10 NHL Players Whose Reputation Doesn't Match Reality
In a way, perception is reality. Especially when it comes to NHL players and how we as fans view players on the ice. Sometimes guys see literally one incident tattoo and tarnish their reputations forever. Players like Marty McSorley come to mind.
Some players such as Tyler Seguin and Patrick Kane have garnered reputations as partiers, giving opposing fans all the bulletin-board fodder they can handle.
On the flip side, sometimes a guy really was never in control of his reputation to begin with. Media fanatics grab a story and blow it up via Twitter, Facebook and so on. At that point, the truth doesn't matter much. Just ask Phil Kessel or Sidney Crosby.
Trending hashtags and the mob mentality that is in place online are louder than the truth. Sometimes for better, and oftentimes for worse.
Reputation: That of a mercenary-for-hire.
Where the Perception Came From: Jaromir Jagr has always followed the money. According to hockeyzoneplus.com, he has accumulated over $100 million during his playing time in the NHL.
That number does not account for any sponsorship deals or the money he made playing overseas from 2008 until 2011. Tack on the fact that he's been bouncing from team to team since returning to the league, and it's easy to see why Jags has the reputation of an assassin-for-hire with no loyalties to anyone.
Especially when folks like Greg Wyshynski are penning highly read content such as this gem from when Jagr turned down an offer from the Pittsburgh Penguins to play with the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Reality: As Wyshynski sarcastically pointed out at the end of his column entitled "Jaromir Jagr joins Philadelphia Flyers, snubs Penguins over money," "nostalgia is a fairy tale in Jagr's world. This is a business."
Regardless of what kind of romantic notions we have about hockey, the NHL is a business. The game itself isn't, but the league is, and Jagr learned that early on in his career. Since then he's been lining his pocket book with as much dough as possible.
Why shouldn't he?
He's currently the 10th best goal scorer to have ever played in the NHL, and he could finish his career as high as fifth. Yet he's know all along that he is only viewed as an asset by management, and if the right trade came along that he'd be shipped out in an instant.
So why be so overzealous to show loyalty to an organization that doesn't show any to you?
Reputation: "Crybaby Crosby." That of a diver and a whiner.
Where the Perception Came From: Sidney Crosby's reputation was cemented within months of his entering the league in 2005. At that juncture, he was an electric talent that was seemingly unstoppable.
He was also viewed as a player who perhaps made his case to referees a bit too often.
It's 2013 now, and Crosby is no longer an immature teenager, yet his actions from nine seasons ago still haunt him to this day. Fans chant and berate him about being soft. In a time when one GIF can ruin a reputation, Sid has had a hard time recovering from the initial responses to his actions as a teenaged rookie.
The Reality: Crosby is one of the hardest-working athletes on the face of the planet and lives and breathes hockey the way the best offensive player in the world should.
He says all the right things in interviews and takes a stance on issues that matter to him. Despite all the good he does and his artistry out on the ice, some fans just can't seem to look beyond the actions of an 18-year-old kid that occurred nine years ago.
Reputation: Excessive partier and a nuisance who is hard to control.
Where the Perception Came From: Google Tyler Seguin these days and you won't find many people writing about how promising of a career the 21-year-old Dallas Star has in front of him. Instead, his name has been trampled by reports of partying during the Stanley Cup Final and a few homophobic tweets.
While there's zero room for any insensitivity regarding the issue of sexuality and sport, Seguin repeatedly showed up in "reports" like this from NESN.com.
Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe quoted Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli in a story following Seguin's trade to the Stars, and the GM didn't exactly mince words about the player's inability to focus on the game and not the nightlife.
The Reality: As opposed to your average 21-year-old who doesn't have some growing up to do? The Bruins were all too happy to shower Seguin with millions of dollars before he could even legally order a drink at a bar and then were shocked to see the single superstar romping about in bars.
Again, blogs such as Puck Daddy were eager purchase photos of Seguin going nuts from fellow party-goers, publishing stories such as this.
Nine out of 10 young players can break into the NHL and do it without causing a scene. Sometimes a guy like Seguin comes along, and they get caught up in it. This is why Sidney Crosby lived with Mario Lemieux for so long: to learn how to be a professional.
Seguin has made some mistakes, and they were entirely blown out of proportion by a hockey media that is constantly itching for controversy—mostly because there is so little of it to go around in the NHL.
Can you imagine a story about Robert Griffin III partying garnering a comparable amount of heat in NFL circles? Get real.
While the MLB is embroiled in a PED scandal and pro-football players can't figure out how to leave their guns at home, we get Seguin and Patrick Kane going out to the club during the offseason.
Reputation: Soft winger for whom the Toronto Maple Leafs overpaid in trade.
Where the Perception Came From: Brian Burke had plenty of reason to go after Phil Kessel. In fact, all 29 other teams in the NHL likely did their due diligence in kicking tires with the Boston Bruins for the asking price for Kessel.
Two first-round draft picks have been viewed a coupe for a long time, especially considering Toronto tanked after acquiring Kessel, eventually giving Boston a second-overall selection in 2010.
The Reality: Burke didn't do the Leafs many favors during his tenure as the team's general manager, but acquiring Kessel should be viewed as his strongest move by far.
Despite missing out on Seguin—forget the partying, he's going to be and is a good player—Dougie Hamilton and Jared Knight, Toronto still has one of the game's few elite goal scorers on its roster.
According to hockeydb.com, Kessel has scored 30 goals or more in five straight seasons. His 20 goals in 48 games in 2013 projects cleanly to a 30-goal season if a full 82 games were played, making Kessel one of the NHL's most outstanding scorers at this point.
He doesn't deserve the constant line of questioning surrounding the circumstances under which he arrived in Toronto, and he's certainly lived down any worry that there may have been about his ability to be a difference maker out on the ice.
Reputation: A cab driver-slugging goon who parties too much for his own good.
Where the Perception Came From: Deadspin.com has seemingly made it a mission to seek out and distribute any and all evidence that would support the "Patrick Kane parties too hard" angle. Take, for instance, this breakdown—chock full of eyewitness accounts!—of a weekend that Kane spent in Madison, Wisconsin, in 2012.
Or, more recently, this series of photographs depicting Kane celebrating (another) Stanley Cup victory in Chicago.
All that, of course, before it took off with a Buffalo News story about Kane "beating up" a cab driver over some loose change in 2009.
The Reality: Before Kane cleaned up his act a bit, he was a difficult forward to control out on the ice. It seems that the abundance of reports about him being a troublemaker finally got to him, as he made it through 2013 without any Deadspin-worthy incidents—which is to say he really didn't go out in public at all.
Instead, he focused his attention on his game out on the ice, and the results were staggering. He's now a two-time Stanley Cup champion and one of the most entertaining players to watch in the NHL on any given night.
Kane may never live down his reputation as a partier, but fans of the Blackhawks likely don't mind that so much. Not as long as he keeps delivering Stanley Cups every few seasons.
Reputation: A lackadaisical player with a lazy streak as mean as his one-timer.
Where the Perception Came From: Cameras are at least mildly avoidable out in public. Guys like Patrick Kane and Tyler Seguin are stalked by "fans" with smart phones constantly, but for the most part NHL players get to live their lives in peace.
It's a lot tougher to escape the lens inside a packed arena during a professional NHL game, however.
Alexander Ovechkin has been on the receiving end of some vicious tongue lashings on national television. He most recently caused a stir for his total lack of backchecking effort during Game 4 of the 2013 Conference Semifinal against the New York Rangers, as shown in this clip from Deadspin.com.
Mike Milbury also famously said that Ovechkin "should be ashamed of himself" during a nasty rant during a game between the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers in February of 2013, which the Washington Post picked up quickly.
The Reality: It's amazing how a few taped instances of AO making lazy plays can balloon into wrecking his reputation.
Should he have skated harder on that play against the Rangers? Perhaps, but one could argue that he was either looking for a breakout pass or marking his man on the backcheck (albeit without much visible effort).
Let's be realistic here: No lazy person is going to score 735 points in 601 NHL contests while posting a career plus-82. Aside from Crosby, Ovechkin may be the most hated-on out of all of those who say they get hated on in the NHL, which doesn't make a lot of sense considering how fun he is to watch and how often he delivers the goods.
Reputation: Wannabe Floyd "Money" Mayweather Jr.
Where the Perception Came From: It turns out that tweeting a photo of yourself using a "money phone" during a lockout may not be in the best interest of public image.
CTV News, among other sources, reported that the photo was causing a stir among hockey fans who were dealing with the loss of their beloved game due to a lockout that was largely caused by money issues. Of course, fans who were upset by this clearly don't understand the difference between a lockout and a strike.
The former is initiated by the league, and that was the case during the most recent work stoppage. A strike is initiated by the players, and that wasn't the case during the most recent work stoppage.
So the NHL locks out its players yet again and it's Kane who is supposed to be the bad guy here?
The Reality: Kane is currently playing on a six-year, $31.5 million deal. Before that, he was skating for nearly $10 million across three seasons.
Like it or not, that's enough money to warrant a trip to Las Vegas with some buddies. Especially in light of the soul-drain that was the NHL lockout.
Was the photo a little tone deaf? Yeah, it was. But again, Kane and his fellow players didn't initiate the lockout over money. The league did.
Reputation: A lazy player who takes shifts off and doesn't show up in big games.
Where the Perception Came From: Like ex-teammate Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Semin has been battling the reputation of "talented but lazy" since entering the league.
Marc Crawford called out Semin during 2012's version of Free Agent Frenzy on TSN. Russianmachineneverbreaks.com has the video and breakdown here, but the highlights of the dumping-on are pretty simple.
James Duthie compares Semin to highly sought after Zach Parise, and Crawford lets Semin have it. The former coach goes on to call Semin a loser and Pierre McGuire calls him a "coach killer."
Matt Bradley, after leaving the Washington Capitals for the Florida Panthers, also dished on Semin while talking to TEAM 1200 radio in Ottawa. CBSSports.com picked up that story in 2011 and provides links to the appropriate video.
The Reality: Leave it to North American news sources to hammer a quiet Russian for being, well, a quiet Russian.
He's scored 20 goals every season since his rookie year—prorating his 2013 stats, of course—and there is little question that he's one of the better secondary scoring options in the NHL. Does he ever make big, flowery and emotional speeches in the middle of the locker room?
No, but he does consistently bring his game to the ice.
Semin hasn't been a minus player since 2007-08, and the Capitals have had problems replacing the depth he provided since they allowed him to leave for nothing as a free agent in 2012.
Reputation: A vocal locker room presence who doesn't have an issue telling the media how he really feels.
Where the Perception Came From: You don't have to watch locker room interviews with Ryan Miller for long before you realize that he'll speak his mind (NSFW language in that video) whenever he feels like it. He's frequently candid with reporters, and how chatty he is is typically directly tied to how well the team is playing in front of him.
When the Sabres were winning, you didn't hear any of this "Miller is a locker room menace" stuff. Now that the team is in full blown rebuild mode however, relations between player and team have soured.
Buffalo is openly shopping Miller, and Miller is open to being dealt according to this interview on the official site of the Sabres.
The Reality: Some hockey fans and pundits like to knock on players because of how boring they are in interviews. Rarely do they say anything outside of the usual player-speak—"it was a team effort", "the credit really belongs to the rest of the guys," and so on.
Then a guy like Miller (or even Tim Thomas) comes along and is absolutely chastised for his frankness.
You don't have to agree with what he says to respect the fact that he's even saying it. Miller has been arguably the best player in Buffalo for the better part of his career there, and if anything was part of the glue that held the team in relevancy for so long.
We're not implying that talent should get you a longer leash. Instead, Miller's candor should be respected, if not celebrated. While he could stand to keep it in check a bit more, his openness is a break of fresh air in an NHL that doesn't feature an abundant amount of "characters."
Reputation: A headhunting defenseman who gets away with murder because of plays for the Detroit Red Wings.
Where the Perception Came From: This, mostly. For the first several years of his career, Niklas Kronwall made a name for himself by annihilating unsuspecting opponents as they crossed either blue line.
Fumble a puck against the Wings? You might want to double check to make sure No. 55 isn't out on the ice. At least that was the case until recently.
Kronwall still has the heavy hit in his tool bag, but he doesn't use it as often as he used to. SportsCenter isn't doing top-10 countdowns of his hits at the end of the year, and compilation creators have to dig a bit harder to find his massive hits.
The Reality: If you're a fan of the Red Wings, you think Kronwall's hits are clean. If you are rooting against Detroit, you think they're dirty. Such is the nature of being a fan.
Kronwall still lays into opposing players, but he picks his spots much better than he used to. He's rarely caught out of position because he's taking runs and he's become Detroit's best defender.
He's also never been suspended. So there's that.