There were 34 suspensions handed out in the NHL this season, totalling 119 games missed. This on top of 16 fines levied by the league to players, teams or coaches for an announced total of $203,000 (plus several undisclosed amounts). So it's no secret the NHL has its share of dirty players. But throughout the long history of the league, who have been the dirtiest, the nastiest, the meanest players to ever lace up a pair of skates? Here are our picks.
NHLI via Getty ImagesJoe Sargent
Claude Lemieux was known as a clutch playoff performer with the New Jersey Devils and the Colorado Avalanche, but he was also one of the most hated players in the game. While playing for Montreal early in his career, Lemiuex reportedly bit Flames forward Jim Peplinski on the finger during a fight in a playoff game. But it was a controversial check against Red Wings forward Kris Draper that cemented his reputation. The hit, which saw Lemieux drive Draper's face into the glass from behind, gave Draper a concussion, broken jaw, broken nose and a broken cheekbone. Draper had to have reconstructive surgery on his face and his jaw was wired shut for several weeks afterward. If you ever wondered why the Red Wings and Avalanche hate each other, now you know.
Sean Avery is as notorious a pest as there is in the NHL today. The Rangers forward is known for drawing penalties from the opposition after making them angry. One incident caused the NHL to create the "Sean Avery Rule." On April 13, 2008, in a first-round playoff game against the Devils, Avery waved his hands and stick in front of Devils goalie Martin Brodeur. He wasn't whistled for a penalty, but the hockey world called it "unsportsmanlike," and the league issued an interpretaion of its unsportsmanlike conduct rule the next day to include incidents like this in the future. After the series, Brodeur refused to shake Avery's hand in the handshake line.
NHLI via Getty ImagesMike Stobe
Tie Domi accumulated 3,515 penalty minutes in his NHL career, and few of them resulted from clean play. Some of the notable incidents in Domi's career include: -- An eight-game suspension after sucker-punching the Rangers' Ulf Samuelsson (far from a clean player himself) -- A $1,000 fine for spraying a water bottle at a heckler behind the penalty box in Philadelphia -- After elbowing Devils defenseman Scott Niedermayer behind the play and giving him a concussion during an Eastern Conference semifinal game on May 3, 2001, Domi, playing for the Maple Leafs at the time, was suspended for the remainder of the playoffs.
On March 8, 2004, in retaliation for a hit that gave Canucks captain Markus Naslund a concussion in their previous meeting with Colorado, Todd Bertuzzi punched Avs forward Steve Moore in the back of the head and knocked him down face-first into the ice, with Bertuzzi pushing Moore's head into the ice as he fell on top of him. The attack left Moore with a concussion, several broken vertebrae and facial lacerations. Bertuzzi, who broke down at a press conference while apologizing for the attack, was suspended indefinitely by the NHL. During the lockout which followed the 2003-04 season, the International Ice Hockey Federation extended the NHL's suspension to prevent Bertuzzi from playing in Europe during the lockout. Bertuzzi also faced legal action from provincial governments in Canada and a civil suit from Moore.
Marty McSorley was definitely a physical player during his 17 NHL seasons, amassing 3,381 penalty minutes in his career. But one on-ice incident will forever be McSorley's lasting legacy. While playing for the Bruins in Vancouver on Feb. 21, 2000, McSorley swung his stick and hit the Canucks' Donald Brashear in the head with three second left in the game. As a result of the hit and the fall to the ice, Brashear suffered a grade 3 concussion. Both the NHL and the Canadian judicial system came down hard on McSorley in the wake of the incident. He was suspended for a full year from the NHL and was found guilty of assault and given an 18-month probation sentence. McSorley never returned to the NHL after serving out his suspension.
"Mr. Hockey" was one of the all-time greats of the game, having played in the NHL for parts of five different decades. But Howe also was known as "Mr. Elbows" during his playing career. Afterall, there's a reason a "Gordie Howe hat trick" is comprised of a goal, an assist and a fight in the same game.
The heart and soul of the Flyers team known as the Broad Street Bullies, Clarke was never afraid to break the rules, be it in an NHL game or an international exhibition. While playing for Team Canada in the 1972 Summit Series against the Soviet Union, Clarke notoriously slashed Russian star winger Valeri Kharlamovon the ankle, which is still a sore subject in and around Moscow.
The Penguins' Matt Cooke has been the poster child over the past few seasons for those calling for the NHL to make rule changes to protect players from shots to the head. Cooke was suspended twice in 2008-09 for hits to the head. Last season, Cooke delivered a hit to the head of the Bruins' Marc Savard that caused a concussion from which Savard has yet to fully recover, but Cooke was not suspended for that one. This season, Cooke has cemented his reputation as the dirtiest current NHL player by getting suspended twice for illegal hits, once (four games) for hitting the Blue Jackets' Fedor Tyutin from behind and into the glass, and he is currently sidelined for elbowing the Rangers' Ryan McDonagh in the head. For the McDonagh hit, Cooke was suspended for the final 10 games of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs.
Getty ImagesJamie Sabau
Dale Hunter holds the distinction of being the first player in NHL history to record over 1,000 points and 3,000 penalty minutes. His 1,020 points is nice in 1,407 career NHL games, but it's the 3,565 PIMs that make him a contender on this list. It's the second highest career total (surpassed only by uber-goon Tiger Williams' 3,966), but the man nicknamed "Nuisance" earned his place on this list with a playoff incident in 1993. Well after the Islanders' Pierre Turgeon stole the puck from Hunter and scored to put Game 6 of the 1993 Patrick Division semis against Hunter's Capitals out of reach, Hunter skated over and checked the unsuspecting Islanders' star while he was celebrating the goal, causing a separated shoulder that kept him out most of the next two playoff series. Hunter was given a 21-game suspension to start the following season, which was the longest suspension at the time for an on-ice incident.
Chris Simon served eight suspensions over his 15 NHL seasons for a total of 65 games sat out. But two incidents really stick out on his resume that pushed him to the top of our list. While playing for the Islanders on March 8, 2007, Simon responded to a check he felt was dirty from then-Rangers forward Ryan Hollweg by hitting Hollweg in the face with his stick as he skated by him. Simon was eventually suspended for a minimum of 25, which continued into the into the first five games of the 2007-08 season. Simon later apologized for the incident. On Dec. 15, 2007, Simon was involved in an incident with then-Penguins forward Jarkko Ruutu in which he forced Ruutu to the ice, and then stepped on the back of Ruutu's leg with his skate. This resulted in a 30-game suspension and an "indefinite leave" from the Islanders.