The greatest recent villain in the NHL has been Sean Avery.
One reason for their presence is that hockey is the only team sport to allow fighting. Another is that the sport is ridiculously tolerant of cheap shots and unsportsmanlike acts—more than even football before the '80s.
Sean Avery made a living pushing the envelope and crossing the line. His insolence extended beyond the rink when he had to make distasteful remarks about Dion Phaneuf's then-girlfriend Elisha Cuthbert.
He was such a villain that a few within the marriage equality movement were not happy when he joined the cause.
The NHL has to bear responsibility for the environment that allows villains to thrive. Their presence is something that gives the game a further dimension, but also keeps it from mainstream acceptance.
The next time the Sharks complain about ESPN's lack of hockey coverage, they may want to think about their own contribution. These five players are among many in the game that have kept its status in the United States behind not only the NFL, NBA and MLB, but perhaps even the PGA, MMA, UFC and NASCAR.
Raffi Torres has only played 16 games for the San Jose Sharks, including the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs. So how does he make this list?
He fits both the criteria of donning the sweater and being a villain. His disreputable actions—which the Sharks have been victims of—are well-known and not far in the past.
That status was not helped by the hit he laid on Jarret Stoll in the Western Conference semifinals. While he did not target the head, his hit was reckless because it put the head at risk not just when his friend and former teammate leaned forward, but even in the follow-through.
Getting a six-game suspension ensures Torres will be viewed as a villain in San Jose, where he re-signed this summer.
Marty McSorley was another player that earned his status as a villain prior to coming to the San Jose Sharks.
Ostensibly on the ice to protect greats like Wayne Gretzky, his motto was "Do unto others before they can do unto you." His attacks on others have warranted his reputation as one of the biggest villains in NHL history.
While reduced to a role player on the bottom pair of San Jose's blue line, his cheap shots continued. His legacy was forever cemented when—as a member of the Boston Bruins—he committed the cowardly act of slashing Vancouver Canuck Donald Brashear in the head from behind with his stick.
Then he made it worse by claiming the attack in the final two seconds of the game was an accident. Right, you accidentally swung your stick at a player skating away from you and hit him in the head.
McSorley was suspended for 23 games and eventually became the first person in over a decade to be convicted of assault for an on-ice incident.
The washed up enforcer had another year added to his suspension and never played another NHL game, but the Sharks hired him as a broadcaster in 2006.
Bryan Marchment is an obvious choice for this list. He is not only the biggest villain in the history of the San Jose Sharks, but arguably in the entire NHL during the time he played.
A punishing hitter, Marchment played in an era that accepted head shots. However, the hit he delivered to Mike Modano was one of the dirtiest acts in the modern era of the NHL and would have gotten him suspended even in the pre-expansion era.
Modano was attempting to retrieve the puck along the boards when Marchment, with no chance of getting to the puck first, hit him from behind. The impact drove the best American player in NHL history to the ice and ensured his head would hit the boards at full speed.
This hit could easily have broken Modano's neck, robbing hockey fans of one of the game's best ambassadors.
Jody Shelley was another player the San Jose Sharks traded for despite (or because of) his reputation. He is also another example of them employing someone after suffering from his villainy.
Early in Brad Stuart's career, Shelley delivered three elbows to the back of the former first-round pick's head.
Stuart suffered a concussion and was never really the same two-way player again. He later focused more on playing well in his own end and was a champion as a defensive blueliner.
Had that been Shelley's only transgression, it would just be one time a player crossed the line while caught up in the emotion of the game.
Instead, it was merely the worst crime on the rap sheet of a player that spent ample time in San Jose and had courage but not much skill—nor the fighting ability to win the heavyweight bouts he braved.
It was a tough choice to make Scott Parker the last of the list of the biggest villains in the history of the San Jose Sharks.
If Parker is remembered at all, it is most likely with the Colorado Avalanche. It will certainly be as a thug on skates.
He played just 308 NHL games over a decade and just five in the Stanley Cup playoffs, when skill is at a premium. He finished his career with 21 points and 699 penalty minutes, with none and four in the playoffs, respectively.
Parker was not the dirtiest player, but among the most vicious fighters. He never had the problem Jody Shelley did of being outmatched in a fight, ranking among the NHL greats in that facet of the game.
His tenacity was perhaps best exemplified while with the Sharks in 2006. Parker tried to jump over the glass on his way out of the tunnel to get another shot at Brendan Witt of the Nashville Predators, who he had just finished fighting.
MJ Kasprzak is the original Bleacher Report community leader for both the San Jose Sharks and Green Bay Packers, and is now paid to cover the former as well as Bay Area Christian issues for Examiner.com.