Five Most Controversial Players in NHL History


Even those who don’t follow hockey know that it’s one of the rougher sports enjoyed by a wide fan base and has its fair share of controversial players. But while a modicum of rough behavior is acceptable both on and off the ice, there are some whose very names conjure their checkered histories with the sport. Below, we’ve compiled a brief list of five of the most controversial names to ever wear a jersey.

1. Patrick Roy

Most die-hard fans will own to a certain amount of mixed admiration for Roy. After all, he is one of the great goaltenders in North American hockey history, and has justly earned a spot in the sport’s hall of fame. But along with it, he carries a reputation for abandoning a team in favor of his ego. It all started in 1995, when he let nine goals slip past his watch for Montreal against the Red Wings. The crowd was having none of it, and made their displeasure known by booing when he managed to save the next shot. After a short verbal exchange with the president of the team, in which he claimed that the coach had marooned him in the game in order to humiliate him, he was traded four days later.

2. Bobby Clarke

Clarke made his mark in the hall of infamy. Playing Captain for the Philadelphia Flyers, he had a reputation as a tough guy on the ice. Often, he was backed by a squad of enforcers, but was hardly shy of roughing up players himself. However, the most notorious moment in his career is undoubtedly his encounter with Russian forward, Valeri Kharmalov, during the 1972 Canada-Russia summit. In the course of the eight game stretch, Clarke attacked Kharmalov, using his stick in what’s known as a two-hander. This maneuver fractured the Russian forward’s ankle, and while he managed to reappear during the final match, it ultimately cost Russia the victory.

3. Mike Milbury

Although he went on to manage the New York Islanders, his well-known flamboyant and inflammatory style left other marks on his career, namely some Christmas Eve fisticuffs with Rangers fans. Playing a game for the Boston Bruins at Madison Square Gardens just two days before Christmas in 1979, the Rangers lost the match by a single point. Disappointed, the fans exchanged words with the victorious Bruins while they were still on the ice. Milbury and some of his mates then climbed the glass, taking the brawl into the stands, where Mike reportedly beat a fan with his own shoe.

4. Theodore Lindsay

With the moniker of “Terrible” Ted, it’s almost expected that one would be infamous. Lindsay was a talented player for the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Black Hawks during the heyday of American Hockey. His career spanned from 1944 to 1965, and while he never shied away from rough action on the ice, doing whatever it took to support his teammates, his claim to fame is something much greater. He was a prime mover in pushing for a players’ union, seeking to protect the rights of the men who gave their all on the ice. While it cost him his Captain’s position with the Red Wings, ultimately, the cause for which he fought as ferociously as he played was ultimately victorious. A formal NHL union was established in 1967, two years after his retirement.

5. Chris Simon

Hot tempers and violence seem to run in the veins of Hockey, but perhaps it’s a sign of the times when a player makes their mark by taking it too far on a consistent basis. Simon was brought on to the New York Islanders as an “enforcer.” Read that: Brute Squad, and brutish is what he was. While he was an excellent player in his own right, he holds a record of being suspended for 65 games for his violent demonstrations. These include tripping an opponent and stomping on his leg while he was down, slashing Ryan Hollweg in the head, and—only slightly less egregious—a serial habit of kneeing opponents and using racial slurs on the ice.

As you might have noticed, controversy isn’t always caused by violence or brutality. While those traits often accompany the complicated individuals who make headlines, sometimes, it’s how they respond to emotional and psychological stress, their politics, and even their inability to draw boundaries that make them memorable. The most controversial hockey players are often those who break with the norms of the game, whether politically or with violent outbursts of temper on the ice.

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