By Allan Muir
So Forbes came out with an article detailing America’s 10 most disliked athletes. No surprise that hockey wasn’t represented on the list. I mean, “most-disliked” simply doesn’t apply to this game. We don’t deal in anything so namby-pamby. Hockey’s all about passion, about love and hate. So here are the guys you most love to loathe.
10. Patrick Kaleta, Sabres
Reacting to Kaleta’s 2009 head shot on Montreal’s Andrei Markov, TSN’s Dave Hodge wondered if the agitator might be better off playing without a stick since he wasn’t bothering to play the puck. Kaleta has matured somewhat, but he’s still basically a hit-to-hurt player, a human missile with little interest in anything other than creating chaos on ice.
9. Steve Ott, Sabres
I had a hard time putting him on this list because there are plenty of players around the league who respect Ott’s hellbent-for-leather game. Still, he’s made his share of enemies as hockey’s most industrious chirper (the guy does his homework to personalize his taunts for maximum impact) and as someone who isn’t afraid to deliver a late hit.
8. Jordin Tootoo, Red Wings
Tootoo earned his shot in the NHL as a high-energy winger who could send a message with a thundering body check. He’s since gained a reputation as a careless player, someone who’ll hit too high, too low or too late. He’s been suspended multiple times, most recently for running Ryan Miller.
7. Alex Burrows, Canucks
Maybe it’s because he had to work his way up from the ECHL, but Burrows plays the game with a chip on his shoulder…not always the good kind. This is the guy who bit Patrice Bergeron’s finger during the Stanley Cup Final two years ago. He’s also the notorious diver who showed up referee Stephane Auger with a post-whistle smirk. Burrows has too much talent to resort to cheap tricks.
6. Mike Ribeiro, Capitals
It’s hard to say what makes Ribeiro more detestable: his incessant yapping or his constant flopping. For a strong skater, it’s amazing how easy he is to knock off his feet (the breeze from a skate-by or a sideways glance often does the trick). And the whining: Does anyone gripe more to the officials about things not going his way?
5. Raffi Torres, Coyotes
Now that Matt Cooke has reformed his game, Torres might be hockey’s most dangerous cheap shot artist. Free to wreak havoc again after serving the 21-game suspension he earned last spring for nearly decapitating Marian Hossa, he’s due to leave his feet for a late hit any day now.
4. Daniel Carcillo, Blackhawks
Carcillo is the boy who cried wolf, the NHL’s most prolific embellisher. He’s been called a fraud and an embarrassment to the game by Pierre McGuire. His act even inspired a Carcillo Academy of Diving t-shirt. And that doesn’t even take into account his reputation for late, high hits.
3. Brad Marchand, Bruins
Like Burrows, the Little Ball of Hate plays the game on (and often over) the edge. He hits late, he hits low, and he’s got a mouth the size of Boston Harbor. Then he rubs it in by being a pretty decent player.
2. Max Lapierre, Canucks
Mike Milbury called Lapierre a “punk” and said he “denigrates the game” after a series of incidents during the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. Lapierre has talent, but it seems like he works double-time to cover it up with his chirping and after-the-whistle contact. He might be the league’s premier hit-and-run artist, stirring the pot and leaving others on his team to pay the price.
1. P.K. Subban, Canadiens
So maybe the recent report on Hockey Night In Canada suggesting that Subban is hated in the Habs’ dressing room was overstated, but it’s obvious that he has bridges to rebuild, and not just because of his lengthy contract dispute. Subban’s flashy personality on and off the ice is a break from hockey tradition, and that clearly rankles some people. Too bad. I think the game needs more characters like him.