It’s no secret that hockey players lose a lot of teeth. These past Stanley Cup Playoffs, we saw Chicago’s Duncan Keith take a puck to the face and come away with a few less pearly whites than when he started the night (which made for a great post-game interview). Some guys sacrifice their bodies in front of the net, others catch a random high-stick, and sometimes guys are just made the better of when the gloves drop. Here’s a list of some of the most memorable mugs of the NHL (excluding any goaltenders).
#10 – Brian Sutter
St. Louis Blues lifer Brian Sutter was not afraid of confrontation- his 1,786 penalty minutes prove that. He played in an era of hockey goons and wandering high sticks. As a result, he also took more than a few punches to the mouth. One of the quintessential tough guys, he always had a teammates back… even if it didn’t work out for him every time.
#9 – Rick MacLeish
Another epic set of hockey teeth belonged to retired Broad Street Bully Rick MacLeish, although with that moustache you might not have seen his mouth too often. The long haired winger skated alongside the likes of Bobby Clarke, Andre Dupont and Ed Van Impe, all guys who were *ahem* dentally challenged. He’s also the first Flyer to score 50 goals in a season (1972-73, which also saw him tally 50 assists) and a guy you definitely wouldn’t want to meet by the boards.
#8 – Alexander Ovechkin
While Sydney Crosby might be the face of today’s NHL, Ovechkin is the smile. His run-and-gun style of play, which more often than not makes it seem like he has no regard for his personal safety whatsoever, puts him in some sticky situations (pun intended). While the speedy Russian winger was facing Atlanta a few years back, he took a high stick to the mouth and, well, the inevitable happened: goodbye tooth. The interesting thing about Ovie is, unlike some players, he embraces his missing chomper. Hockey seems like old-fashioned fun with Ovechkin, and his missing tooth is just another badge of honor.
# 7 – Matthew Barnaby
If Ovechkin embraces his missing teeth, Matthew Barnaby outright flaunted it. A journeyman who spent the better part of his career with Buffalo, the scrappy winger was known for two things: penalties and his tooth. In 15 NHL seasons, Barnaby racked up an astounding 2,562 minutes in penalties (and he still managed to score 300 points!). In his stay with the Sabres, he went through several sets of bridges and false teeth until he finally found one that stuck: a gold front-tooth etched with the Sabres “B” logo. This instantly made him a fan favorite and didn’t do much to help his penalty trouble- opposing players lined up for a chance to get a nice golden souvenir.
#6 – Paul Kariya
Paul Kariya parted ways with his front teeth during the 1996-97 season, the same year he won his second straight Lady Byng Memorial Trophy (awarded to the player who exhibits the best type of sportsmanship and conduct along with a high standard of play). He’s relatively short for NHL standards and a choppy play though the neutral zone resulted in a face-height crosscheck and a visit from the Tooth Fairy. Five teeth were sacrificed in the effort, but he netted the game-winning goal so the story isn’t all bad news.
#5 – Eric Belanger
After taking a high stick to the mouth in a post-season game against Montreal, Capitals center Eric Belanger pulled his own loose tooth from his mouth. I’m sure there are people that are going to say “Well, big deal- they used to do that all the time back in the day.” Yeah, but now we can watch it in HD. The VIDEO says it all.
#4 – Chris Pronger
No one says “Hockey Goon” in today’s NHL like Chris Pronger. Well, maybe that’s not an accurate statement since I can think of quite a few other guys, but at least no one LOOKS the part better than Pronger does. His trade to Philly got East Coast fans fired up for fisticuffs in 2010 and #20 didn’t do much to disappoint. Known for his ability to do more than just ruffle a few feathers, Pronger racked up 79 penalty minutes and helped push the Flyers to the Finals for the first time in almost over two decades. The difference between Pronger and the rest of the guys on this list isn’t that his teeth are missing (although they are in rough shape), it’s that he’s been responsible for more missing teeth than any current hockey player on the ice today.
#3 – Ken Daneyko
You knew retired New Jersey defenseman Ken Daneyko, who was a Devils lifer by the way, just had to make this list. On top of holding the record for games played as a Devil (1,283), which earned him the moniker “Mr. Devil” (although I assume his playing tactics may have also played a hand in this nickname), Daneyko has three Stanley Cup titles with the team. One mean D-man by anyone’s standards, Mr. Devil was always quick for a hit, but quicker to throw himself in front of the net, sometimes face first. You have to admit though, seeing him hoist the Cup with his two front teeth missing is a memorable sight.
#2 – Mike Ricci
Sheesh! Just look at those teeth… or what’s left of them anyways. A memorable mug to say the least (he’s been voted ugliest hockey player on lists all over the web), I think this excerpt from an article posted on theeastcarolinain.com says it all about Ricci:
“Former Shark Mike Ricci even managed to make his toothless appearance very cool. In 1997, a Denver columnist described a bar encounter where a woman was hitting on the hockey player. Ricci dropped his false teeth into her glass of beer, grinned like a jack-o-lantern and said ‘What do you think of me now?’ the columnist wrote.”
#1 – Bobby Clarke
I absolutely had to put Clarke at the number one spot because he is one of the dominant faces of 1970’s NHL hockey. That toothless grin led the Broad Street Bullies to two Stanley Cup wins and he is regarded as one of the greatest play-makers and all around hockey players ever. But those teeth! Say the name Bobby Clarke to any hockey fan and they’ll immediately see that toothless mug of his. His relentless play (and disregard for the rules sometimes- I’m sure Valeri Kharlamov would agree) was all the motivation his teammates needed to dominate 1970’s hockey. A true hockey legend (1,210 points in his 15 year career), Clarke had the most memorable “hockey teeth” ever.
The Hockey Writers is:
1) A top-tier hockey media company delivering a top-notch, in-depth look at the NHL
2) A collective of some of the best hockey writers anywhere
3) A multimedia provider with daily podcasts and YouTube shows
4) Well-respected and widely-cited NHL prospect and draft resource