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Top NHL Players of all Time

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I identified the finest ice hockey players ever, applying algorithms, spreadsheets, statistics, and slide rules. I am Kidding! I have no idea what an algorithm is. I do, however, know my hockey. So, based only on my sincerely held beliefs, I’ve compiled a highly subjective top ten hockey players list. Do you disagree with my choices?

Alex Ovechkin

Alex Ovechkin is the only one of my employees that is a hockey aficionado. He once referred to Ovechkin as “the finest human being on the globe.” I think he was joking when he said that. “Ovie,” on the other hand, has proven to be a superb ice hockey player. Ovechkin has continuously led the Washington Capitals in scoring since his NHL debut in 2005, winning the Maurice Richard Trophy for most goals scored on many occasions (2008–09, 2013–16, 2018–19, and 2020). He’s also a three-time Hart Memorial Trophy winner as the league’s most valuable player (2008–09, 2013).

In 2018, he (eventually) won the Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals. All of this is on top of his colourful personality, which he uses to engage fans with hilarious statements (“Russian machine never breaks”) and antics (wearing a fisherman’s hat during a specialty contest at the 2009 All-Star break). Oh, and what about the colleague? He is my superior.

Jacques Plante

Jacques Plante changed hockey. Literally. The goalkeeper for the Montreal Canadiens is attributed with popularizing face masks. He needed 21 face stitches after being wounded by a slap shot in 1959. Because he was the team’s only goaltender, he had to return to the game after being stitched up. Even if he could wear a face mask, he wouldn’t take the ice. The rest, as they say, is history. Plante was a superb player, regardless of the equipment. He led Montreal in winning five Stanley Cups in a row (1956–60) as a goalkeeper. He was voted the league’s most valuable player in 1962, and he won the Vezina Trophy seven times (1956–60, 1962, 1969) as the league’s top goalkeeper.

Steve Yzerman

Is it true that I grew up in Michigan? Yes. Is it possible that I’m subjective? Certainly, but this is my list, and the Detroit Red Wings Steve Yzerman is on it. He was instrumental in resurrecting Detroit as Hockey town by transforming the Dead Wings into one of the game’s most dominant teams. He gave three Stanley Cups to a city that greatly needed something to celebrate as the NHL’s longest-serving captain (1997–98, 2002). He garnered regard for his elegance and calm leadership, in addition to being an all-around player who could score and defend.

Terry Sawchuk

Terry Sawchuk has been dubbed “hockey’s best goalkeeper” by many. He took home four Stanley Cups and four Vezina Trophies in a 21-year career, three with the Red Wings (1952, 1954–55), and one with the Toronto Maple Leafs (1967). He also won 447 games, including a career-high 103 shutouts, a record that stood until 2009. While he left his mark on hockey, the game also left its mark on him. He was claimed to have had 400 stitches before finally donning a face mask. In 1966, Time magazine commissioned a makeup artist to recreate all of his facial injuries, and the result isn’t pretty. After a drunken altercation with a teammate resulted in fatal internal injuries, Sawchuk died in 1970 at 40. For a long period, he had battled depression and drinking.

Jean Béliveau

Jean Béliveau, regarded as one of the finest centers in the league, won ten (yes, ten) Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens (1956–60, 1965–66, 1968–69, 1971). He set a team record with 507 goals and was awarded MVP twice (1956, 1964). Béliveau was so great that he did not even have to endure the traditional three years after retirement to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame (1972).

Maurice Richard

The record books were rewritten by “The Rocket.” The right-winger became the first player to achieve 500 goals in a single season and score 50 goals in a single season. Maurice Richard won eight Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens during his 18-year career (1944, 1946, and 1953, 1956–60). He was also noted for his abrasive style of play and sassy demeanor. His dismissal (for fighting) in 1955 provoked riots in Montreal, as he was a national hero among French Canadians.

Mario Lemieux

He returned as a player for several seasons before his last retirement in 2006. Three years later, Mario Lemieux, while being 6 feet 4 inches (1.9 meters) tall, demonstrated exceptional athleticism. Having missed many seasons since being diagnosed with Hodgkin cancer, he won two Stanley Cups (1991–92) and scored an amazing 690 career goals over his 17 years as a player with the Pittsburgh Penguins. In 1997, “The Magnificent One” resigned, and two years later, after becoming the Penguins’ majority owner, he helped the team emerge from insolvency. Lemieux became the first individual to win the Stanley Cup as both a player and an owner when Pittsburgh won another Stanley Cup.

Bobby Orr

Bobby Orr is widely regarded as the game’s best defenseman, as shown by his record-setting eight James Norris Memorial Trophy wins (1968–75). While with the Boston Bruins, he was the first defence to lead the NHL in scoring (1970), and he was named the league’s MVP three times (1970–72). In addition, he has two Stanley Cups to his name (1970, 1972).

Wayne Gretzky

“The Great One” affected the paradigm with his elegance and quickness. Wayne Gretzky broke several records, including an all-time high of 894 goals. With the Edmonton Oilers, he won four Stanley Cups (1984–85, 1987–88) and was voted NHL MVP nine times (1980–87, 1989). He helped promote ice hockey in the United States since being moved to the Los Angeles Kings in 1988, laying the path for the league’s proliferation.

Gordie Howe

To you, he’s known as “Mr. Hockey.” Gordie Howe’s 801 career ambitions were an NHL record at the time, and he won four Stanley Cups with the Red Wings’ “Production Line” (1950, 1952, 1954–55). Mr. Elbows was recognized for his tough play as well as his scoring ability. Not that I condone brawls, but unlike some of the other players (cough, Gretzky, cough), Howe did not require the assistance of a bodyguard to wage his conflicts. For one game, he sparked the “Gordie Howe hat trick,” which included a goal, an assist, and a brawl. And Howe continued to play till he was 52 years old.