A pest in ice hockey is a player who attempts to antagonize opponent players either by physical play or verbal incitation. Pests employ legal, illegal, or borderline tactics to accomplish their goals. Some common tactics include trash talk or slashing and hooking while referees are not looking. They may employ the tactic of goading opponents into a fight but then backing off in order to draw a penalty against them. Some pests may not only use these tactics against opposing skaters, but opposing goaltenders as well. Pest and agitator are sometimes used synonymously, as both are usually characterized by short bursts of intensity and speed with the intention of creating havoc. The pest characterization has been used derogatorily, as a player who incites anger in the opposition but is unwilling to directly confront the result of their actions by engaging in fighting, as would an enforcer. George McPhee, former general manager of the Washington Capitals and current general manager of the Vegas Golden Knights, said, "Pests are really the guys who have no courage. They start stuff and don't back it up."
In February 2001, Hockey Digest published a list of the NHL's best pests. They were: Bob Kelly, Matt Cooke, Esa Tikkanen, Tomas Holmström, Darius Kasparaitis, Ian Laperrière, Tyson Nash, Todd Harvey, Matthew Barnaby, Kris Draper, Bill Lindsay, Jamal Mayers and Steve Staios.
In 2009, Sports Illustrated also compiled their own list of "Notable Pests of the NHL". Their list was: Sean Avery, Claude Lemieux, Steve Ott, Jordin Tootoo, Jarkko Ruutu, Matt Cooke, Alexandre Burrows, Chris Neil, Ian Laperrière, Darcy Tucker, Chris Simon, Matthew Barnaby, Theo Fleury, Pat Verbeek, Esa Tikkanen, Ken Linseman and Tiger Williams.
|Positions on the hockey rink|
|Forwards:||Left wing | Centre | Right wing|
|Defencemen:||Left defenceman | Right defenceman|
|Power forward | Enforcer | Grinder | Pest | Two-way forward | Stay-at-home defenceman | Rover | Captain | Head coach | Referees and linesmen|