When it comes to professional sports, it doesn't get much tougher, grittier or more physical than hockey. Large, muscular athletes skate around at high speeds looking to make an impact in a sport where body checking is a tactical, advantageous strategy and where willing fight participants will only be punished with five minute penalties.
It stands to reason, then, that tensions can often tend to run high and emotions may boil over to send things beyond the accepted levels of physicality. Even in a sport as rough and tumble as hockey, there is a defined, tacitly understood code of proper on-ice behavior. Actions like stick-swinging and dirty, blind-sided hits can fuel plenty of animosity between opponents (and sometimes teammates). Off the ice, plenty can happen to bring about a rift, with the rink often serving as a therapeutic space that actually allows beefs to play out in a way few other sports allow.
In these 20 heated player feuds, whether they stemmed from something that took place on the ice or off, one simple scrap or body check wasn't enough to bring tensions to a simmer. We don't know what happened behind closed doors to bring these conflicts to a head (well, in some cases we do), but what we do know offers enough reason to include these 20 spats among the NHL players who hate each other.
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20 Zdeno Chara and Max Pacioretty
The long-standing rivalry between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens tends to rub off on those involved, regardless of which jersey they sport. It only stands to reason, then, that Boston's defensive anchor and Montreal's top forward would mix it up. Even by hockey standards, though, a March 8th, 2011 hit by Chara on Pacioretty that left the diminutive Hab with a concussion and fractured vertebra was pretty rough. The hit sparked animosity between the teams, fan bases, players and even launched a police investigation. Chara and Pacioretty have since patched things up.
19 Ryan Kesler and R.J. Umberger
Ryan Kesler and R.J. Umberger were linemates at Ohio State University before both made their way to the NHL. For Kesler, though, Umberger followed a little too closely along the path. Umberger publicly used Kesler's entry level contract with the Vancouver Canucks as leverage in his own negotiations with the same club. In general, the public nature of this feud has made it stand out, with Kesler speaking openly about his grudge, suggesting that the negotiations stemmed from Umberger's "jealousy" and stating plainly, "Everybody knows we’re not a big fan of one another.”
18 Ryan Getzlaf and Joe Thornton
Modern day hockey typically features star players who offer the scoring and skill plays and a group of grinders and enforcers who carry out the dirty work and protect the goal scorers. That's why it's so rare to see a true rivalry between opposing stars, as is the case between elite centers Ryan Getzlaf and Joe Thornton. As long-time respective members of the division rivals Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks, Getzlaf and Thornton have had plenty of chances to mix it up. More rare than a star-based feud is a fight in the playoffs, but that's exactly what the two engaged in off the opening face-off of a 2009 Ducks/Sharks first round series.
17 Mike Richards and P.K. Subban
Mike Richards of the Philadelphia Flyers was in a foul mood after a 3-0 loss to the Montreal Canadiens in November 2010 and found an easy target of frustration in the form of the Habs' brash rookie defenseman, P.K. Subban. Speaking to a local radio reporter, Richards ripped into the blue liner for his perceived lack of respect and sense of entitlement. Richards went so far as to suggest that an opposing player might take it upon himself to take action if Subban doesn't smarten up. After a series of tense encounters, the spat has largely been put to rest, as Subban has become an elite defenseman and Richards is now without a team and awaiting trial on drug possession charges.
16 Eddie Shack and Larry Zeidel
The type of feud that Boston's Eddie Shack and Philadelphia's Larry Zeidel engaged in during the late 1960s would blow up social media nowadays. These two tough guys weren't shy about going at each other at any opportunity, which came with some frequency in an era with fewer teams. Their clashes, which also carried racial overtones with Zeidel alleging anti-Semitic slurs from Shack, culminated with a March 7th, 1968 stick-swinging melee between the two men.
15 Ulf Samuelsson and Cam Neely
For consecutive years in the early 1990s, the Wales Conference came down to a playoff showdown between the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins, a clash highlighted by the fierce battles between Bruins power forward Cam Neely and hard-nosed Pens defenseman Ulf Samuelsson. Just about every game was characterized by their frantic jostling for position in front of the net. That is, until Samuelsson connected with a leg check on Neely that took the burly forward out of the game and set him on an injury-laden path to early retirement. In his Hall of Fame speech, Neely acknowledged the feud and said he had no respect for the way Samuelsson played.
14 Bill Guerin and Brett Draney
On the 2002-03 Dallas Stars, Bill Guerin was the new, big-money acquisition while Brett Draney was a prospect looking to make a name for himself in training camp. Unfortunately, in Draney's over-zealous efforts to get noticed, he incurred the wrath of the NHL veteran. It's unknown what exactly led Guerin to take issue with his teammate, but their training camp fracas was captured by TSN cameras who were on site for a pre-season story on the team. Those cameras caught a scrap that included Guerin's two-handed slash to the neck of Draney, who never did reach the NHL.
13 Mikhail Grabovski and Sergei Kostitsyn
It is unknown why blood has always been bad between fellow Belorussians and former teammates Mikhail Grabovski and Sergei Kostitsyn. While some may point to their shared Belarus heritage (did something happen back in their home country?) or their involvement in a storied NHL rivalry (Grabovski was a Toronto Maple Leaf while Kostitsyn was a Hab), they've gone on record as to say they've never really liked one another. In a 2009 game, Kostitsyn took a run at Grabovski and received a 10-minute misconduct. In the next game between the teams, both men had to be restrained from going at it. Their beef has continued on in the years since, albeit mostly through media soundbytes.
12 Milan Lucic and Ryan Miller
A 2011 regular season game between the Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres got heated when Milan Lucic saw a breakaway opportunity in front of him, but couldn't quite corral the puck and lost his opening when then-Sabres goalie Ryan Miller left his crease to play the puck. Lucic continued on into Miller - a no-no by NHL standards - and knocked him to the ice, drawing a two-minute penalty and the enmity of Miller, who called him out after the game for the dirty play. With Lucic being traded to the Los Angeles Kings this off-season, he could renew his spat with Miller, who is now tending goal for the rival Vancouver Canucks.
11 Sidney Crosby/Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin
It's easy to dismiss the rivalry between Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin as a calculated attempt by the NHL's PR machine to spice things up with some animosity between the league's two biggest stars. While there hasn't been much proof of heat between the two, it's hard to forget their chippy 2009 battle in which Crosby and Ovechkin had to be separated by officials. Tensions run even hotter between Ovechkin and Crosby's Pittsburgh teammate Evgeni Malkin, whose one-time friendship has devolved into a bitter feud that has included on-ice skirmishes and even reports of Ovechkin punching Malkin's agent in a Moscow nightclub.
10 Lyle Odelein and Matthew Barnaby
In his day, Matthew Barnaby could get under an opponent's skin like few others. He seemed to take particular relish, though, in pestering Lyle Odelein, or as Barnaby identified him, "Cornelius." A war of words between the two prior to a Penguins/Devils playoff series via media reports revealed that Barnaby and his teammates liken Odelein to the Planet of the Apes character and saw Odelein respond by targeting Barnaby's wife. By Barnaby's estimation, the two fought about nine times over their NHL careers.
9 Keith Primeau and Bob Probert
Keith Primeau and Bob Probert had both been known to drop the gloves over their careers, but their biggest scrap actually came as teammates on the 1994 Detroit Red Wings. After Primeau complained about being robbed of an assist he felt he was due, Probert put the team's arena staff up to announcing the (fake) assist over the arena's PA system during practice, a prank that Primeau didn't find funny. Once he determined the culprit, Primeau went after Probert and engaged in a fight that Probert promptly won.
8 Sean Avery and Darcy Tucker
To refer to Sean Avery as no stranger to controversy is a gross understatement, with the super-pest reigning as, perhaps, the most annoying player in NHL history. He's been involved in tiffs with Dion Phaneuf, Jarrett Stoll, John Tortorella, Ken Holland and others, including No. 2 on this list. One man who was happy to step up to Avery was Darcy Tucker, who was defending teammate Jason Blake against alleged comments made by Avery about Blake's battle with leukemia. Avery denied making the off-color comment, but Tucker seemed pretty certain of his guilt as he confronted him before a regular season game.
7 Eric Lindros and Scott Stevens
It was a problematic combination during a playoff game at the end of the 1999/2000 season when dangerous, physical New Jersey Devils defenseman Scott Stevens found a concussion-prone Eric Lindros skating near center ice and looking the other way. Given that it was Game 7, Stevens was in 'take no prisoners' mode and laid Lindros out with a brutal open ice hit. The devastating hit, in which Stevens' shoulder connected squarely with Lindros' jaw, led to the rest of the Flyers immediately going after Stevens and put Lindros on the shelf for the 2000/01 season. It also led to an icy, on-going detente between the men.
6 Maurice Richard and Ted Lindsay
Perhaps better known for his battles with "Mr. Hockey" Gordie Howe, Maurice "Rocket" Richard carried on a feud with fellow NHL Hall of Famer Ted Lindsay that lasted right up until Richard's death in 2000. Both aggressive and fiery by nature, Richard and Lindsay would routinely put their stardom aside and engage in fisticuffs when they would meet. Lindsay also sparked Richard's ire by publicly stating that Richard should have been suspended for life for his role in a violent confrontation against Boston that led to the Richard Riots. Allegedly, Lindsay has even said that they encountered one another on a beach later in life and just glared at one another from a distance.
5 Dino Ciccarelli and Claude Lemieux
At the peak of the mid-90s rivalry between Dino Ciccarelli's Detroit Red Wings and Claude Lemieux's Colorado Avalanche, Lemieux outraged Hockeytown with a devastating check from behind to Red Wings center Kris Draper in Game 6 of the 1996 Western Conference Finals. The hit, which sent Draper to the hospital with a broken jaw and shattered cheekbone, helped Colorado to a series win en route to a Stanley Cup triumph. No one was more outspoken about the cheap shot than Ciccarelli, who said after the traditional post-series handshake line, "I can't believe I shook the guy's friggin' hand." No surprise that things would be consistently chippy between the two in future meetings.
4 Tie Domi and Ulf Samuelsson
Given the respectively checkered reputations of both men, it's unlikely that either Tie Domi or Ulf Samuelsson are completely blameless in a lifelong feud that stemmed from a cheap shot by Domi in a October 14th, 1995 game. While jockeying for position in front of the New York Rangers' net, Domi sent Samuelsson straight to the ice with a scary knockout sucker punch that resulted in an eight-game suspension. Domi claimed that the punch came as a result of taunting by Samuelsson in which the Swede referred to the diminutive enforcer as "dummy," which sounds an awful lot like his actual surname.
3 Cal Gardner and Ken Reardon
To see how relatively tame hockey has become over the years, look no further than the 1940s blood feud between Cal Gardner and Ken Reardon. A crosscheck in the mouth from Gardner to Reardon late in the 1947 season set the wheels in motion for an epic saga between the two that featured a fan-involved melee and a ferocious attack from Reardon that broke Gardner's jaw. The tete-a-tete escalated to the point where NHL president Clarence Campbell forced Reardon to post a $1,000 bond against future violence as he stood on the ice after the broken jaw attack. While the stark violence dissipated, tensions remained between the two men well beyond their retirement.
2 Sean Avery and Martin Brodeur
Ever the popular player in his day, Sean Avery probably could have had a 20-entry list for himself on the subject of NHL enemies. But when you are on the opposite end of a conflict with a respected legendary goalkeeper like Martin Brodeur, you are almost certainly going to be in the wrong. Brodeur was outspoken against juvenile antics that saw Avery screen the New Jersey Devils goalie by facing him and waving a stick in his face, an act that was hardly sportsman-like but wasn't outlawed by the NHL rule book. A day after Avery's antics, the league stepped in and immediately created the 'Avery rule'. Brodeur, for one, never quite forgave his pesky nemesis, taking great pleasure upon learning that Avery had been bounced from an early episode of "Dancing with the Stars".
1 Todd Bertuzzi and Steve Moore
Few NHL rivalries wind up in a court room, but then again, few also begin with such a vile and blatant attack as the one levied on Steve Moore by Todd Bertuzzi on March 8th, 2004. Late in an ugly, fight-filled game between Colorado and Vancouver, Bertuzzi was sent onto the ice for the Canucks with a clear intent to engage someone in a fight. He zeroed in on Moore (who had hurt Markus Naslund weeks earlier), who tried to skate away until Bertuzzi attacked from behind, punching and then landing atop a defenseless Moore. The hit fractured three vertebrae in Moore's neck and ended his NHL career. They would spend years embroiled in court battles, as Bertuzzi faced criminal charges while also being tried in a civil suit. The civil suit was settled out of court in 2014.
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