12 Genuine Good Guys in the NHLJune 21, 2016
12 Genuine Good Guys in the NHL
There are good guys in all of the major sports, but it seems like the NHL may have more of them than baseball, football or basketball.
There are plenty of reasons for that, but the hard road traveled by many Canadian youngsters who see the tremendous sacrifices made by their parents just for the chance to play organized hockey may have quite a bit to do with it.
Even great players tend to be humble, and they remain grateful for a chance to play in the NHL and get whatever recognition comes their way.
Past generations had superstars like Jean Beliveau, Bobby Orr and Wayne Gretzky. Beliveau may be his sport's equivalent of Joe DiMaggio, while Orr and Gretzky are generally recognized as the two best players in hockey history.
The late Beliveau was known for his personal warmth and class, while superstardom never spoiled Orr or Gretzky. Both of them are known for their desire to make life better for others.
There are many wonderful individuals in today's game, and we look at 12 of the best of them.
Jarome Iginla, Colorado Avalanche
There is little doubt that Jarome Iginla has been one of the top players in the NHL since he came into the league as a 19-year-old rookie with the Calgary Flames in 1996-97.
Iginla has scored 525 goals in his career and has added 570 assists. Iginla has always been able to stand up for himself, and he has totaled 831 penalty minutes during his time with the Calgary Flames, Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins and Colorado Avalanche.
But there has always been a lot more to Iginla than putting the puck in the net. He is a warm, welcoming individual who goes above and beyond when it comes to making teammates feel comfortable.
Ryan O'Reilly played with Iginla in Colorado during the 2014-15 season before moving onto the Buffalo Sabres. He enjoyed his association with "Iggy" tremendously.
“The one thing I would love the hockey world to know is that Jarome is probably one of the nicest people in the game," O'Reilly said, via NHLPA.com. "He is very approachable and you can honestly talk to him about anything. He has showed me that you can never have too much humility and it has been an honor to play with a future Hall of Famer.”
Shawn Thornton, Florida Panthers
When it comes to his behavior on the ice, Shawn Thornton may not be what most consider to be a nice guy, at least on the surface.
For the majority of his career, Thornton has served as a policeman for the Chicago Blackhawks, Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins and Florida Panthers.
Thornton has been a part of Stanley Cup-winning teams with the Ducks and Bruins.
He has developed his ability to protect himself and his teammates, and he has never hesitated to throw down his gloves and put up his hands when required. He is especially passionate about defending smaller and slicker teammates who are among the better offensive players.
But when Thornton leaves the arena, he is devoted to helping his community and he continues to work hard.
His Shawn Thornton Foundation has been thoroughly involved in raising awareness and funding for Parkinson's disease and severely injured soldiers and providing help for their families.
Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings
Henrik Zetterberg has been one of the Detroit Red Wings' primary leaders since scoring 22 goals as a rookie in 2002-03.
He earned the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Stanley Cup playoffs MVP in 2008, when the Red Wings last won the Stanley Cup. The 35-year-old center has been a dynamic two-way performer who has scored 309 goals and 836 points in his career.
In addition to his stellar performance on the ice, Zetterberg is known for his outgoing and sometimes outrageous personality.
Why outrageous? When Zetterberg and wife Emma got married in their native Sweden in 2010, the theme of the wedding was old-fashioned bathing suits. Not only did Zetterberg and his wife get dressed up in gray bathing suits that looked like prison uniforms, so did their guests.
If there's a laugh out there, Zetterberg will find it!
Shane Doan, Arizona Coyotes
Shane Doan is a hockey fixture in the desert.
While he played his rookie season with the old Winnipeg Jets in 1995-96 as a 19-year-old skater, he has remained with the franchise since the team moved to Arizona prior to the 1996-97 season.
Doan has had the opportunity to move on to greener pastures, but he has been happy to play and live in Arizona for the large majority of his career.
Doan is the captain of the Coyotes, and he has been a sensational ambassador for the franchise. Not only does he help new teammates feel comfortable in the environment, but he has gone above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to meeting and greeting the public.
Doan will regularly leave his comfort zone to meet Coyotes fans who just want to say hello.
Mike Sadowski from Saskatchewan, Canada, came down to see the Coyotes and meet the team's players (h/t Jaime Eisner of SB Nation). Since it was the night before Thanksgiving, many players scrambled out of the team's workout facility quickly. But Doan stayed to work out, and when he saw Sadowski waiting, he came and talked to the longtime Coyotes fan for 20 minutes.
That story is not unique as far as Doan is concerned. He is a genuinely warm person who enjoys meeting and spending time with the team's fans.
Dion Phaneuf, Ottawa Senators
Dion Phaneuf was given one of the most extraordinary tasks in the league when he was traded by the Calgary Flames to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2010.
Phaneuf was a young and powerful defenseman, and the Leafs thought they could build a winning team with the ex-Flame as the centerpiece. He would eventually become the Leafs captain.
While he was not able to help the Leafs turn the corner, he was the kind of captain that teammates love and respect. He set the example for the team in practices and made sure that the locker room was always positive despite the team's difficulties.
However, Phaneuf has been about a lot more than getting his team ready to perform on the ice. He has always tried to give back to the community, and he also tries to get his teammates involved in that area as well.
He donated a luxury box, out of his own pocket, to the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto throughout his run with the Leafs on a nearly every-night basis, according to Jeff Veillette of The Leafs Nation. In addition to doing that, he challenged each of his teammates to do the same thing at least once per year.
Phaneuf may never have led the Leafs to successfully turn their fortunes around, but when it came to doing things the right way in the locker room and getting involved with the community, he has done a superb job.
Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
Patrice Bergeron has long been looked at as one of the best and most responsible players in the NHL, and he is the player the Boston Bruins count on in their most important situations.
Bergeron has won the Selke Trophy as the NHL's best defensive forward three times and he could pick up the award a fourth time since he is a finalist in 2015-16.
Bergeron led the Bruins to the 2011 Stanley Cup when he scored two goals in the seventh game of the Stanley Cup Final against the Vancouver Canucks. He has also been part of two gold medal-winning teams for Canada's Olympic hockey team.
He is a very effective offensive player and a shutdown presence on defense.
Bergeron is all about encouraging his teammates in the Bruins locker room while always maintaining a respectful attitude toward his opponents.
Bergeron is also a huge contributor to the Boston community for his work off the ice. He was the recipient of the Community Service Award in 2014, an honor that was previously presented to Bruins legend (and team president) Cam Neely and ex-Boston Celtics superstar Larry Bird.
Bergeron started Patrice's Pals, an organization that brings sick children from Boston-area hospitals to Bruins home games, getting to watch the game from Bergeron's luxury box.
"It means a lot—definitely a huge honor. Very grateful to get recognized like that," Bergeron told Caryn Switaj of BostonBruins.com. "You know, it's definitely something I do, first and foremost, for the kids. I like to be involved, but I definitely don't do it for the awards."
T.J. Oshie, Washington Capitals
T.J. Oshie became something of an American folk hero during the 2014 Sochi Olympics when his talent as a shootout specialist made front-page headlines across the country.
When a game between the U.S. and Russia remained tied after overtime, a shootout ensued. Unlike NHL rules, which permit a player to shoot just once, each team can allow a player to have multiple attempts once three players have taken their initial shots.
Oshie, one of the most skilled players in one-on-one situations, was the choice of the American coaches. He ended up taking six shootout attempts and he scored on four of them. That allowed the U.S. to secure a 3-2 victory over their hosts.
Oshie has played eight years in the NHL, seven with the St. Louis Blues and one with the Washington Capitals. He is coming off scoring a career high with 26 goals this season, and he clearly adapted well to the Capitals system.
Oshie also gives back to the community, per Brandi Jewett of the Grand Forks Herald. He became involved with the Make-A-Wish Foundation when he met Chris Hendrickson, a youngster with Morquio syndrome, an ailment that causes cells to become deformed and affect bone growth.
Oshie met Hendrickson while he was still with the Blues, and the two played hockey together, per Nina Mandell of For the Win. Oshie also brought Hendrickson into the locker room and then he got to watch the Blues game from the broadcast booth. Oshie scored in that game and he gave the puck to Hendrickson.
Oshie is a charitable and kind player, and he tries to get to know the individuals he helps, and that makes him as unique as the shootout victory he led the United State to in Sochi.
Jason Spezza, Dallas Stars
Jason Spezza has spent 13 years in the NHL and has been one of the league's more consistent point producers over that time.
Spezza spent the first 11 years of his career with the Ottawa Senators and the past two with the Dallas Stars. As that young team has started to climb the NHL ladder, Spezza has provided the Stars with talent and veteran leadership. He has scored at nearly a point-per-game pace throughout his career, with 812 points in 843 games.
He has been an excellent fit for head coach Lindy Ruff, and he has proved to be a solid presence in a locker room that includes Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and John Klingberg.
He was fully involved in charitable endeavors during his time in Ottawa, and he regularly takes part in events in Dallas.
He was recently part of Dominic Moore's Smashfest, a charity pingpong event in Toronto put on by the New York Rangers forward, per Chris Lomon of NHLPA.com.
Spezza also played in a charity ball hockey event with tennis superstar Roger Federer in conjunction with the Rogers Cup tennis tournament in Toronto.
“I love watching tennis,” said Spezza, per NHLPA.com. “I’ve been lucky enough to meet some of the best players in the world. So, when you are able to hang out and play some hockey with a tennis great like Roger Federer, it’s pretty cool.”
Mike Fisher, Nashville Predators
Mike Fisher is not an NHL superstar, but he has managed to last 16 seasons in the NHL while playing for the Ottawa Senators and the Nashville Predators.
Fisher may not have the goal-scoring touch of the league's top players, but he is a hard worker who knows how to come through in clutch situations. He has scored 543 points in 1,016 games and he excels as a checker and a defensive player.
He had an outstanding postseason for the Predators this year, as he scored five goals and two assists in 14 games as the Predators ousted the Anaheim Ducks in seven games and went the full limit with the San Jose Sharks before losing in seven games.
Fisher, married to country superstar Carrie Underwood since 2010, makes it a point to give back to the community when he is not playing hockey.
Fisher is involved with Roger's House, Hockey Ministries and the Make-A-Wish Foundation, per his official website. Roger's House is a charity that helps children facing serious illnesses, while Hockey Ministries makes it a point to serve the spiritual needs of hockey players, coaches, their families and fans.
Fisher also runs a hockey camp that more than 130 youngsters attended, and the charities above benefited from a $50,000 donation from that camp, per his website.
Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild
Zach Parise is one of the most competitive players in the NHL, and in a league filled with hardworking overachievers he is right at the top of the list.
The term overachiever often is associated with a player who does not have a lot of natural talent. That's certainly not the case with Parise, who has the skating ability, instincts and skills to have been a key performer on the U.S. Olympic team in 2010 and 2014. Parise has exceeded the 30-goal mark six times in his 11-year career.
Parise is a charitable and giving individual when he is not on the ice. One of the organizations that he contributes to is Defending the Blue Line, which ensures children of military members are afforded every opportunity to play hockey.
"It's a really neat organization and, I guess, a really small thing that we can do just to show our appreciation for what they've been doing for us," Parise said during a guest spot on NHL Live in 2014.
P.K. Subban, Montreal Canadiens
The 2015-16 season was not the best for P.K. Subban and his teammates on the Montreal Canadiens.
After a brilliant start that saw them reel off nine straight wins to open the season, things quickly unraveled. By December, the Habs were in a deep slump and they were never able to rescue their season.
Instead of playing for the Stanley Cup, the Canadiens didn't make the playoffs. Subban, who won the Norris Trophy following the 2012-13 season, had to absorb much of the criticism. After scoring 15 goals in 2014-15, he found the back of the net just six times last year.
He was shooting the puck as hard as ever, but he was often off-target. But a poor year for the Habs most likely means a redoubled effort next year. That is especially true for Subban, who was not named to Canada's team in the World Cup of Hockey.
While he did not have the kind of year he would have wanted on the ice, he was an All-Star off of it. Shortly after signing a contract extension with the Canadiens, Subban did something extraordinary.
He made the largest single charitable donation ever by a Canadian athlete when he gave $10 million to the Montreal Children’s Hospital, per Nate Scott of For the Win.
In addition to the huge contribution, Subban is a regular visitor to the hospital. His goal is to visit and cheer up children who are enduring illnesses and trying to recover.
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Speed, instincts, accurate passing, timing, stick-handling ability and a blazing shot. These are all characteristics that help make Sidney Crosby one of the best players in the world.
He may be at the top of the list, and there are few who would be able to argue that he does not belong there.
Crosby has already played 11 years with the Pittsburgh Penguins and he has scored a remarkable 938 points in 707 career regular-season games. Crosby has won the Hart Trophy twice as the NHL's MVP and he has also led the league in scoring twice.
He has led Canada to two gold medals in the Olympics, and he won his second Stanley Cup championship this season as the Penguins dispatched the San Jose Sharks in the Stanley Cup Final.
He also started the Sidney Crosby Foundation in 2009, and this organization is dedicated to helping charities that are devoted to helping children.
In addition to his own foundation, he has done quite a bit of work with charities like the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Special Olympics of Allegheny County.
Crosby has been a superstar since he was the No. 1 draft choice of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2005, and he he has been one for his off-ice work as well.