12 NHL Players That Fans Love to Hate

Al DanielCorrespondent IIJanuary 2, 2013

12 NHL Players That Fans Love to Hate

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    Raffi Torres is repeatedly reprehensible; therefore, is not worthy of a “love to hate” status among NHL fans. To fall under that category is a genuine privilege that makes sense in a sport that brilliantly blends grit with glamour.

    Accordingly, the love-to-hate crowd is reserved for players who are habitually on an edge, but rarely play over it, and who often put their skill sets to positive use for their team. Incidentally, when they do that, it just irks opposing audiences all the more after they percolated some punishment or inflicted some irritation.

    It is that fruitful physical force which allows the individuals in question to pull polarized crowds through the turnstiles and draw masses of viewers to a TV screen. If those viewers are not with them, they are eagerly against them and ready to enjoy rooting for them and their team to fall short.

    The best bunch of current NHLers who sustain that serve as catalysts in healthy rivalries are as follows. “Dirty dozen” may be a strong turn of phrase, but these 12 definitely bring a decent helping of spice to the ice.

Dustin Brown

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    While Conn Smythe-winning goaltender Jonathan Quick frustrated the opposing faithful through stinginess, Brown inflicted a physical and psychological sting last spring. His tornadic style of play, namely causing trouble for anything in his path, was a vital means of manufacturing offensive support for the likes of Quick.

    Seeing as he ultimately captained his Los Angeles Kings to the Stanley Cup with a team-leading 20 points and 93 hits, Brown will doubtlessly bear a target in the coming campaign.

Matt Cooke

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    The Pittsburgh Penguins power forward has notably and admirably cut down on the Torres-type behavior. Nevertheless, it will be hard for him to ever shake off his overly rough persona altogether.

Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin

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    It is always like the Super Bowl when these players cross paths on the ice in front of national television cameras.

    Besides the naturally partisan Penguins and Capitals fans, it seems a vast multitude of puckheads have a personal preference for Crosby or Ovechkin at the other’s expense.

    Some may or may not directly like Ovechkin, but definitely cannot stand Crosby’s alleged "whining" in the wake of an emotional game. Others may or may not directly like Crosby, but certainly cannot stand Ovechkin’s supposed over-the-top antics during the game.

Steve Downie

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    Downie’s first 20 games with the Colorado Avalanche after a late-season trade last winter yielded one surprising new twist. It was the first time since his major junior days that his games played exceeded his total penalty minutes (16) in any given row.

    Odds are that trend will not hold up in his first full Colorado campaign.

Scott Hartnell

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    Much like Cooke, Hartnell has generally shuffled away from the cheap-shot artist image of prior years, but remains a towering physical presence that personifies one’s general vision of the Philadelphia Flyers.

    Consequently, the anti-Flyer crowd will pay attention in hopes that Hartnell is stymied on the scoresheet. If he is not stopped, those fans will fume at the sight of his gleeful grin breaking through his beard.

Maxim Lapierre

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    Lapierre has yet to match the career-high offensive numbers (15-13-28) from his first full NHL season in 2008-09, although last year was his second-best.

    But whilst sprinkling out nine goals and 19 points for the 2011-12 Vancouver Canucks, Lapierre drew abundant attention through a career-high 130 penalty minutes. He might as well carry the nickname “Mischievous Maxim.”

    His combination of relatively sub-par stats and borderline behavior practically made Lapierre the single foremost reason why the two-time President’s Trophy-winning Canucks underachieved in the 2012 playoffs and why anti-Vancouver fans delighted in that very outcome.

Milan Lucic

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    Granted, Lucic is hardly the type of player whose presence on an NHL roster draws constant head-scratching. But being a five-year veteran of the league and bearing a package that is an integral part of the Boston Bruins’ image the same way Hartnell is in Philadelphia has sculpted a cloud of suspicion in the eyes of non-Bruins fans.

    It doesn’t help those non-New Englanders to know that he has broken the 60-point plateau each of the last two seasons. Although there had to have been plenty who reveled in his playoff sputter as the reigning champs crashed in the first round.

    Non-Kings fans out west may hope for a similar scenario at the aforementioned Brown’s expense in 2013.

Evgeni Malkin

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    He is a celestial Penguin like Crosby and is, at times, a rambunctious Russian like Ovechkin. In addition, Malkin took the bulk of the spotlight and the Hart Trophy as Crosby missed the bulk of the 2011-12 season, thus reiterating Pittsburgh’s embarrassment of star-studded riches.

    A team like that will never fail to attract animosity the same way the Miami Heat do, for example. In turn, the resentment will be aimed most specifically at those who are most responsible for the franchise’s elite, perpetual contenders status.

Brad Marchand

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    Hard to overlook the young winger who, by the end of his rookie year, had a Cup to his credit and has cemented his top-six status along with the nickname “Little Ball of Hate.”

    As a sophomore in 2011-12, Marchand joined Lucic as the only two Bruins to tally more than 25 goals and more than 80 penalty minutes apiece. That meant plenty of entries on both sides of the score sheet to satisfy the pro- and anti-Bruins masses alike.

Steve Ott

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    It takes a, shall we say, special type of player to wage a few feuds with the likes of the Flyers and Bruins, especially when he is not even playing in their conference. But Ott has managed just that in recent seasons, and it is only going to grow more interesting now that he has been swapped to the Buffalo Sabres.

    In his final year as a Dallas Star, Ott interjected himself into the Flyers/Rangers edition of 24/7 through his intermission shoving match with Philadelphia skipper Peter Laviolette. He has also penned a dense history of mutual animosity with Boston.

P.K. Subban

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    Among Subban’s shortcomings, his profile on the Internet edition of The Hockey News notes that his “On-ice antics may at times annoy his own teammates and the coaching staff.”

    If that is true, it offers a sound indication of what opposing fanbases think of those same antics. At least Subban’s Montreal allies are pleased when he slaps a salsa-laden biscuit from the point into the opposing net.

    Those on the other side are not happy unless Subban’s productivity is curbed, maybe even in a self-imposed manner when he takes himself out of the action through a penalty.