- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
Some of them wear suits, some of them wear jerseys. Some of them wield pens, some of them wield sticks.
All of them had moments of controversy in 2014; but which one wears the crown as the most controversial people of the year?
10. Gary Bettman
Look, the commissioner is always going to make this list by virtue of being the commissioner. It’s not as if he wasn’t a divisive figure as always, from the usual gripes about his handling of NHL player safety issues to the league’s hasty decisions in the wake of Slava Voynov’s suspension. And it’s not like he wasn’t booed for roughly an hour at the draft.
But as Gary Bettman years go, this one wasn’t all that controversial. Heck, he might have actually charmed some people with his meeting with KISS and his ice bucket challenge.
9. Josh Ho-Sang
The immensely talented Canadian junior player was overlooked by many teams at the NHL Draft, dropping to No. 28 overall and the New York Islanders. His attitude was questioned. Ho-Sang, whose father is Jamaican, questioned hockey right back with memorable quotes like, “When I do anything, I’m just another black kid with attitude. I think I get misunderstood because these guys want to figure me out without talking to me and try to come up with every single reason why there’s something wrong with me.”
He was snubbed by the Canadian world junior team and was hit in the head with a goalie stick while with the Windsor Spitfires. He was a lot of things to a lot of people in 2014, but more than anything, he was notable.
8. John Tortorella
On Jan. 18, Tortorella’s Vancouver Canucks had a line brawl with the Calgary Flames. He was quite cross with Flames coach Bob Hartley for putting out his fourth line to spark the brawl. So cross, in fact, that he chased Hartley into the hallway near the dressing rooms, causing memorable chaos between the teams and an embarrassing moment for the League.
Torts was suspended 15 days from the Canucks, which included six games. The one-and-done coach was symbolic of the crumbling regime in Vancouver, which was completely swept out after the season.
7. Hockey Writers Behaving Badly
This was the year when social media came back to burn a trio of members from the hockey media.
Adrian Dater, the long-time beat writer for the Denver Post, was fired after several instances of questionable behavior on social media. That included inappropriate direct messages with Maria Camacho, a Detroit Red Wings fan who lives in Calgary, which surfaced after Dater had been suspended for a Twitter tirade. That followed social media scandals involving Bloguin’s Steve Lepore, whose harassment of dozens of women were exposed, and Harrison Mooney, whose time with Yahoo Sports came to an end after his inappropriate direct messages to women came to light.
The message was clear: Sexual harassment in any shape or form is not OK. Respect women. Especially since they already have to put up with a multitude of nonsense as hockey fans.
6. Craig MacTavish
The new sheriff in Edmonton promised big changes. They manifested in some small moves, like adding Mark Fayne and Nikita Nikinin to the blue line and trading away Sam Gagner. But they didn’t produce a second-line center or any of the other reinforcements the Oilers needed. Then, at the end of the year, the firing of Dallas Eakins (later saying there was no point in making a coaching change about a week earlier) crystalized the dysfunction in Edmonton.
But he wasn’t the only GM that couldn’t deliver on promises.
5. The IOC
While the Sochi 2014 Games had their issues beyond the IOC’s control – hello, Putin’s Dog Assassination Squads – the Olympics governing body blew it with a decision to suspend Nicklas Backstrom before Sweden’s gold medal game with Canada. The Swedes claimed it was a conspiracy, but in fact it was just bad policy. The Washington Capitals center did eventually get his silver medal that was being held from him.
That plus their continued frosty relationship with the NHL that could put the 2018 Games on ice for the NHL earn them a spot here.
4. Chris Pronger
Can a player be both on the payroll of an NHL team and have an active role in suspending players in the NHL that compete against that team?
Chris Pronger tested that theory in 2014, as he joined the NHL Department of Player Safety while still being paid by the Philadelphia Flyers on long-term injured reserve as an active player in name only. The NHL and Pronger vowed there was no conflict of interest, and in fact he’s part of a large committee that rules on suspensions. But the optics … oh, they were not good.
3. Marty St. Louis
While his reputation was mended in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, St. Louis sparked a huge amount of animosity for requesting a trade from the Tampa Bay Lightning – a team he carried during Steven Stamkos’s absence and starred for during his career.
Why? Because GM Steve Yzerman allegedly snubbed him from Team Canada’s Olympic roster, for whom Yzerman was also the general manager. St. Louis eventually got on the team as an injury replacement, winning gold, but the bridges were still smoldering. He was sent to the New York Rangers for Ryan Callahan and two first-round picks.
2. Milan Lucic
Whether it was telling the Montreal Canadiens that he was going to “[expletive] kill them” after a playoff loss or spearing opponents in the groin or taunting Montreal fans in the penalty box, Looch had perhaps the most antagonistic year of any player in the NHL.
But he wasn't the most controversial.
1. Slava Voynov
Could it be anyone else?
Voynov’s arrest in October for alleged domestic violence – he’s now charged with felony domestic violence for an incident involving his wife – brought all the heat the NFL had been feeling after the Ray Rice debacle onto the NHL.
The League swiftly suspended Voynov, a move that contrasted their approach to Semyon Varlamov one year earlier. But the Los Angeles Kings and the NHL battled publicly over the salary cap repercussions for the suspended player, with the League eventually giving the Kings that cap relief they sought.
For opening up the domestic violence discussion in hockey, for creating a huge debate over the league’s response to his arrest, and for the unconscionable acts for which he’s accused, there was no more controversial hockey person than Slava Voynov in 2014.