Respect is not easily earned in the NHL.
Players have to demonstrate a high level of professionalism, toughness, dedication and on-ice performance to earn the respect of teammates, opponents and coaches. This is a difficult challenge given the violent nature and physical demands of the sport.
Let's take a look at the 10 NHL players most respected by their peers.
Patrice Bergeron was already one of the most respected players before the 2013 NHL playoffs because of his leadership, brilliant two-way game and the hard work he put in to recover from multiple concussions earlier in his career.
But after playing through most of the Stanley Cup Final with significant injuries, the Boston Bruins center earned a new level of respect from those in the hockey community. The 28-year-old played Game 6 with a punctured lung, a separated shoulder and a broken rib. Despite all of those ailments, Bergeron played 17:45 of ice time.
"You can’t say enough about [Bergeron]. He’s an inspiration. He’s a man amongst boys, as far as the toughness goes," said Bruins forward Shawn Thornton after Game 6. "I think what he played through, I’m not sure how many guys could play through that, so it was pretty impressive. That's for sure."
As a player who does anything it takes to win, whether it's score goals, play Selke Trophy-caliber defense or play through injuries, Bergeron is one of the most respected players in the NHL.
At 43 years old, Teemu Selanne is the oldest active player in the NHL. He's played 19 seasons, and his career will one day be honored at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
As someone who plays the game the right way, contributes offensively each season and shows exceptional class on and off the ice, Selanne is one of the most respected players of all time.
Above all else, the work ethic that the "Finnish Flash" displays each day is what really earns him a ton of respect. He doesn't take a shift off and makes sure he's fully prepared for each game situation.
The NHL will lose a great ambassador for the sport when Selanne retires.
Daniel Alfredsson has earned his respect from being a phenomenal captain, a productive offensive player and playing the game the right way.
We witnessed firsthand how much respect his fellow players have for him during the 2012 All-Star weekend in Ottawa. Alfredsson was the unofficial host of the event as the face of the Ottawa Senators, and many players took the time to shake his hand and show their respect.
His decision to leave Ottawa and sign with the Detroit Red Wings may have hurt a good portion of the Senators fanbase, but there's no question that Alfredsson is one of the most respected veterans in the NHL.
Pavel Datsyuk is the best three-zone player in the NHL. He does a bit of everything to help the Detroit Red Wings make the playoffs every season. He's one of the best players of his generation and a likely Hall of Famer.
At the 2012 All-Star Fantasy Draft in Ottawa, captain Zdeno Chara selected Pavel Datsyuk with the first overall pick. He was expected to take a Bruins teammate or a fellow Slovakian first, but Chara chose to show his respect for Datsyuk instead.
Datsyuk also earns plenty of respect because he's so hard to play against. If you fall asleep with the puck for just one second, the Red Wings forward will take it and create a scoring chance at the other end of the ice. He's arguably the most skilled forward in the game.
The Russian center isn't a very vocal player, but he plays the game hard, clean and respects his opponents. You very rarely, if ever, hear another player, coach or media member criticize Datsyuk in any way.
Jarome Iginla is arguably the most respected player in the NHL. He plays the game hard, clean and displays the utmost class on and off the ice (see video above).
The old cliche of "play the next shift like it's your last" is the perfect way to describe the veteran forward's approach to the game. His exceptional leadership and work ethic also make him a tremendous role model for young hockey players.
Despite playing on some bad Calgary Flames teams for over a decade, Iginla didn't publicly complain and showed an incredible amount of loyalty (a rarity in professional sports) to a franchise that didn't do enough to build a championship-caliber team around him.
His career accomplishments have also earned him plenty of respect. Iginla reached the 500-goal mark during the 2011-12 season and has hit the 30-goal mark in the last 11 non-lockout seasons.
Every hockey player should be like Iginla, and that's one of the best compliments an NHLer can receive.
Zdeno Chara earns a ton of respect for many different reasons, one being the fact that he plays a clean game despite his amazing size ('6'9" and 255 pounds) and strength. His ability to play very physical and not cross the line with too much aggression is quite impressive.
There's not a tougher defenseman for forwards to play against than Chara. His long reach, size, defensive awareness and skill force opposing head coaches to play the matchup game so their best forwards don't have to be on the ice at the same time as the Bruins captain.
As a leader, Chara sticks up for his teammates, plays over 30 minutes of ice time whenever needed and displays an incredible amount of professionalism on and off the ice. He's also a Stanley Cup champion and is one of the most consistent defensemen in the NHL.
Martin Brodeur is one of the three best goaltenders in NHL history, at least from a statistical standpoint.
Here's a small sample of the NHL goaltending records that the New Jersey Devils star has set in his 19-year career.
- Most wins in a single season (48)
- Most overtime wins all time (52)
- Most wins all time (656)
- Most shutouts in a single playoffs (seven)
- Most regular-season shutouts (119)
As a three-time Stanley Cup champion and a class act, Brodeur is well respected for his Hall of Fame-caliber performances and the professionalism he displays on the ice.
He earned even more respect by leading the Devils to an unlikely appearance in the 2012 Stanley Cup Final as the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. It was a remarkable accomplishment for a 40-year-old goaltender.
Martin St. Louis is one of the classiest athletes in all of sports.
The Tampa Bay Lightning winger has won three Lady Byng Trophies in his career, which helps show the level of professionalism and incredible on-ice performance that makes him a great player.
The 38-year-old veteran is a perfect role model for young hockey players because of the work ethic he displays on the ice, his effort in all three zones, the passion he plays with and the respect he has for the game and his opponents.
It's also easy to respect his consistency. St. Louis has tallied at least 70 points in eight of the last nine non-lockout seasons while also scoring 25 or more goals in all nine of those years.
St. Louis will always be remembered as one of the most professional players in NHL history. Despite his amazing success at the NHL level, St. Louis rarely receives the credit he deserves. But since he's a true gentleman, the Lightning star never complains and just continues to prove his doubters wrong.
Jaromir Jagr is one of the greatest NHL players of all time. He recently signed with the New Jersey Devils, as the veteran forward proved that he still has some gas left in the tank after a fine 2013 season in which he tallied 35 points in 45 games for the Dallas Stars and Boston Bruins.
In addition to his ability to perform at a high level at this stage of his career, Jagr is well respected for his playoff resume, which includes two Stanley Cup titles and 199 points (78 goals, 121 assists) in 202 career postseason games.
As a player who works so hard to keep his body in shape at age 41, Jagr is well-respected for his dedication to the game. After many Bruins games last season, playoffs included, the future Hall of Famer would go back onto the ice and do drills long after fans and teammates went home. This is one of the many ways he's set a fine example for younger players and why he's a great teammate.
Much like Teemu Selanne, Jagr is one of the most respected veterans in the NHL. It will be a sad day for the sport when he retires.
Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews is only 25 years old and the youngest player on this list, but he deserves a spot because of his incredible playoff success (two Stanley Cup titles), Olympic performance (best player on Canada's gold medal team in 2010) and willingness to do all of the little things superstars normally ignore (blocking shots, playing defense, killing penalties, battling for pucks in the dirty areas).
At just 25 years old, Toews is already one of the league's best captains. He does a tremendous job motivating his teammates and setting a fine example with the work ethic he displays in all three zones.
Not many superstars play as hard as Toews, and his goal in Game 7 of the Blackhawks' first-round playoff series against the Vancouver Canucks two years ago was a perfect example.
Toews is the ideal player to start a team with, even more so than Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. He was a credentialed writer at the 2011 and 2013 Stanley Cup Finals, as well as the 2013 NHL draft. All quotes obtained firsthand.