The NHL is a sport known for its speed, emotion, and creativity. The perfect combination for an edge-of-your-seat experience. What makes the NHL truly special though, is what the sport does for its communities and how much it gives back.
It's a sport where men will give everything for you and where the term "blood, sweat, and tears" becomes literal - true gladiators. After they've given everything, they give even more back to the community; A thank you for wearing their jersey, throwing your favorite hat on the ice, or even just cheering your way to a lost voice.
Where money can no longer reach, simple human compassion can be the difference maker. A hospital visit, stopping to take a picture or even a simple smile can be enough to change a person's day, week, or even to the extreme of a person's whole life. Most NHL players know it's a privilege to be in their position, and they don't hesitate to give back.
What separates the NHL from other professional sports, is the class of the league and the standards it is held to. It's a league where wearing a track suit to a game is worthy of suspension, running your mouth in an interview is a no-no, and criminal offenses are actually taken seriously.
In this list, we will be reviewing players that go above and beyond to give back, and also players that do the opposite. This list is not to bash nor praise certain players, but rather to show the importance of philanthropy in the NHL.
So with all that out of the way, let's get into it!
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15 Gives Back: Jeremy Roenick
Jeremy Roenick is one of the greats to have played in the NHL but he also had a reputation for being a cocky and flashy loud-mouth. But despite being largely hated, Roenick actually has a great heart and has shown it time and time again. Throughout his career, he participated in numerous charitable events, donated money, raised money and also raised awareness for numerous great causes.
One particular story really resonated with Roenick, and that was the story of Jack Jablonski, a 16-year-old kid who had been paralyzed after being hit from behind. Roenick’s sister-in-law is also paralyzed so he took an immediate interest in the story. While on vacation, Roenick and his wife delayed their trip home to fly out to see Jack in the hospital. Jack and Roenick are still friends to this day. They talk regularly on the phone, do radio spots together and host events to raise money for Jack’s own charity, the Jack Jablonski Fund.
14 Greedy: Alexander Ovechkin
Alexander Ovechkin, more commonly known as “Ovie” is one of the biggest superstars in the NHL today and without a doubt one of the biggest of all time. A name every NHL fan is familiar with. Unfortunately, what we aren’t familiar with is his involvement in the community. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that he doesn’t contribute all together, it’s just that his contributions are so few and far between.
On top of his current $10 million/year contract, he has endorsement deals with Gatorade, Nike, Kraft Canada and Bauer which accumulate him an additional $3.5 million/year. If you look up Ovechkin’s charitable contributions, a man who makes over $13 million/year, the most notable contribution you will find (North America) is the donation of a Honda Accord that he didn’t pay a cent for. It was obviously a nice gesture, but being one of the biggest names in the game, and making that amount of money, Ovechkin needs to contribute so much more.
13 Gives Back: P.K. Subban
P.K. Subban is an explosive and exciting defenceman that never seems to bore. Off the ice, Subban is known as one of the biggest philanthropists to ever play the game. He is one of the best personalities in all of sports, always smiling from cheek to cheek and constantly passing that smile on to others. He has hosted numerous charity events, including a comedy show in Montreal at Just For Laughs after he had been traded. He, of course, was beaming with happiness and even made a little fun of the Canadiens’ management.
He was traded after making an incredible $10 million donation to the Montreal Children’s Hospital! This sparked a partnership between Subban and the hospital, leading to the creation of P.K.’s Helping Hand – a fund implemented to assist families financially burdened by a child’s illness. One can only speculate at what else Subban has in store as his career goes on but we can almost be certain that it will be great things on and off the ice.
12 Greedy: Shane O'Brien
Shane O’Brien (Pictured Left) is a name you’re probably familiar with if you’re a Canucks fan, or even if you’re a regular at The Roxy on Granville street in Vancouver. O’Brien was arguably more known for his reputation as a partier in the streets of Vancouver than his spot on the Canucks’ blue line. Throughout his two years in Vancouver, O’Brien made negative headlines a handful of times.
To start it off, he reached across the benches during a game and poked Sean Avery, who will appear later on this list, in the face with his stick resulting in a one-game suspension. Secondly, he was fined $2500 for getting in an altercation with two San Jose Sharks – Joe Pavelski and Ryan Clowe. Following that, he was a healthy scratch for six days after reportedly showing up to practice hung over. The last straw was in April of 2010 when Shane O’Brien taunted Wayne Simmonds and the L.A. King’s crowd after beating Simmonds in a fight. That’s not all though, he later went on to criticize G.M. Mike Gillis’ leadership. For a city that gave him so many chances, all he gave back to Vancouver was one too many bar tabs.
11 Gives Back: Henrik Lundqvist
An elite NHL goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist is a stud on and off the ice. Lundqvist is known as one of the stylish players in the league and also one of the friendliest and most caring. His charity work speaks for itself as he has created The Henrik Lundqvist Foundation – “The Henrik Lundqvist Foundation, through fundraising efforts and community outreach, strives to create positive change in the lives of children and adults throughout the world through education and health services.” The foundation is partnered with the New York Presbyterian Children’s Hospitals, the Ronald McDonald Barnfond, Together for Better, and the Garden of Dreams Foundation.
Henrik Lundqvist, through great play and off ice contributions, has become one of the most liked players in the league – And playing in New York, that is no easy task.
10 Greedy: Sean Avery
Sean Avery is arguably the most disliked NHL player to ever step on the ice and a cancer in just about any locker room he’s been in. Avery was a good hockey player, but his big mouth constantly got him into trouble throughout his career. He’s made comments on the OHL brass, Europeans taking jobs, French players, racial slurs (allegation), fellow NHL players, teammates and even ex-girlfriends. This unprofessionalism turned his teammates against him on just about every team he played for and had him labeled as a team cancer.
His character was summed up perfectly in December of 2008 when he said in a post-practice interview, “Uh, I’m really happy to be back in Calgary. I love Canada. And I just want to comment on how it’s become like a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my sloppy seconds. I don’t know what that’s about. Enjoy the game tonight.” This was in reference to Dion Phaneuf dating his ex-girlfriend, Elisha Cuthbert. Sean Avery was clearly only interested in himself and was quite against just about anything being taken from him.
9 Gives Back: George Parros
George Parros was a feared and respected enforcer in the NHL, probably most well known for his incredible mustache. Parros, despite fighting for a living, is actually a sweetheart and was always involved with the community and various charities. While he played for the Anaheim Ducks, the team would sell George Parros Mustaches at team stores and all of the proceeds were donated to charity. He was also heavily invested in The Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids Foundation – an inner-city outreach program implemented to help kids in education and health.
Annually, on top of that, Parros would grow out his hair until it was long enough to be cut and donated to charities to make wigs for children experiencing hair loss due to medical conditions and/or treatments. Parros now runs a clothing line called Violent Gentleman that has made charitable contributions to various causes including the Fort McMurray fire.
8 Greedy: Alexander Radulov
Alexander Radulov, the incredibly skilled Russian has earned himself a reputation of being one of the best players to play in the KHL and also a reputation in the NHL for being selfish and only following the money. In 2008, Radulov opted out of the last year of his contract with the Nashville Predators to go play in the KHL for more money.
To make matters worse, he returned to the Predators in 2012. In the playoffs of that season, he was scratched for a game for missing curfew the night prior to a game with his teammate, Andrei Kostitsyn. Unfortunately, the Predators went on to be eliminated from the playoff race and Radulov once again returned to the KHL for a nice pay cheque.
7 Gives Back: Trevor Linden
Trevor Linden, or “Captain Canuck” to Canucks fans played most of his 19 NHL seasons in Vancouver where he did incredible things on and off the ice. Linden was constantly active in the local community and contributed to numerous charities; He often spent his days off with terminally ill children.
He eventually started the Trevor Linden Foundation – a foundation dedicated to raising money for local charities and the B.C. Children’s Hospital. He has also founded the Captain’s Crew, a program that would give houses of low income the chance to take their child to a Canucks game; A chance they otherwise would not have. These contributions haven’t gone unrecognized, as he has won the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, the Foundation Player Award and also the Order of British Columbia.
6 Greedy: Ilya Kovalchuk
Ilya Kovalchuk is one of the most gifted pure scorers to have ever played in the league. The problem is that he is almost one of the most hated due to his track record of playing where the biggest pay cheque is and not caring about the NHL. This became very evident in 2013 when he walked out on his $102 million contract with the New Jersey Devils with 12 years remaining to go play in the KHL! This move made massive headlines in the NHL that pissed off many fans, players, and even former NHL star, Jeremy Roenick who appeared earlier on this list. With no notable charity contributions during his stint with the NHL and with the amount of money Kovalchuk was raking in, it’s safe to say that he was not one for giving back.
5 Gives Back: Daniel and Henrik Sedin
The Sedin twins have come to be known as an incredible duo with great hands, size and creativity that often leaves their opponents scratching their heads in confusion as they’re fetching the puck out of their net. The Sedins truly are magicians on the ice. The real magic though, is what they do in the community off the ice. Collectively, the Sedins have donated millions to local charities and are constantly attending events, and visiting hospitalized children on their days off from the ice.
Perhaps their greatest charitable contribution though, was in 2014 when they started their own foundation – The Sedin Family Foundation. The foundation will work with British Columbia schools, community groups and social service agencies to aid children and families with health, family wellness and education. Heroes on and off the ice, the Sedins are the type of players that make the NHL as great as it is.
4 Greedy: Evander Kane
Evander Kane is a great goal scorer in the NHL, but he is also one of the flashiest players in the league – which puts him in the spotlight and also the hot seat. The thing about playing in Winnipeg in comparison to other cities in the league is that Winnipeg has a small town feel to it and when you screw up it get’s magnified very publicly.
In late October of 2011, rumors started that Kane had requested a Trade from the Jets – he denied the allegations. That same week, Kane’s “Business Manager,” Jeffrey Uppal had been approaching local restaurants in Winnipeg asking for $500 in return for promotional tweets from Kane – it’s safe to say that the community was not too pleased. Kane also made quite a stir on social media on multiple occasions flaunting huge wads of cash in two different Instagram posts, and also catching some heat about an apparent homophobic tweet in June of 2013. While in Winnipeg, it was evident that Kane’s sole focus was on himself and his image. He has since been traded to the Buffalo Sabres and has thankfully reached a new level of maturity.
3 Gives Back: Travis Hamonic
Travis Hamonic, the New York Islanders blue-liner is an integral member of the Isles’ blue line. He is also heavily invested in the community, and especially helps out with children who have lost a parent. At the tender age of 10, Hamonic lost his father, a man who was the most important part of his life.to a heart attack.
In 2013, he was determined to assist kids going through what he went through and started The Hamonic D Partner Program – a branch of The New York Islanders Children’s Foundation. After home games, Hamonic grabs some Islanders paraphernalia and meets with kids who have lost a parent as he did. He hangs out with them, talks to them about what they’re going through, gives them guidance and tries to alleviate some of the grief bestowed on them. When it’s all over, he even gives them his personal e-mail address so they can talk to someone whenever they need to.
2 Greedy: Theoren Fleury
Perhaps a controversial entry, and one of the most famous names to come out of the NHL, Theoren Fleury is one player that put all of his money in all of the wrong places. During his three seasons with the New York Rangers, Fleury made over $20 million and blew almost all of it… literally.
In his book Playing With Fire, Fleury talks about how he spent a lot of his time in the underground of New York partying, doing drugs and spending incredible amounts of money. Fleury could have been using that money to help the community or even people who are going through what he went through, a rough childhood which included abuse from his junior hockey coach, but instead chose to further pollute the community and himself. He has since turned his life around and become a best-selling author, gotten involved with charity work, and has been clean for over a decade.
1 Gives Back (Now): Alexander Radulov
Prior to the start of this NHL season, Radulov was on the market once again. However, this time around teams were much more skeptical when it came to signing the talented Russian. The Montreal Canadiens saw change in Radulov and decided to give him another chance, signing him to a one-year contract for $5.75 million. Montreal's management and coach, Michel Therrien, believe he's a new man and he wants to win. According to team policy, every player on the Canadiens must give back to the community and be nothing but a leader off the ice.
In 2015, Radulov's son was born and this really was the turning point for Radulov, in my opinion. He had been destroying the KHL for the past four years and after his son's birth had been described by his G.M., Sergei Fedorov, as the biggest leader on his team. Having watched Radulov in most of Montreal’s games this season, I can say with confidence that he is a night and day difference to the player he was in Nashville.
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