In today’s sports world, it’s really difficult to hate someone.
And I mean the true hate, not the “I hate that guy because he’s too good and doesn’t play for us.”
With sports being a business more than ever, fans realize there’s always a chance they may someday root for an athlete that they currently root against.
So that got me to thinking: What players could join a team, continue to do what he normally does, and those fans would still continue to hate him? I tried to come up with 10, and I struggled. Fans would accept anyone if they’re helping their team win.
That’s the key to this whole thing. Many people hate Kobe Bryant, but they would instantly love him if he were to sign with their favourite team.
So that pretty rules out a lot of superstars on this list.
Sorry, Green Bay fans. Many of you may hate Brett Favre now, but if he were to come back to Green Bay next year and lead the Packers to the playoffs, you would cheer for him.
Same thing with Dany Heatley. Many Ottawa Senators fans may hate him now for demanding a trade, but if he came back to Ottawa and scored 50 goals, he’d be a fan favourite again (with many fans saying it was the media that sensationalized the hate).
Terrell Owens is probably the best example. Despite the numerous problems he’s had with teams on and off the field, fans would still welcome him back if he scored 15 touchdowns a year.
So in reality, we’re looking for players that aren’t superstars and fans would find it hard to cheer for if they played on your team (so individual sports athletes like golfers and tennis players won’t count).
And that’s difficult. It’s like having a high school reunion. If the head cheerleader came back 10 years later and wanted to date you, you’d jumped at the opportunity. But if the class bully came back 10 years later and hadn’t changed, then you would end up hating your reunion.
So I tried to find some of the sports bullies instead of the cheerleaders. Some of these may be stretching it, but here are the top 10 players that certain fans would never support.
Wade Redden with the Ottawa Senators
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For the longest time, Wade Redden was the most popular Ottawa Senator. He was the defenceman of the future for this team, and for Team Canada. He was a shoo-in for the 2006 Olympics.
The six seasons from 1999-2000 to 2005-2006 were easily the best of his career. He scored at least 10 goals in five of those seasons (including 17 in 2003-2004) and had a career-high 50 points in 05-06.
The the wheels fell off. He had trouble scoring. His defensive play suffered. He wasn’t as good on the powerplay.
It was compounded by the fact that the Sens had chosen Redden over Zdeno Chara a few years before, and Chara was being nominated for the Norris trophy.
And the fact he made $6 million a season didn’t help.
He’s making $6.5 million a year now with the Rangers.
If Redden were to return to Ottawa now, making the salary he’s making, he would be roasted by the fans. And that’s saying a lot. This is the same fans that welcomed Alexei Yashin back every time he held out for more money.
But $6.5 million for a fourth or fifth defenceman? Wouldn’t be a good thing in Ottawa.
Kyle McLaren with the Montreal Canadiens
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I told you this was a tough list to think of.
No one will ever confuse Kyle McLaren with playoff success (only one goal in 70 playoff games).
But he had a huge impact in the 2002 playoffs. In Game 4 against the Montreal Canadiens, McLaren, as a member of the Boston Bruins, levelled Richard Zednik with a horrific hit.
McLaren came across the ice, and hit Zednik with an elbow to the face (you can see the video here).
McLaren was suspended for three games, but Zednik missed the rest of the playoffs. The Habs leading scorer at the time, Montreal couldn’t recover from the loss of one of their top players.
Because McLaren wasn’t a goal scorer or a setup man, it would have been tough for him to earn the adoration of Canadiens fans.
Sean Avery with the New Jersey Devils
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There’s a lot of places where fans wouldn’t want to see Sean Avery: Dallas, Calgary, Detroit, Los Angeles, etc.
But probably the one city that would hate to see Avery more than any other would be one of the cities he never played for: New Jersey.
Avery is a pest, and probably no person hates him more than Martin Brodeur. Avery has done several things over the past few years to agitate Brodeur:
• Waving his stick in front of Brodeur, thereby creating the Avery rule
• Calling him fatso after a series
• Ticking him off so much, Brodeur wouldn’t shake his hand after a playoff series
Avery would be a distraction in the locker room, just like he has been every where he has played.
And when the team struggled, or lost in the playoffs, Avery would get the blame.
A.J. Burnett with the Toronto Blue Jays
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This hatred comes all down to money.
After the Blue Jays signed Burnett to a five-year $55-million deal, fans had to watch Burnett either a) get injured, or b) suck.
In his first two seasons with the Jays, he had a 10-8 record each season. In his third season, he went 18-10.
Then, because of a clause in his contract, he opted out and signed with the Yankees.
So Blue Jays fans had to sit through two seasons of him being not that great, only to see him leave after a big year.
Yeah, like they would make the mistake of cheering for that guy again.
Stephon Marbury with the New York Knicks
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In January, 2005, Stephon Marbury was able to fulfil a childhood dream when he was traded to the New York Knicks.
Unfortunately for Knicks fans, the trade turned out to be a nightmare.
There is no one within the organization that he didn’t feud with. Coaches, fans and owners all felt the wrath of Marbury.
One coach, Mike D’Antoni, went so far as to bench Marbury for an entire season.
Marbury was with the team during its worst seasons the past few years, and wasn’t seen as a team player. He also made obscene amounts of money.
Knicks fans would be hard-pressed to cheer for him.
Claude Lemieux with the Detroit Red Wings
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“I can’t believe I shook his freakin’ hand!”
That’s what Dino Ciccarelli said about Claude Lemieux in 1996, when Lemieux hit Detroit player Kris Draper from behind. Draper suffered a broken jaw, broken nose, broken cheekbone, and a concussion (see this video for the hit, about 1:14 into it).
That started a rivalry between the Wings and Colorado Avalanche that lasted for the better part of a decade.
The hit led to brawls, goalie fights and great playoff battles.
Lemieux won the Stanley Cup with three different teams (including one with the Avalanche in ’96). Most teams would love to have him on their side when it came to the postseason.
But Red Wings fans would never have been able to forgive Lemieux for that hit.
Eric Lindros with the Quebec Nordiques
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Back in 1991, Eric Lindros was seen as the next great player. He was a can’t miss prospect, but early on, he showed signs of all the cockiness that would actually be his downfall.
In the 1991 draft, the Nordiques had the number one pick. They made it clear they were taking Lindros, but Lindros made it clear he would never play with the Nordiques.
It took a year, but Lindros won the battle, as he was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers (he lost the war however, as the Nordiques went on to win the Stanley Cup twice once they moved to Colorado, while Lindros battled concussions most of his career).
So what would have happened in Lindros was ever traded back to the Nordiques? Or even the Montreal Canadiens? For most of his career, anytime Lindros went to Quebec, he was greeted with boos, jeers and signs about “Crybaby Lindros.”
Without a doubt, Lindros would not have been welcomed in the province of Quebec.
Roger Clemens in Boston
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It’s difficult for one of a franchise’s most favourite players to become one of its most hated once they left the organization.
Although many have tried, few have succeeded.
Roger Clemens is one that has.
He was loved as a Red Sox. He was seen as the greatest pitcher the team had in decades. He struck out 19 players in a game twice. He flirted with no-hitters. He seemed like he could do no wrong.
That is, until he left the team and signed with division rival Toronto Blue Jays.
In doing so, he snubbed the fans. Completely.
Bill Simmons is one of those that now hate Roger Clemens. He believes everything could have been avoided if, during Clemens press conference after signing with the Blue Jays, all Clemens had to do was thank the fans. But he didn’t.
It rubbed a lot of Red Sox fans the wrong way. It didn’t help when he went to the hated New York Yankees and won a World Series there. He was seen as a selfish player, long before the steroid allegations ever came out.
Compare that to Roy Halladay. Recently traded, Halladay bought a full-page ad in the Toronto Sun after the trade, saying “Toronto will forever have a special place in my heart. The memories will last a lifetime and so will my gratitude.” You can’t hate a guy like that.
What would the reaction have been if the Red Sox signed Clemens in the early 2000s instead of Pedro Martinez? What if they never won a world series?
Clemens is one of those rare superstars that would have been booed every time he pitched at home.
But perhaps not as much as the next guy.
Vince Carter in Toronto
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Without a doubt, there is no superstar in any sport who has done so much to rile a team’s fan base as Vince Carter.
He admitted to not trying during games. A team once said he gave the opposition the play the Raptors were about to run. He got injured more times than a Montreal Canadiens defenceman. He demanded a trade.
At one point, he threatened he would never dunk during a Raptors game again, despite being a slam dunk champion.
It seemed as if there was a way to get under the skin of his own fans, Vince Carter found a way.
To be fair, not all of it was Carter’s fault. A bad trade that sent him to the New Jersey Nets didn’t help. He saw the team continue to rebuild, going through four coaches in six years. His mom has come out on several occasions with crazy stories and added fuel to the fire.
If Carter were ever to come back to Toronto, it would be nuts. The first time he missed a shot, the second time he went down with an injury or the third time he had a bad game, the fans would be all over him.
No, this is one fan base that would never support this specific superstar.
Ulf Samuelsson with the Boston Bruins
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This was by far the easiest choice for number one. Samuelsson became public enemy number one on May 11, 1991 when, as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins, he hit Boston Bruins star Cam Neely with a knee on knee hit.
Most people believe it ruined Neely’s career. It didn’t. Neely admits that it was his own fault for his knee injury (he went to hit Samuelsson and Ulf ducked, and their knees collided: You can watch the interview here). It wasn’t actually this hit, the one that gets replayed all the time.
But Bruins fans believe it was the own that is shown time after time. Before the hit, Neely never played in fewer than 69 games. After the hit, he never played in more than 49 games in any season (including seasons of only 9 and 13 games the two years following the hit).
Losing a 50-goal scorer hurt the team more than anything else. Since 1987-88 until 1991, the team always made it to at least the second round. After the hit, the Bruins made it out of the first round once in six years.
Samuelsson wasn’t a goal scorer, or an assist man, or even that much of a tough guy. He was a dirty player. There’s no way Bruins fans would have supported him in a Boston jersey.
If the Bruins ever ended up with Samuelsson, Boston fans would be hoping to get Tie Domi so he could do this during a practice.