Matt Cooke was recently suspended for the remainder of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs for an elbow on Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Colin Campbell, the NHL’s director of discipline, famously said the league “sells hate.” If that’s true, there are a handful of players who are much better hate salesmen than most NHLers. Let’s count down the league’s most hated players in this week’s THN.com Top 10.
10. Trevor Gillies, Islanders
A newcomer to the list - and really, to the NHL - Gillies has earned a huge amount of hatred for his reckless play that has led to suspensions of nine and 10 games virtually consecutively. He may not be around for long, but he joins fellow loose-cannon enforcer Chris Simon as one of the most despised Isles ever.
9. Chris Neil, Senators
Is it Neil’s gap-toothed smirk that drives opponents and non-Senators fans nuts, or the shady-looking elbows he’s been known to liberally throw around? Either way, Neil balances out the good vibes created by good guy Daniel Alfredsson.
8. Colby Armstrong, Maple Leafs
One of the most affable players off the ice, Armstrong is a Tasmanian Devil on it - and one who easily burrows himself under the skin of the opposition. He’s the best definition of an NHLer you can’t stand when he’s on another team, yet who you adore when he’s playing for your side.
7. Max Lapierre, Canucks
Few players are able to convey arrogance in a way that makes you want to smack them one before they even commit an on-ice crime against you, but Lapierre is one of those NHLers. He’s been traded twice this season - does that mean his teammates and coaches are sick of his routine as well?
6. Daniel Carcillo, Flyers
Carcillo is another of the league’s dirtier players and one of its worst embellishment artists. When Bruins center Marc Savard bit him on the finger during a scrum in a playoff game last season, just about every non-Flyers member of the NHLPA cheered the chomping.
5. Steve Ott, Stars
“Maybe I love to be hated,” Ott once told a Dallas sportswriter. If that’s true, Ott has accomplished his mission and then some. Dany Heatley’s recent (and blatant) elbow to Ott’s head resulted in only a two-game suspension; if it landed on the skull of a less loathed NHLer, Heatley might have received a much tougher penalty.
4. (tie)Chris Pronger, Flyers/Todd Bertuzzi, Red Wings
The two most experienced names on this list are also two of the most notorious. Pronger earned the lifelong enmity of fans across the league for all sorts of reasons - being suspended eight times has a way of doing that to a player’s reputation - while Bertuzzi will live in hockey infamy forever for his assault on Steve Moore.
3. Sean Avery, Rangers
Avery has cut back on his dastardly ways this season - and he’s having a tough time staying in the good books of Rangers coach John Tortorella - but he’s always good to turtle after a borderline hit, or commit some other unsportsmanlike act. Players have extensive memories and even if Avery never ran afoul of another opponent, he’d be on this list as long as he plays.
2. Patrick Kaleta, Sabres
Say Kaleta’s name to a player from any NHL team outside of Buffalo and you’re sure to hear words we can’t use in a family publication. If Kaleta found himself on fire, the only way most fans and players would try to “help” would be to pour gasoline and fireworks on it.
1. Matt Cooke, Penguins
What, you expected Sidney Crosby, P.K. Subban or someone else? Get real - Cooke has done enough this season alone to secure a spot in the NHL’s all-time hall of shame. World famine and Michael Vick might be less hated than this guy.
The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on TheHockeyNews.com.
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