The 10 Most Hated Coaches in NHL History
NHL head coaches—like their counterparts in other professional sports—are under a lot of pressure during the season.
Not only do they have to game-plan, run practices, manage conflicting personalities and, ultimately, win games, but they have to do so in a manner that endears themselves to the fans and front office alike.
If they don't, they'll likely be out of a job relatively quickly. Unfortunately for the following coaches, things didn't always go according to plan.
Here follows the list of the NHL's most hated coaches—because we all love to hate guys in suits, especially when they're standing behind the bench for our favorite (or most hated) team.
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Marc Crawford earned notoriety in NHL circles not for his success as a head coach, but most notably for encouraging his Vancouver Canucks to seek retribution on Colorado Avalanche player Steve Moore during the '04 season.
Crawford made known to his team that Moore’s hit on Vancouver’s Markus Naslund in a previous game should not go unpunished, even though the NHL had reviewed the hit and deemed it legal.
I’m sure Crawford didn’t have it in his mind that his players should end Moore’s career, but that was the end result of Vancouver’s Todd Bertuzzi driving Moore into the ice and breaking three of Moore’s vertebrae.
If that doesn’t earn you a reputation as a hated NHL coach, there are few things that will.
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Mike Keenan’s coaching resume is full of controversy, as he’s been fired or resigned from numerous NHL head coaching positions during his career.
Most—if not all—of the time, the decisions to leave a team were based on Keenan’s inability to connect with his players or front office.
Butting heads was basically his second job; after all, he didn’t get the nickname “Iron Mike” because he enjoys lifting weights in his spare time.
Keenan’s stubbornness has made him pretty difficult to get along with; to his credit though, he’s never changed his personality due to others' opinions of him.
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Well known for his team’s excellent performance as head coach of the Dallas Stars, Ken Hitchcock isn’t the easiest coach for players to love.
Hitchcock’s authoritative style works well when it comes to leading a team, but often rubs his players the wrong way.
His tenure with the Stars ended during the '01-'02 season after the team got off to a mediocre start following the previous season’s playoff appearance.
The most telling part of his departure from the team was simply the discord between players and management.
In short, the Dallas players voted Hitchcock off the island. I wonder why.
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Ron Wilson has extensive coaching experience at the NHL and international levels; he also has a widespread hatred directed at him by fans and players alike.
To his credit, Wilson is one of seven NHL head coaches in history to win 600 games, but that doesn’t mean he’s easy to get along with.
Wilson has yet to take his current team—the Toronto Maple Leafs—to the playoffs since taking the helm in '08, which hasn’t exactly endeared him to the hockey-crazed Toronto fans.
It’s been well-documented that players dislike Wilson, as evidenced by Toronto’s apparent willingness to lie down against other teams. Wilson’s motivational tactics need some adjusting, to put it lightly.
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(Don’t start hyperventilating just yet, Washington Capitals fans.)
There’s only one person who thinks Bruce Boudreau belongs on this list: Alex Ovechkin.
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Current New York Rangers head coach John Tortorella is most easily characterized as being an outspoken leader behind the bench.
His methods have often come under fire from players and the media as Tortorella’s fiery personality sometimes leads to foot-in-mouth syndrome.
Unfortunately for his players, that sometimes means scathing criticisms directed at them in public. Apparently, what happens in the locker room doesn’t necessarily stay there.
Tortorella’s resume includes a Stanley Cup (as coach of the 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning), but that doesn’t absolve him of his reputation as a coach widely disliked by players and fans.
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I realize he’s the greatest hockey player who ever lived, but the Wayne Gretzky coaching experiment in Phoenix was a debacle.
The situation surrounding Gretzky’s ownership stake in the Coyotes, the fact that Gretzky brought in his agent to serve as general manager, and Gretzky’s contract extension all garnered much resentment and disrespect as the team’s head coach.
Granted, Gretzky didn’t have a star-studded lineup in Phoenix during his coaching tenure, but the responsibility of motivating a team falls squarely on the head coach.
Throw in the uncertainty surrounding the team’s financial stability and the situation with Gretzky was bound to fail.
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Scotty Bowman is regarded as one of the greatest coaches in any major professional sport; his record nine Stanley Cup Championships as a head coach serves as testament.
Why then is he one of the NHL's most hated coaches? Simple: because he’s the best.
As the New York Yankees will tell you, being the best in a given sport has its drawbacks—namely, everyone around the league starts to dislike you because of your accomplishments.
If you’re a Detroit Red Wings fan, you probably love Bowman in spite of his gruff demeanor behind the bench. After all, he presided over the Wings during a run of three Stanley Cups in six years.
But if you don’t root for Detroit, Bowman is probably someone you hate, even if you can’t quite put your finger on why that is.
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*Disclaimer: this pick might be limited to New York Islanders and New York Rangers fans.
Bryan Trottier is considered one of the best Islanders players ever, but even that mantle didn’t stop some Isles supporters from turning against him when he took the Rangers head coaching job in 2002.
Further, it didn’t take long for Rangers fans to side with Islanders fans in their dislike of Trottier as their new coach.
Apparently, the hatred for Trottier didn’t limit itself to fans only—the Rangers front office fired him from his position after only 54 games.
Wolf “The Dentist” Stansson
While I realize that Wolf Stansson—aka “The Dentist” during his fictional playing days—wasn’t an NHL head coach (or even a real person for that matter), he definitely deserves a place on any list of hockey most-hateds.
Stansson was the head coach for Iceland during the Junior Goodwill Games in the movie D2: The Mighty Ducks. And while he might be a fictional coach, his personality behind the bench (and on ice) was enough to land him on this list.
Stansson repeatedly authorized dirty tactics as the Iceland coach, even going so far as to show his players what it meant to win at any cost.
Stansson’s blatant slash to Ducks coach Gordon Bombay’s knee during a pickup game of three-bar (at 3:17 of the above clip) is already enshrined in the dirty plays Hall of Fame; Stansson filled the role of villain both in the movie and in the hearts of kids watching D2 everywhere.
You have to admit, no list of most hated coaches is complete without “The Dentist” on it.