The athletic skill-set that an exceptional hockey player must possess is almost mind-numbing. Exceptional hand-eye coordination, exceptional stick handling, exceptional ice vision, exceptional instincts and exceptional toughness. Then add the coordination of these skills while moving at high speed, on ice skates. To witness these players performing at their best is always something to marvel. The world’s leading factory for players with all-time talent is the fine nation of Canada. Ice Hockey is unique. Ice Hockey is amazing. Ice Hockey stars possess otherworldly talent. In celebration of these unbelievable athletes, Idiots Guide presents a tour of some of the greatest playmakers in the history of the National Hockey League.
#15. Joe Sakic / Center / Burnaby, Canada
When you think about master team motivators and their overall influence on the success of a team, it won’t be long until you consider Joseph Steven Sakic. He played for 21-years in the National Hockey League (NHL), all of them with the Quebec Nordiques (Turned Colorado Avalanche) franchise. As a team captain, Sakic is 2-time Stanley Cup Champion (1996, 2001), a Bud Light Plus/Minus Award winner (2001), a Conn Smythe Trophy winner (1996), a Hart Memorial Trophy winner (2001), a Lady Byng Memorial Trophy winner (2001) and a Lester B. Pearson Award winner (2001). His leadership abilities made him one of the most valuable players in NHL history and he has the hardware to prove it.
#14. Peter Šťastný / Center / Bratislava, Czechoslovakia
Throughout his NHL career Peter Šťastný was also known as ‘Peter the Great’. He performed at very high levels during his time in the National Hockey League (1980 – 1995). Stastny shared ownership of the 1980’s with Wayne Gretzky, the only player to score more goals than he did in the decade. He played for the Quebec Nordiques, New Jersey Devils, and St. Louis Blues during his NHL run. He ranks 34th all-time in points. Šťastný played on 6 NHL All-Star Teams (1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1988) and is a Hall of Fame Inductee for the NHL (1998), IIHF (2000) and Slovak Hockey Hall of Fame(s) (2002). To be a 3-time Hall of Fame member says as much as you can say about his greatness as a player.
#13. Guy Lafleur / Right Wing / Thurso, Canada
Known as ‘The Flower’, Guy Lafleur is a bonafide living legend. He is the very first player in NHL history to score 50 goals and 100 points in six straight seasons! He played a majority of his 18 (+) year career for the Montreal Canadiens, he also played for the New York Rangers and Quebec Nordiques. His trophy mantle boasts 5 Stanley Cup Championships (all for the Canadiens). He is also a 2-time winner of the Hart Trophy (1977, 1978), a Conn Smythe Trophy (1977), a 3-time Art Ross Trophy winner
(1976, 1977, 1978) and a 3-time Lester B. Pearson Award winner (1976, 1977, 1978). Simply put, Guy Lafleur is one of the greatest hockey players of his era and of all-time.
#12. Stan Mikita / Center / Sokolče, Slovakia
Stanislav Mikita is one of the legendary Chicago Black Hawks players of all-time. To many observers he was the best attacking center throughout the decade of the 1960s. He is a 2-time winner of the Hart Memorial Trophy (1967, 1968), a 4-time winner of the Art Ross Trophy (1964, 1965, 1967 and 1968), a 2-time winner of the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy (1967, 1968) and is the only player to win the Hart, Art Ross and Lady Byng trophies in one season and he accomplished that feat in consecutive seasons (1966, 1967) and again in (1967, 1968). That’s quite an accomplishment for the man they called ‘Stan’.
#11. Maurice Richard / Right Wing / Montreal, Canada
They called him ‘Rocket’ Richard during his 18 year NHL career with the Montreal Canadiens. Richard became the first in what would become an esteemed list of players who would score 50 goals in one season (1944-45). He was also the first player to reach 500 career goals. At the time of Richard’s retirement in 1960, he was the league’s all-time leader in goals with 544. He was a Hart Trophy winner (1947), a 2-time Canadian Press male athlete of the year (1952, 1957) and a Lou Marsh Trophy winner (1957). Richard is regarded as one of the most talented and influential Canadian players, ever.
#10. Pavel Datsyuk / Center / Yekaterinburg, Russia
Pavel Datsyuk aka ‘The Magic Man’ was a premiere Russian professional hockey player who arrived in the NHL with the Detroit Red Wings where he went on to win 2 Lord Stanley Cups (2002, 2008). A player who prided himself on great defense, Datsyuk was a 3-time Frank J. Selke Trophy winner (NHL’s top defensive forward) (2007–08), (2008–09) and (2009–10). You can add being a 4-time (consecutive) Lady Byng Memorial Trophy winner, (2006 – 2009). Datsyuk’s legacy as an elite defensive minded offensive player is well founded. He left an indelible mark on the NHL, as well as in international play.
#9. Marcel Dionne / Center / Drummondville, Canada
Known as the ‘Little Beaver’ during his playing days, Marcel Dionne’s long and successful career speaks volumes. He played for 18 seasons in the NHL for various teams including, the Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings and the New York Rangers. His NHL success started early as he set the scoring record for a rookie (Since surpassed) with a 77 point campaign in 1972. He was also a 2-time Lady Byng Trophy Winner (1974-75), (1976-77), a 2-time Lester B. Pearson Award Winner (1978-79), (1979-80), as well as a Art Ross Trophy Winner (1979-80). Marcel Dionne was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1992.
#8. Pavel Bure / Right Wing / Minsk, Belarus
There have been very few hockey players with the pure skating speed of Pavel Bure. Hence, his more than appropriate nickname, ‘The Russian Rocket’. Bure’s 12 year NHL career spanned tours with the Vancouver Canucks, Florida Panthers and New York Rangers. He was already an established star for his play with the Soviet Union Central Red Army National Team. He is a Calder Memorial Trophy winner (1992) and a 7-time All-Star. With the Canucks he won numerous awards including: Most Exciting Player Award (1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1998), a 4-time Molson Cup winner (1992, 1993, 1994, 1998), a 3-time Cyclone Taylor Trophy (MVP) (1993, 1994, 1998) and a 4-time Cyrus H. McLean Trophy winner (leading scorer) (1993, 1994, 1995, 1998). Pavel Bure was elected into the National Hockey Hall of Fame in 2012.
#7. Bobby Hull / Left Wing / Point Anne, Ontario, Canada
In many circles, Robert Marvin Hull is regarded as one of, if not the greatest, hockey players of all time. He was straight out of central casting with his blonde hair, and rugged good looks that belied his exceptional speed on ice skates. He was also regarded to possess one of the hardest slap-shots in history. His total package earned him the nickname ‘The Golden Jet’. Hull was one of the first players to ever command ‘double teams’ in order to stem his effectiveness. That’s how great he was considered. Hull played for an amazing 23 years between the NHL and World Hockey Association (WHL). In the NHL he played for numerous teams including the Chicago Blackhawks, Winnipeg Jets and the Hartford Whalers. He was a 2-time Hart Memorial Trophy winner (1965, 1966), a 3-time Art Ross Trophy winner (1960, 1962, 1966). Hull and his Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 1961. He also won 3 Avco Cup Championships (1976, 1978, and 1979) with the Winnipeg Jets. He also has a Lady Byng Memorial Trophy (1965), as well as a Lester Patrick Trophy (1969). Bobby Hull was elected to the National Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983 and the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 1997. Those are hard facts to argue against.
#6. Jaomir Jager / Right Wing / Kladno, Czech Republic
When Jaromír Jágr came to the NHL (1990) he was the youngest player in the league. Today (2015-16) at 44 years of age and member of the Florida Panthers, he is the oldest. His prime years were spent with the Pittsburgh Penguins alongside ‘Mario the Great’. He also played for the likes of the Washington Capitals, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Dallas Stars, Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils, yes all of those teams. Jágr is the leading active point scorer among active players. He is arguably the most successful European player in NHL history. He is widely considered one of the greatest hockey players of all time. He holds records for: Most career game-winning goals (130), Most career overtime goals (20). Jaromír is also a 5-time Art Ross Trophy winner (1995, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001), a 3-time Lester B. Pearson Award (1999, 2000, 2006), a Hart Memorial Trophy winner (1999) and a 2-time Stanley Cup champion (1991, 1992). Any questions?
#5. Mario Lemieux / Center / Montreal, Canada
Mario Lemieux is also known as ‘The Magnificent One’, just how magnificent we will never know as his 17 years in the NHL, mostly with the Pittsburgh Penguins were injury plagued. Like his aforementioned peers, he is widely regarded as one of the greatest hockey players of all time. Lemieux was a remarkably gifted athlete with the unusual combination of great size, blinding speed and skating ability. Lemieux won 2 consecutive Stanley Cups (1991 and 1992) and a 3rd Stanley Cup in 2009. He also has a Gold Medal for Team Canada (2002), a World Cup Championship (2004) and a Canada Cup (1987). He is a 4-time Lester B. Pearson Award winner ( 1986, 1988, 1993, 1996), a 3-time Hart Trophy winner ( 1988, 1993, 1996), a 2-time Conn Smythe Trophy winner (1991, 1992), a 6-time Art Ross Trophy Award winner (1988, 1989, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997) and voted the ESPN Hockey Player of the Decade (2000) When he retired he was the NHL’s seventh all-time scorer with 690 goals and 1,033 assists. Mario Lemieux was voted into the National Hockey Hall of Fame in 1997. Simple one of the the greatest hockey players the world has ever known.
#4. Mike Bossy / Right Wing / Montreal, Canada
Mike Bossy played for the New York Islanders his entire NHL career. He was a huge offensive contributor during their amazing 4-year run as consecutive Stanley Cup Champions (1980 -1983). Bossy is the only player in NHL history to score consecutive winning goals in Stanley Cup finals play (1982 and 1983). Bossy is also one of five players to score 50 goals in 50 games and he holds the record for most consecutive 50 (+) goal seasons (9). Bossy is a Calder Trophy winner (1978), a Conn Smythe Trophy winner (1982), a 3-time Lady Byng Trophy winner (1983, 1984, 1986) and led the NHL in goals 2-times (1979, 1981). Mike Bossy holds dozens of NHL regular season and play-off records. Mike Bossy was elected to the National Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991.
#3. Gordie Howe / Right Wing / Floral, Saskatchewan
If you were a fan of Gordon “Gordie” Howe you would have seen him play in the NHL from 1946 to 1980, where Howe played a majority of his twenty-six year career. His his first 25 seasons were with the Detroit Red Wings where Howe was known as ‘Mr. Hockey’. He is without question considered one of the greatest hockey players of all time. He was a 23-time NHL All-Star. Howe is a 6-time Hart Trophy winner (1952, 1953, 1957, 1958, 1960 and 1963) and a 6-time Art Ross Trophy winner (1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1957, 1963). Before Wayne Gretzky it was Howe who held a majority of the NHL’s scoring records. In 2008 Howe received a NHL Lifetime Achievement Award. Gordie Howe was elected into the National Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972.
#2. Bobby Orr / Defenseman / Parry Sound, Canada
Robert Gordon “Bobby” Orr is widely regarded as one of the greatest hockey players, ever. He was famous for his ice skating speed, scoring, and of course, otherworldly ability to make plays. The amazing part was that he did this from the position of defenseman. For 12 NHL seasons, 10 with the Boston Bruins, Orr was a force to be reckoned with on the ice. Orr is the only defenseman to win the league scoring title. He is also a 2-time Art Ross Trophy winner (1969–70 , 1974–75). He also has the record for most points and assists in a season by a defenseman. Orr won 8 consecutive Norris Trophies (from 1968 to 1975). Orr won 3 consecutive Hart Trophies (1970, 1971, 1972). Orr was a 2-time Conn Smythe Trophy Award winner (1970, 1972). His 1979 induction into the National Hockey Hall of Fame made Orr the youngest player to ever be honored (31). A perfect ending to a career that started with a Calder Memorial Trophy in 1967. Bobby Orr was one of the all-time greats.
#1. Wayne Gretzky / Center / Brantford, Canada
From the moment that Wayne Douglas Gretzky laced up his skates for an NHL game in 1979, the game would be forever changed. Known to the world as ‘The Great One’, Gretzky never disappointed. He played 20 NHL seasons with four teams and is considered to be the hands down ‘Greatest hockey player of all-time and forever’. Ask any sportswriter, and/or player, the answer will be the same. Gretzky is the most prolific scorer in the history of the NHL. He has more goals and more assists than any player living or dead, ever. Gretzky is the only NHL player to total over 200 points in a single season, something he did four separate times in his career. He also scored over 100 points 14 consecutive seasons (16 in total). His Edmonton Oilers won Lord Stanley’s Cup 3-times (1985, 1987 and 1988). Gretzky retired holding 61 NHL all-time records (he still holds 60): 40 regular-season records, 15 playoff records, and six All-Star records. The list goes on forever. G.O.A.T