Hockey fans don’t agree on a lot.
In fact, they rarely agree upon anything. Especially now, in a game where even the score can be disputed, it’s really a miracle that anyone agrees upon anything. There is one thing, however, that will always bring people together. One thing that can bring Habs and Leafs fans into a warm embrace, and could even probably make Brandon Manning and Connor McDavid hold hands and sing kumbaya around a fire.
That thing, of course, is hating other people. There’s nothing that could bring two opposing parties together like a good old fashioned bond over a common hatred, and the NHL has no shortage of those. While hockey has long since established its reputation as a gentleman’s sport, it’s no secret that the game has its few key characters that keep the action both exciting and infuriating. Here are three of hockey’s favourite players to hate.
3. Nazem Kadri
To be fair, the guy’s come a long way. The homegrown London, ON centreman was drafted in 2009 to the same organization he grew up loving, and has played there ever since. It hasn’t always been sunshine and rainbows for Kadri, though. His love for chirping, and his notorious dives in order to draw calls have made him an easy addition to the top three. Kadri was deemed a repeat offender by the league for picking up various serious suspensions from the 2013 on, and after a quick three game suspension stint imposed by the Leafs organization as punishment for showing up late to morning meeting, it was unclear whether or not Kadri would included in the ‘Shanaplan’.
Since the arrival of a few power forwards in Toronto, Kadri’s role has changed completely. He went from being expected to drive the Leaf’s offense, to being the guy to get in the head of any of the top players on opposing teams. And he is relishing in it. From pestering Connor McDavid (and then completely undressing him to score the overtime winner), to infamously almost killing Daniel Sedin, it’s safe to say Kadri had a pretty hate-able 2017 season.
To be fair, Naz was around for some pretty miserable Leafs teams. I would probably be kind of bitter too.
2. Zdeno Chara
Where do you even start with this guy? Actually, I know where we start. Let’s start here. The hit that speaks for itself. Or screams for itself. I don’t really know what that hit is saying, honestly, but whatever it is is not good. Even six years later, the controversy surrounding this specific play still isn’t over, and are we sure Pacioretty even survived this hit? It doesn’t really seem that he did, if we take a look at his playoff stats from this year, but that’s besides the point. We can’t forget the time he sucker punched Sidney Crosby after the Kid had recently returned from a broken jaw, or about the time he told Darren Dreger that he would not be standing on a box to interview his 6’9 self. Overall a pretty unlikeable guy.
It’s worth mentioning that he is genuinely one of the best defensemen of his generation and has a slapshot that could definitely kill me if he ever read this article. He is also terrifying.
1. Brad Marchand
Look, I don’t mean to pick on Boston here, but these are two guys that you just can’t omit.
Often referred to as “the little ball of hate”, there are stories that highlight Marchand’s unpredictable acts of rage from as early as when he was 14 and turned around to two handed slash an opponent who was attempting to check him. This was the start of what would become one of the most notably irritating and erratic players in NHL history.
While players with size, like Chara, are quick to get whistled down for any behaviour that deemed out of bounds, Marchand, who stands at a rodent-esque 5’9 will often be able to push boundaries with illegal and some straight up dirty plays. I’m fairly certain people in Vancouver still ceremoniously burn pictures of him after his jack-hammer style punch on D. Sedin (who gets beat up a lot, apparently) in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, and after the unceremonious destruction of Sami Salo’s legs in a dirty hip check like no other.
Dirty plays aside, Marchand is a whiner. He was the first guy to tweet and voice his complaints about the NHL’s crackdown on face off violations, and even went as far as to get into a debate with a fan on Twitter about it. Classy, Brad.
As much as these guys may ruffle feathers, they add an element to the game that could only be described as controversial and unpredictable. There will always be a spot for guys who evoke emotional responses from other players on NHL rosters, and there will always be a spot for them in the hearts of fans who cheer for their teams – even if there’s not in anyone else’s.