alongside the Sedin twins on the Canucks’ top line. Besides scoring tap-ins, Burrows was also famed for creating unmatched energy and passion on his line with the Sedins that brought Vancouver many years of success. During his time in Vancouver, Burrows adopted the reputation of an agitator, especially because of his infamous fingering biting incident during the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals.
Although he is known for getting under other players’ skin, the 35-year-old winger also possesses an impressively high hockey IQ. In his Senators debut, he scored two goals including the game-winner. Despite his talent, Burrows continues to draw hatred from many hockey fans because of provocative actions.
12. Chris Neil
It seems like the Ottawa Senators have a couple of players that are among the most hated in the NHL, including enforcer Chris Neil. The former sixth round pick is widely known for his brutality, emerging into the NHL in the 2001-02 season with 17 points and an astounding 231 penalty minutes. From then on, Neil has used fighting instincts to establish his role on the Senators as a staple fourth line enforcer.
Over time, the 37-year-old right winger has also adopted a leadership role on the Senators, earning the label of an assistant captain at the beginning of the 2012-13 season. In 1,025 NHL games, Neil has accumulated over double the penalty minutes with 2,522. As one of the prime examples of an NHL enforcer in today’s game, Neil is often the subject of hatred because of his constant bullish actions.
11. Corey Perry
The former 1st round pick of the Anaheim Ducks in 2003 shouldn’t come as a surprise on this list because of his aggressive style of play. Although Perry is considered one of the most prolific scorers in the NHL, having won the Rocket Richard Trophy in 2010-11, he also continues to accumulate many penalty minutes each season and often engages in fights unlike other superstars in the NHL.
Perry is among the most decorated Canadian NHL players of all-time, as he has two Olympic golds, a World Championship gold, a World Cup, a World Junior gold, a Stanley Cup, a Memorial Cup, and an OHL Championship under his belt. Although Perry is not considered a dirty player, he can apathetically cross the line sometimes, for example, his dirty play on Patrik Laine at the 2016 World Championships.
10. Drew Doughty
The star-studded, Norris Trophy winning defenseman also plays belligerently, which makes him difficult to beat, but also gets him a lot of haters in the process. As a staple of both the 2012 and 2014 Los Angeles Kings that won the Stanley Cup, he is a terrorizing threat on the blue-line who should not be taken lightly. As a dominant force on both ends of the ice, the 27-year-old defenseman is a multidimensional player who plays the game with extreme wit and poise.
The former 2nd overall pick in 2008 has also been quite successful at the international level, winning two Olympic golds, a World Cup and a World Junior gold with Team Canada. Although Doughty does not cross into dirty territory, he is often found in the midst of scrums and does not back down from hostility, which draws hate from other teams as he plays an extremely hard-nosed game.
9. Andrew Shaw
The gritty 25-year-old winger is widely known for his buffoonery and on-ice antics. Although he has consistently produced 30 points each season, Shaw is known more for being an instigator and participating in the rough side of hockey. As a hockey player, the 5’11” forward is unforgiving and unremitting; he does not back down from fights and often uses his physicality to change the dynamics of a hockey game.
Before joining his current team, the Montreal Canadiens, Shaw spent five seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks, whom he won two cups with in 2013 and 2015. Despite not possessing explosive offensive talent, Shaw was a staple of their forward group since he provides grit and toughness, which other teams might take exception to since he is rather ruthless with his on-ice antics.
8. Zdeno Chara
The notoriously tall defenseman is known for obviously using his body to his advantage and throwing big hits, as well as playing belligerently. With his size, it is quite easy for him to “bully” his opponents and bulldoze them when they are skating along the boards. Despite accumulating a few 50+ point seasons, Chara continues to be known for his gigantic stature.
The current captain of the Boston Bruins is nearing retirement age, and lacks the speed and agility to defend against expeditious forwards, so the Big Man often resorts to throwing them “off their feet.” And sometimes, because of his immense size, it can get quite dirty, for example, his dangerous hit on Max Pacioretty against the boards back in 2011 – not exactly an ideal nor exemplary captain.
7. Nazem Kadri
The former 7th overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft has nicely blossomed into one of the Maple Leafs’ top scorers, albeit incorporating a dirty style of play into his game as well. Because of his recent switch to a more aggressive playing style, it has earned him numerous suspensions over the past few years. As a result, he is clearly not the smartest player on the ice when it comes to making an open-ice hit. Additionally, there has been a growing trend in the number of penalty minutes he has collected with each and every passing season.
The 26-year-old Maple Leafs centerman is rapidly growing a name for himself as he continues to deliver controversial hits and emulate a menace. One prime example was his dangerous hit on Daniel Sedin in open ice that sent him spilling to the ice.
6. P.K. Subban
The insanely talented puck-moving defenseman is highly praised for his offensive production, but he sure does know rile up his opponents as well. Despite his impeccable knack for scoring goals, he is known for being a fearless competitor, which attributes to his unruly behavior. The former second-round pick is not easily intimidated and will not back down from opponents when challenged.
Subban is quite the trash talker both on and off the ice. Many people have speculated that he has been a locker room cancer for some time now which heavily influenced his move to the Nashville Predators last off-season. Subban is certainly not afraid to speak what’s on his mind, which probably garners a considerable amount of hate from other NHL fan bases.
5. Milan Lucic
The 6-foot-3 power forward is highly touted for both his strength and goal-scoring abilities. For years, Lucic played for the Boston Bruins where he established himself as a dominant physical presence while playing regular top-6 minutes. In his fourth NHL season, he set a personal best of 62 points along with 121 penalty minutes. Lucic went on to win the Stanley Cup that season with the Bruins.
Since joining the Edmonton Oilers, he has helped provide the youthful team with all-essential grit and physicality. Playing alongside Connor McDavid, Lucic has the unique opportunity to contribute to the team offensively and physically. Although he typically stands up for teammates, Lucic is also known for crossing into dirty territory, which has earned him a few suspensions and haters along the way.
4. Jarome Iginla
The immensely talented right winger has been racking up the points for years now, but he also hasn’t failed at gaining haters along the way as well. Iginla played 16 seasons with the Calgary Flames before leaving for Pittsburgh, which must have left a bad taste in Flames fans since their long-time captain didn’t believe they had a legitimate shot at winning the highly-sought Stanley Cup.
The 39-year-old is nearing retirement age, but that hasn’t stopped him from constantly chirping other players and accumulating penalty minutes. The offensively gifted forward is surprisingly known for dropping the gloves and being involved in the rough stuff of hockey. While his career is coming to an end, haters can still enjoy his unrelenting (failed) attempts at chasing after the Stanley Cup.
3. Alex Ovechkin
The generational Russian talent should not come as a surprise on this last as he is not the best teammate and often find excuses for his mistakes or goal-scoring droughts. Many analysts criticize his lack of passing and leadership qualities on and off the ice. He has failed to lead his team to a Stanley Cup championship, let alone a Stanley Cup Finals berth, on numerous occasions.
While his offensive totals have been sky-rocketing ever since his emergence into the NHL, Ovechkin is often criticized for not being the quintessential team leader and captain, as well as failing to elevate his level of play in clutch situations. His highly-publicized rivalry with Sidney Crosby has also drawn an immensity of negative reactions from other NHL fan bases.
2. Sidney Crosby
Yes, even the current points leader is among the most hated players playing in the NHL. Dubbed “Sid the Kid,” this future legend has had an illustrious career thus far, and is showing no signs of slowing down. However, despite the praises from his peers, many non-Penguins fans can relate to the hate directed towards the talented Sidney Crosby. The fact of the matter is that when you’re at the top of the leading boards, you’re bound to gain some haters.
Although Crosby possesses superb leadership attributes, he is sometimes viewed as a soft player who doesn’t protect nor defend his teammates. Despite the hate he receives, the tremendously accomplished 29-year-old centerman should embrace the negative reception because it is fueled from jealously of his superb talent. But for the time being, non-Penguins fans can relish in their hatred for the greatest player currently playing in the NHL.
1. Brad Marchand
At last, the biggest pest of all – Brad Marchand. The bullish 28-year-old left winger has been an easy target for fans because of his constant despicable on-ice antics, such as slew-footing and giving cheap shots. The former third-round pick has been suspended multiple times because of his negligence and apathy towards other players’ well-being.
The 5-foot-9 forward, however, has been able to use his reputation as a pest to become an offensive threat in the NHL. In 70 NHL games this season, he has accumulated a league-leading 36 goals and 76 points. At his current pace, he will win the Art Ross, Rocket Richard and possibly the Hart Trophy. However, I must admit that it would be an utter shame to see an NHL player with such ungentlemanly antics and behavior winning respectable accolades, especially when he shows absolutely no remorse for his wrongdoings.
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