Pittsburgh Penguins: Their 10 Most Hated Opposing Players

Alison MyersCorrespondent IFebruary 9, 2012

Pittsburgh Penguins: Their 10 Most Hated Opposing Players

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    The Pittsburgh Penguins have established intense rivalries with teams such as the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers, and they have lesser rivalries with squads such as the Detroit Red Wings.

    Around the NHL, there are opposing players who the Penguins just don't have a lot of love for. Maybe a player made some disparaging remarks about the team, or maybe they are known for their unforgivable dirty play. In some cases, the players are former Penguins who made decisions to move on in the least polite way possible.

    Here are the Penguins' 10 most hated opposing players.

    It was hard to narrow this list down, so, as always, please feel free to let me know if I left out anyone who should be here.

10. Scott Hartnell, Philadelphia Flyers

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    In a 2009 Flyers and Penguins game, Hartnell supposedly bit defenseman Kris Letang during a scrum towards the end of the game. Letang came out of the scrum holding his hand and told the referee Hartnell bit him.

    Hartnell wasn't aware of the incident, saying that "a lot of stuff" happens when players get tangled up. He added that he's never been accused of biting anyone before, seemingly taking the incident in stride. 

    The NHL reviewed the game tape and found that there wasn't any evidence of a bite, and Hartnell wasn't penalized. The controversy has blown over, but hasn't been forgotten.

    Hartnell does earn some points, however, for having fun with a Penguins fan who had a Flyers jersey made up with the nickname "Fartsmell" on the back. Hartnell signed the jersey "To My Biggest Fan," prompting laughs from Penguins and Flyers fans alike.

9. Dave Steckel, Toronto Maple Leafs

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    In the 2011 Winter Classic, Steckel delivered a high blindside hit to Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. The hit is speculated to have been the one that gave Crosby the concussion that has been plaguing him for the last year.

    Steckel was not penalized or disciplined by the NHL on the hit, which caused some controversy. He said the hit was unintentional, but Crosby and Pens defenseman Brooks Orpik disagreed.

    Crosby told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

    "How tall is Steckel? I find it hard to believe that his shoulder hit me in the head ... at 6-foot-5 ... by accident."

    Orpik added:

    "It was definitely dirty. Sid was just skating by and he definitely wasn't near the puck."

    While it's never been proven that Steckel caused Crosby's concussion, there is still some resentment among the Penguins organization and fans.

8. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    When Crosby played on Jan. 5, 2011 despite being injured in the Winter Classic, it was Victor Hedman who delievered the second blow that put Crosby out of action.

    Hedman hit Crosby from behind, pushing his head into the glass and knocking the captain to the ice. He received two minutes for boarding on the play, but did not get any additional punishment from the league.

    Just as with Steckel, there's no clear-cut evidence that Hedman was responsible for concussing Crosby. However, he was booed when the Pens and Bolts met in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, a series which saw the Lightning win in seven games after battling back from a 3-1 deficit.

7. Ilya Kovalchuk, New Jersey Devils

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    Kovalchuk initially caused some trouble with the Penguins when he was still with the Atlanta Thrashers back in 2007. Sidney Crosby was serving a penalty, and Kovalchuk scored on the Thrashers' power play. Upon scoring, he skated by the box and pointed to Crosby in an action seen as unsportsmanlike.

    He has also trash talked Crosby in the past, mostly doing so while backing up Alexander Ovechkin, who he counts among his friends off the ice. He was even brave enough to say Crosby has "a long way to go" before he could be as good as Ovechkin.

    Kovalchuk has continued to haunt the Pens as a member of the New Jersey Devils. This season, he has nine points against Pittsburgh, including a penalty-shot goal. The Devils have won three out of four games in the season series so far.

6. Alexander Semin, Washington Capitals

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    Back in 2008, Semin caused a stir in an interview with Puck Daddy when he expressed his disdain for the NHL propping up Sidney Crosby as a superstar, saying:

    What's so special about [Crosby]? I don't see anything special there. Yes, he does skate well, has a good head, good pass. But there's nothing else.

    I think that if you take any player, even if he is "dead wood," and start promoting him, you'll get a star. Especially if he scores 100 points. No one is going to care about anyone else. No one is going to care whether he possesses great skill. Let's say you put someone in front of the net and let him deflect pucks in, and he scored 50 goals; everyone will say "Wow!" and then hand him a $10 million per year contract. That's what they like here.

    Crosby responded, saying that he didn't need a reason to be motivated and that he is used to being criticized. Essentially, he didn't feel bothered by Semin's words

    Over time, Semin has racked up 20 points in 22 regular season games against the Penguins. That's in addition to the six points in seven games he posted in the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals, a series the Penguins won on their way to the Stanley Cup Finals.

5. Marian Hossa, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Hossa played for the Penguins for a brief time in the 2007-08 season after being traded from the Atlanta Thrashers. He had an immediate impact, scoring 10 points in 12 games and then putting up 26 points in 20 playoff games. The Penguins lost to the Detroit Red Wings in that year's Stanley Cup Finals.

    However, Hossa turned down a contract in the offseason to sign with the Wings, saying he felt they gave him a better chance to win a Stanley Cup. Pens fans were angry and showed this by booing him every time he comes into town. When he was once again on the losing end in the 2009 Finals rematch, many believed it was karma.

    He finally got the Cup in 2010 with the Chicago Blackhawks. He had 51 points in 57 regular season games and then posted 15 points in 22 playoff contests.

    The Penguins do not see Hossa that much anymore since he is in the Western Conference, but he has five points in four games against them since leaving Pittsburgh.

4. Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

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    Ovechkin has been Sidney Crosby's main nemesis on the ice since the two came into the league in the 2005-06 season. 

    One of the most notable highlights of their rivalry came in the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals. In Game 2 of the series, Crosby and Ovechkin each scored hat tricks in the Capitals' 4-3 win. After Ovechkin scored his third goal of the game, Crosby felt that the fans were tossing hats for too long, and he asked the referee to have it announced that the hats stop coming.

    The two also played in the 2011 Winter Classic. Despite the fact that the media hyped the rivalry and it was a main focus of HBO's 24/7, neither player had a point in the game.

    Ovechkin's shortcomings in big games have also fueled the competition between the two. At this point in their careers, Crosby has won a Stanley Cup an Olympic gold medal. Ovechkin, meanwhile, has had to contend with the Capitals constantly coming up short in the playoffs, as well as the Russian squad underperforming in the 2010 Olympics.

3. Jaromir Jagr, Philadelphia Flyers

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    Jagr has been hated by Penguins fans for a long time going back to the 2000-01 season. Rumors were going around that he did not get along with Ivan Hlinka, the Pens' head coach at the time, and he was also resented for holding the captaincy while Mario Lemieux was out with injuries.

    Jagr also supposedly made negative remarks about Pittsburgh before his departure, and whenever he returned to Pittsburgh as a member of the New York Rangers or Washington Capitals, he was booed when he touched the puck.

    But it all came to a head this past summer. Jagr was looking to return to the NHL after spending three seasons in Russia, and the Penguins were said to be interested in signing him. Apparently, Jagr felt the same way, and members of the media even said he would sign a one-year deal, turning down offers from teams such as the Detroit Red Wings.

    However, Jagr, who was supposedly on a flight to Pittsburgh before free agency started, never showed up in the area. His own agent didn't even know his whereabouts.

    On July 1, the Penguins pulled the contract offer and focused on other needs. Jagr signed with the Flyers, the Penguins' most-hated rival, and caused further resentment in a city that already disliked him.

    The Penguins and Flyers have only played twice this season, but Jagr has a goal against them.

2. PK Subban, Montreal Canadiens

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    Subban is just in his third full NHL season, but he has already become hated by Penguins players and fans.

    He has pulled out dangerous plays several times during Penguins and Canadiens games. He injured Jordan Staal in the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs by sticking his foot out and tripping Staal. Although Staal returned later in the series, he required offseason surgery on a foot injury that kept him out of the lineup to open the 2010-11 campaign.

    Subban has used the slewfooting move on Chris Kunitz and James Neal as well. He was fined for the Kunitz incident, but it was Neal who was fined for high-sticking.

    When the Penguins and Habs played this past Tuesday, Subban hit Evgeni Malkin when Malkin was already down on the ice. This resulted in a scrum in an already tied game.

    Subban has shown no signs of changing or letting up on his play, and it's come to be expected that he will do something controversial when the Canadiens and Pens meet up.

1. Trevor Gillies, Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)

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    OK, Gillies isn't even in the NHL right now, but he earns the dishonor of being in the top spot after an embarrassing incident between the Penguins and New York Islanders last season. 

    In a game that resulted in a 9-3 blowout win for the Islanders and an all-out brawl, Gillies elbowed Penguins forward prospect Eric Tangradi in the head. While Tangradi was down and trying to get his bearings, Gillies continued punching him in the face. Tangradi was diagnosed with a concussion, and Gillies was supsended for nine games.

    Gillies clearly hadn't learned upon his return, as Penguins fans took note of how he was suspended for a similar attack on Cal Clutterbuck of the Minnesota Wild.

    He was waived this season after playing three games with the Islanders and is currently on the roster for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the Islanders' AHL affiliate.

    Gillies never showing remorse, combined with the fact that he can hardly be considered a hockey player, put him in the No. 1 spot.