Hockey players are pretty good guys right? They are blue collar, tough, not afraid of a little blood....or a lot of blood, but for the most part, they are good guys. Just like in any world though, the hockey world has it's villains. These five don't come anywhere close to covering every antagonist who has laced up a pair of skates, but they are players who had the most impact on me growing up watching hockey.
Some you love despite their actions, others you just want to see plastered against the plexiglass. Either way, they made/make the game just a little more interesting.
5. Sean Avery
One of the more prevalent villains of the last decade or so, Sean Avery has had quite a few moments that solidified his role as a villain. Whether it was dissing ex girlfriends who ended up with other players or naturally being a non-conformist, it felt like wherever he would go it would turn into The Sean Avery show at some point.
One of his most "villainous" moments came in the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs when Avery decided he would screen the living legend otherwise known as Martin Brodeur face to face and wave his stick in the goalie's face. See for yourself below, only a day later, the "Avery Rule" was introduced to make sure this sort of stunt didn't go unpunished in the future.
4. Todd Bertuzzi
Todd Bertuzzi's sucker punch on Steve Moore was undoubtedly one of the most controversial events in the NHL in the last 20 years. Some felt the majority of the blame should go to Vancouver's Head Coach at the time, Mark Crawford for knowing full well what he was doing when he sent Bertuzzi out against Moore. While the few who supported Bertuzzi felt it was the other players piling on after the initial punch that did the most damage to Moore.
It was a debate that went beyond the rink when many people felt that Bertuzzi's actions should be punished not just by the NHL, but also in the eyes of the law. Bertuzzi - somewhat controversially - ended up being charged with "Assault Causing Bodily Harm" and accepted a plea deal that would keep him from seeing time in jail. A tearful apology didn't seem to help much, although Bertuzzi would go on to play for several other NHL teams including the Calgary Flames and Detroit Red Wings and for the most part cleaned up his game. At the moment Bertuzzi is a free agent after being released by the Ottawa Senators and their AHL affiliate.
3. Rick Tocchet
Although Rick was known to KO a player or two in his day, Rick's villain days came after he hung up his skates. In 2006 Tocchet was served with a criminal complaint after being accused of financing a nationwide sports gambling ring in New Jersey. The controversy involved Wayne Gretzky's wife, Janet Jones Gretzky, but according to Tocchet it was a "football thing", not "hockey related thing". Inevitably Tocchet plead guilty to conspiracy and promoting gambling.
2. Claude Lemieux
Claude Lemieux was despised by many who felt he was either a whiner, a cheap shot, a big mouth or worse.
There were many incidents that resulted in Lemieux being considered one of the league's dirtiest players, but one incident that stood out was when Lemieux allegedly bit Jim Peplinski of the Calgary Flames' finger during a fight. The "bite" led to Peplinski saying "I didn't know they allowed cannibalism in the NHL".
Note: I tried to find video of the "bite", but came up empty.
1. Theoren Fleury
Theoren Fleury was undeniably the "bad boy" of his day. He wasn't a big player by any means, but you would never know that watching him as he played fearless.
Unfortunately Fleury struggled with drug and alcohol addiction while playing in the NHL, as well as after. Regardless of his flaws, Fleury was one of the most exciting players to watch in the NHL and thankfully in 2005 he quit both drugs and alcohol crediting his second wife for his getting clean.
Fleury started early with one of his most memorable moments came in a 1987 Junior World Championship game while playing for Canada against the U.S.S.R. known as the "Punch-up in Piestany". After scoring the first goal in the game, Fleury skated past the Soviet bench and acted as if his stick was a machine gun toward the Soviet players. His actions led to a bench clearing brawl, something unheard of in international play, especially at the junior level. The brawl led to both Canada and the U.S.S.R. being disqualified from the tournament.