Thursday, August 21, 2008

Hockey Hell, Pt. 2

Last week saw the first half of the Hockey Hell Class of 2008 enshrined in immortality. Continuing the ceremonies we turn to the defensive side of the ice:

D Ulf Samuelsson Not many NHL players achieve first-name recognition among fans -- Gordie, Mario and Sid are among an illustrious few. Add to that list a name that reeks of notoriety: "Ulfie". In many cities Samuelsson is considered the dirtiest player of all time; in others he is a shameful episode in franchise history, something best forgotten and not discussed. It is commonly accepted that, in terms of careers altered or ended, Samuelsson had the most detrimental impact of any player in NHL history.

- Most famous for a knee-to-knee hit on Hall of Famer Cam Neely, which effectively cut short his career and likely derailed a Bruins dynasty in the early 1990s. Neely refused to shake Ulf's hand at the end of the semifinal series.
- In the very next playoff series, the 1991 Finals, kneed Minnesota star Brian Bellows.
- Ended the career of Pierre Mondou with a high stick to the eye.
- Fans and players leaguewide tried to concel their secret glee when Samuelsson was knocked unconscious by a Tie Domi suckerpunch.
- Suspended for stick-swinging incident with Mark Messier in 1993.
- Traded along with Ron Francis from Hartford to Pittsburgh in a heavily one-sided exchange, a move that played a key role in the demise of the Hartford Whalers.
- Knocked out Wayne Gretzky's wife. I'm not making this stuff up, folks.
- Managed to get kicked out of the Nagano Olympics in a citizenship dispute; it was determined that he was no longer technically a Swedish citizen. Sweden failed to medal.
- Astoundingly, he was briefly paired with Chris Chelios in what was surely the dirtiest combination of defensemen in league history.
- Unsurprisingly, finished his career with the Flyers.
- Nicknamed "Robocop" for his tanklike body armor, a sure sign of a player conditioned to dole out pain but not to receive it in kind.
- Nearly half his career fights involved an instigator penalty to either him or his opponent.
- Wore a face shield.
- Credited with a Cup-clinching goal when he scored 2 minutes into a game that ended 8-0. How annoying is that?

D Sprague Cleghorn
Though unknown to the vast majority of hockey fans, Cleghorn was one of the NHL's earliest stars and was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1958. He pioneered three of hockey's most familiar archetypes: the "offensive defenseman", the "hard-nosed asshole", and the "psychopath who manages to draw criminal charges while playing a child's game". By the time of Cleghorn's untimely death, he was widely considered the dirtiest player of all time (Ulf Samuelsson had not yet entered the competition).

- Violently attacked Ottawa defenseman Lionel Hitchman during the '23 playoffs. Montreal owner Leo Dandurand suspended Cleghorn for the rest of the playoffs (note that the NHL had not yet intervened) and called him an "animal".
- To the best of my knowledge, the incident above was the first in NHL history which resulted in police action -- Cleghorn was charged with aggravated assault and fined $50.
- Launched a violent stick-attack on star Newsy Lalonde for having the audacity to bodycheck Cleghorn's brother Odie. Lalonde preceded Cleghorn as Habs captain.
- In revenge for being traded from Ottawa to Montreal, Cleghorn injured no fewer than four Senators in a single game -- Cy Denneny, Frank Nighbor, Tommy Gorman, and Eddie Gerard. Police were dissuaded from prosecuting Cleghorn for the second time. Ah, the good old days.
- The league gave serious consideration toward a lifetime ban for Cleghorn, yet two teams would not agree to such heavy punishment.
- Led the Canadiens to their first NHL championship, starting a trend that we really could've lived without.
- Was described by one NHL official as a "disgrace".
- Had he played in the age of Youtube, this list would be at least twice as long.

G Ron Hextall

Depending on your point of view, Hextall is either an icon of the NHL's "glory days" or a nightmare from which the league is only now awakening. Far and away the most popular Flyer of the '80s, Crazy Ronnie revolutionized the role of the goaltender in moving puck, and in cracking skulls.

- Holds the all-time record for PIM from a goaltender, with 113 in 1988-89.
- Was suspended for the first 12 games of the following season for his crazed attack on blossoming cheapshotter Chris Chelios during the semifinals.
- Scored a goal against the Boston Bruins (boo). Hextall and Billy Smith were, at the time, the only goalies to be credited with a goal... it is not a coincidence that they were also the two stick-swingingest goalies of their era.
- Carried a career-long reputation for losing big games, starting with the 1987 Finals.
- During those '87 Finals, delivered a slash to Kent Nilsson that is still considered shockingly violent by NHL standards.
- Set a record for "Most Awkward Interview" (also known as the "Naked Interview") with late ESPN reporter Tom Mees.
- Rocked a sleazy 'stache during the 1980s.
- Was replaced 3 times in a 10-7 loss to Pittsburgh in 1989.
- Suspended 6 games in 1991 for slashing Detroit's Jim Cummins.
- Fractured Sylvain Turgeon's arm during practice for the 1987 Canada Cup.
- Involved in the Ultimate Douchebag Trade along with Peter Forsberg, Mike Ricci, Chris Simon and Eric Lindros.
- Involved in the 2nd Ultimate Douchebag Trade, along with Todd Bertuzzi and Adam Deadmarsh.
- Taken to school by Darren McCarty during the 1997 Finals in one of the greatest goals in Red Wing history (after allowing a 60-foot goal to Steve Yzerman in Game 1), leading to his second and last Finals failure.
- He and Roger Crozier are the only two players to win a Conn Smythe Trophy but not a Stanley Cup.
- Engaged in 5 fights during his career, quite a high number for a goalie.
- Finished his career as the most penalized goalie in hockey history, a record that doesn't seem likely to be challenged anytime soon.

There you have it, folks: the starting lineup in Hockey Hell!

Simon - Avery - Lemieux
Samuelsson - Cleghorn

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Anonymous said...

Nice blog for a Bruins fan...I had to check it out after your posts on I might have to pop back in here from time to time to debate your lack of faith in my Sabres.


Tom said...

lol... feel free to come and sling some mud anytime. God, is it still August?

cristobal said...

That Janet Gretzky clip is priceless. I love Ulfie now.
Don't you think Lemieux should be replaced by Bertuzzi? Lemieux won 4 cups with 3 teams, i think. Bertuzzi managed to sully the name of the NHL at a time when it could ill afford it. Think about it, Bertuzzi + Lost Season = nobody much cares about the NHL anymore, outside of the loyal long-time fans that Bettman can't seem to shake no matter what he does to the game.

Tom said...

Bertuzzi was definitely a candidate, but his most heinous crime was more of a one-time thing. Lemieux made not only a reputation but a career out of being the cheapest player in the league.

Bert will have his day in hell, though...

cristobal said...

this blog is eating my comments, but it ain't shite-ing them out.

damned internet machine...

DaveK said...

It kills me how many crybaby Bruins fans to this day still whine about Ulf Samuelsson. If you don't like the physical brand of hockey that Ulf played, you're more than welcome to watch figure skating. Ulf is a Penguins legend, he was affectionately referred to as "Jack Lambert on skates". Without him the Pens don't win one Stanley Cup, nevermind two. He was a fan favorite in the Igloo.