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Top 25 Dirtiest Players in NHL History

There's a certain level of aggression that any hockey player needs to bring to the rink on a nightly basis if they want to be successful in the National Hockey League. The cramped ice-surface with no out-of-bounds to run is akin to a bumper car track, only instead of other "cars" harmlessly bumping into you, there are five opposing players looking to knock you into next week.

The physical attribute of the sport adds a level of excitement and, let's be honest, beauty, to the fastest game on Earth, because it forces hockey players to be incredibly agile, alert, and strong. Some players make the NHL not because of their speed or skill, but because of their ability to intimidate, play a physical style and simply be downright nasty pieces of business. Those players bring an intangible value to their respective teams: they agitate, provide energy, and often times provide a needed spark or momentum shifting play that can make or break a single play, game, or even a season.

A by-product of these players intensity, though, is the occasional "blown fuse" moment, where a player either toes over or completely blows by the line that separates agitating the opponent and infuriating the opponent. This can be done a number of ways; hard slashes over the wrist, finishing a body check that didn't need to be finished, a second hard slash over the wrists, and even vicious, personal insults.

And then there's these guys: our Top 25 dirtiest players in NHL history, players who, while (mostly) productive, we're also considered the scum of the Earth by opposing teams players, coaches, and fans, who not only crossed the figurative line, but lived on the other side of it. These 25 names will not trigger memories of dazzling talent, but rather gruesome and often times scary incidents.

25 25. Ron Hextall

via phillytugger.com

Ron Hextall may not have been the dirtiest player of all time, but he certainly was one of the fieriest players to ever play in the NHL. He didn't have as many opportunities to let out his anger seeing as he had to focus on stopping pucks, but he was always good for a wicked hack across the back of the legs, sending a message to opposing forwards that he would not tolerate anyone getting in the way of him doing his job. He could also be classified as the pioneer goalie enforcer, as he was always ready to drop to gloves; not to mention his revenge attack on Chris Chelios in the 1989 playoffs.

24 24. Chris Pronger

via flyersnation.net

23 23. Jarkko Ruutu

via flyersnation.net

22 22. Dan Carcillo

via lehighvalleylive.com

21 21. Raffi Torres

via totalprosports.com

20 20. Dave Schultz

via gameusedonly.com

19 19. Dave "Tiger" Williams

via city-data.com

18 18. Steve Downie

via blackandgoldworld.blogspot.com

17 17. Bryan Marchment

via hfboards.hockeysfuture.com

16 16. Jesse Boulerice

via latimes.com

15 15. Dave Brown

via sportsdesignblog.com

14 14. Todd Bertuzzi

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13 13. Patrick Kaleta

via nydailynews.com

12 12. Sean Avery

via spiderlove.blogspot.com

11 11. Darcy Tucker

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10 10. Ken Linseman

via sports.ca.msn.com

9 9. Claude Lemieux

via hookedonhockeymagazine.com

8 8. Chris Simon

via sports.ca.msn.com

7 7. Eddie Shore

via anywhen.com

6 6. Dale Hunter

via gettoourgame.blogspot.com

5 5. Bobby Clarke

via thehockeywriters.com

4 4. Marty McSorley

via kings.nhl.com

3 3. Gordie Howe

via sports.ca.msn.com

Surprised? You shouldn't be. Gordie Howe was one of the best players ever, which is how he earned the nickname "Mr. Hockey." However, part of that persona came from his no prisoners approach to the game. Howe took care of himself, and was often the one dishing out the punishment: violent slashes, and of course his wild-flying elbows, earned him a reputation as one of the most vicious players of all-time. He got into his fair share of fights, too, which is why a goal, assist and a fight are known as the Gordie Howe hat-trick.

2 2. Matt Cooke

via wellandtribune.ca

1 1. Ulf Samuelsson

via fiveorama.com

If any player were to grow up aspiring to be the most hated, ruthless, dirtiest player in the NHL, they would have to look no further than Ulf Samuelson for someone to look up to. Samuelson was a known knee-hunter and a generally dirty hockey player who was disliked by all. He effectively ended Cam Neely's career in 1991, to the point where Neely came out in public to tell the world how little he though of Ulf. He was as effective an agitator as anyone before or after him, and he is by the most notorious dirty player in the long history of a violent sport.

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Top 25 Dirtiest Players in NHL History