SUN Hockey Pool

NHL's pest in show

Is this an accident or usual antics for Ottawa Senators super-pest Jarkko Ruutu, centre? If you ask...

Is this an accident or usual antics for Ottawa Senators super-pest Jarkko Ruutu, centre? If you ask Florida Panthers goaltender Alexander Salak, he might not believe Ruutu is trying to avoid being hit by the puck. And given Ruutu’s resumé, well … you decide. (QMI Agency)

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:32 PM ET

You won't see too many of these guys at the Olympics.

They don't typically make the big NHL money. Goals are welcome but not always necessary for them to be effective.

Most nights, their main objective is to tick off those NHLers who score regularly and make millions for it.

They do anything to irritate, aggravate and infuriate.

They're the league's best pests.

"You need a couple of cans of Raid to get rid of those guys," jokes Calgary Flames defenceman Robyn Regehr.

But they're no laughing matter.

They may be wearing wide grins as they chuck insults or hits at the stars, but those unlucky enough to receive special attention from the likes of Sean Avery, Steve Ott, Jarkko Ruutu, Matt Cooke or Alex Burrows are usually frowning.

Or they're frothing at the mouth.

Dallas Stars agitator Ott has made his share of opponents miserable. Flames Jarome Iginla and Regehr can be counted among them, but they're far from alone.

Reactions are easy to spot in games during which a pest has managed to rile an entire team.

"I've done it," Ott says.

"They continue to bark. I can't even get a word in. There's 10 of them standing up on the bench when I'm skating by. That's when I know I've got a whole team."

How does it happen? How can one man get his opposition focusing on his antics instead of putting pucks past his goaltender?

Tactics range from sharp trash talk to heavy hits.

"Sometimes when you go chirp a head coach or something like that -- why go after the peasant when you can go after the king or the captain? -- it usually draws a lot of attention," Ott says.

"That's something I sometimes go after and sometimes use."

Infamous Finnish agitator Ruutu isn't afraid to dart over the lines of legality to knock opponents off their games.

"You have to be willing to do dirty little things," says the Ottawa Senators winger, sporting fresh stitches over his right eye as the result of a recent retaliation.

"When you get (them) frustrated, it's pretty easy to get guys off their game. You hit him, finish your check and chirp him right after."

Sometimes, Ruutu will go the extra mile.

"Sure," he admits with a nod. "There've been some borderline things."

It was a little more than a year ago Ruutu was suspended for two games after biting -- yes, biting -- Andrew Peters's thumb after the Buffalo Sabres heavyweight stuck his glove in Ruutu's face.

But it was his antics that led to the second-longest suspension in league history when former Flames tough-guy Chris Simon felt the need to pull Ruutu to the ice and stomp on his leg, an act that resulted in a 30-game penalty for Simon while with the New York Islanders.


Photos