Tomorrow Sports Illustrated’s latest edition hits the news stands. In this edition there is a story on the dirtiest players in the NHL. The fine people at SI sent me an advance copy. This is not some panel of media people or blowhards like yours truly giving you their list. This list was compiled by polling 324 players. Yes, NHL players telling you through blind polling who they think the dirtiest players are. I love this type of thing because the anonymity allows the players to vote exactly they way they feel even if they are voting for a team mate or against a team mate….you know what I mean.
Not shockingly the winner is….Anaheim’s Chris Pronger. Actually he tied for first with Dallas agitator Steve Ott. Both garnered 13% of the total vote. Senators forward Jarkko Ruutu is 3rd at 12%, then in 4th is Rangers carney Sean Avery and in 5th is Flyers forward Scott Hartnell.
The top 5 are all dirty in different ways with the exception of Ruutu and Ott. Pronger simply wants to hurt people. His long list of suspensions and head shots have clearly been documented. I like him. I would have him on my team any day.
Ott and Ruutu are both the sneaky guys who try to annoy and distract you until you snap. I would have both on my team simply because they are both indeed weasels, but they will fight when push comes to shove. This type of role in the NHL is effective, but I still have a problem with the players who create these situations but leave the fighting to their team mates.
That brings us to Sean Avery. He (in my view) is in the category above. I know he has been in fights, but too often his team mates have had to do it for him. I know some of them and they don’t appreciate the situations he puts them in, but is rarely around to account for. In addition too many of his antics both on and off the ice are an embarrassment to the game. He has brought nothing to the game thus far except farcical ridicule especially from non mainstream hockey media. CNN shows very little in the way of hockey and Sean Avery has been on CNN more times than any player in the last 5 years. They have never shown anything about him or the league which is the least bit flattering to either.
And last but not least in our top 5 is Scott Hartnell. I don’t mind Hartnell at all. Very good player who competes hard and has a decent skill level. Problem with him is too often thinking comes after acting. He led the NHL in minor penalties this season. That usually means too many dumb penalties, lazy penalties and discipline and selfishness related penalties. Wouldn’t want him on my team. Good guy by all accounts but just hurts his team too often.
I clearly have a problem though. As I look over this blog before I post it, I realize the dirtier the player, the more I seem to like him. Maybe that isn’t exactly true either. The players I like have an edge but also some degree of honor. You might not find many players who agree that Ruutu and Ott have as much honor as they would like, but that’s just the way I see it.
Chris Pronger is the dirtiest and maybe the most dangerous player in the NHL and if I were a GM I would want him at the top of my list too.
See you at the rink.