True sports fans have hate in their blood. If you truly love sports, you must also be capable of the opposite reaction as well, it’s just logic! For example, I love my Canucks, therefore I will always hate Mark Messier. He ousted hometown hero Trevor Linden (a great followup to his dirty crosscheck to Linden in the ’94 Finals), produced pathetic numbers for his contract, insisted he play on the top lines, all while putting in an incredibly lazy effort. After becoming the symbol for the Canucks’ darkest years in my lifespan, he appeared on Vancouver radio years later and actually took credit for their turnaround. Oh, and instead of being ashamed of his money-to-production ratio, he sued the Canucks franchise for a few million more. @#$%^&
Now that’s the kind of hatred sports can bring. Hatred that is spawned from the mention of a name. Say the word Boston in Montreal. Say Bettman to a Canadian NHL fan. It’s magic. As fans we take ownership, we take it personal, it’s why we watch, it’s why we hate.
There are many ways to inspire hate. Hockey is as physical as it is fast. Hits are thrown, battles are waged, tempers are lost. It’s an emotional game with a history of intimidation. Since the instigator rule however, it’s been said that it’s tougher to “police” the game. They say players can get away with far more. Dirty players are held less accountable. With players bigger and faster than ever before, respect must remain high, or catastrophic injuries can occur. Those that are found to not respect the game and it’s players, earn the ire of fans and players alike.
Not all the players on this list are considered dirty, though many are. Most players on the list are as loved by their fans as they are despised by the rest. That is the nature of sports. That’s the power of it. Without the passion that invokes love/hate, it wouldn’t be the same.
It would just be a game.
20. John Scott
Like Godzilla on skates, the 6-foot-8 Scott is a giant monster expected to wreak havoc. Like the Japanese monster, he is also not expected to score, and makes national headlines when he does. He smashed his former season high of goals (1) by scoring twice with San Jose this season. He could potentially triple his past record if he scores again.
The NHL has evolved away from using pure goons/enforcers, and instead came to the logical conclusion of another scoring/checking line. Scott’s archetype is a rarity, and the Sharks surprised the league when they signed him. It was no surprise however when Scott was suspended two games for leaving the bench to initiate a fight, or his four games for an illegal punch to Tim Jackman’s head, leaving him motionless on the ice.
With the unfortunate fates of several ex-enforcers in the past few years, you have to hope Scott’s signing is an aberration and not a trend.
19. Marian Hossa
Like most players on this list, when he’s on your team you absolutely love him. In Chicago, Hossa is a dependable star who plays defense and hustles just as well as he scores. He was a big part of both Stanley Cup wins and that’s exactly why they hate him in Detroit and Pittsburgh.
The way he jumped ship twice after losing in back to back Stanley Cup finals left a very bad impression on the fans he ditched. Pittsburgh especially were ecstatic to finally find a great winger for Crosby, and were sure he would resign. To see him join the very team that defeated them was heart breaking. To see him lose yet again was a bitter justice.
With Hossa’s trendy front-loaded contract potentially causing cap problems for Chicago (who has more than enough cap issues) he could fall out of favor in Chi-town as well.
18. Alex Semin
As Carolina races to the bottom of the standings in order to secure the best possible draft pick, Hurricane fans are allowed to temporarily enjoy how awful Semin has been playing. But once the next season starts, and until the end of his ridiculously expensive contract, they will go right back to hating him. The $7 million cap hit is almost as much of an eyesore has his effort level. Semin fooled them all with a productive contract year. Fans and coaches can handle losing, but the one thing they want to see if effort. Semin has put on a coasting clinic, resulting in several healthy scratches, which is outrageous for his age and skill level.
Maybe they can make a trophy for indifferent play that Semin and Phil Kessel can compete for. At least they’ll be doing something interesting out there.
17. Phil Kessel
Phil Kessel is very similar to Patrick Kane, yet because of his current situation in Toronto, he’s treated much differently. If Kessel played for a winning team like Chicago, behind a leader like Toews, he could score his goals and be in peace. In Toronto however, goals and points aren’t enough (though he had a tough time scoring this year). Kessel and the Leafs have pissed fans off with their wildly inconsistent play and atrocious lack of effort when the going gets tough. Surprise surprise, inconsistency and lack of effort during tough times are the main criticisms of Kessel himself.
His relationship with the Toronto media is a car crash you can’t look away from. He obviously dislikes dealing with reporters, yet has no choice as the most talented and highest paid player in a hockey-mad market.
With Toronto finally embracing a rebuild, perhaps they’ll trade Kessel and bring some peace to the frustrated forward.
16. Evander Kane
In the humble NHL, an abundance of confidence can be taken the wrong way. Evander Kane’s statement that he knows he can score 50 goals is not something heard often around the NHL. Since he’s hit 30 only once in a six year career, his remarks seem a bit delusional.
The young, rich and cocky label is not one traditionally associated with conservative Winnipeg. Posting pictures of himself covered in stacks of money while at the same time being accused of skipping the bill at local restaurants hurt his image. Kane was doing just as poorly with the Winnipeg players. Violating dress code and showing up late resulted in Dustin Byfuglien tossing his clothes in the shower. Kane’s decision to skip the next game against Vancouver and then have season-ending shoulder surgery seemed to seal his fate with Winnipeg fans.
Kane is still young and has a chance to start fresh with the rebuilding Sabres. But if he does eventually score those 50 goals with McDavid/Eichel, Winnipeg fans may hate him even more!
15. Daniel Carcillo
With the nickname “car bomb”, his imposing size, and ridiculous mustache, Carcillo is destined to be loved and hated in the game of hockey. Looking and playing like a ’70’s Broad Street Bully, Carcillo is a polarizing player.
Don Cherry had a very public rant on Carcillo on his Coach’s Corner segment. First Cherry showed a video of Carcillo aggressively trying to fight the very tiny Marc Savard, Cherry stayed neutral saying Savard “deserved it”. The point of this rant was the video he showed next. Cherry showed the much larger Colton Orr challenge Carcillo only to get a much different response. When faced with someone near his own size, Carcillo looked anywhere but at Orr, waiting for the ref to come and get between them. The ref quickly skated over and hilariously knocked Carcillo into the bench.
Score one for the men in stripes.
14. Raffi Torres
Drafted high by the New York Islanders, Torres could never achieve his potential scoring heights, and instead settled in as a physical bottom six winger with the ability to chip in. He gained a reputation as a head-hunter, as he played like a heat-seeking missile, flying around the ice looking for giant hits.
His crushing check on Hossa showed zero interest in the puck as he leveled a puck-less Hossa and earned a 25-game suspension.
13. Alex Ovechkin
Many of Ovechkin’s past coaches must not like him, as Ovie has gone through plenty of them, but many hockey fans are also detractors of Alex Ovechkin. Whether it’s because they’re a Sidney Crosby backer, they hate his goal celebrations or that he occasionally dishes out a dirty hit, Ovechkin’s another superstar with plenty of haters.
Many also detest him for his constant shortcomings in the playoffs. While Ovechkin’s playoff numbers aren’t terrible, they just don’t measure up to his superstar billing. His team has never gotten past the second round of the playoffs in his career, which fair or not, reflects on him.
12. Ryan Kesler
The type of hard nosed style Kesler plays will earn him a lot of hate. But it’s his former fans that had reason to be most upset. Vancouverites loved Kesler’s talented two-way play, especially when he entered ‘beast mode’ in a playoff series with Nashville. But after a trying season with new coach John Tortorella, Kesler decided that Vancouver’s Cup window had closed and he demanded a trade. Fans thought he was deserting them in their time of need. Worst of all, he gave an incredibly small list of teams he would accept going to. This tied new GM Jim Benning’s hands, but to his credit he acted fast and got surprisingly decent value considering the circumstances.
When not pissing off his former fans, he has been accused of diving. During a game with LA, the broadcaster even described as Kesler as “going down easily”, but said “selling…it’s part of the game”.
11. Sidney Crosby
When you’re placed at the top of the sport (for good reason) you attract attention, both positive and negative. Crosby has dealt with the reputation of a whiner since he broke into the league. Not uncommon for an 18-year-old to whine, but whatever Crosby does gets noticed.
It’s not just silly fans who give Crosby a hard time. Jonathan Toews, as respected as any in the NHL, called Sidney out for diving during their most recent outdoor game. Toews leapt to his feet on the bench when he saw Crosby take a tumble. He went straight over and told him “stay on your feet, you’re okay”.
After seeing that, many fans surely called Toews’s parents to see if they could adopt him as their own.
10. Corey Perry
If Perry stuck to scoring goals and playing physical he would be universally loved and admired. However, the way he reacts to being hit and his dirty stick work earns plenty of hate. After Jamie Benn gave him a perfectly legal hit in the playoffs, Perry immediately speared him below the belt. His groinwork doesn’t stop there, as he delivered a sneaky kick to Detroit’s Jimmy Howard as well. Enter a battle in the corner or in front of the net with Perry at your own risk, and if you fall over, watch out! There are plenty of examples of Perry hacking and whacking players if their heads get too close to the puck.
Nothing boils a fans blood than seeing Perry dish out a dirty slash and then snipe a goal immediately afterwards.
9. Steve Ott
An incredibly effective agitator who can skate and score, what’s not to hate? Ott was loved in Dallas. Able to play anywhere in the lineup, potting near 40 points, killing penalties while drawing them. Any player who does the gritty things as well as Ott is a huge pain for the opposition to deal with. Whether Ott is a dirty player is up to debate. The NHL did fine him for an eye-gouge, but he claims it was an accident. A player poll conducted by Sports Illustrated in 2009 had him tied with Pronger for “dirtiest player”, take from that what you will.
Ott has found a home on the truculent St. Louis Blues who could use his playoff-style hockey in their anticipated postseason run.
8. Steve Downie
In his first full professional season, Downie hit Dean McAmmond with an “intent to injure”. He received a mammoth 20-game suspension, and an immediate reputation as a dirty player. Sucker punching Toronto’s Jason Blake later that year dug him a little deeper. o top off his rough season, he accidentally detached linesman Pat Dapuzzo’s nose with his skate after receiving a hip check. Downie’s had another unlucky incident with an official when he received another 20-game suspension for slashing a linesman in the AHL. Downie maintained it was accidental while Hershey Bears broadcaster John Walton claimed after “watching the replay no less than 20 times myself during the postgame, I was appalled not only at the lack of respect for an official, but the sheer violence from one man to another.”
Downie went on to post impressive numbers with Tampa yet could not stay away from controversy, fined $1,000 after a brutal looking tangle up with Sidney Crosby.
Only 27, Downie has already dealt with a career’s worth of suspensions and injuries. He has a chance with his new team in Pittsburgh to prove he’s still the effective player who scored 22 goals on Tampa’s top line.
7. Alex Burrows
The Canucks were easily considered the most hated team in the league when they could deploy a line featuring Kesler, Lapierre, and Burrows. Burrows had to fight and claw his way to the NHL, and perhaps he never forgot that.
Battling Marc Staal in front of the Ranger net in 2011, Burrows was clearly shown sticking his leg between Staal’s legs and digging up way too high, bringing him to his knees. It’s tough to see this and think of it as an accident. He was also accused of biting a finger, a tough stigma to overcome.
When not dishing it out, Burrows has a bad reputation as a diver. His relationship with official Stephane Auger deteriorated into an ugly public battle, further hurting his reputation.
6. Matt Cooke
Matt Cooke was once known as a useful pest, able to balance scoring with agitating play. However, he hit a string of suspensions and became known as one of the league’s dirtiest players. His blow to the head of Marc Savard actually led to an NHL rule change to prevent those types of hits. His own teammate Bill Guerin said “I understand he is on my team…..If a guy gets hurt like that with a shot to the head, there’s got to be something.”
Cooke’s elbow to the head of the Rangers’ Ryan McDonagh gave him the longest suspension of his career and prompted his own GM to describe the hit as “exactly the kind of hit we’re trying to get out of the game.”
Cooke’s cleaned up his game over the last couple of years, but don’t expect fans to throw him a parade any time soon.
5. Milan Lucic
Dalton Prout is the hero of the NHL. His one punch of Lucic was my favorite viral video of this season. He is the NHL’s biggest example of a player who dishes it out and can’t take it. With Prout, Lucic threw a dirty cross check to the back of Prout’s head before grabbing him for a fight. Prout gave him ample opportunity to defend himself before throwing the throwing a beautiful knockout punch. Of course Lucic complained about this, earning him even more hatred.
Lucie also managed to disrespect one of hockey’s greatest traditions, the handshake line. The entire point of the handshake line is to show sportsmanship, it’s a unique element that speaks to the class of the sport.
Of course Lucic decided to use this honored tradition to verbally threaten Dale Weise, and proceeded to call him a “baby” like a 10-year-old who was tattled on.
Oh, and he wears a yellow mouthguard, it’s just gross.
4. Patrick Kaleta
Not many NHL players are known for their headbutts, but Patrick Kaleta has earned that (dis)honor. Much worse than that however, was his dangerous hit from behind on Brad Richards in 2013. Quote machine John Tortorella said “It’s probably one of the most dangerous hits I’ve ever seen”. Richards himself had a take on Kaleta’s actions, “I don’t know what game [Kaleta] plays…He doesn’t play hockey to begin with.”
How would Kaleta feel about making this list?
“I don’t have to have people like me in order to do my job…My job is to have people not like me.”
Mission accomplished Kaleta.
3. P.K. Subban
A player many love to hate, it’s easy to see that Subban has a great heart and love for the game. The NHL is a very modest league. A player could score a Stanley Cup winning goal in overtime of Game 7 and describe it like this: “yeh Smithsy made a great play and got me the puck there, I just threw it at the net and got lucky.” Subban’s flash and exuberance lead his detractors to say he doesn’t respect the game and its traditions.
But in many ways Subban is as traditional as it gets. A first-generation player of immigrant parents who began skating before school. He made his way through the OHL and was drafted by Montreal. Could he be more Canadian?
2. Max Lapierre
Known as “Lappy” by his fans, and “Yappy” by his enemies, Lapierre has a poor reputation of not backing up his chippy play while constantly running his mouth. He’s always involved after the whistle, in the opposition’s face, but rarely drops the gloves. His ever present grin and long-winded chirps drive his haters nuts. He was actually named “player NHLers would most like to fight” in a Sports Illustrated Poll. Drew Doughty described him as “chirping all the time and running me…after the whistle blew, he tried to take my knees out. He’s a dirty player.”
His hit to Dan Boyle from behind, leaving Boyle to be carried out on a stretcher did nothing to help his reputation as a dirty player.
1. Brad Marchand
Nicknamed the rat, Marchand is so easy to hate he should bring it up in contract negotiations. When he’s not trash talking, he’s diving or taking cheap shots. Marchand’s dirty work gained mainstream attention when comedian Jon Stewart blasted Marchand on his Daily Show.
To further ignite hatred, some Boston fans have stolen Pat Verbeek’s nickname and are calling Marchand “little ball of hate”!
The worst thing is Marchand is still young and has plenty more years to go.
The best thing was his misspelled Stanley Cup Champian tattoo.
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