But while they might be few in number, hockey's reprobates are as slimy, unprincipled, scary or just plain pathetic as any in sport. Here are the worst of hockey's miscreants.
Most Repugnant Crook: Alan Eagleson
Agent and promoter. Head of NHL Players' Association 1967-1992
Lauded as a hero when he helped found the NHL Player's Association, Eagleson was also a player agent and organizer of international tournaments. His brusque style of leadership and overbearing personality alienated many players, many of whom grew suspicious when business deals went wrong and promised pension monies failed to materialize. Investigative reports revealed a career built on unethical deals and a union dominated by obfuscation and intimidation. Several players who put their trust in him, including Bobby Orr, found their finances in a shambles when their careers ended. Eagleson was forced to resign from the NHLPA in 1992. A group of retired players successfully sued over missing pension money and gained further justice in 1998, when Eagleson was convicted on charges of fraud, racketeering and embezzlement. "The Eagle" is the only person ever to resign from the Hockey Hall of Fame, withdrawing his name under pressure following his criminal conviction.
Worst Owner: Harold Ballard
Owner, Toronto Maple Leafs, 1971-1990
With his cantankerous, eccentric ways, his talent for insulting and infuriating star players, and his general contempt for the Toronto Maple Leafs and their fans, Harold Ballard turned the team into a laughing stock through the 1970s and 1980s. He also had a special way with the media. In one famous interview, he suggested to a female radio host that women belonged on their backs, not on the radio.
Read more about Harold Ballard
Most Tragic Life and Death: John Kordic
Player (Montreal, Toronto, Washington, Quebec), 1985-1991
Kordic made his living as a bruiser, and bruise he did. His time in the NHL was dominated by fines, suspensions, public disputes with coaches, run-ins with the law and long-running feuds with other NHL tough guys. But Kordic goes down as one of hockey's most tragic figures, a man unable to cope with his vicious temper, drinking and drug abuse. He spent much of his brief life in and out of rehab, as a series of NHL teams eventually turned their backs on him. In August of 1992, while training for a tryout with Edmonton, Kordic died of heart failure following a violent confrontation with police in a Quebec City hotel room. His body had finally expired from years of alcohol, drug and steroid abuse. He was 27 years old.
Worst Boss: Eddie Shore
Player (Boston, New York Americans), 1926-1940. Owner, Springfield Indians, 1940-1966
Eddie Shore is always listed among the great defensemen of all time. He also carries a reputation as one of hockey's most unpleasant and vindictive men. His playing career was sprinkled with tales of broken bones, bloodied faces and bitter vendettas. Opposing players are said to have pooled money in a bounty on his head. Shore even took on team mates, once nearly losing an ear in a brawl at a Bruins' practice. But his playing career is overshadowed by the legendary status he later achieved running a minor league team in Springfield. Under Shore, the Indians were known as "hockey's Siberia."
Read more about Eddie Shore
Creepiest Hockey Dad: John O'Sullivan
Father of NHL forward Patrick O'Sullivan
Lots of fathers want to see their boy in the big leagues, but John O'Sullivan knew his son Patrick had the goods to make it happen. Not leaving anything to chance, the proud hockey dad pushed his boy mercilessly, screaming at Patrick from the rinkside stands, subjecting him to endless tirades, threatening to not let him play anymore, even punching and kicking his son after poor games. By the time Patrick was a promising junior star, the family had had enough. John O'Sullivan was convicted of assault. Patrick's mother filed for divorce. Patrick was granted a restraining order prohibiting his father from coming within a kilometre of him or any hockey game he played in. But John O'Sullivan continues to haunt his son's career. The restraining order has been violated several times, and he showed up in Nashville in 2002, when Patrick was selected by Minnesota in the NHL Draft. "I can acknowledge that I made some mistakes," he told CBC Television in 2004. "But I can, I, I swear on my children’s lives, I had nothing but the right intentions in everything we ever did."
Next page: Worst Human Being, the original and the sequel.