Hockey is a high-speed game, full of emotion, animosity, and passion. It's a sport that requires dedication, aggression, and athleticism.
Yet, as with any sport, it can be difficult to tamp down that aggressive mentality once the final horn sounds. It can be tough to hit the "off" switch, so to speak. To play hockey, one needs a bit of that pugnacious personality, and it can rub some teammates the wrong way.
We all know about teammate rivalries in other sports. Think Kobe and Shaq or Jeter and A-Rod. These rivalries varied in intensity and duration, but had the same genesis.
Hockey is no different. This list looks at some instances where teammates' disdain for one another resulted in a war of words, trades, and even fist fights.
Some feuds were short-lived, other simmered for years. Some were verbal, other were physical. Some were birthed from speculation and have yet to be formally substantiated by those involved. Maybe some guys wouldn’t want to confirm disdain for a teammate.
That is not to say these guys still hate each other. Many have since patched things up. However, at the time they were teammates, things were anything but rosy. Here are 15 pairs of teammates that at one point, absolutely despised each other.
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15 Ryan Kesler and R.J. Umberger
Kesler and Umberger have been in the NHL since the early 2000s. They began their professional careers together at Ohio State University. Both were first round selections of the Vancouver Canucks, although they never played together in the NHL.
Umberger was taken 16th overall in 2001, while Kesler was chosen 23rd overall in 2003. Kesler signed with the team right away, and played his first NHL game during that 2003-04 season. Meanwhile, Umberger failed to come to terms on an agreement, and sat out the entire season. He used Kesler’s contract terms as leverage in order to sign a better deal, and came up empty.
Kesler didn’t take too kindly to being used as a pawn in negotiations, feeling a sense of betrayal from his teammate. Umberger was traded to the Rangers in March of 2004, while Kesler remained with the Canucks.
The animosity returned during a January 2009 game, when Kesler and Umberger engaged in fisticuffs. Even in 2014, when Kesler was subject to trade rumors, he notably excluded Columbus (where Umberger played at the time) from his list of preferred destinations.
14 Brandon Dubinsky and Blake Comeau
Brandon Dubinsky became a fan favorite early in his career with the Rangers when he sparked a rivalry with Penguins captain Sidney Crosby.
His penchant for rattling up division rivals might also explain his animosity towards Blake Comeau. Comeau played for the New York Islanders at the time, but by the 2012-2013 season, found himself as Dubinsky’s teammate in Columbus.
The two former second-round picks played together on the Blue Jackets for less than two seasons. It didn’t take long for them to come to blows. They engaged in a shouting match during a December 2013 practice, and eventually fought on the ice.
Columbus coach Todd Richards assuaged concerns about the fight, telling the Pittsburgh Post Gazette “There was some intensity in practice and some passion…sometimes, it bubbles over.”
It seemed the tensions never resolved, as Comeau signed with the Penguins in 2014. It is unknown how bad locker room relations became between the two or if the fight was simply a one-time incident.
13 Todd Fedoruk and Joni Pitkanen
The Philadelphia Flyers aren't called the "Broad Street Bullies" for nothing. The team’s hard-hitting physicality has been its signature since the 1970s. The fights weren't limited to games though. Fights broke out at team practices.
Case in point: Todd Fedoruk and Joni Pitkanen dropped the gloves at a practice during the 2006-07 season. The team was mired in an eight-game losing streak, and was quickly falling out of the playoff picture. Fedoruk threw a punch at Pitkanen. He didn't exactly smooth things over with Pitkanen after the fight.
“Somewhere along the way, this team has lost its identity of Flyers hockey and what it means to be a Flyer," Fedoruk told reporters. "We need to create an identity."
Perhaps punching a teammate in the face wasn’t the best way to do that, but Pitkanen got the message. He became a scapegoat for the team's failure that season. The media, fans, and clearly, teammates, had turned on him. The Flyers acquired fellow Finnish defenseman Kimmo Timmonen via trade before the 2007 draft, and the writing was on the wall for Pitkanen.
He was traded to Edmonton in July of 2007.
12 Saku Koivu and Mike Ribeiro
Saku Koivu demanded respect as a player. In September 1999, he was named the first European-born captain in Canadiens history. Two years later, he was diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma. He returned for the team’s playoff run in 2002, and registered 10 points in 12 games. He won the Bill Masterson Trophy that year for his comeback efforts.
Why, then, did he harbor a rivalry with Mike Ribeiro? Apparently, the two were mired in a fight for the top center position during the 2003-04 season. The feud boiled over into a physical altercation at a team practice in February 2004. According to French language news channel, Réseau des sports (RDS), the Montreal locker room had split into “rival clans.” Koivu and Ribeiro were on opposite sides.
Ribeiro was traded to Dallas before the 2006-07 season. Ribeiro later told the La Presse newspaper in 2009 that he never felt welcome in the Canadiens locker room and Koivu had a “contemptuous attitude” towards him.
11 Brian McGrattan and Chris Neil
Brian McGrattan and Chris Neil were teammates on the Ottawa Senators in the early to mid 2000's. With guys like Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza, and Daniel Alfredsson on the roster, the Senators felt a need for multiple enforcers.
However, with similar on-ice roles, McGrattan and Neil had to one-up each other in a sense. By 2010, McGrattan was on a tryout for the Boston Bruins, where he made his feelings known on Neil.
"I had to protect that guy for three years when I was there," McGrattan said of his former teammate. "He'll do something where he knows he'll get kicked out of the game and won't have to come back and fight anybody.”
The comments came after Neil fought Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, who was not exactly known for his punching prowess.
"He'd do that and I'd have to fight all his battles for him," McGrattan said. “It doesn't surprise me."
Neil shrugged off McGrattan's criticism, saying he "had nothing bad to say about the guy." Yet, he took a veiled shot at McGrattan. "He's just trying to get into the lineup," Neil said. “That's the way he knows how."
It's unknown if the hate was mutual. One thing is for sure though: McGrattan didn't seem to care much for Neil during his time in Ottawa.
10 Troy Brouwer and Alex Semin
Alexander Semin enjoyed his best years in the NHL playing with the Washington Capitals. He scored at least 30 goals in three of his seven seasons in D.C., briefly forming a dynamic duo with fellow Russian Alex Ovechkin. Yet, like many Russian players, Semin garnered a reputation for inconsistency.
In 2012, Semin signed with the Carolina Hurricanes. Former Capitals teammate Troy Brouwer chose to take a few verbal jabs at Semin before a February 2013 matchup.
“It was tough to lose his scoring ability, when he wanted to play," Brouwer told the Associated Press. "But all in all I think we've been doing well without him."
Semin didn't return comment, but teammate Tim Brent took to Twitter to defend him. He tweeted in part, "I hope he [Semin] sticks it to them."
Brouwer continued: "Some nights you didn't even know if he was going to come to the rink. It's tough to play alongside guys like those because you don't know what you're going to get out of them."
Semin was waived by the Hurricanes in 2015. He played 15 games for Montreal in 2015-16, before finishing the season in the KHL.
9 Eric Lindros and Rod Brind'Amour
Take this one with a grain of salt, as neither party has ever substantiated the feud. We’ll get to Shanahan's extramarital affair with Craig Janney's wife a bit further down the list. However, it was never clear whether Janney and Shanahan ever came to blows over the matter.
The story of Eric Lindros and Rod Brind'Amour is a bit different. The Flyer teammates' feud started with allegations that Lindros had been sleeping with Brind'Amour's wife during the 1999-00 season. Whereas we don't know how Janney reacted to Shanahan committing to same betrayal, there are reports of how Brind'Amour reacted to Lindros.
One rumor was that Brind'Amour found out about Lindros' transgression, and followed him into the locker room after practice and hit him over the head with a folding chair. Lindros suffered a concussion from the incident, and Brind'Amour found himself in hot water with Philadelphia GM Bob Clarke.
Brind'Amour was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes in January 2000 in return for Keith Primeau. Whether Brind'Amour was traded because of Lindros has never been proven.
8 Dion Phaneuf and Robyn Regehr
Ever since Dion Phaneuf's blockbuster trade from Calgary to Toronto in 2009, rumors swirled about what exactly caused the defenseman to leave the Flames. Rumors of a feud between he and then-team captain Jarome Iginla were later debunked. However, one rumor that persisted was the conflict between Phaneuf and fellow defenseman Robyn Regehr.
Former Flames coach Mike Keenan, who coached the team from 2007-2009, spoke about his grievances over management decisions. He touched on the locker room tension between Phaneuf and Regehr.
"There has been fighting in the locker room between Regehr and Phaneuf at the time," Keenan told Sportsnet in 2012. "You settle those things out as a coaching staff and a team but you don’t dismantle people and move people.”
Sportsnet's Dan Murphy corroborated Keenan's belief. "Everyone knows that Phaneuf and Robyn Regehr did not get along very well off the ice, and weren’t a great pair on it," Murphy wrote. "Sure teammates don’t have to be best friends...but it helps if they communicate. From what we’re hearing Phaneuf and Regehr hardly spoke at all.”
7 Sean Avery and Brenden Morrow
Sean Avery's antics didn’t go over quite as well with his Stars teammates as they had with his Rangers brethren in previous years.
Brenden Morrow, the Stars captain at the time, had stated on multiple occasions that he despised Avery, even “hated” him. Morrow didn’t exactly back off these comments once Avery signed a four-year $15.5 million contract with Dallas.
"I have said 'hate,' and I imagine if we wouldn't have signed him, I would have said I still hate him," Morrow said on his weekly radio show at the time. "But he's a teammate now…so now we need to get to know each other and work together as teammates."
Apparently, that cordial sentiment didn’t last long. In December, Avery made his famous “sloppy seconds” comment about his former girlfriend Elisha Cuthbert dating then-Flames defenseman Dion Phaneuf. The NHL suspended him, and the Stars waived him shortly thereafter.
“I didn't adjust to Texas as a whole,” Avery told The New York Post in 2011. “I didn't adjust to the team, and when I say the team, I don't mean the organization, I mean some of the guys in the room.”
Does anyone doubt that he was talking about Morrow?
6 P.K. Subban and Max Pacioretty
Last summer’s trade between the Montreal Canadiens and Nashville Predators shocked many. The two teams swapped P.K. Subban and Shea Weber, two All-Star defensemen in the prime of their careers.
It would seem strange that the Canadiens would trade their Norris Trophy-winning defenseman, but TSN Radio's Tony Mariano may have provided a key reason. After the trade, Mariano reported on Subban's rumored unpopularity in the Montreal locker room, and how it may have served as a catalyst for the deal.
Mariano said Subban had missed team curfews, was late for meetings, and declined an invitation to a team Christmas party. It led to one former Habs player saying Subban will "never be the captain of the Montreal Canadiens."
Team reporter Jimmy Murphy corroborated those rumors, saying he received a text from a key player echoing similar sentiments and grievances. He said Pacioretty attempted to turn the locker room against Subban.
Pacioretty shot down reports of a feud soon after, but that did little to quell the rumors.
“It's so funny I'm being asked this," Pacioretty said in 2016. "What do you want me to say? P.K. Subban came to my wedding. I think you guys are looking way too far into this."
5 Tie Domi and Neil Wilkinson
Training camp is a time to meet new teammates, adjust to a new system, and get back in the swing of everyday NHL action. Sometimes, teammate introductions aren't so magnanimous. Sometimes, practices become so heated that fights break out between teammates.
If you thought the aforementioned Brandon Dubinsky/Blake Comeau fight was uncommon, think again. Tie Domi and Neil Wilkinson fought in training camp long before Dubinsky and Comeau dropped the gloves.
Domi came to blows with Wilkinson during Winnipeg Jets training camp in 1994. The fight was so intense, that Wilkinson broke his thumb. According to The Hockey News, Domi claimed the two were just "play fighting." Wilkinson shot back with, "Well, I wasn't play fighting."
Domi was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs the following season. "I've never had more confrontations with teammates," Domi said of his time in Winnipeg. Could he have been talking about Wilkinson? Domi also harbored a rivalry with Keith Tkachuk, but it seemed Wilkinson received the worst of his wrath.
4 Kevin Bieksa and Fedor Fedorov
This one-night rivalry began when Bieksa visited Winnipeg for a tryout with the Manitoba Moose (Vancouver's AHL affiliate) in 2004. Former Canucks GM Brian Burke spoke with Pierre LeBrun about Bieksa's journey with the team, which included a fight he had with teammate Fedor Fedorov.
"They went to a local establishment, and Fedor Fedorov was sitting at a table," Burke said. "Bieksa walked by the table, bumped him by accident and spilled Fedorov's beer. Bieksa apologized and offered to buy another beer."
Fedorov was incensed, and refused the gesture. He challenged Bieksa to a fight outside the bar. Bieksa cold-cocked Fedorov in the face, and knocked him out.
"I said, 'We're going to sign him tomorrow,'" Burke told LeBrun. Bieksa played over a year with the Moose before his 2005 call-up to the Canucks.
Meanwhile, Federov was traded to the Rangers before the 2005-06 season.
3 Brendan Shanahan and Craig Janney
Brendan Shanahan is one of the most talented all-around forwards of the past 30 years. He amassed over 650 goals (including 12 30-plus goal seasons) and won three Stanley Cup Championships. Yet, Shanahan's reputation wasn't as squeaky-clean as some might think.
During the prime of his career with the St. Louis Blues, Shanahan fostered tension with his teammate Craig Janney. He became romantically involved with Janney's wife, Catherine, during the 1994-95 season. Janney caught wind of the affair, and was understandably outraged.
The teammates' relationship became so volatile that Janney had to be traded during the season. Shanahan was dealt to the Hartford Whalers at the end of the season. The two never played together again.
To make matters worse for Janney, Shanahan married Catherine in 1998.
2 Jeremy Roenick and Patrick Marleau
Jeremy Roenick never shies away from a hot take. The former All-Star and current TV analyst possesses a blunt honesty that has made him a polarizing figure in the hockey world.
One such opinion concerned Roenick's former teammate in San Jose: Patrick Marleau. Roenick and Marleau were teammates from 2007-2009.
The longtime Sharks captain was subject to trade rumors last season, and Roenick made his feelings known.
“He (Marleau) is still very, very good and very effective, but I don’t see him being one of the locker room favorites," Roenick told San Jose radio station KNBR in 2016. "So, if they get rid of him, I don’t think it’s going to make a huge impact with the team. As good of a player as he is, Joe Thornton is the most popular player in the locker room, by far."
Roenick also took shots at Marleau in his 2012 autobiography. Marleau responded in kind.
"I will always welcome constructive criticism from my teammates," he told the San Jose Mercury News. "But I don't have time for the ones who have their own agenda or are just trying to make themselves sound better."
It's safe to say there is no love lost between the two.
1 Steve Downie and Akim Aliu
Steve Downie found his niche in the NHL as a pest. He has registered over 200 PIM twice in his career, and earned two separate 20-game suspensions.
Downie was pugnacious even before his NHL career began. A prime example was his fight with rookie teammate Akim Aliu during his junior hockey days with the Windsor Spitfires. The fight stemmed from Aliu’s refusal to partake in a hazing incident.
“I wouldn’t do that to anybody else, they shouldn’t do it to me,” Aliu told Sportsnet’s Gare Joyce. “It’s not part of the game or the team. We’re here to play hockey.”
Downie took exception to that, and overreacted. He cross-checked Aliu during a team practice and knocked out three of his teeth.
“That’s when I lost it,” Aliu said. “I came back out on the ice and I went after him.”
Downie left the team soon after, ensuring he and Aliu would never cross paths again.
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