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20 Dirtiest Hits in NHL History

by: Esteban On  Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Tags:  Body Check   Cheap Shots   Dirty Hit   Headshot   Hockey   NHL  

dirtiest hits nhl history (nhl dirty hits)

Every spring we see at least one vicious headshot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and this year we didn’t have to wait very long. On Saturday, during Game 2 of the Western Conference battle between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues, Chicago’s Brent Seabrook went out of his way to drive his shoulder straight into the head of St. Louis’s David Backes.  As a result, the Hawks are now without Seabrook until Game 6 thanks to a three-game suspension, while the Blues are now without their captain indefinitely.

Was it a dirty hit? Yep. Filthy, actually. But was it one of the dirtiest hits in the history of the NHL? Probably not.

Don’t take my word for it, though. Take a look at the 20 nastiest hits of all time and judge for yourself.


20. Raffi Torres on Brent Seabrook (4/17/2011)

The real irony of Seabrook’s vicious hit on David Backes? Just three years ago he himself was the victim of one of the NHL’s most notorious head-hunters. You would think the guy might avoid inflicting that kind of pain on others…but no.

As for Raffi Torres, he managed to avoid a suspension on this hit. However, as you’ll see a little later, he wasn’t so lucky the following spring.


19. Craig Ludwig on Teemu Selanne (3/13/1998)

Elbowing a guy’s face into the glass? Yeah, that’s dirty.


18. Randy Jones on Patrice Bergeron (10/27/2007)

Also dirty? Cross-checking a guy’s face into the glass. Bergeron suffered a broken nose and a grade III concussion that knocked him out the rest of the 2007-08 season, while Jones received a two-game suspension, which seems totally fair.


17. Mike Brown on Jiri Hudler (5/1/2009)

The blood made it look a little worse than it was, but this was still a dirty blind-side hit starring Mike Brown’s unnecessarily elevated elbow.


16. Pat Quinn on Bobby Orr (4/2/1969)

Even in the olden days, this one was controversial. Some people–including Pat Quinn—say Bobby Orr is the greatest hockey player of all time. However, that didn’t stop Quinn from knocking him out cold with an elbow to the head during the first game of a Leafs-Bruins playoff series in’69.

Quinn received a five-minute penalty from the referee and a punch in the head from an angry Bruins fan. Orr missed the remainder of the first game and all of the second game, but he returned for Game 3.


15. Todd Fedoruk on Petr Nedved (11/22/2005)

For this flying elbow to the head, Todd Fedoruk received a match penalty and a three-game suspension.


14. Owen Nolan on Grant Marshall (1/1/2001)

Sharks captain Owen Nolan got suspended for 11 games after sucker-punching the Stars’ Grant Marshall, which seems pretty reasonable seeing as how Marshall went to the hospital with a concussion.

However, Sharks GM/comedian Dean Lombardi was outraged. “Owen is our best player,” he said hilariously, “and I don’t think it’s right how he has been turned into a villain.”


13. Steven Rice on Valeri Karpov (10/24/1994)

Apparently hitting a guy in the face with your forearm/elbow can do some damage. Who knew?


12. Ruslan Salei on Mike Modano (10/2/1999)

How scary was this one? Mike Modano got a concussion and a sprained neck, and everyone was relieved. Salei, meanwhile, got a 10-game suspension.

Ironically, in 2010 Salei and Modano became teammates when they signed with the Red Wings. Salei apologized, Modano accepted, and now their best friends!

Okay, they’re not really best friends. But it is all water under the bridge now.


11. Steve Downie on Dean McAmmond (9/25/2007)

During a preseason game in 2007, Steve Downie lost his mind and fired himself at Dean McAmmond’s head like a missile. The NHL gave him a 20-game suspension, which at the time was the fourth-longest suspension in league history.


10. Marc Bureau on Petr Svoboda (2/1/1996)

Petr Svoboda got a concussion and 10 stitches on the back of his head. Marc Bureau got a five-game suspension—though he did not get kicked out of the game.


9. Marty McSorely on Donald Brashear (2/21/2000)

I debated whether or not to include this one since it’s technically a slash, not a hit. However, I obviously decided that semantics aren’t that important, so here it is at #9. 

In case you don’t remember, McSorely was suspended for an entire year and convicted of assault in British Columbia. Brashear, an enforcer by trade, returned to the Canucks lineup before the end of that season.

8. Pavel Bure on Shane Churla (5/4/1994)

In Game 2 of the 1994 Western Conference Semifinals against the Dallas Stars, Vancouver sniper Pavel Bure got some payback against Dallas for their rough play with this insane flying elbow to Churla’s head.

The penalty? A $500 fine. Because 1994.


7. Raffi Torres on Marian Hossa (4/17/2012)

Raffi Torres is the biggest scumbag in the NHL today. He should be kicked out of the league.

How’s that for not pulling punches?


6. Tie Domi on Scott Niedermayer (5/3/2001)

Speaking of scumbags, how about this nasty hit by Tie Domi? It’s from Game 4 Eastern Conference  Semifinals between the Leafs and Devils in 2001. Scott Niedermayer got knocked out cold, and Domi got suspended for the rest of the playoffs (which ended two games later for the Leafs) and the first eight games of the 2001-02 season.  


5. Todd Bertuzzi on Steve Moore (3/8/2004)

At #5 we have the most famous sucker punch in NHL history. The crazy thing? Todd Bertuzzi isn’t really a goon at all. He’s an extremely skilled player…who just happened to break Steve Moore’s neck and end his career.

Bertuzzi was suspended for the final 13 regular season games in 2004 and the Canucks’ seven playoff games. Then, the following year, during the NHL lockout, the International Ice Hockey Federation refused to let him play in Europe.


4. Matt Cooke on Marc Savard (3/7/2010)

This elbow to the head was the beginning of the end for Marc Savard. He would return from this nasty concussion, but he suffered another concussion the following season ended his career for good.

As for Matt Cooke, he subsequently went from being one of the game’s dirtiest players to a guy who had completely reformed his game…until this week, when he kneed Colorado’s Tyson Barrie, tearing his MCL. Now Cooke is facing a pretty lengthy suspension and the loss of the rehabilitated image he had worked so hard for over the last several years.

3. Eddie Shore on Ace Bailey (12/13/1933)

We don’t have actual footage of the incident, but we know Shore checked Bailey from behind, and that Bailey almost died. So we have to assume this was pretty nasty.


2. Dale Hunter on Joe Nieuwendyk (12/8/1987)

Dale Hunter is one of the dirtiest NHL players of all time. Just ask Joe Nieuwendyk…or Pierre Turgeon…or Gord Murphy.


1. Claude Lemieux on Kris Draper (May 29, 1996)

Claude Lemieux is probably the most-hated NHL player of all time. In this incident from the 1996 playoffs, Detroit’s Kris Draper suffered a concussion, a broke his jaw, a broken nose, and a broken cheekbone. He was to have his mouth wired shut, and he had to have reconstructive surgery on his face.

The penalty handed down to Lemieux from the league for this, the dirtiest hit of all time? Two games.