NHL: 26 of the Most Controversial Figures in the History of the NHL
WCW promoter Eric Bischoff once said, "controversy creates cash." That is a true statement, and he certainly knew about creating a little bit of both.
The NHL wasn't always the way it was today. The plethora of international talents weren't always welcome, goons were allowed to run amok and the game itself was very different.
Some of the individuals in this slideshow have done controversial things that have given the NHL a bad reputation.
In the history of the NHL, there were many controversial figures. This slideshow will take a look at, in no particular order, 26 of the most controversial figures in NHL history.
1. Marty McSorley
Something tells me that Marty McSorley could have been a successful pro wrestler. He has a good physique, can draws boos as a hell and he has the chair shot down pat.
However, he was a hockey player, and this video above has nothing absolutely to do with the game of hockey.
McSorley was a talented player, but this put a black eye on his career.
2. Todd Bertuzzi
This is considered one of the most controversial moments in the history of the NHL. Many quickly forgot about this when the lockout ensued shortly after this season.
Todd Bertuzzi has never been fully forgiven by the fans of Colorado, but maybe one day, he will be forgiven for his past crimes.
3. Colin Campbell
Colin Campbell is the former head disciplinarian of the NHL. His job was to enforce the rules without bias and prejudice.
He stepped down at the end of this season over the controversy surrounding emails questioning referees about penalties called on the Boston Bruins and his son, Gregory Campbell.
For the full breakdown that includes the emails sent, check this link out over at Puck Daddy.
4. Donald Brashear
Donald Brashear was the victim in our last slide, but he is the aggressor in this one. He has the reputation of being an enforcer and a gritty player.
During his career, he was involved in many fights and he had his share of dirty hits.
This hit against Blair Bets during the 2009 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals was a big blow to the New York Rangers.
Hits like this give the game a bad name.
5. Matt Cooke
Much of the controversy currently surrounding the NHL is about blindside hits and the effect they have had on players' careers.
Matt Cooke is a player that is a pest and seems to always be surrounded by controversy.
This cheap shot on Marc Savard may potentially ruin his promising career in the NHL.
6. Bobby Clarke
Bobby Clarke has said many things over the year that make him controversial. His most infamous quote was about coach Roger Nilson
"Roger got cancer—that wasn’t our fault. We didn’t tell him to go get cancer. It’s too bad that he did. We feel sorry for him, but then he went goofy on us.”
He also caught a lot of flack and criticism for his comments and treatment of Eric Lindros.
Some of his more infamous quotes include:
"I don’t give a crap whether he ever plays again or if I ever see him again. All he ever did was cause aggravation to our team."
Bobby Clarke, apparently, is very opinionated and controversial.
7. John Tortorella
John Tortorella has been a very fiery and controversial coach during his tenure in the NHL. His postgame interviews have been very entertaining at times.
His stint as an analyst on TSN was also a very interesting one.
The above video displays John Tortorella in all his glory.
8. Theo Fleury
Theo Fleury was a controversial individual before he entered the NHL.
As a junior, he was in the middle of the now infamous "Punch-up in Piestany", a scuffle that resulted in the disqualification of both the Canadian and the Soviet Union teams from the 1987 World Junior Championships.
During his time in the NHL, he said a lot of controversial things, and he put himself in many controversial situations.
The most infamous one ended his NHL career. In January 2003, Fleury was involved in a drunken brawl with bouncers at a strip club while on a road trip in Columbus.
Fleury released an autobiography titled " Playing with Fire" in 2009 that further elaborated on some of the controversial moments throughout his career.
9. Sean Avery
I think the above video explains why Sean Avery is considered controversial.
10. Chris Simon
Chris Simon joins the list of controversial individuals. He was more of a brute and agitator than he was a hockey player.
This moment above was one of the many acts that got Chris Simon suspended during his NHL career.
Simon never truly learned his lesson during his 25 game suspension, as he was suspended again for 30 games the following season.
He earned the suspension when he skated in behind Jarkko Ruutu and pulled Ruutu's leg back with his own.
When Ruutu fell down, Simon stepped on the back of Ruutu's right leg with his skate and then went to the bench.
Simon would then leave the team and would make limited appearances before leaving the NHL all together.
11. Brett Hull
Brett Hull was an impressive player to watch during his prime. His 741 goals and 650 assists for 1,391 points in 1,269 games is a really impressive feat.
However, the moment above makes him very controversial in the eyes of Buffalo Sabres fans.
12. Patrick Roy
Patrick Roy is one of the greatest goalies in the league's history, but he was involved in one of the most controversial moments in Canadiens history.
On December 2, 1995, Roy was in net against the Detroit Red Wings Roy allowed nine goals on 26 shots. To make matters worse, the crowd jeered him whenever he made an easy save
After the game, Roy stormed past Tremblay and told team president Ronald Corey "It's my last game in Montreal."
Roy later told the media that despite allowing five goals on 17 shots in the first, Tremblay kept him in net in order to humiliate him. He also said that he would not have demanded a trade if Tremblay had kept him on the bench in the second period.
Roy was subsequently traded four days later to the Quebec Nordiques. They became the Colorado Avalanche the following year, and Roy would win the Stanley Cup.
13. Tie Domi
If this moment doesn't scream controversy, then I don't know what does. Whenever a professional athlete gets involved with a fan, it just doesn't end well.
This moment highlights some of the controversy that surrounded Tie Domi's extensive NHL career.
14. Jeremy Roenick
Roenick had a knack for stirring up controversy. In 2006, Roenick claimed that USA Hockey has "blackballed" him, and was being disrespectful by not including him on the American national team at the 2006 Winter Olympics
Roenick would again question the American Olympic selections prior to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. During an interview with a Toronto radio station, Roenick questioned the selection of Chris Drury to the Olympic team.
Roenick claimed that Drury's main role was to be a leader to the young players and that Mike Modano was a better choice to fill that role for the Olympic team.
Drury went on to score a key goal in the team USA's win over Canada.
Roenick also had had problems off the ice with gambling. He was identified as one of several NHL players implicated in Operation Slapshot, an operation created with the intent to uncover a nationwide gambling ring.
It was the second time Roenick had been investigated for his gambling.
Back in 2004, Roenick came under investigation after paying a Florida sports-gambling operation between $50,000 and $100,000 for betting tips and services.
15. Clarence Campbell
Clarence Campbell was the third president of the National Hockey League from 1946 to 1977.
He first was the subject of controversy when he was a referee during the 1930s.
Campbell made a controversial call in 1939 when refereeing a game involving the Toronto Maple Leafs when defenceman Red Horner was struck with a stick and Campbell doled out only a minor penalty, even though Horner was bleeding.
Leafs owner Conn Smythe called for Campbell's firing and the league agreed, as Campbell was relieved of his duty.
He is considered controversial for his treatment of Maurice Richard. This will be elaborated upon in the next slide.
On March 17, Campbell attended a game at the Montreal Forum between the Canadiens and the Detroit Red Wings.
Throughout the first period, he was taunted and pelted with debris by outraged Montreal fans, who saw him as a the leader of the elite made up of English-Canadians who oppressed the French-Canadian fans and players.
After a tear gas bomb was released in the arena, Campbell exited the building, the game was forfeited to the Red Wings and the Forum was evacuated.
16. Maurice "Rocket" Richard
Maurice Richard was one of the greatest goal scorers in the history of the NHL. He was also involved in his fair share of controversies.
Richard slapped one official in a game in Toronto, and in the 67th game of the season, he punched out a linesman and he received a suspension for the rest of the season and the playoffs.
The suspension incensed his fans and led to the Richard Riot.
He also garnered controversy for calling out Clarence Campbell, who appeared in our previous slide.
17. Claude Lemieux
Claude Lemieux had a reputation as one of the league's dirtiest and most controversial players.
ESPN put out a special on "The Top 10 Most Hated NHL Players of All Time," and it ranked Claude second, behind only Sean Avery.
During the playoffs one season, Claude Lemieux bit Calgary's Jim Peplinski on the finger during a scuffle, prompting the Calgary winger to retort,
"I didn't know they allowed cannibalism in the NHL."
Lemieux's title of being a dirty player was reaffirmed when Lemieux checked Kris Draper of the Detroit Red Wings into the boards from behind during a playoff series.
Draper suffered multiple injuries including a concussion, broken jaw, broken nose and broken cheekbone, all of which all led to Draper having reconstructive surgery on his face having his jaw wired shut for several weeks.
Needless to say, Red Wing fans still hate Claude Lemieux
18. Jarkko Ruutu
Jarkko Ruutu was the victim in an earlier slide, but he himself has caused his own share of controversy.
This is one of the more recent controversial moments Ruutu has been involved with. In the past, Ruutu has been an agitator, a brute and a biter.
In a game on January 6, 2009, Ruutu allegedly bit the gloved thumb of Buffalo Sabres' enforcer Andrew Peters. In a postgame interview, he denied it, but nonetheless, the league suspended him for two games and fined him over $31,000.
This above hit was a nasty one and only garnered more negative press for the NHL this season, which was considered one of the most controversial in recent memory.
19. Ulf Samuelsson
Ulf Samuelsson had a reputation of being a dirty and controversial player.
This reputation and stigma gained full attention after Game 3 of the 1991 Wales Conference Final, when he cheap shotted Cam Neely with a knee on knee hit.
Samuelson has been blamed for cutting short Neely's career. The play stands out because it went uncalled during the game. Cam Neely was never the same again.
Nowadays, Samuelsson is now coaching in Sweden for Modo Hockey.
20. Eddie Shore
Eddie Shore was one of the league's first bruisers.
Once during a game against Montreal, Shore accidentally punched the NHL referee-in-chief Cooper Smeaton during a fight with another player.
Shore's most infamous moment involve Ace Bailey of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
In Boston on December 12, 1933, Shore ended the career of Toronto Maple Leafs star Ace Bailey when he hit Bailey from behind. Shore had checked Bailey in retaliation for another hit on an opponent.
When Bailey's head hit the ice, he was knocked unconscious and went into convulsions.
Shore was punched in retaliation by a Maple Leaf, and Shore hit his head on the ice. Shore was knocked out and required seven stitches but wasn't seriously injured. Bailey was rushed to hospital in critical condition with a fractured skull.
As a result, Shore was suspended for 16 games by the league
21. Charlie O. Finley
Charlie O. Finley is most known for being the owner of the Oakland A's of the MLB. However, he had a very controversial stint as an NHL owner.
Finley purchased the Oakland Seals in 1970 and renamed them the California Golden Seals.
He attempted to make them look like the A's, as he changed the team colors to green and gold and had the Seals wear white skates instead of the traditional black skates, a move deeply unpopular with both players and fans.
The Seals finished last in the league in Finley's first year of ownership. Just when the team started to turn it around the following year, he was stingy in compensating his top players.
With on-ice and attendance problems, Finley lost interest in the team, but couldn't find a buyer and sold the franchise back to the league in 1974, albeit at a profit!
22. Mike Milbury
Milbury gained notoriety and controversy for what occurred following a 4-3 Bruins victory over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on December 23, 1979.
During an on-ice scuffle between the players from both sides, Milbury, and some teammates started going into the stands in a fight with the fans.
Milbury caught the fan who started the brawl, removed one of his shoes and, while holding the heel end, slapped him hard once with the sole side before being restrained.
Milbury would be suspended for six games and was fined $500.
This incident also resulted in the installation of higher glass panels in hockey arenas.
Mike Milbury would also go onto become the general manager of the Islanders, and his reign was questionable at best.
23. Don Cherry
Don Cherry is known for the flamboyance of his wardrobe as well as his tongue.
In 1989, he referred to Finnish-born Winnipeg Jets Assistant Coach Alpo Suhonen
as "some kind of dog food," which resulted in the threat of a lawsuit from Jets owner Barry Shenkarow
In 2004, Cherry commented about protective visors.
Cherry said on Coach's Corner: "Most of the guys that wear them are Europeans and French guys" to illustrate his claim that visor users have less respect for player safety.
This statement triggered protests by French-Canadians. CBC, as a result, imposed a seven-second delay on Hockey Night in Canada in an attempt to censor what Cherry might say.
Later on, a study was published that proved Cherry to be partially right. The study showed that 50 percent of Europeans and 40 percent of French-Canadians wore visors, compared to 22 percent of North Americans born outside of Quebec, but players who wear visors committed less high sticking infractions.
24. Bruce Boudreau
Bruce Boudreau gave the nation an interesting view into his locker room when the cameras were rolling for H.B.O. 24/7.
I issue a disclaimer for the above video, as it contains graphic and adult language.
Nonetheless, Boudreau's tirade has gained him notoriety especially with a parody twitter account.
I can only wonder how his tirades may be undone this year.
What really earned Boudreau controversy is when he criticized Madison Square Garden and the Rangers' fan base.
He blatantly took a shot at Madison Square Garden and its amenities.
Boudreau scoffed, "Well, the one thing, its reputation is far better than the actual building [...] It's nothing. The locker rooms are horrible. The benches are horrible. There's no room for anything. But the reputation of being in Madison Square Garden is what makes it famous. Also, our building's a lot louder, too. So I mean, they can say what they want, but it's not that loud in there."
Bruce Boudreau also has gained controversy over the past few years due to the fact that Capitals have excelled in the regular season but have flamed out in the post season.
Bruce Boudreau may be on the hot seat this year and could be out of a job if the Capitals don't win the Stanley Cup
25. Darcy Tucker
Darcy Tucker's main role in the NHL was being a pest and an agitator. Tucker was involved with one of the most controversial non-calls in NHL history.
Tucker became notorious during the 2002 Stanley Cup playoffs when he hip-checked the New York Islanders' captain Michael Peca during game five of the first round.
The check blew out Peca's MCL and ACL on his left knee, ending his season.
Many question whether or not it should have been a penalty, but Michael Peca would never be the same again. Peca was a huge reason why the Isles made the playoffs to begin with.
26. Alex Burrows
When he isn't biting players or spearing players with cheap shots, Alex Burrows is whining about referees.
This above incident involves Burrows going on a tirade in which he blames a referee for his team's loss. He would continues this rant and would end being suspended for his controversial comments.
Burrows has also gotten a bad name for being a frequent flopper who dives and attempts to draw calls against the other team.
Check out this clip for the infamous biting incident during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Comments, Questions, Concerns?
This list took a while to compile, and it was interesting. I would like to thank all the fans and followers on twitter who gave input on some individuals they wanted to see on this list.
Do you think I missed someone? If so, leave a comment in the section below, as I love to gain feedback from my readers.
Thanks for the read, and here is some fitting music for the end of this slideshow !
Tom Urtz is an NHL Featured Columnist. For more NHL free agent news, updates and alerts about players: