When it comes to being a professional athlete, there are seemingly countless advantages that come along with the profession. To excel at that level, your sport has to be something that you have been passionate about your entire life and it can be great to watch so many people living out their dreams.
To be a professional athlete, it also takes a great deal of dedication to your craft. There isn’t a notable athlete out there that has not put in some serious time and dedication to all phases of the game. When you make it to the top levels of the NHL, especially in contrast to sports like football with a bigger roster, you are part of an elite group of athletes.
However, to get that far, it does not mean you are necessarily a good person. The history of the NHL is littered with athletes that may have been incredibly talented on the ice, but were incredibly big jerks off of it. While some were able to keep their jerk attitudes to limited to off-ice shenanigans, others transcended this to there on ice persona.
You need to understand that when it comes to being a professional athlete, your life is always going to be in the spotlight. Any mistake that you make gets amplified ten-fold, and it can be even worse if the altercations happen with your teammates. Nothing says you’re a jerk like you’re the only one who cannot get along with your teammates. And if you’ve been moved to a few different teams? The problem may not be them, it’s you.
There are no shortage of different reasons that helped land all of these NHL players on this list, but that’s what helps make them the biggest jerks in the NHL.
20 Brad Marchand
I get it, Brad Marchand, you’re a young, talented, hockey player and you play for a fantastic hockey market in Boston. Like Tyler Seguin, who also played for the Bruins, Marchand is a known lover of the party life. This includes, but is not limited to moments where he gets drunk in public, takes his shirt off, and dances on tables. Nobody likes to see that guy at the bar, and it doesn’t make it any better that he’s an athlete. When it comes to on the ice, Marchand is also a highly emotional person. In 2014, Marchand received some heat for taunting the Canucks by mimicking lifting the cup (the Bruins beat Vancouver in 2011). It led to head coach Claude Julien to state
"Sometimes his emotions get the better of him," Julien said. "The perception it gives our organization is not what you want to see with those kind of things. … From what I hear, what happened, that's definitely not something we will accept in our organization."
19 Alex Burrows
As a member of the Vancouver Canucks, Alex Burrows has been involved in a lot of great work off the ice to help raise support in the city of Vancouver. While this list is primarly reserved for only off-ice jerks, Burrows makes a special exception due to the repeated incidents of his on-ice chirping. A recent game that involved Burrows and Patrick O’Sullivan, involved Burrows making several digs at O’Sullivan about his father who was incredibly abusive.
It was only back in November that Jordin Tootoo came out and said that Burrows made digs at him for his battle with alcoholism, as well as verbally attacking Tootoo’s personal life and family.
When something like this continues to happen, it’s hard not to label you as a jerk. Even if your off-ice persona would speak to you being a decently nice guy.
18 Eric Lindros
Eric Lindros was an incredibly talented player, but was involved in much controversy throughout his career. When he was first drafted by the Nordiques, Lindros made it public (even prior to the draft) that he would refuse to play there blaming both the cities location, the lack of popularity, and the amount of “French-ness” that came along the team. Once he was drafted by the Nordiques, he refused to play until he was eventually traded to the Flyers.
One incident alone, does not a jerk make though. While it was never proven, there were heavy rumors surrounding Lindros sleeping with teammate, Rod Brind'Amour’s wife. This led to an alleged altercation with Lindros.
Despite being a fan favorite, Brind'Amour’s career with the Flyers came to an end quickly after the rumors started to surface when he was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes.
17 Kevin Stevens
Kevin Stevens had a tremendous career that included two Stanley Cups. While he had some great seasons, including 4 seasons of over 80 points, he had an open addiction problem with alcohol. His former agent described Stevens as being addicted to drinking and often had binge-sessions.
While still in the NHL, Stevens was also arrested for the buying, selling, and using of crack cocaine. On top of that, he also solicited a prostitute and then proceeded to smoke the crack cocaine with her. It’s hard to immediately make the link that someone who does crack cocaine is a jerk, but when talking to police, the prostitute stated
“I’m a crackhead, but he’s a crack monster."
16 Alexei Yashin
I know that it must be incredibly frustrating to be playing on a contract that you feel you have vastly outperformed. The problem with contracts is that they’re pretty set in stone, and if you are going to try and tear up your contract and sit out, you’re going to look like a huge jerk. That’s exactly what Alexei Yashin did when he refused to play for the Senators in the 1999 season. No amount of talent can make up for that kind of head case in the locker-room. Yashin had hopes that he would sit out and then become a free agent. Joke was on him when the league ruled that sitting out a year from all play should not count as a year on your contract and Yashin was forced to live out his contract in the 2000-01 season.
Things worked out okay for the Senators who ended up trading the big headed star to the New York Islanders for Zdeno Chara and the 2nd overall pick in the draft, which they used on Jason Spezza.
15 Mike Richards
Now I don’t think Mike Richards is necessarily a jerk to fans. But the man has battled some issues, and it’s led to a decline in production and when your addictions are hindering the people around you and the sport you love, it isn’t the best look. Richards has had off-ice issues in his career, but none more prominent then in June of 2015 where he was stopped at the US-Canada border. Richards had possession of a controlled substance, which was allegedly Oxycodone.
The GM of the Kings, Dean Lombardi was heartbroken over the downfall of Mike Richards stating ““I believe that what happened to Mike Richards is a tragedy and I cannot let it go,” Lombardi wrote. “My short-term goal is to win championships; my long-term goal is to eventually become more involved with groups studying the changing values that are becoming increasingly evident in sport and their root causes.” “
14 Aaron Ward
Aaron Ward was an outstanding NHL player, having amassed over 800 games played and winning 3 Stanley Cups. Upon his retirement, Ward was a respected member of the TSN hockey panel. Life took a turn for the worse for Ward in October of this year, when he was arrested after assaulting his wife. The assault was allegegedly only pushing and shoving, but also included Ward trying to take his wife’s phone from her while she was on the line with emergency services. This incident will surely put an end to Ward’s on-air personality as well as place a black mark over an incredibly respected career.
13 Slava Voynov
Slava Voynov’s off-ice issues cost the player significantly in several different areas of his life. When Slava Voynov was charged with a misdemeanour of domestic violence against his wife, it ended his NHL career. The charges required Voynov to spend 90 days in jail, as well as 52 weeks of domestic abuse counselling , 3 years of probation, and 8 hours of community service.
Slava’s wife, Marta, claimed that the defensemen choked, slapped, and attempted to throw her into a television during the scuffle. The league promptly suspended him for the following 76 games, and the LA Kings tore up his contract, effectively voiding the remaining 19.25 million that could have come his way.
12 Jeremy Roenick
Roenick was never one to shy away from the spotlight. A talented player, his brashness made him a fan favourite, but could also rub people the wrong way. One of Roenick’s more memorable moments came during the NHL lockout in 2005 when he went off on the fans of the NHL who were complaining about how the players are refusing to play. Roenick has always been vocal both on and off the ice and while some people enjoy this, others classify Roenick as a Grade-A jerk.
11 Brendan Shanahan
Brendan Shanahan is one of the most talented players to ever lace 'em up. With multiple Stanley Cups and countless memories on the ice, it’s his off-ice antics that land him on this list. During the 1994-95 season with the St.Louis Blues, rumors started to swirl that Shanahan was sleeping with teammate, Craig Janey’s wife, Catherine. The move is supposedly what prompted the trade of Shanahan to Hartford the following season. To clear matters with the general public, Shanahan ended up getting married to Catherine a few years later. Given the success of Shanahan’s career, I suppose it was Janey that was left singing the blues.
10 Sean Avery
Sean Avery is an incredibly agitating player on the ice. Known to use any tactic necessary to get under your skin (just ask Brodeur), Avery tried to make a name for himself as an enforcer and pest in the league. Shockingly, this also leads to Avery being a pest off the ice. While this is most notable by his inability to stay with one team for a significant portion of time, it’s his continued off-ice comments that really cement his legacy on this list. When Avery’s former team Detroit was asked if they would welcome him back, Ken Holland stated that he had "absolutely no respect for the game, the people and the organization." You don’t get such lovely comments handed out to you by a man as respected as Ken Holland, without really being a massive jerk.
9 Mike Ribeiro
Mike Ribeiro is a talented hockey player, but he was never able to fully move on from his off-ice issues to be as effective as he could have been. When he signed with Phoenix, there were hopes that he would be able to turn his career around but that was far from the case. A source for the Coyotes claimed about Ribero: "late for practices, missed meetings, missed buses, and even engaged in a shouting match with Tippett in the locker room after a game in Colorado." And it was behavior like this that led to Ribeiro being bout out of the remainder of his contract in 2014.
8 Dion Phaneuf
Dion Phaneuf had the potential to be a great defensemen for the Calgary Flames. After a few seasons there, friction started to occur in the locker room between Phaneuf and Robyn Regeher as well as Jarome Iginla. It was reported by head coach Mike Kennan, that the Regeher and Phaneuf were barely communicating both on and off the ice. Hardly a recipe for success and what you want from two of your top defensemen. While he’s had a few skirmishes with the Toronto media since coming to the Maple Leafs, Phaneuf has at the very least seemed easier to get along with as his career advances.
7 Mike Comrie
When you consider what it means to be a good teammate, not sleeping with your teammates wife should be pretty high on your list. Unfortunately, this was something which was not instilled in Mark Comrie. Rumors persisted back in 2005 that Tommy Salo’s wife was having an affair with Comrie, and once confronted by Salo, moved back to Sweden. This obviously not only made Salo sad, but also led to a decline in his play. This all led to a further divide in the lockeroom between Comrie and other members of the Edmonton Oilers, almost like they didn’t feel they could trust the guy?
6 Tyler Seguin
There is no doubting that Tyler Seguin does not have some great parts of his character. A loud supporter of people with spinal cord issues, Seguin’s donated his time and money to help those in need. Seguin’s reputation is what also what landed him in Dallas, despite being a promising player for the Boston Bruins. The Bruins as an organization are fairly open about their contempt for partiers, and Seguin was also very open about his appreciation of going out to bars until 2 or 3am. When he was traded to the Stars, the GM of the Bruins at the time stated that the decision was not strictly related to on-ice performance, indicating a lack of maturity from the talented young star. While he’s seemed to clean up his act, he needs to be careful that he isn’t in the wrong place at the wrong time and severely damage his reputation with foolish acts.
5 Steve Downie
Downie is not nearly as talented enough of a player to get away with being a jerk. The worst incident in Downie’s career came when he was in the AHL and it was reported that he was trying to haze different rookies by stripping them naked, and forcing them into a cramped bathroom. When rookie Akim Aliu (aged 16) refused to participate, Downie blindsided him in practice a few weeks later. Downie did not remove himself from trouble in the NHL, and had a scuffle with captain Gabriel Landeskog during preseason which some argue led to his departure from the Colorado Avalanche which saw Downie head to Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and now Arizona.
4 Mark Messier
When it comes to Mark Messier, there is no denying the tremendous legacy he left on the game of hockey. He just happened to burn some bridges along the way. One fanbase that has a particular problem with Messier is the Vancouver Canucks, who Messier signed with in the summer of 1997. The first jerk move? Messier demanded he wear the retired #11 which was no longer worn out of respect for the passing of an original Canuck, Wayne Maki, who passed away in 1974.
Then you also consider the fact that the most loved Canuck, Trevor Linden, allowed Messier to become team captain before the season even started. As a Canuck, Messier was lazy and ended up being a horrible signing for Vancouver.
Vancouver isn’t the only city that Messier has impacted. You are always going to sour on me when you have a history of complaining about your contract until you get traded, which is what Messier did in 1991, refusing to play for the Oilers who eventually traded him to the Rangers. Rangers fans embraced Messier, until they realized he was going to hold out on them as well. To make matters worse this happened during the year of the 1994 lockout, talk about stressing out your fanbase! Messier deserves to be in the Hall of Fame but remains a huge jerk.
3 Pavel Bure
It is one thing to hold out on your contract if you do not think you are getting paid enough money. I mean that doesn’t really make you a winner in my eyes, but at least it’s reasonable. It can seem a lot more jerk-like if you are being paid well, as Bure was in 1998 by the Canucks, and are still refusing to play. While many people would point to Bure’s attitude towards the end of his time with Vancouver as being a jerk, there is more to it.
One of the most controversial moments of Bure’s career turned out to be false. There was a rumor in the 1993-94 season, which included a Cup run for the Canucks, that Bure was going to withdraw his services for the postseason run citing a want out of Vancouver. The story greatly altered Bure’s public perception in Vancouver, but the winger claims the entire story was fabricated.
It’s a lie,” said Bure with steel in his eyes. “I don’t want to say who did it because I don’t want to say what I don’t know. But I know one thing: I was promised to be traded,” which did eventually happen when he was traded to the Florida Panthers.
2 Evander Kane
A sure-fire sign that someone may be a jerk, could be if they are often a source of locker-room drama. Despite only being in the league for a few years, Evander Kane clearly made himself a problem in Winnipeg which led to his early departure and a trade to Buffalo. The player has been criticized for poor work ethic, but is also not immune to off-ice legal issues either. While it was not a criminal case, a Vancouver man was suing Kane for assault charges after receiving injuries to several parts of his body. There is no telling how much truth is behind the man’s statements, but if something did occur, it clearly displays a pattern of a player that shows unpredictability and rash decision making. Problems continue to plague the young player, as he is now also at the face of a potential sexual assault that occurred on December 27, 2015. No amount of hockey talent in the world is going to make up for continuing to put yourself, and your team, in negative situations.
1 Patrick Kane
If there is one advantage of Patrick Kane over Evander Kane, it’s that Patrick might be the most talented hockey player in the league and I don’t think people are rushing to hand Evander that title. However, Kane has a known pattern for off-ice problems and no moment was higher than his alleged assault of a cab driver. Kane, only 20 at the time, was with his cousin when they allegedly “punched the cab driver and grabbed money they had handed him after he told them he didn't have twenty cents in coins to give them their change," the report said. Similar to Evander, there is no telling how much truth there is to the story but it definitely does not paint Patrick in a very good light. This past off-season was also marred by controversy for the superstar, as he accused of sexual assault in August. Hardly the reputation you want if you are trying to make yourself not seem like a jerk off the ice.