(Puck Daddy presents its annual look back at the year in hockey. Check back every day through the New Year for our many lists and hot takes.)
On the ice and off the ice, there were some people in the world of hockey that brought the controversy in 2016.
Here’s a look at the top 10 most controversial hockey people of the last year.
10 – Patrick Roy
The Hockey Hall of Famer stunned the Colorado Avalanche by quitting as their head coach and VP of hockey operations on Aug. 11, and doing so via a press release. He had taken weeks to mull the decision over before ultimately deciding to move on – a combination of his dissatisfaction with his managerial input and no longer finding his experience behind the bench to be an enjoyable one. The team hastily hired AHL coach Jared Bednar, and end 2016 far outside the playoff picture.
9 – Marc Bergevin
The Montreal Canadiens GM already earned some infamy for his steadfast backing of beleaguered head coach Michel Therrien. But he lands on this list, obviously, for dealing away franchise fan favorite P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators for Shea Weber, a move that came after he swore up and down that he wasn’t shopping Subban.
8 – Dani Rylan
The commissioner of the Nationals Women’s Hockey League battled through her league’s first season, facing accusations of scandal on several fronts. But it was the NWHL’s announcement late in the year that the first pro women’s hockey league to pay its players was now cutting their salaries (without consulting the players association) that landed her here for a second straight year.
7 – Gary Bettman
The NHL commissioner has a cemented place on this list – it’s just a matter of where he’ll fall. This time, Bettman presided over NHL expansion to Las Vegas (and not Quebec); the World Cup of Hockey’s various challenges; the ongoing concussion lawsuit facing the NHL; and, perhaps greatest of all, the slow collision between the NHL’s decision on the 2018 Winter Olympics and that decision being used as a bargaining chip in CBA negotiations, ahead of what could be another lockout.
6 – Vincent Viola
The Florida Panthers owner is the figurehead for a number of controversies involving the organization, from the decision to change the team’s jerseys and logo, to the decision to remove Dale Tallon as general manager in favor of an inexperienced executive in Tom Rowe, to the decision to fire head coach Gerard Gallant a quarter of the way into a season, after one in which he won a division title.
Oh, and what better way to clinch a spot on the People of Controversy list than by joining the Trump administration as Secretary of the Army?
5 – John Scott
The fan-voted All-Star pugilist ended up authoring one of the most memorable hockey fables in quite some time, to the point where he was carried off the ice on his teammates’ shoulders as the game’s MVP. But the campaign that put him in the game, his battles with the NHL preceding it and his very existence in the eyes of NHL pundits made the whole affair one of the more controversial ones of the year. Scott retired in December.
4 – John Tortorella
Tortorella ended last season looking like the wrong man for the job with the Columbus Blue Jackets. He looked like an even worse fit in the World Cup of Hockey, as Team USA was embarrassed and the only memorable thing to come out of its time in the tournament was Tortorella spouting off about players sitting during the national anthem.
But then his Blue Jackets team went on a franchise-best tear through the NHL, ending the year near the top of the league in points and leading everyone to figure out how much of it was Tortorella’s doing. In the span of three months, he went from being one of the worst coaches in hockey to a Jack Adams favorite.
3 – Colin Campbell
The NHL’s Executive Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations works behind the scenes, but some of his work was made public this year in embarrassing fashion. There was his role in the John Scott strong-arming from the NHL, as he was credited with the infamous “what would your kids think?” question that set Scott off.
Plus, dozens of emails sent from Campbell (and using colorful language) were made public in the concussion lawsuit facing the NHL. It wasn’t a good look.
2 – Evander Kane
The Sabres forward was arrested in July after an incident at a bar during the NHL Draft weekend in Buffalo. He was charged with criminal trespass, disorderly conduct and harassment. But those charges will be dropped in April if Kane stays out of trouble, per a Buffalo City Court ruling. Meanwhile, Kane filed a counterclaim against a woman who accused him assaulting her in a Buffalo hotel room in 2015.
Buffalo has tried to move him, to no avail.
1 – Dennis Wideman
It seems like a decade ago now, but Wideman’s attack on linesman Don Henderson happened back in January 2016. Its aftermath saw him suspended for 20 games, which led to a prolonged series of hearings between the NHLPA and the NHL.
After Bettman upheld the suspension, the case went to neutral arbitrator James Oldham, who reduced it down to 10 games. He was fired by the NHL after that ruling. Wideman’s case is still a matter for the courts, as the NHL fought on.
The entire incident made the NHL expand its concussion awareness program, introducing “spotters” watching in the arena and on television who can demand that a player be taken off the ice if they appear to have been concussed on a play.
For bringing a suspension all the way to an arbitrator, and for influencing NHL concussion policy, the actions of Dennis Wideman were the most controversial of 2016.
Dishonorable Mention: Bobby Hull, Andrew Shaw, Patrick Kane, Don Cherry, Bill Foley, Bob Murray, Dean Lombardi, Kris Russell, Peter Chiarelli, Patrik Laine.
Puck Daddy Year In Hockey 2016
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