Whether it is around the water cooler, the bar or in the office, you often hear hockey fans talking about how much they despise so and so. It has become almost ritualistic to call out opposing players and reveling in the hate that oozes out of your pores.
Yet if you woke up to the news that your beloved team had just acquired such a player via trade or free agency, the conversation would immediately turn to how much he can help your team win.
This doesn't make you, myself or any other fan out there hypocrites, double-talkers or biased homers; it simply means that the player in question is doing his job very, very well.
There have been monumental exceptions to this, and there could be a handful of players on this list that you feel falls into this category, but at the end of the day, all fans care about is winning.
Let's take a look at 10 such players and see where they fit in the grand list of guys we love to hate but would love to have on our team.
It wasn't quite clear what Sidney Crosby had in common with Wayne Gretzky when he broke into the league, but that didn't stop pundits from comparing the "Great One" to the "Next One."
However, it didn't take long until we saw at least one shared trait—the ability to whine and cry to the referees.
Throw in a dog pile of over-exposure and in-your-face marketing campaigns, and you have yourself a full-blown enemy of the state.
Make that every state, and you can throw in some provinces while you're at it.
Crosby has improved his image over the last year or so, and wouldn't he look fantastic in your favorite team's jersey?
This selection is bound to rile up some fans on both sides of the dividing line. He is the pride of many Americans and the hero of Vancouver, but to many, he is the prototypical pest of the 21st century.
Kesler hits you until you're black and blue. He kills penalties with aplomb and anchors Vancouver's second offensive line. He wins faceoffs in every key situation on the ice.
He is an emotional catalyst and leader of his team.
I could go on, but these are the bullet points on his resume.
So why is it that he has become one of the poster boys of diving and embellishing? I have a feeling Kesler will tell you that is it a form of gamesmanship, and if you're not cheating, you're not trying. These antics earn his team extra time on the power play, and what ref is going to deny him the benefit of the doubt, given his credentials?
The only thing I know for sure is that he would look really good on my team—the rest is up for debate.
One of the new faces of the all-hate team is Anaheim forward Corey Perry. It seems like a long time ago that he won the Hart Trophy as the league's MVP, but his antics are as fresh as ever.
Perhaps one of the reasons why we love to hate Perry so much is the fact that most of the NHLPA do as well. We could have a legitimate debate as to whether he is a "dirty" player or not, but what I do know is he is always a prime candidate for a Gordie Howe hat trick every time he takes the ice.
Most NHL defensemen expect a stick in the gut or a punch in the back of the head when he enters the offensive zone, but they'd also be welcoming him with open arms if he ever entered their dressing room with the same jersey on.
If you are a fan of the Vancouver Canucks (or simply live there), then skip to the next slide.
"There's a lot of weirdos there," said Bolland of Vancouver. "You don't want to be out there too long."
A young fan once asked Bolland, "Do you hate everyone on the Canucks or just a lot of them?"
"I hate all of them," said the Blackhawks forward.
Co-host Andrea Darlas asked: "If the Sedins become Hawks, will they still be sisters?"
How can NHL fans forget these infamous quotes from a year ago?
For the record, Bolland is a grade-A pest on the ice as well. It's just too bad for opposing fans that he's also really good at his job.
Cal Clutterbuck is a polarizing force around the NHL. Most fans love him simply for his name. On the other side of the fence, people hate him because he hits the crap out of their players.
Cal routinely leads NHL forwards with the most hits in any given season, but there is also an undercover inquiry into the Minnesota Wild's stat-counter. In the 2008-2009 season, he broke the record with 356.
P.K. Subban's profile is very self-explanatory, isn't it?
He is the ideal NHL player. He's great with the fans, and he loves the game; he shows exquisite skill, and the kid is only getting better.
Well, that's how you see him if you're a Montreal Canadiens fan.
If not, he's petulant, immature, brash, cocky and flat-out annoying.
Let's just agree that he's good at what he "does."
Steve Downie makes this list not because he's hated by most fans and opposing teams, but one could argue that he's hated by his own teammates at times too.
There was a game last year after he was acquired by the Avalanche where he took three consecutive minor penalties in a row. This was in the middle of a crucial playoff race down the stretch!
Whether you love him or hate him, Steve Downie is going to be who he is on the ice. The Tampa Bay Lightning "moved on" despite his potential and age; on the other hand, the Avs gave him a contract extension.
I rest my case.
If I was making this list in order from least hated to most hated, I'm pretty sure Alex Burrows would be at the top—or very close to it. Is there a more effective agitator on the ice in the NHL today?
It's very clear that he cemented his status among the most hated players after the infamous finger-biting incident during the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. Beyond that, he dives, whines to refs, and worst of all, he scores a lot of big goals.
However, unlike the next guy on this list, Burrows is a supremely effective player on the ice.
Rounding out the trio of Vancouver Canucks on the list is ultra-pest Maxim Lapierre. I think I could simply post a picture of one of his incessant facial expressions and let the slide stand for itself.
The only thing worse than a guy who gets under your skin is a player who goes out of his way to make it his primary skill on the ice.
Yet if you were to ask me if I'd want him on my team, I'd have to say yes. Not because of his ability to drive opponents mad, but because he's actually resurrected his career over the last couple seasons.
Give credit to Alain Vigneault for pulling the right strings and putting him in a position to succeed.
It wasn't too long ago that I would have names like Chris Pronger, Matt Cooke or Dan Carcillo on this list, but who knew they would collectively retire, reform and become irrelevant in such a short amount of time?
Instead, the last player to make the list is no other than Tim Thomas. Coincidentally, he's a player that no one expected to be here a year ago.
How the mighty have fallen.
After putting up what is arguably one of the most brilliant playoff runs of recent memory, Tim Thomas let his mouth (or keystrokes) drag his reputation down to the point where he's not even in the league anymore.
When his understudy, Tuukka Rask, comes out and says that he "wasn't surprised" that Thomas abruptly stepped aside, you know there are issues there.
No one is blaming the guy for having an opinion—even a controversial one at that—but what he doesn't seem to understand is the manner in which he's expressed it.
There's no need to rehash what went down, but let's agree that no other NHL player has fallen from such a high to such a low in so short of time.