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Offseason Opinions: Don’t Hate the Game, Hate the Player

Hockey hatred runs deep.

Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Rangers - Game Two Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

One of the fun parts of being a hockey fan is that you don’t just get to root for your own team - you get to develop fierce rivalries, vitriol, and hatred for other teams. So which players have drawn our ire over the years?

Who are your most disliked non-Caps, current/all-time?

Becca: Those who know me, whether in real life or on the interwebs, know that I have plenty of hockey hatred to go around… but I will try to keep it to the top 20 or 30. Ish.

Current? Evgeni Malkin, the second-rate superstar who never, ever seems to get called for all the dirty shit he pulls on the ice. Chris Kreider, because he is Satan’s lovechild (although I’ll fully admit that I don’t exactly have a ton of logic to back this one up). Steven Stamkos, forever a weenie. Jonathan Marchessault, who just seems like A Lot and has bugged me ever since the Cup Final. Tony DeAngelo, Patrick Kane, Casey DeSmith, Evander Kane, and (to a lesser extent) Auston Matthews for being pure scum. And anyone who plays for or writes about the Carolina Hurricanes and Pittsburgh Penguins.

All-time is a little trickier, because as a kid I had tunnel vision when it came to the Caps and kind of ignored the other teams… but man, Mario Lemieux was and remains the worst, although Danny “Magical Spearing Midget” is up there for me.

Luke: All time for me is Sean Avery. He wasn’t just a pest but off the ice was also just a garbage person. He was/is very easy not to like. Currently? Marchand is a slam dunk for most annoying. Reaves is an easy answer but it’s more for the love of him that’s annoying. He’s not a good hockey player and people drool over him like he’s a top-six powerhouse like Tom Wilson. Side note: Jake Guentzels face is so punchable.

Peerless: Current – That’s a tough one. The Penguins cast a long shadow over the candidate pool here, and among that group, I’d have to say Evgeni Malkin. He doesn’t get as much blame for being a dirty player as he should, or at least a player who acts in dirty fashion reflexively if his sensibilities are abused. He is second among active players in penalty minutes charged in games against the Caps (74; Eric Gudbranson has 76). That he also is second among active players in points recorded against the Caps (71; Sidney Crosby has 84) doesn’t help, either. Among non-Penguins, Brad Marchand, the Donald Segretti of NHL players, the league’s leading “ratf***er.”

All time — Pat Verbeek. Sure, for the one play that might have cost the Caps a trip to a Stanley Cup final when he sliced open Rod Langway’s calf in the second round of the 1988 playoffs, but that guy was just a freakin’ weasel. Looked like one, too.

J.P.: Ah, villainy. Could fandom even really exist without truly loathsome opposition? Could our emotional investment in our favorite players and teams reach the level of intensity that it does without being fueled by disdain for those who would stand in their way? Of course not. So we pick out a boogeyman or 23 along the way. Sometimes it’s easier than others (did you really hate any Florida Panthers before that series started last spring?), and, hard as it may be to believe, one fanbase’s hero is another’s villain (see Wilson, Thomas).

But the guys who tend to top the list are the ones who you’d admit, if only to yourself in your most private moments, that you’d want on your side when the chips are down - the Malkins, the Marchands - because they’re as likely to beat you with skill as they are to come at you with dipshittery. (There’s a separate category for guys who specialize in the latter… looking at you, Ryan Reaves.)

So Peerless’s names are good ones. But, really, I can gin up the hate on-demand for just about anyone… because it’s part of what makes fandom work.

Bryan: Brad Marchand, Pat Verbeek, Brendan Shanahan, Ryan Reaves, Ryan McDonagh, Tim Thomas, Sean Avery, Matt Cooke, ROD BRIND’AMOUR, and these guys:

Geoff: All time? Buckle up:

Warren Foegele because he has yet to get his. Carter Verhaeghe. Ryan White’s predatory charge. Bryan Rust. Rich Clune after abusing Patrick Wey in the latter’s 9th game. Derek Stepan. Dan Boyle for his slew foot. Dwayne Roloson. Aaron Asham’s style. Joffrey Lupul. Jon Sim’s .41 GPG average in 29 contests against Washington (career mark of only .16 GPG). Martin St. Louis. Rene Bourque’s final game as a Flame. Jaroslav Halak (Rocking the Red later didn’t help). Martin Straka (and Sergei Gonchar). Václav Prospal specifically as a Lightning and Flyer.

Okay, we’ve had our say. Now it’s your turn! Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments below.