The NHL’s most hated player?

When GQ recently published their top 10 most hated athletes, I was shocked not to see a hockey player among them. I mean, come on, there’s a sport fisherman!

Then I thought, “Well, perhaps hockey players are just all-around good guys. Perhaps they are the model athletes, beacons of light in the darkness.”

Then I thought of Jeremy Roenick, and that theory went right out the window. I can’t stand this man, and I’m not alone.

JR does have some admirable qualities. First, he’s been a very good player for 17 years. Secondly, he’s tough as nails and takes concussions in stride, often refusing to see doctors—file this under admirable or stupid, your choice.

But then he goes and opens his mouth and it all comes crashing down. At the end of the lockout, he made the most idiotically inflammatory comments I have heard in some time, claiming to represent a league in dire straits.

“Pro athletes are not cocky. Pro athletes care about the game,” he said. “Everybody out there who calls us spoiled because we play a game—they can kiss my ass.”

But JR wasn’t finished.

“I will say personally—personally—to everybody who calls us spoiled—you guys are just jealous … We’re trying to get this thing back on the ice and make it better for the fans. If you don’t realize that, then don’t come. We don’t want you in the rink, we don’t want you in the stadium, we don’t want you to watch hockey.”

Well JR, I will tell you personally—personally—that you make me not want to. But I tune in every time Los Angeles plays the Leafs with the faint hope that Darcy Tucker will catch you with your head down.

So, is Roenick cocky? Perish the thought. Asked about the possibility of not being on the USA roster for the upcoming Olympics, JR had a characteristically modest response.

“It would be a travesty,” he said. “They better hope I don’t get a job as a commentator or I’d be ‘Go Canada’ all the way.”

When questioned after not being named, he replied in kind.

“I’m pissed. I feel extremely disrespected,” he said. “I am right up there with any American to ever play the game … I have no love for USA Hockey at this point. If they ask me to do anything for USA Hockey again, it will not be done.”

USA Hockey did name 44-year-old Chris Chelios at the same time they left Roenick, just 36, off. Make no mistake, it was about performance and character, not age.

When Roenick was traded to Los Angeles before this season, the Flyers had to send a draft pick with him in return for “future considerations”—read nothing—just to get the Kings to take him.

--James Bradshaw

To begin, I must address a common misconception. Many assume that Sean Avery is by far the most hated player in the NHL—but that is not so. Avery is a giant ass, no doubt, given his recent antics, but a giant ass does not a truly hated player make. In the end Avery is the type of guy you might find having breakfast and booze at a strip club on a Tuesday morning—really more of an embarrassing tragedy than anything else.

No, to find the most hated player in the NHL we have to look deeper than just recent xenophobic white-trash-ed-ness. To claim this title one must have established himself as a consistent pest who has shown a tireless commitment to being an absolute ninny throughout his career. If the most hated player in the NHL were to be a “real” person, he would have to be the type of person who could excel as a Kingston meter maid—ruthless, conniving, and evil.

I look no further than Chicago’s Matthew Barnaby.

Barnaby has played in 764 career games, and registered 102 goals and 172 assists for a total of 281 points. He currently has 2,390 career penalty minutes. That’s the equivalent of 40 games spent in the penalty box. The fact that he has played for seven teams over his career makes it pretty clear that no one really likes him.

But when it comes to my claim about Barnaby, stats are not nearly as convincing as a Google image search. Type his name in and you will be bombarded with images of Barnaby’s arrogant “I just stole your girlfriend” smirk. It’s a face I just can’t love or trust—it just screams “punch me, I’m a jackass.” I have to admit that Barnaby is good at what he does. He pokes, jabs, slashes, trash-talks, turtles, and occasionally fights. And I am willing to wager that he has drawn more penalties from his retaliating victims than anyone else in the history of the NHL. For every penalty he has been given, he has undoubtedly drawn ten times more from opposing players.

Barnaby is by far the most hated hockey player precisely because he is so good at keeping it under the radar.

Roenick will say a lot of really controversial things to the media just so we know he’s still around. But Barnaby will spear someone in the groin when the ref—and that player—aren’t looking. Actions speak louder than words.

I may be prejudging Barnaby quite a bit. Perhaps if I actually spoke with him I might realize that he is a well-spoken, humble guy with great family values. However, I personally like to think that if I did get a chance to meet him I’d probably use the opportunity to kick him in the shins and run like hell.

--Dan Robson

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