Most Hated Hockey Players of All Time
When picking the most hated hockey players in National Hockey League (NHL) history, it’s a fine line between genuine hatred, downright jealousy and grudging respect.
So while some puckheads may not particularly care for Sidney Crosby, Gordie Howe, Mark Messier, Bob Probert, Maurice Richard and Scott Stevens, to name a few prominent lightning rods, we contend that there aren’t enough valid reasons for inclusion here.
Fear not, though, because there are plenty to include. Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers fans are gonna particularly love this.
50. Phil Kessel
Career: 17 seasons (2006-present)
Teams: Boston Bruins (2006-09), Toronto Maple Leafs (2009-15), Pittsburgh Penguins (2015-19), Arizona Coyotes (2019-22), Vegas Golden Knights (2022-present)
Bottom Line: Phil Kessel
As you might have heard, Phil The Pill has a thing for hot dogs. This guy has never been in hockey shape in his life. He’s also extraordinarily aloof, grossly overpaid and Bounty soft — he averages one hit about every two hours on the ice.
In Their Own Words: Phil Kessel
"A recent anonymous player poll selected saw Pittsburgh Penguins winger Phil Kessel voted the most overrated player in the league for the second consecutive season. Kessel, 28, is having the least productive season of his career since his sophomore campaign." —TheHockeyNews.com, 2016
49. Alexander Semin
Career: 11 seasons (2003-04, 2006-16)
Teams: Washington Capitals (2003-12), Carolina Hurricanes (2012-15), Montreal Canadiens (2015)
Bottom Line: Alexander Semin
What do you call brain-dead penalties, half-assed effort and questionable injuries? The Alexander Semin hat trick, that’s what.
As ex-teammate Troy Brouwer once said, “Some nights you didn't even know if he was gonna come to the rink. It's tough to play alongside guys like those because you don't know what you're gonna get out of 'em."
In Their Own Words: Alexander Semin
"(Semin) will also be a source of frustration because of the occasional missed assignment defensively, poorly timed line change or penalty, or turnover at the blue line because he is trying to do too much on his own with the puck. When it works, it's brilliant. When it doesn't, it's an odd-man rush the other way." —Adam Gretz, CBSsports.com
48. P.K. Subban
Career: 13 season (2010-22)
Teams: Montreal Canadiens (2010-16), Nashville Predators (2016-19), New Jersey Devils (2019-22)
Career statistics: 834/115/351/905
Bottom Line: P.K. Subban
Subban is (too) well known for his lust for attention and demonstrative ways. Sorry, brah, wrong sport.
Worse yet, the guy has turned low hits into an art form, although he means no harm, of course. Opponents tend to not like that, you know.
In Their Own Words: P.K. Subban
"I can unequivocally say that PK Subban is not a dirty player. I talked to PK and he told me this is just a bad habit that has crept into his game. I refereed him and I know him personally and I can guarantee he is not trying to intentionally hurt any player." —Ex-NHL referee Tim Peel
47. Steve Ott
Career: 14 seasons (2002-17)
Teams: Dallas Stars (2002-12), Buffalo Sabres (2012-14), St. Louis Blues (2014-16), Detroit Red Wings (2016-17), Montreal Canadiens (2016-17)
Career statistics: 848/109/179/1,555
Bottom Line: Steve Ott
Ott had value as a dogged defender, efficient face-off specialist and occasional scorer who could invade heads. But those traits were neutered by his nonstop chatter, all-too-frequent cheap shots and multiple suspensions.
He took on all lightweights but often turtled or hid behind referees against tough guys. Kind of like...
In Their Own Words: Steve Ott
"It's still surprising though to think of Ott as a dirty player (whatever it is exactly which constitutes 'dirty'). I've never thought of him as such, but while talking to fellow hockey bloggers ... it's apparent he certainly has carved for himself a very unsavory reputation among fans." —Brandon Worley, SB Nation
46. Max Lapierre
Career: 10 seasons (2005-15)
Teams: Montreal Canadiens (2005-10), Anaheim Ducks (2011), Vancouver Canucks (2011-13), St. Louis Blues (2013-15), Pittsburgh Penguins (2015)
Career statistics: 614/65/74/586
Bottom Line: Max Lapierre
At 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, yappy Lappy was a public nuisance of giant proportions. When the career fourth-liner didn’t piss off opponents with dives and insults, he rankled teammates with hit-and-run tactics that pushed them into the fire.
Boston Bruins coach Mike Milbury called the guy a “punk,” and who would know better than him?
In Their Own Words: Max Lapierre
"(Lapierre) probably shouldn’t even be in the league and is taking out one of the best players in the world. That guy’s got a history. After the first shift, he’s yelling at us from their bench that he’s coming after us, and then he does that. I don’t even know. It’s pretty gutless. Then he turtles. Be a man if you make a hit like that. Don’t turtle and run behind the linesman." —San Jose Sharks forward Logan Couture
45. Alex Burrows
Career: 13 seasons (2005-2018)
Teams: Vancouver Canucks (2005-17), Ottawa Senators (2017-18)
Bottom Line: Alex Burrows
There have been a lot of Burrows in NHL history — aka low draft picks who feel that they have something to prove and will do virtually anything to leave their marks. It’s just that this psycho did it as well or better than anyone. Like when he bit the finger of future Hall of Famer Patrice Bergeron in a scrum, for instance.
He also could speak French and English, which made him one of the most versatile smack talkers ever.
In Their Own Words: Alex Burrows
"From 2008 to 2012, his most prolific years as a point producer, Burrows amassed four consecutive seasons with more than 25 goals, including a career high of 35 in 2009-10, in which he led the team in that category. Burrows also spent the bulk of his most productive era in Vancouver making just $2 million a year, making him one of the league’s most cost-effective goal scorers." —CanucksArmy.com
44. Esa Tikkanen
Career: 1985-99 (14 seasons)
Teams: Edmonton Oilers (1985-93), New York Rangers (1993-94, 1999), St. Louis Blues (1994-96), Washington Capitals (1997-98)
Bottom Line: Esa Tikkanen
Tikkanen is one of the better two-way players on this list, but did he have to be such a supersized jerk about it? He wielded his stick like a samurai and chirped incessantly in Tikkanese. Not even his teammates knew what the hell came out of his potty mouth.
All of this made him the all-time pest that he was — The Grate One famously goaded The Great One (ex-teammate Wayne Gretzky) into a hissy fit — but he crossed the line more times than anyone could count.
In Their Own Words: Esa Tikkanen
"After Wayne Gretzky was traded, Tikkanen became famous for shadowing The Great One when he was a member of the LA Kings and was instrumental in knocking the Kings out of the postseason in three straight years from 1990 to 1992." —TheHockeyWriters.com
43. Patrick Kaleta
Career: 9 seasons (2006-15)
Teams: Buffalo Sabres (2006-15)
Bottom Line: Patrick Kaleta
Kaleta was up to no good so often, he knew league police chief Brendan Shanahan on a first-name basis. He was especially nasty against the Philadelphia Flyers. The shortlist of victims: Mike Richards, Jared Ross, Nik Zherdev and Jakub Voracek.
Oh, and he trolled Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell about their broken marriages. Not exactly a nice guy.
In Their Own Words: Patrick Kaleta
"You should be pissed off. You should play with a little piss and vinegar. You shouldn't be happy. We're not in position we want to be in. We have to work harder, come in and do something about it." —Patrick Kaleta after a healthy scratch in 2013
"(Kaleta) needs to grow up." —Buffalo Sabres teammate Ryan Miller
42. Steve Downie
Career: 9 seasons (2007-16)
Teams: Philadelphia Flyers (2007-08, 2013-14), Tampa Bay Lightning (2008-12), Colorado Avalanche (2012-13), Pittsburgh Penguins (2014-15), Arizona Coyotes (2015-16)
Bottom Line: Steve Downie
If Downie had stuck to hockey, he might not have been out of the league at 28 years of age. But nooooo, he chose to be the worst kind of coward, the kind that purposely tries to injure people and blames others for his behavior.
His blindside that effectively shortened the career of Dean McAmmond and drew a 20-game suspension was beyond pathetic.
In Their Own Words: Steve Downie
"That hit is what happens when you watch Don Cherry rock em sock em videos from age 5 to 18. Nothing good comes from those vids. I just did what I had to do to play. I still think about what I did to Dean McAmmond and what I caused him to go through with his family." —Steve Downie
41. Milan Lucic
Career: 16 seasons (2007-present)
Teams: Boston Bruins (2007-15), Los Angeles Kings (2015-16), Edmonton Oilers (2016-19), Calgary Flames (2019-present)
Bottom Line: Milan Lucic
It wasn’t just that Lucic could beat opponents with a punch as well as a goal that pissed them off. It was also the way he went about his business. The big lug repeatedly crossed the line yet acted like some kind of moral authority.
His career lowlight came in a handshake line when he threatened to kill Dale Weise the next season. He owns the unofficial record for most testicular procedures performed with his stick in league history.
In Their Own Words: Milan Lucic
"(Lucic) continues to play outside the rules because he’s too slow for today’s game, and what little skill he once had is now unfit for the NHL. His frustration is obvious and just. He simply has nothing to contribute and knows that he no longer has a place in the league." —TheHockeyWriters.com
40. Chris Neil
Career: 15 seasons (2001-17)
Teams: Ottawa Senators (2001-17)
Bottom Line: Chris Neil
Neil ranks 20th in penalty minutes on the all-time list, but the half-agitator-half-enforcer was dirty only about half the time. Rather, it was that toothless smirk of his that made opponents want to wring his thick neck.
He also was known to take on smaller players and avoid bigger ones, which led one-time teammate Brian McGrattan to complain, “I had to protect that guy for three years when I was there.”
In Their Own Words: Chris Neil
"Chris Neil has been in 188 NHL fights, and never has he been suspended for hair pulling, scratching, biting or gouging. In fact, the 39th-leading penalty minutes leader of all time has never been suspended or fined by the league for anything. So when Neil says he didn't mean to poke Blue Jackets tough-guy Jared Boll in the eye during their first period scrap Tuesday, it's hard not to believe him." —Don Brennan, The Ottawa Sun
39. Jordin Tootoo
Career: 13 seasons (2003-17)
Teams: Nashville Predators (2003-12), Detroit Red Wings (2012-14), 2014-16), Chicago Blackhawks (2016-17)
Bottom Line: Jordin Tootoo
At 5-foot-9, 195 pounds, Tootoo beat the odds with big hits and a small conscience. The guy had a huge Napoleon complex and the suspensions to prove it. The dirtball would hit high. He would hit low. He would hit head-on and behind the back.
Thunder even trucked 168-pound goalie Ryan Miller, for cripes sakes. Yes, more than one foe would tell that Tootoo was DooDoo.
In Their Own Words: Jordin Tootoo
"When you ask Jordin Tootoo to sum up the essence of his career with the Nashville Predators—the 61 fights, the 725 penalty minutes, the many playoff runs, and all the opposing players he pissed off along the way—he’s got a simple answer: 'Mind over matter. Period.'" —AtoZsports.com
38. Bob Probert
Career: 16 seasons (1985-2002)
Teams: Detroit Red Wings (1985-94), Chicago Blackhawks (1995-2002)
Bottom Line: Bob Probert
The fact that this all-time tough guy isn't too high on our list is an indication of his widespread respect as an honest brawler. He reached the 20-goal mark on two occasions and received votes for the Selke Trophy once.
Still, the sight of a 6-foot-3, 225-pound hitman in an occasionally drug-altered state made for an enormous amount of fear and loathing around the league for more than a decade.
In Their Own Words: Bob Probert
"Trust me, I'm a really nice guy." —Bob Probert
37. Chris Nilan
Career: 15 seasons (1979-92)
Teams: Montreal Canadiens (1979-88), New York Rangers (1988-90), Boston Bruins (1990-92)
Bottom Line: Chris Nilan
What made Knuckles even more despised was that he played with the Canadiens, allegedly the standard for righteous play. Yeah, right.
Boston Bruins fans really hated their native son (of an expletive). It got so bad that the Bs installed plexiglass to separate their bench from the runway to the locker room to discourage any more of his lunacy.
In Their Own Words: Chris Nilan
"Jonathan Drouin, I'm reaching out to you because I want to apologize to you. I've made a lot of mistakes in my life and I know I made one on Saturday. I put out a video about you which was insensitive, cruel and just plain wrong. I can only imagine how it made you feel. I know I didn’t feel good about it when I looked at it once again. My deepest apologies. And I can guarantee you one thing: it will never, ever happen again." —Chris Nilan, March 2022, after mocking injured Drouin in an internet rant
36. John Scott
Career: 8 seasons (2009-15)
Teams: Minnesota Wild (2009-10), Chicago Blackhawks (2010-12), New York Rangers (2012), Buffalo Sabres (2012-14), San Jose Sharks (2014-15), Arizona Coyotes (2015), Montreal Canadiens (2015)
Bottom Line: John Scott
Scott qualifies as the biggest goon in pucks' history in more ways than one — 6-foot-7.75 of violence and a quarter-inch of hockey skills. The guy averaged one goal every six hours, 46 minutes and 36 seconds that he was on the ice. (We're serious.)
All he did was skate in circles and pick fights, even one with pansy Phil Kessel of all people. We said Phil Kessel, people! Unfortunately, the result was not a double knockout.
In Their Own Words: John Scott
"I don’t think I’m a dirty player. I try to play within the code, within the rules. This is my first suspension. I don’t think I’m dirty. I don’t try to be a dirty player. I kind of feel really upset. I was sick to my stomach last night knowing what happened watching the video. I just kind of regret the whole situation. I don’t want to be a dirty player." —John Scott
35. Lou Fontinato
Career: 9 seasons (1954-63)
Teams: New York Rangers (1954-61), Montreal Canadiens (1961-63)
Bottom Line: Lou Fontinato
As the first player to reach 200 penalty minutes in one season, Leapin’ Louie dragged the enforcer role to a historic low. His short fuse and two-fisted talents incurred the wrath of opponents around the league.
It wasn’t until Gordie Howe turned his schnoz into an S-curve that the reign of terror finally came to an end.
In Their Own Words: Lou Fontinato
"Fontinato wasted no time in unleashing a fury of punches on Howe. Unfortunately for Fontinato, Howe remained conscious and was now incensed. He grabbed Fontinato's sweater with one hand, fired back repeatedly with the other. Howe connected with his first punch, which stopped Fontinato in his tracks ... the sound of Howe's fist hitting Fontinato's face again and again made a permanent impression on those who heard it. It was like an axe chopping wood." —ForeverBlueshirts.com
34. Rob Ray
Career: 15 seasons (1989-2004)
Teams: Buffalo Sabres (1989-2003), Ottawa Senators (2003-04)
Bottom Line: Rob Ray
The Sabres have been one of the biggest jokes in pro sports for years, and this guy is the punch line. The stark raving lunatic amassed 3,207 penalty minutes, 41 goals, a minus-38 rating and zero Stanley Cups in his career.
His greatest achievement was the Rob Ray Rule, which required pugilists to keep their jerseys and shoulder pads buttoned down. Currently, he shares his thimbleful of hockey acumen on team telecasts, and boy, are we the lucky ones or what?
33. Evander Kane
Career: 14 seasons (2009-present)
Teams: Atlanta Thrashers (2009-11), Winnipeg Jets (2011-15), Buffalo Sabres (2015-18), San Jose Sharks (2018-21), Edmonton Oilers (2021-present)
Bottom Line: Evander Kane
Mention his name in league circles, and “bad guy” are the two words that you’ll hear most often.
After he signed with his third team in five years amid massive gambling debts and accusations of violence against women, broadcaster Jeff O’Neill summed up the situation thusly: “If the guy’s a total idiot and a goof and a jerk, no matter what happens, everyone is going to hate his guts.”
In Their Own Words: Evander Kane
"I would like to apologize to my teammates, the San Jose Sharks organization, and all Sharks fans for violating the NHL COVID protocols. I made a mistake, one I sincerely regret and take responsibility for. During my suspension, I will continue to participate in counseling to help me make better decisions in the future. When my suspension is over, I plan to return to the ice with great effort, determination, and love for the game of hockey." —Evander Kane
32. Andrew Shaw
Career: 10 seasons (2011-21)
Teams: Chicago Blackhawks (2011-16, 2019-21), Montreal Canadiens (2016-2019)
Bottom Line: Andrew Shaw
This public nuisance had few fans around the league for starters, but when he called out the entire gay and lesbian community, his name had a permanent spot on this list. The moment of truth came in the 2016 playoffs when he raised both middle fingers (with his gloves on) at the officials after a penalty call.
Upon his arrival to the sin bin, he went on a profanity-strewn tirade that featured a homophobic slur. He tried to convince us that wasn’t the real him in an emotional apology, but a lot of us knew better.
In Their Own Words: Andrew Shaw
"After several concussions, the doctors strongly recommend that I stop playing the game I love." —Andrew Shaw
31. Zac Rinaldo
Career: 9 seasons (2011-21)
Teams: Philadelphia Flyers (2011-15), Boston Bruins (2015-16), Arizona Coyotes (2017-18), Nashville Predators (2018-19), Calgary Flames (2019-21)
Bottom Line: Zac Rinaldo
Zac The Hack always finds a way — way high, way late, way from behind. Yeah, that’s about as close as the coward will ever come to a hat trick. The guy shows no remorse for his despicable actions, a few of which have left opponents with serious health issues.
Consider all the other mindless penalties that the peabrain has committed over the years, and it’s difficult to tell who’s dumber — him or his employers.
In Their Own Words: Zac Rinaldo
"When people say they want to see dirty players out of the league, more often than not they're thinking of a player like Zac Rinaldo. Zac Rinaldo has made a point of never proving he has ever deserved more than the hard end of the NHL rulebook thrown at him and a lifetime ban. He has never ever shown himself to be any more than a moronic skidmark that keeps showing fans who just want a game to finish with a winner and a loser that we have a long way to go." —StanleyCupofChowder.com
30. Mike Milbury
Career: 12 seasons (1975-87)
Teams: Boston Bruins (1975-87)
Bottom Line: Mike Milbury
You didn’t care for him as a talent-challenged Bruins defenseman; you couldn’t stand him as a petulant Bruins head coach; you swore at him as an overmatched Islanders general manager; and you couldn’t wait for him to get fired as a smug television know-it-all.
Has anyone turned off more people at more levels than this do-nothing know-nothing? He’s the only person on Earth who has a bad word to say about Hall of Fame coach Badger Bob Johnson, which is all you need to know about him.
In Their Own Words: Mike Milbury
"NBC Sports analyst Mike Milbury has stepped down from his role with the company for the duration of the Stanley Cup playoffs after making a sexist remark about women during an Aug. 20 game between the New York Islanders and Washington Capitals." —Yahoo.com
29. Raffi Torres
Career: 12 seasons (2001-14)
Teams: New York Islanders (2001-03), Edmonton Oilers (2003-07),Columbus Blue Jackets (2008-10), Buffalo Sabres (2010), Vancouver Canucks (2010-11), Phoenix Coyotes (2011-13), San Jose Sharks (2013-14)
Bottom Line: Raffi Torres
This power forward was a real player early in his career, but it wasn’t long before he regressed into a hired assassin. In the 2012 playoffs, he infamously jacked the jaw of Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa to draw a 21-game suspension.
Three years later, his decapitation of the Anaheim Ducks forward Jacob Silfverberg resulted in a 41-game vacation, the longest suspension in league history. And let's not forget that this happened in a preseason game of all places.
In Their Own Words: Raffi Torres
"The NHL is a better, safer place without Raffi Torres." —SportsNet
28. Corey Perry
Career: 18 seasons (2005-present)
Teams: Mighty Ducks of Anaheim/Anaheim Ducks (2005-19), Dallas Stars (2019-20), Montreal Canadiens (2020-21), Tampa Bay Lightning (2021-present)
Bottom Line: Corey Perry
When Winnipeg Jets forward Mark Scheifele did something out of character to one of their players last postseason, the Canadiens moaned to no end.
Sorry, but any organization that employs this whiney cheapshot has no right to protest. He ran out of his allotment of accidentally-on-purpose cards a decade ago.
In Their Own Words: Corey Perry
"Playing against Corey Perry is like being a mole in a ‘Whack-A-Mole’ arcade game. The 2003 first-round pick plays an aggressive style with a penchant for some nasty stick work, hacking and whacking opponents whenever he can. He also riles opponents by running his mouth, delivering late and low hits, and has a flair for selling penalties like no other." —TheHockeyWriters.com
27. Dino Ciccarelli
Career: 19 seasons (1980-99)
Teams: Minnesota North Stars (1980-89),Washington Capitals (1989-92), Detroit Red Wings (1992-96), Tampa Bay Lightning (1996-98), Florida Panthers (1998-99)
Bottom Line: Dino Ciccarelli
Remember those chants at old Chicago Stadium?Di-no sucks! Di-no sucks! Di-no sucks! This chirper/flopper/reckless hitter would annoy opponents and their fans to no end.
Stickerelli twice conked Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Luke Richardson on the head and spent a few hours in jail as a result. Alas, the judge let him off, but not without a warning ... “Di-no sucks!”
In Their Own Words: Dino Ciccarelli
"Even though Ciccarelli knew exactly which buttons to press as one of the most infamous so-called shift disturbers of all time, there was an art to it. In fact, dislike him or not, few opponents had just cause to truly not respect him. And not just for his ability to get under their skin, either." —TheHockeyWriters.com
26. Brad Marchand
Career: 14 seasons (2009-present)
Teams: Boston Bruins (2009-present)
Bottom Line: Brad Marchand
Little Ball of Hate? No, more like Big Piece of Excrement. Dirty. Smug. Sneaky. Creepy. Slimey. All the no-good adjectives apply here. Even some Bruins pom-pom wavers are embarrassed by his act, but because the career overachiever puts up big numbers consistently, there’s not much they can say out loud.
You know, like the ever-so-subtle slew foot from behind, his favorite stunt. (If you want to include Theo Fleury as a double-entry here, you have our permission. One and the same dirtbag, basically.)
In Their Own Words: Brad Marchand
"It’s just the little things he tries to get away with, and you can’t get away with things now just because there are so many cameras. But it’s the little shoulders to the chin, elbows to the chin, small things, slash the goalie in the back of the knees. Those types of things. But he is upfront about it." —NBC Sports
25. Almost Any Philadelphia Broad Street Bully
Career: 3 seasons (1972-75)
Statistics: 23 penalty minutes per game
Bottom Line: Almost Any Philadelphia Broad Street Bully
In a span of three reprehensible seasons, the Flyers averaged 81 percent more penalty minutes per game than the league average while they elbowed/pole-axed/sucker-punched hockey into the dark ages.
So take your pick — Gary Dornhoeffer, Andre Dupont, Bob Kelly, Ed Van Impe, Don Saleski. (Don’t worry, Bobby Clarke and Dave Schultz, your times are about to come.)
In Their Own Words: Philadelphia Broad Street Bullies
"The Philadelphia Flyers' famed 'Broad St. Bullies'-era teams won the franchise's only two Stanley Cups — and although those teams were feared for the toughness of their players, equally frightening was their skill and commitment to each other." —The Hockey News
24. Dale Hunter
Career: 19 seasons (1980-1999)
Teams: Quebec Nordiques (1980-87), Washington Capitals (1987-99), Colorado Avalanche (1999)
Bottom Line: Dale Hunter
If this spit disturber had stuck more to hockey all those years, he might have been a borderline Hall of Fame candidate. The only player to reach four figures in points and penalty minutes in league history resorted to cheap tactics that riled opponents and smeared his reputation, sad to say.
The guy is known more for the very, very late blindside hit that ruined the career of New York Islanders forward Pierre Turgeon in the 1993 playoffs than anything else he did on the ice. The resulting 21-game suspension was the most severe in league history at the time.
In Their Own Words: Dale Hunter
"Dale Hunter made a career of borderline hits. He was known as a tough player who usually came close to—and often went over—the line between annoying and dirty. Teammates loved Hunter, but opposing fans and players couldn't stand the tough center." —Bleacher Report
23. Daniel Carcillo
Career: 9 seasons (2006-15)
Teams: Phoenix Coyotes (2006-09), Philadelphia Flyers (2009-11), Los Angeles Kings (2013), New York Rangers (2014), Chicago Blackhawks (2011-12, 2014-15)
Bottom Line: Daniel Carcillo
This potty-mouth suffered traumatic brain injuries in his role as enforcer, but put away the violins, please. The one-time dirtiest player in hockey wasn’t a victim. He was the perpetrator.
In his pugilistic prime, he piled up 578 penalty minutes in back-to-back seasons. That’s nearly seven hours worth for you scoring at home. Worse yet, he was known to flop on contact, an insult to real tough guys everywhere.
In Their Own Words: Daniel Carcillo
"Some hits are acceptable. Some hits are borderline. Some hits are flat-out dirty. Daniel Carcillo is a fan of all three, but the elbow he laid into Ruslan Fedotenko while leaving his feet on Thursday night undeniably goes into category No. 3." —NESN.com
22. Larry Zeidel
Career: 5 seasons (1951-54, 1967-69)
Teams: Detroit Red Wings (1951-53), Chicago Blackhawks (1953-54), Philadelphia Flyers (1967-69)
Bottom Line: Larry Zeidel
This maniacal defenseman had a rather brief NHL career, but he pissed off (and terrorized) so many opponents in his earlier minor league days, there was room for him here. “This kid was an animal, I tell ya,” said hockey personality Don Cherry, his roommate for two seasons in the minors. “He’d carve you up as soon as he looked at you.”
Zeidel and Eddie Shack were involved in donnybrooks 10 years apart. The first ended with The Rock in a jail cell after he assaulted a referee in the stands, while the second was a gruesome stick duel that left them bruised and bloodied.
In Their Own Words: Larry Zeidel
"Zeidel was a hockey nomad who probably had as much as anyone to do with rooting that first Flyer team to Philadelphia. In becoming the franchise’s first real character, he helped give it a spine." —NHL.com
21. Tiger Williams
Career: 14 seasons (1974-88)
Teams: Toronto Maple Leafs (1974-80), Vancouver Canucks (1980-84), Detroit Red Wings (1984-85), Los Angeles Kings (1985-87). ChHartford Whalers (1987-88)
Bottom Line: Tiger Williams
For years, this gap-toothed Canucklehead was the most distorted and loathed face in the sport. He made a name for himself with sticks and fists, and five teams gave him the stage to do it. In 1977, after the forward tried to behead Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Dennis Owchar with his stick, he became the first player to face criminal charges in league history.
The judge ruled the 18 stitches were unintentional and acquitted him. “When you’re going to court for assault with a deadly weapon, it sounds like I’m Charlie Manson’s brother,” he sniffed in a CBC interview.
More people were thinkin’ Attila the Hun, actually.
In Their Own Words: Tiger Williams
"It used to bug a lot of guys when I said this, and I truly believe it and I’ve been saying it my whole life, but I don’t want to be average. It takes no effort to be average. If you’re going to be average and do an average job, fear is probably not going to be a part of your life." —Tiger Williams
20. Matt Cooke
Career: 16 seasons (1998-2015)
Teams: Vancouver Canucks (1998-2008), Washington Capitals (2008), Pittsburgh Penguins (2008-2013), Minnesota Wild (2013-15)
Bottom Line: Matt Cooke
The Cookee Monster could play a little bit. Too bad he valued cheap shots as much as wrist shots. His career lowlight was a knockout of Marc Savard just after the Boston Bruins forward had shot the puck.
Wait, it gets worse — while the victim was concussed, the conspirator got off scot-free. Something good did come out of this, though. At long last, the league adopted Rule 48 that prohibited hits to the head.
In Their Own Words: Matt Cooke
"Cooke is widely known to be a head hunter and a dirty player. Yet the league routinely turns a blind eye to his dirty play. Just this past Sunday in a heated game against the Capitals, Cooke blatantly led with his knee and clipped Alex Ovechkin. This is one of the dirtiest and most dangerous plays in hockey, yet no secondary discipline was handed down by the league." —John Merrigan, Blueshirtbanter.com
19. Bobby Clarke
Career: 15 seasons (1998-89)
Teams: Philadelphia Flyers (1998-2008)
Bottom Line: Bobby Clarke
When New York Islanders goalie Billy Smith and this Flyboys captain went at it, as they were prone to do, we kinda rooted for them both to lose. Not only was this swordsman among the dirtiest players of his era — Soviet team star Valeri Kharlamov could vouch for that — but he had the face to match.
That toothless grin and orange sweater made him look like a human jack-o’-lantern. You wanted to drop it on the floor and watch it splatter to smithereens, didn’t you?
In Their Own Words: Bobby Clarke
"They always try to play with our minds. But that won't work with our club. We've got 20 guys without brains." —Bobby Clarke
18. Pat Quinn
Career: 10 seasons (1968-77)
Teams: Toronto Maple Leafs (1968-70), Vancouver Canucks (1970-72), Atlanta Flames (1972-77)
Bottom Line: Pat Quinn
This no-talent Hall of Famer (huh?) wasn’t known for his smarts, either, but a person had to have the IQ of a hockey puck to freight-train Boston immortal Bobby Orr in a playoff game. In Beantown!
Bruins teammates were quick to exact payback, but no amount of flesh could ever be enough. The guy remains one of the most hated athletes in Beantown to this day — worse than Bucky Bleepin’ Dent even — and that will rightfully remain his legacy. Then, he took his attitutde to Philadelphia, where the Flyboys head coach and his team peeved off even more people.
In Their Own Words: Pat Quinn
"I don't understand the players of today. If that had happened in the old days he would have got hit over the head with a stick right after. It was a pretty dirty play in my opinion. He poked his feet out and then piled on top of him. Somehow they never deal with that ... and they won't let the vigilante stuff happen to deal with it. It's disappointing." —Pat Quinn
17. Darius Kasparaitis
Career: 14 seasons (1992-2007)
Teams: New York Islanders (1992-96), Pittsburgh Penguins (1998-2008), New York Rangers (2002-07)
Bottom Line: Darius Kasparaitis
The 5-foot-11 defenseman was especially brutal on low blows to the knees or thereabouts.
“He thrived on hitting the stars,” said one-time teammate Matthew Barnaby, no shrinking violet himself. “Whether it be clean or dirty, he really didn’t care.”
In Their Own Words: Darius Kasparaitis
"'Dirty' Darius Kasparaitis is a marked man — hated and targeted by his foes." —Larry Brooks, New York Post
16. Bryan Marchment
Career: 17 seasons (1988-2006)
Teams: Winnipeg Jets (1988-1991, Chicago Blackhawks (1991-93), Hartford Whalers (1994), Edmonton Oilers (1994-97), Tampa Bay Lightning (1997-98), San Jose Sharks (1998-2003), Colorado Avalanche (2003), Toronto Maple Leafs (2003-04), Calgary Flames (2005-06)
Bottom Line: Bryan Marchment
In his prime, this designated hitter was suspended 13 times in a span of 12 seasons. From the first puck drop, the defenseman played on the edge with a full complement of body blows, some of which were even legal.
So proficient was he in his role that no fewer than nine teams wanted him. The guy backed up the frequent cheap shots with his fists, but a willingness to drop the gloves and hold his own doesn’t preclude the fact that he was dirtier than most.
In Their Own Words: Bryan Marchment
"San Jose Sharks defenseman Bryan Marchment, who has been suspended more times than disbelief, laments that he was born 20 years too late. He considers himself an anachronism, a blueliner who would have prospered when men were men, hits were hits and cheap shots were addressed in five-on-five donnybrooks instead of in the NHL office." —Michael Farber, Sports Illustrated, 1998
15. Alex Ovechkin
Career: 18 seasons(2005-present)
Teams: Washington Capitals (2005-present)
Bottom Line: Alex Ovechkin
As we can’t help but notice, Ovi scores a lot of goals — except that he acts like a kid who got lucky on prom night after every one of them. He rarely makes his teammates better, flops like a stoned seal and leaves his feet to deliver illegal hits.
The Russian is a loyal member of the Vladimir Putin mafia, which speaks volumes about Ovi the person. Some have ever referred to him as “treasonous scum,” not to be critical or anything.
In Their Own Words: Alex Ovechkin
"My weapon isn't my shot. It's me." —Alex Ovechkin
14. Ron Hextall
Career: 13 seasons (1986-99)
Teams: Philadelphia Flyers (1986-92, 1994-99), Quebec Nordiques (1992-93), New York Islanders (1993-94)
Bottom Line: Ron Hextall
Couldn’t somebody think of a nickname better than Hexy for this whack job? We like The Mad Slasher better. The most penalized netminder in league history picked up where Billy Smith left off in the late-1980s when he took goaltender goonery to an even lower level.
So far out did he stray to assault opponents that one thought his team had pulled the goalie. The shenanigans overshadowed the fact that the guy was little more than above average and won diddly squat. (Have you ever seen the Flyers win the Cup?)
In Their Own Words: Ron Hextall
''I didn't intend to hurt Chris Chelios. I intended to fight him. I know I was wrong, but I also know what Chris Chelios did to Brian Propp was far more vicious than what I did to Chelios.'' —Ron Hextall
13. Bryan Watson
Career: 15 seasons (1963-78)
Teams: Montreal Canadiens (1963-64), Detroit Red Wings (1965-67, 1973-76), Oakland Seals (1968-69), Pittsburgh Penguins (1969-74), St. Louis Blues (1974), Washington Capitals (1976-78)
Bottom Line: Bryan Watson
Super Pest was one of the original shadows in the league — i.e., the agitator whose purpose was to get in the face of the top gun on the other side. He did a pretty fair job of it, too — all 5-foot-9, 175 pounds of him.
The big shooters and their fans grew to despise him, most notably normally mild-mannered Chicago Blackhawks star Bobby Hull, who tangled with him on more than one occasion. Worse yet, the one-time league leader in penalty minutes was the rare brawler who had more than an ounce of puck smarts. He went on to coach a kid named Wayne Gretzky in their World Hockey Association days.
In Their Own Words: Bryan Watson
"Depending on where you sit, or skate, Bryan Watson, the scrappy young forward of the Detroit Red Wings, is either a living doll or a dirty dog." —Gary Ronberg, Sports Illustrated, 1966
12. Chris Simon
Career: 15 seasons (1992-2008)
Teams: Quebec Nordiques (1993-95), Colorado Avalanche (1995-96), Washington Capitals (1996-2002), Chicago Blackhawks (2002-03), New York Rangers (2003-04), Calgary Flames (2004-06), New York Islanders (2006-08), Minnesota Wild (2008)
Bottom Line: Chris Simon
This 6-foot-3, 233-pound menace to society was a bad man in so many ways. On the ice, he constantly went out of his way to maim opponents. Off of it, he frittered away $15 million in career earnings, had two lousy marriages and reneged on six figures worth of child support.
Simon says his many failures were the result of brain trauma among other physical problems, but it’s hard to feel sorry for a lughead who willingly took part in more than 100 fights and was suspended for 65 games in his career.
In Their Own Words: Chris Simon
"Simon was never the finest specimen of the league, being infamous for landing eight suspensions over the span of his 16-year career. The two most notable of these were both in 2007, both record-breaking at the time, and both due to a deliberate intent to injure another player." —TheHockeyWriters.com
11. Tie Domi
Career: 16 seasons (1990-2006)
Teams: Toronto Maple Leafs (1990, 1995-2006), New York Rangers (1990-92), Winnipeg Jets (1992-95)
Bottom Line: Tie Domi
Has there ever been a narcissist who could boil blood in more ways than this Napolean on skates? The 5-foot-10 lightweight was equal parts goon and agitator, both designed to place the spotlight squarely on him. (Remember that goofy WWE belt routine?)
No wonder his act wore thin even on teammates. His career lowlight: a drive-by that laid out New Jersey Devils defenseman Scott Niedermayer in the 2001 playoffs and got him suspended for the rest of the series.
In Their Own Words: Tie Domi
"I have 3,000 penalty minutes. I don't need people dictating to me how to do my job." —Tie Domi
10. Billy Smith
Career: 18 seasons (1971-89)
Teams: Los Angeles Kings (1971-72), New York Islanders (1972-89)
Bottom Line: Billy Smith
This Hall of Famer was a four-time Stanley Cup and one-time Vezina Trophy winner, but his most historic achievement was a dubious one — he was the first goaltender to use the hockey stick as a lethal weapon on a permanent basis. He was King Henry VIII on skates, a madman who treated intruders like so many Anne Boleyns around the net.
“Yeah, he is a dirty hockey player, and I think that everybody realizes that,” sniper Mike Gartner once said. “He seems to get away with that type of thing, and that seems to be what gets him going.”
9. Tom Wilson
Career: 8 seasons (2013-21)
Teams: Washington Capitals (2013-21)
Bottom Line: Tom Wilson
Just check out YouTube for a comprehensive list of Wilson's jerk moments, and there’s plenty of time for him to move up on this list. Yet we blame the enablers as much as Whip for his criminal behavior.
We're lookin’ at you, linemate Alex Ovechkin. (“It’s hockey. It’s not a ballet.”) And you, ex-head coach Barry Trotz. (Seriously, some people would love to wring his neck if they could just find it.) And you, too, one-time goon George Parros. For him to be the league chief police is like Jack The Ripper as a Supreme Court Justice.
In Their Own Words: Tom Wilson
"While fans have varying feelings about that reputation, the fact of the matter is he (Wilson) been fined and/or suspended eight times over his nine-year career. To his credit, however, he seems to have cleaned up his game in 2021-22, and is having a big offensive season with 12 goals and 28 points in 36 games." —Yahoo Sports
8. Ulf Samuelsson
Career: 16 seasons (1984-2000)
Teams: Hartford Whalers (1984-91), Pittsburgh Penguins (1991-95), New York Rangers (1995-99), Detroit Red Wings (1999), Philadelphia Flyers (1999-2000)
Bottom Line: Ulf Samuelsson
Contrary to popular belief, this robocop defenseman did not end the career of Cam Neely with a reckless low hit. As Neely said himself, the fatal thigh-knee injury was the result of an earlier confrontation in which Ulfie ducked his attempted hit in the corner.
The coward ducked a lot of things, namely fisticuffs, which made the league-wide disdain for him that much more intense. What did it say for the league that the Penguins needed an enforcer like this to hoist back-to-back Stanley Cups?
In Their Own Words: Ulf Samuelsson
"You don't make friends on the ice. It's not a social gathering. Some pretty vicious stuff goes on out there." —Ulf Samuelsson
7. Claude Lemieux
Career: 17 seasons (1983-2006)
Teams: Montreal Canadiens (1983-90), New Jersey Devils (1990-95, 1999-2000), Colorado Avalanche (1995-09), Phoenix Coyotes (2003
Bottom Line: Claude Lemieux
Claude The Fraud was ankle-deep in so much excrement, it took the gloss off his reputation as a clutch player. The nonsense started in the 1988-89 season when the rookie bit Calgary Flames forward Jim Peplinski in a playoff game. Yet that was nothin’ compared to his blindside hit that broke the face of Kris Draper in the 1996 playoffs and would define the Avalanche/Detroit Red Wings blood wars.
“I can’t believe I shook this guy's freakin’ hand after the game,” Red Wings Dino Ciccarelli said famously. “That pisses me right off.”
6. Marty McSorley
Career: 17 seasons (1983-2000)
Teams: Pittsburgh Penguins (1983-85, 1993-94), Edmonton Oilers (1985-88, 1998-99), Los Angeles Kings (1988-96), New York Rangers (1996), San Jose Sharks (1996-98), Boston Bruins (1999-2000)
Bottom Line: Marty McSorley
This McMeathead is known for two things: 1) an unconscionable two-handed stick swing that darn near killed Vancouver Canucks enforcer Donald Brashear late in a 2000 game and 2) an illegal stick penalty in the 1993 Stanley Cup Final that might have cost the Kings their first-ever league championship.
While the guy had some talent, it’s the cold-blooded head hit that will forever be his legacy. It came with three seconds left in a blowout loss. Dumb-de-dumb-dumb.
In Their Own Words: Marty McSorley
"Marty McSorley was found guilty of assault with a weapon today but won’t go to jail for smashing an opponent in the head with a stick during an NHL game. McSorley was granted a conditional discharge, meaning no charges will go on his record as long as he completes 18 months of probation. He was also ordered not to play against Donald Brashear during that time." —ABC News
5. Eddie Shore
Career: 18 seasons (1926-40)
Teams: Boston Bruins (1926-39), New York Americans (1940)
Bottom Line: Eddie Shore
By almost all accounts, the first great NHL defenseman was almost as nasty as he was talented. Which is to say, very much so. The future Hall of Famer also nearly became the first NHL player to kill somebody on the ice in an era without helmets.
For days, Toronto star Ace Bailey lay near death with a massive brain injury, the result of a thunderous hit from behind. Shore claimed the blow was accidental but was suspended for 21 games, anyway. Bailey’s father was among the less forgiving — he had a .45 revolver at the ready before a team official calmed him down. We're pretty sure that qualifies as hate.
In Their Own Words: Eddie Shore
"Almost everybody had a tall story about hockey's famous defenseman and unpredictable owner-manager, Eddie Shore. But the remarkable thing is that everybody was telling the truth." —Stan Fischler, Sports Illustrated, 1967
4. Todd Bertuzzi
Career: 18 seasons (1995-2014)
Teams: New York Islanders (1995-98), Vancouver Canucks (1998-2006), Florida Panthers (2006), Anaheim Ducks (2007-08), Calgary Flames (2008-09), Detroit Red Wings (2007, 2009-14)
Bottom Line: Todd Bertuzzi
In one horrific sequence in the 2003-04 season, Big Bert went from a semi-respected power forward to a villain of monstrous proportions. His sucker punch from behind left Colorado Avalanche forward Steve Moore unconscious, concussed and with three broken vertebrae in his neck. The guy never played another game.
The perpetrator issued a tearful apology afterward, but it was too late to undo the damage — to the victim, the sport, the league and his legacy.
In Their Own Words: Todd Bertuzzi
"I anticipate that there will be those who will say that Mr. Bertuzzi's 17-month suspension is inadequate. I disagree." —NHL commissioner Gary Bettman
3. Sean Avery
Career: 11 seasons (2001-2012)
Teams: Detroit Red Wings (2001-03), Los Angeles Kings (2003-2007), Dallas Stars (2008), New York Rangers (2007-12)
Bottom Line: Sean Avery
This psychopath admits that he was unhinged from as far back as he can remember. “I never waited for someone to tell me the rules,” he said. “I always thought there was kind of a way to come in the back door.”
That back door included physical and/or verbal assaults on everything from opponents to referees to law enforcement personnel to even the rules of the game. Even after retirement, the lunatic smashed the car mirror of a neighbor whom he claimed had tried to run him over.
In Their Own Words: Sean Avery
"Everyone talks about how classless I am, but I guess Fatso there just forgot to shake my hand. I think now if you can't skate, you can't play. That's what it comes down to." —Sean Avery, talking about goaltender Martin Brodeur
2. Chris Pronger
Career: 18 seasons (1993-2011)
Teams: Hartford Whalers (1993-95), St. Louis Blues (1995-2004), Edmonton Oilers (2005-06), Anaheim Ducks (2006-09), Philadelphia Flyers (2010-11)
Bottom Line: Chris Pronger
One would think that a defenseman with 6-foot-6 size and considerable talent would be a better human, but in the case of this ogre, one couldn’t be more wrong. The guy turned more stomachs than a week-old burrito wherever he went. He sobbed his way out of Edmonton after one successful season, wimped out on the Florida Panthers in the playoffs and mocked the media more than once.
And when the prima donna didn’t get his way — and the refs allowed him to get away with a lot — he resorted to enough elbows, high sticks and foot-stomps to warrant not two, not four, not six but eight suspensions.
In Their Own Words: Chris Pronger
"In the '90s, when I started, it was still a rough-and-tumble, physical league. You take the hook and holding and a little bit of the physicality out of the game, and the speed ratcheted up twofold. Now you have a split-second to make a hit, or decide to pull up. When there's indecision, you're going to make a mistake." —Chris Pronger
1. Dave Schultz
Career: 9 seasons (1971-79)
Teams: Philadelphia Flyers (1971-76), Los Angeles Kings (1976-77), Pittsburgh Penguins (1977-79), Buffalo Sabres (1979)
Bottom Line: Dave Schultz
Of the dozens of Flyers over the decades, why this loser? No-brainer. The Hammer was the baddest of the Broad Street Bullies, the criminals who single-fistedly set back the sport and the league years, if not decades.
His brutal assault of helpless New York Rangers defenseman Dale Rolfe in the 1974 playoffs was beyond reprehensible and defined the ugliness of the era. Do that on the street, and it’s jail time. Do that in the NHL, and you’re hailed as a tough guy. Still wonder how the best sport can have the worst league?
In Their Own Words: Dave Schultz
"I'm sorry I'm perceived as an element that's dangerous. I've never tried to hurt anybody. I'm interested in scoring points — pinning and winning." —Dave Schultz