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Puck Daddy’s 10 people of controversy in 2012

Harrison Mooney
Puck Daddy

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Through New Year's Eve, your friends at Puck Daddy fondly recall the Year in Hockey for 2012, such as it wasn't.

Looking at this list, it's a bit of a bummer that it's split right down the middle when it comes to players and non-players. Of course, in a year where everyone was a non-player for 6 of 12 months, I guess that makes sense. But still, we'd have preferred more of 2012's talking points occurred on the ice.

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Still, while the year was a little short on on-ice events, it was far from an uneventful year. Thanks to in no small part to these 10 guys, who gave us something to talk about on the regular.

Of course, in many instances, we'd have preferred to be talking about someone else. In a few instances, the fact that we had to talk about these people instead of someone -- anyone else -- made us rue the day we (and they) were born.

But such is life and so it goes. Here are the 10 people of controversy in 2012.

10. Ilya Bryzgalov, Philadelphia Flyers

Bryzgalov's relationship with the media was as fascinating as ever in 2012, as the Russian backstop gleefully dropped non sequiturs galore, turning tigers, bears and monkeys into memes. But occasionally the media would catch Bryzgalov on a bad day, and then he wouldn't be so funny, such as during this exchange with Russian reporters:

What do you want me to say? You've been writing filth about me and now you are asking for an interview. Go look around; there are so many good players. You can go talk to them.

On the ice, Bryzgalov was exactly as unpredictable as he was off it, stopping everything or nothing, depending on the day, and somehow winning a playoff round in spite of this.

9. Daryl Katz, Edmonton Oilers owner

Katz's very public battle with the city of Edmonton was a fascinating exercise in how not to do public relations. His thinly-veiled empty threat to move the team to Seattle only served to enrage a long-suffering fanbase, and the fact that he dragged the unimpeachable Wayne Gretzky into it didn't help. Furthermore, if that wasn't his P.R. bungle of the year, the ill-timed, strongly-worded letter to the media slamming the mayor, which led to city council ceasing arena talks with the Katz Group altogether, probably was.

8. Evander Kane, Winnipeg Jets

It was a good year for Evander Kane on the ice, as the Jets' forward completed his first 30-goal year, leading to a hefty contract extension on the eve of the lockout. Off the ice, however, Kane was a magnet for local controversy. In Winnipeg, restauranteurs lashed out at him amidst gossip that he hadn't paid for a few meals:

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In Russia, he only lasted 12 games before Dinamo Minsk decided they didn't want him around anymore, citing fitness issues.

Then, when he no longer had the benefit of the doubt, he tweeted a photo using stacks of hundreds as a phone during a time when fans were sensitive about player salaries.

Maybe it was just maturity, or maybe it was something else, but regardless of what it was, Kane was a magnet for controversy in 2012.

7. Brendan Shanahan, NHL disciplinarian

Shanahan began his first year as chief disciplinarian amidst a whirlwind of goodwill and positivity. But by the end of the season, it became clear that it was impossible to maintain a 100% public approval rate when you were making judgment calls on things that were perpetrated in the heat of the moment by players whose minds were impossible to read. Things came to a head with a headshot, when Raffi Torres launched into Marian Hossa, which garnering a 25-game suspension from Shanahan that was later reduced on appeal, a blow to his absolute power.

Year 2 of the Shanahan era is going to be a fun one.

6. John Tortorella, New York Rangers head coach

The fiery coach is a controversial figure at the best of times, but between his Rangers' participation in the Winter Classic and their run to the Eastern Conference Final, Torts had even more opportunities to stir the pot than usual. Tortorella rang in 2012 with a $30,000 fine for theorizing that NBC and the refs got together to give the Classic a storybook ending. In April, he was at the heart of another controversy when he called the Pittsburgh Penguins "one of the most arrogant organizations in the league".

Then, when the postseason began, the outspoken coach managed to turn not saying into a special controversy, with historically short, curt press conferences. Heck, even his system, with its emphasis on shot prevention, generated a great deal of controversy.

5. Shane Doan, Phoenix Coyotes

Doan was at the heart of nearly everything in 2012. He was heavily involved in the illegal hit debate, because he dished out a few. He led the Coyotes to their first ever Western Conference Final, which culminated in some bad blood to end the series, a kerfuffle in the handshake line, and some questionable sportsmanship in the heat of the moment. And he was at the heart of the Coyotes ownership foofaraw, flirting with leaving town amidst Greg Jamison's struggles to buy the team, but eventually signing a deal before Jamison finalized his.

4. Donald Fehr, NHLPA executive director

No way the new executive director of the Players' Association was going to avoid a mention on this list. Donald Fehr's tactics may not be for everybody, least of all the locked-out fans that would probably prefer he were a little easier to break, but the former MLB union head is doing the job he was hired to do, and that job is, by its very nature, controversial.

3. Raffi Torres, Phoenix Coyotes

When Raffi Torres hit Marian Hossa up high, sending the Chicago Blackhawks forward off the ice in a stretcher, it was the last straw for many exhausted hockey fans, who were tired of debating headshots, and even more tired of debating headshots delivered by Torres. Torres's greatest hits -- and by greatest, I mean most illegal -- was a double-disc set by then. The hit on Hossa was the sixth punishable hit he'd delivered that season.

Everybody got a little caught up in hating Torres, including Brendan Shanahan, who delivered a 25-game suspension that still seemed a little light on the tar and feathers at the time. Eventually, we all calmed down, and then it seemed a little too stiff. But Torres made the entire hockey world furious in 2012.

2. Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins

Has any player's public persona shifted quite as drastically as Tim Thomas's did in 2012? It began when he controversially skipped the team's ceremonial visit to the White House, but it didn't stop there -- not by a long shot. Thomas stood with Chick-Fil-A against gay marriage. He surprised the Bruins by deciding to take a year off from hockey. He moved his family to Colorado.

You can give the man credit for voicing his convictions and sticking to them, no doubt. But that doesn't mean hockey fans have to like him for it, and by the end of 2012, far fewer did than when it began.

1. Gary Bettman, NHL commissioner

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Try to look surprised.

The NHL commissioner completed the lockout hat trick in 2012, facilitating the third labour stoppage of his 20-year tenure as commish. Sure, he's just doing his job, representing the interests of the owners. But so are the commissioners in other major sports, and they somehow manage to do those jobs without shutting down the season every damn time a new CBA needs to be worked out.

Was there ever any other choice, all things considered?

Follow Harrison Mooney on Twitter at @HarrisonMooney


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