NHL Rankings: The 25 Dirtiest Players in NHL History and Their Most Heinous Acts
As long as there has been an NHL, there have been guys in the league who you hear about and it brings about a cringe-inducing look.
Players whose actions on the ice have landed them suspensions, bad reputations, fan anger, arrested and sometimes jail sentences.
Sometimes it is one act so horrendous it "sticks" with the player for his whole career.
Sometimes it is multiple acts of total and utter disregard for other human beings.
I am sure this list will bring about spirited debate from fans who will stick up for their hometown players no matter how egregious the offenses were and that is why I love these lists. They get us talking about the great sport of hockey.
All Videos are embedded from YouTube, and all stats and dates are checked from NHL.com, CBSports.com and Wikipedia.
Lets kick it off with...
25. Mark Messier: Edmonton Oilers, NY Rangers, Vancouver Canucks
There is no doubt that Mark Messier is one of the all-time greatest players in the history of the game.
There is also no doubt that Messier—like the player most comparable to him, Gordie Howe—made throwing elbows an art form.
Messier would KO you with a well-placed elbow to the face, head or nose and then skate away as if nothing had happened. This is not something that was well known and a far cry from the guy waving to the Madison Square Garden crowd crying about how much he loves the fans.
Messier was just as mean and nasty as he was talented.
In the above video is exactly the kind of hit that the NHL has cracked down on recently and would have been all over TSN, ESPN and would have landed MESS a lengthy suspension. Added is the extra bonus of watching the inept EMT workers drop Modano as he is strapped to the gurney.
24. Darius Kasparaitis: NY Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins, NY Rangers, Avalanche
Hip checks have often come under scrutiny for their dangerous nature around the knees of opposing players.
"Kaspar the Unfriendly Ghost" had a knack for being able to throw them with the best, or the worst of them.
Often maligned for submarining players' legs, Kaspar made a big name for himself when he came up with the Islanders and threw monstrous checks at anyone who came into the Islanders zone. He carried that with him through his entire career as one of the most vicious hitters in the game.
23. Dino Ciccarelli: North Stars, Red Wings, Lightning, Capitals, Panthers
Once was not enough
When people talk about Dino Ciccarelli they do not usually mention his awesome 608 career goals.
Dino Ciccarelli's great career is marred by this one incident when he assaulted Luke Richardson with his stick. This was not just one swing—no, that wasn't good enough. After bashing him once, he went back a few times for more.
Dino earned the moniker "Stickarelli" from this one incident that probably delayed his entry into the Hall of Fame.
He is the first of a few players on this list where a single incident becomes a black eye on an otherwise stellar career.
22. Gordie Howe: Detroit Red WIngs, Hartford Whalers
No one is safe from Mr. Hockey
Mr. Hockey dirty? Hell yes. Like Mark Messier after him, Gordie Howe was so adept at throwing elbows that he incorporated it into his skating stride and often wen't unpenalized.
Howe played in an era where you better be able to defend yourself and defend himself he did. He could do it all: score, skate, pass, fight and place an elbow or a high stick directly in your chops.
The above video is from his WHA Houston Aero days and shows the great Howe scoring a goal, high-sticking an opponent and abusing a referee.
21. Billy Smith: Los Angeles Kings, New York Islanders
Ah Billy Smith. This guy was as good a money goaltender that ever played the game.
The thing is Billy would also punch you in the back of the head, stick you in the privates and slash your legs or head or face if you dared venture near his crease.
There should have been a "Do not enter" sign or an "Enter at your own risk" sign at his crease because if you did you would most assuredly pay the price.
"Battlin' Billy" did not take kindly to his own teammates shooting high on him in practice as he infamously charged at teammate Mike Bossy in practice when he thought Bossy shot high on him before he was tackled.
In the 1983 Stanley Cup Finals, Glenn Anderson tapped Smith with his stick and he went down like he was shot writhing in pain, getting Anderson a five-minute major penalty.
His trademark smirk was visible through his mask on the ensuing faceoff.
I could not find that video online, but here is one that perfectly shows what would happen to you if you went near what Smith would call his crease.
20. Ken Linseman: Philadelphia Flyers, Edmonton Oilers, Bruins, Maple Leafs
Ken "The Rat" Linseman was a talented player, but that's not why he is remembered so fondly.
He was infamous around the league for his low bridge hits and knee-to-knee contact, or throwing a spear or any other number of egregious cheap shots. He also was once caught kicking a player in the head.
While I could not find a video of that incident, the one above shows the kind of guy Linseman was.
19. Dave "Tiger" Williams: Maple Leafs, Canucks, Red Wings, Kings, Whalers
"Tiger" Williams is the most penalized player in NHL history. He would fight anyone and everyone ranging from the toughest of the tough guys to such pugilists as Mike Bossy.
Yes, that was sarcasm.
Williams would look for any advantage in a fight and I guess when you fight as much as he did you're going to have incidents like the one shown above, when Williams throws multiple punches at tough guy Behn Wilson as he is restrained by the officials.
18. Jesse Boulerice: Flyers, Hurricanes, Blues, Oilers
Boulerice is a two-time super cement head.
In junior hockey he did his best impression of Reggie Jackson. The problem is he used Guelph Storm forward Andrew Long's face as the ball.
That alone would probably get him on this list.
Then in 2007, while playing for the Flyers, he almost took Ryan Kesler's head off with a cross-check in the third period of a 7-2 rout.
17. Jimmy Mann: Winnipeg Jets, Quebec Nordiques, Pittsburgh Penguins
Sure in the clip above Jimmy Mann was standing up for a teammate, but you have to do things the right way and there is nothing right about what he did.
Mann could be as tough as they came in the fight-filled 1980s and this incident earned him a 10-game suspension and assault charges.
16. Darcy Tucker: Canadiens, Lightning, Maple Leafs, Avalanche
Darcy Tucker would almost look possessed at times when he was on the ice and his low bridge hits were commonplace.
He still is public enemy No. 1 on Long Island for taking out Mike Peca with a low bridge hit that went unpenalized even after he screamed from the bench that he was going to take Peca out.
The look on Tucker's face after the Peca hit says it all. He knew exactly what he was doing.
That alone would not get Tucker this high on the list. He also took out Buffalo Sabres forward Jochen Hecht that sent Sabre coach Lindy Ruff into a tirade.
Tucker often inexplicably escaped discipline for his infractions, but he would be paid back on the ice a few times for his many infractions. Karma can be a bitch and it was to Tucker.
15. Tie Domi: NY Rangers, Winnipeg Jets, Toronto Maple Leafs
Tie Domi was called a lot of things in his playing days.
Clown, goon, instigator, pest.
No one could ever call him boring. Domi could score a goal every now and again and was not a bad skater but was better known for antics such as:
After fighting the league's top fighters, he would places his hand around his waist mimicking a WWE title belt around his waist. He probably could have made a great living for himself in the WWE.
Sometimes he would ride his stick in front of the bench after scoring a goal.
All these were funny to a degree.
Once in a while, Domi would cross the line and this hit on Scott Niedermayer of the Devils from the 2001 playoffs was as filthy as they came, even for his standards.
14. Todd Bertuzzi: NY Islanders, Vancouver Canucks, Detroit Red Wings
This is the perfect example of how one incident can be a black eye on your career. I do not think Todd Bertuzzi is a prototypical dirty player but some of the players on this list are guilty of committing one infraction that is perceived in and of itself as so bad it will stay with the player for life.
That is exactly what happened here.
You know the story. Steve Moore concussed Vancouver sniper Markus Naslund two weeks before this and the Canucks were out for revenge.
Bertuzzi exacted the revenge by ending Moore's career.
13. Steve Downie: Tampa Bay Lightning, Philadelphia Flyers
Steve Downie is one of those guys who had to straighten out his act or he was going to be drummed out of the NHL.
Has he done it yet? Judging by the amount of offenses he has committed in his short career, the jury is still out.
In this clip above, is there any reason whatsoever to literally throw every ounce of your body into a player looking to pass the puck up ice? It is made worse by the fact that this was a preseason game.
It was dangerous, pointless and stupid.
If the NHL does not put a stop to hits like this, someone will be killed. It's only a matter of time. Guys are skating like the wind these days and when they throw themselves around with reckless abandon it is totally inexcusable.
Seeing the players fight around Dean McAmmond's prone body is sickening.
Downie got 20 games for this sickening hit, and it would be the second time he received such a ban. When he was in the AHL, he slashed a linesman and got 20 games for that.
12. Sean Avery: LA Kings, NY Rangers, Dallas Stars
I actually had fun going through all of Sean Avery's infractions of stupidity while putting this together.
You have to love when a guy basically seeks out the reporters and says something so mind-boggling and classless that he basically gets himself drummed out of Dallas.
That is probably the only clip you will see on this list that does not happen on the ice.
Avery has done so many mindlessly dumb things on the ice. Let's see:
Waving his arms around in front of Martin Brodeur like a drunk hailing a cab, feigning skating away only to drop his gloves and sucker-punch someone, running his mouth in pregame skates—you name the classless act and most likely Avery has done it.
The "sloppy seconds" comment was doubled in stupidity as it turned his teammates on him as they are all visibly finished with him and the fact that he actually went to the reporters himself knowing what he was going to say all along.
If this was a list about mindless stupidity, Avery would be No. 1.
11. Chris Pronger: Whalers, Blues, Ducks, Oilers, Flyers
Chris Pronger is one of the best defensemen in the game and a competitor everyone would want on their team.
That being said, he is one of the dirtiest players in the NHL today and well deserved to be No. 11 on this list.
His rap sheet is endless—elbows to the face and head, checking from behind, skate-stomping, slashing, leaving the bench, punching from behind. All in all he has amassed so many total suspensions it almost seems like not "if" but "when" and how many games Pronger will be suspended for when the season begins.
There is no doubt of Pronger's skill. There is also no doubt of his place on this list.
10. Dave Brown: Philadelphia Flyers, Oilers, Sharks
What is it with guys trying to murder Tomas Sandstrom?
For many years, Dave Brown was a premier enforcer in the NHL. That being said, he has cement between his ears.
This shot at the time was one of the worst offenses anyone had seen in a hockey game. Brown skated at Sandstrom and just absolutely tattooed him across the face with a cross-check that could have taken his head off.
This was not Brown's only offense of this manner.
The video embedded above is the New York Rangers feed. After watching this and listening to Jon Davidson's reaction, watch this and listen to the Flyers announcers on the same play. The difference is absolutely comical.
9. Bobby Clarke: Philadelphia Flyers
What is it with the Philadelphia Flyers on this list?
Bobby Clarke is one of the all-time great players in NHL history. That doesn't mean he was a clean player. He played the game 100 percent, 100 percent of the time.
If that meant he had to go out and hurt someone to help his team, then that's exactly what he was going to do. The attack on Kharlamnov was one of the most heinous premeditated attacks in hockey history.
8. Marty McSorley: Oilers, Kings, Penguins, Rangers, Sharks, Bruins
What were you thinking.
Marty McSorely was a tough guy. What could have possessed him to do what he did in the above video with three seconds on the clock can not be explained by anyone and may be one of the top three worst on-ice incidents in the history of the game.
People talk about Bertuzzi's hit on Moore or Chris Simon's hit on Ryan Hollweg. This one is worse than both of those combined.
McSorely never played in the NHL again.
7. Eddie Shore: Boston Bruins
Obviously there is no video of the things Eddie Shore did to opponents so I will have to try and paint a mental picture.
Perhaps the worst on-ice incident in the history of the game When Eddie Shore, one of the most cantankerous players in sports history, checked Maple Leafs forward Ace Bailey from behind so badly that he fractured his skull sending Bailey into convulsions on the ice.
Bailey nearly died but later recovered, but his career was ended.
Shore was suspended 16 games for the infraction.
6. Dale Hunter: Quebec Nordiques, Washington Capitals, Colorado Avalanche
Ed Westfall said it best: Dale Hunter has blown a gasket.
Hunter gave up the puck on a horrid play handing Turgeon the puck and the Islanders a 5-1 lead in the deciding game of the Patrick Division semifinals.
Turgeon scored, celebrated and then was blindsided by Hunter from behind, separating the Islanders' leading scorer's shoulder.
Turgeon was never the same player after that, maybe looking over his shoulder for Dale Hunter every time he scored a goal.
Hunter was suspended 23 games for the act and like Bertuzzi and McSorely, it has come to define his career.
5. Matt Cooke: Vancouver Canucks, Pittsburgh Penguins
What can you say about Matt Cooke that hasn't already been said?
Cooke, after his latest cheap shot and suspension, has stated that he "needs to change his ways."
That would be a good idea before he kills someone or gets himself arrested.
Cooke has shown that while he may be a talented player, he is more of a liability and an embarrassment to have on your NHL team, especially when your owner is screaming about goonery.
If he does not "change his ways" he will be No. 1 on this list easily.
4. Chris Simon: Nordiques, Avalanche, Capitals, Blackhawks, Rangers, Flames
Add to his list of teams the Islanders and the Wild.
Chris Simon. His infractions range from bad to worse.
Racial slurs, skate-stomping, cross-checking to the face, cross-checking to the neck, elbowing, kneeing.
Yep, Chris Simon did all that.
What made matters worse for him was that not only did he try to decapitate Ryan Hollweg, when he came back from that suspension he skate-stomped Jarkko Ruutu.
He is currently playing in the KHL enjoying some decent success there. Hopefully he doesn't snap again and wind up in Siberia.
3. Claude Lemieux: Canadiens, Avalanche, Devils, Coyotes, Sharks, Stars
Apologies for the grainy video, but this compilation shows why Claude is here. He enjoyed so much playoff success, and his battles with the Red Wings are legendary.
That being said, he was one of the dirtiest players in the history of the league, whether it was hits from behind or sucker punches from behind. Usually if he was doing something bad, it was from behind.
The compilation above speaks for itself and the hits on Kozlov and Draper are sickening.
2. Bryan Marchment: Jets, Blackhawks, Oilers, Whalers, Lightning, Sharks
Add to his list of teams the Maple Leafs and Flames.
Bryan Marchment. As I am writing this, I'm looking behind me for a cheap shot from him. Thirteen separate suspensions are enough to plead my case with having him so high on the list. Marchment hurt so many players in his career it was a wonder he was still able to find a team to play for with guys on it that didn't want to kill him.
The above video is sickening to be sure. There have been much worse incidents on the ice, but the quantity of infractions committed by him is simply staggering.
The NHL is a safer place without him.
1. Ulf Samuelsson: Rangers, Penguins, Whalers, Red Wings, Flyers
This guy was an absolute piece of trash when it came to respecting other players' health on the ice.
Make no mistake, he was a good defenseman but his reckless abandon earned him the reputation he deserves: as the dirtiest player of all time.
The things he did—using his knees as projectiles at opponents' legs, using knees, elbows and of course a huge face shield to protect him for the few times he dropped the gloves and wore what other players called "a suit of armor" as opposed to actual pads.
Leave your thoughts below. Who did I miss? Who should be higher?