What makes a face “punchable?” Is it simply a visceral reaction that we have to certain people? Or is there a more definitive, scientific explanation. One neurologist from George Washington University offers his expert opinion with respect to Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, who has one of the most “punchable” faces in recent political history. Writing for Psychology Today, Dr. Richard E. Cytowic says, “It’s hard to look at Ted Cruz’s face. He’s said to be a brilliant orator with a sharp legal mind. But his expression unsettles me.” He goes on to explain how Cruz’s downturned lips, his lowered eyebrows, and other atypical facial gestures (such as his inability to produce a genuine smile) make him, and many others, uncomfortable. So there you have it. Having a “punchable” face is a medical condition.
With that said, here’s the list of the top 15 most “punchable” faces in the NHL. We’re sure many of you will have your own list of players who you consider punchable, so feel free to let us know in the comments. To be clear, this isn’t just the list of the ugliest players in the NHL (although some of the names on this list did appear on our list of the ugliest NHL players). These players have punchable faces for various reasons. As Dr. Cytowic explains, sometimes it’s just an automatic reaction that we have to someone’s facial features. On the other hand, sometimes a face is punchable because of the person behind it. That is, certain players have garnered the reputation of being dirty, and whenever you look at them you’re reminded of what they represent and you just want to punch them in the face.
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15 Dion Phaneuf
Dion Phaneuf was recently traded to the Ottawa Senators, but before that, he played for one of the most hated (if you’re not from Toronto) teams in the league: the Maple Leafs. And that certainly didn’t help make him look less punchable. With a prominent brow, a large nose, and a seemingly perpetual scowl, there’s just something about Phaneuf that screams, “Punch me!” Not that you should try. At 6’3” and roughly 215lbs., he has proven that he is more than capable of handling himself on the ice. He’s already been in three fights this year and none of his opponents have been able to do any damage to his face.
14 Zdeno Chara
Zdeno Chara’s face is punchable simply because it seems like no one has ever landed a really good punch on him before. At 6’9” and 250 lbs., he’s arguably the toughest guy in the league to fight. Even big Georges Laraque couldn’t do any damage to his mug. It’s not just that he’s a big guy with a long reach, it’s that he’s also a good fighter. Hal Gill and David Koci are both roughly the same size as Chara and he still proceeded to leave them a bloody mess.
13 Zac Rinaldo
Along with Brad Marchand, Zac Rinaldo, enforcer for the Boston Bruins, is often cited as one of the dirtiest players in the league. When he made his debut with the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2011 Playoffs, he had more suspensions than goals (4 suspensions to 3 goals) with the Flyers AHL affiliate, the Phantoms. Rinaldo’s biggest suspension came back in January of 2015, when he slammed Penguins defenseman Kris Letang into the boards from behind. He received an 8-game suspension and had to give up over $73,000 of his salary. But what makes Rinaldo’s face particularly punchable is the fact that he often looks like he enjoys inflicting pain on others.
12 Scott Hartnell
Scott Hartnell’s been around for a while, breaking into the league back in 2000, which is why it’s so surprising that he’s only 33 years old. He looks like he could be in his 40s. And his curly red hair and thick beard aren’t doing him any favors either. He and Ovechkin look like the stars of the failed ABC sitcom Cavemen (remember that show?). Just don’t tell him that we said that, since, on top of being a talented player, Hartnell’s been known to drop the gloves from time to time.
11 Chris Neil
We’re clearly not the only one who thinks Chris Neil has a punchable face, since he’s missing his front teeth. But maybe this is an example of the “chicken or the egg” predicament. That is, does Chris Neil have a punchable face because of his toothless smile? Or did his punchable face lead to his toothless smile? Throughout his lengthy career, Neil has tallied up well over 2,000 penalty minutes as he regularly drops the gloves. His biggest year came back in 2003-2004, when he was involved in 24 fights in the regular season and 1 in the postseason.
10 Milan Lucic
There are some faces that you can’t look at without seeing what that person represents. In the case of Lucic, it’s hard to look at him and not think of his dirty plays. Like the time he laid out Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, or the time he took justice into his own hands by going after Logan Couture after what he perceived to be a dirty hit, or the time he speared Alexei Emelin (in the gonads, no less). These incidents, and many more, are what make him one of the most hated guys in the league.
9 Dale Weise
No offense to Dale Weise, who’s following up a surprisingly good 2014-2015 season with an even better season, but the guy’s got a pretty punchable face. It’s his Guy Lafleur-esque long hair and his pointy face that does it. Speaking of Weise’s face, he sustained a nasty injury to it in 2014 when he was caught by an errant skate, splitting his upper lip wide open. The cut, which came at the end of Maple Leaf forward Nazem Kadri’s skate, would require several stitches, and the scars would do little to help Weise’s looks.
8 The Sedins
The Sedins are right up there with the Williams sisters, the Manning brothers, and the Richards when it comes to great sports siblings. Together, they have almost 2,000 career points, all coming with the Vancouver Canucks. Daniel, the goal scorer, has 349 goals, while Henrik, the setup man, has 735 assists. They often say that twins share a mind, and surely that connection is part of what makes the Sedins so good together. But still, there’s something about these identical twins, with their fair skin, their red hair, and their matching goatees, something that almost makes you want to punch them. The late Derek Boogaard once referred to them as: "Pinky and The Brain."
7 Alex Ovechkin
Since his rookie season, when he beat out Sidney Crosby for the Calder Memorial Trophy, Alex Ovechkin has been one of the most exciting players in the NHL. A five-time Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy winner and three-time Hart Memorial winner, Ovechkin has helped turn the Washington Capitals into a perennial playoff team. Perhaps the only area in which he’s lacking is looks. With his messy hair and his missing tooth, he looks a bit like a Neanderthal. It hasn’t hurt his game with the ladies, however, as he’s been linked to tennis hottie Maria Kirilenko and model Nastya Shubskaya.
6 Tyler Kennedy
Tyler Kennedy’s flared nostrils and close-set eyes kind of make him look like a cartoon character (we’re thinking Stimpy from Ren and Stimpy). On top of that, he’s got a goofy smile and a curly head of hair. To make matters even worse, he was also once caught on camera licking his stick, for some unknown reason. Who knows, maybe getting punched in the face would somehow improve his features.
5 Tuukka Rask
As far as we can tell, Tuukka Rask, goalie for the Boston Bruins, is a perfectly nice guy (just don't touch his Ipod). He’s also a talented player, having won the Vezina Trophy for the 2013-2014 season. Unlike Semyon Varlamov, Brad Marchand, or Zac Rinaldo, his face isn’t punchable because of what he’s done; it’s simply punchable because of the way it looks. He looks like a cross between Canadian tennis player Milos Raonic and the Grinch. Nothing he can do about that, though.
4 Patrick Kane
2015-2016 is shaping up to be Patrick Kane’s best season so far in the NHL. He currently leads the league by a large margin in points and he’s a close second in goals, leading the Chicago Blackhawks to the top of the Western Conference. But none of that makes his face any less punchable. There’s something about his curly blonde mullet and his smug demeanor—not to mention his questionable actions off the ice, which include a misdemeanor charge, wherein he and his cousin were accused of punching a cab driver in Buffalo, and an alleged sexual assault, which has since been dropped—that makes you want to punch him in the face. But you’ll have to get by the Blackhawks’ enforcers first.
3 Semyon Varlamov
God knows Semyon Varlamov, goalie for the Colorado Avalanche, could use a good punch in the face. Back in 2013, he was arrested on domestic violence charges. He was charged with second-degree kidnapping and third-degree assault. Although all charges were eventually dropped because they couldn’t be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt,” it is believed that he threw his girlfriend, Eugenia Vavrinyuk, against a wall and proceeded to stomp on her. According to Vavrinyuk, who was hospitalized for her injuries, this wasn’t the first time that Varlamov had laid a hand on her.
2 Phil Kessel
Poor Phil Kessel. He was born with a face that only a mother could love. With his monk bangs, his unkempt facial hair, his resting dumb face, and his chubby physique, he’s become the butt of the joke in the NHL. For the most part, however, he’s silenced the critics with stellar play on the ice, leading the Maple Leafs in scoring each of his six years with the team. So far in his career, only three people have tried to punch Kessel’s punchable face in a fight.
1 Brad Marchand
Brad Marchand has to have the most punchable face in the league. Not only is he a pest on the ice, often considered one of the dirtiest players in the game, but he does it all while sporting a crap-eating grin, as if he’s fully aware of how people perceive him and doesn’t care. Marchand’s been suspended on more than one occasion for his foul play, with the most recent coming just before the 2016 Winter Classic after he illegally clipped another player. We’re not the only ones who think his face is punchable; several players have taken a run at him over the years, with perhaps the most popular being his fight with former Canadian Juniors teammate P.K. Subban, who might be equally annoying, but far more handsome.
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