Saturday, February 12, 2011

Ice Hockey: Half-Century of Greats

Since today is "Hockey Day in Canada" I thought I'd look at the greatest hockey players by decades.

This was when there were only six teams in the National Hockey League and the best teams were from Montreal and Detroit.
Jacques Plante (G) - Montreal - Was the first goaltender to regularly use a mask. 
Doug Harvey (D) - Montreal
Jean Beliveau (C) - Montreal
Ted Lindsay (LW) - Detroit
Gordie Howe (RW) - Detroit - Played 32 seasons, from 1942 to 1980, scoring 15 goals in 80 games at the age of 51.

In 1968 the NHL doubled in size, denuding the vibrant minor league systems of their best players.
Bobby Hull (LW) - Chicago - Led the league in goals seven times during the decade.
Andy Bathgate (RW) - 4 teams - Tough choice. Could have gone with Howe again but his best seasons were in the 1950's. Andy is the only player on this list I actually saw play in person when he was in the Western Hockey League at the age of 37.
Stan Mikita (C) - Chicago
Pierre Pilote (D) - Chicago
Glenn Hall (G) - Chicago & St. Louis

Bobby Orr (D) - Boston - The greatest defenseman to ever play the game. Bobby is the one flying through the air after scoring the tying goal that led to Boston's 1970 Stanley Cup victory.
Guy Lafleur (RW) - Montreal
John Bucyk (LW) - Boston
Bobby Clark (C) - Philadelphia - I could have gone with Phil Esposito but I just always liked Clark better. He was scrappier.
Ken Dryden (G) - Montreal

Wayne Gretzky (C) - Edmonton & Los Angeles - The Babe Ruth of hockey. The greatest there every was.
Mark Messier (LW) - Edmonton
Mike Bossy (RW) - New York Islanders
Paul Coffey (D) - Edmonton & Pittsburgh
Patrick Roy (G) - Montreal

Dominic Hasek (G) - Buffalo & Chicago
Jaromir Jagr (RW) - Pittsburgh
Luc Robitaille (LW) - 3 teams
Mario Lemieux (C) - Pittsburgh - Ended up saving hockey in Pittsburgh and owning the franchise.
Ray Bourque (D) - Boston

Sid Crosby (C) - Pittsburgh - An artist on ice. Scores with the finesse of a painter. In the white uniform above.
Alex Ovechkin (LW) - Washington - Crosby's equal but does it through brute force and boundless energy. Red uniform.
Jarome Iginla (RW) - Calgary
Nicklas Lidstrom (D) - Detroit
Martin Brodeur (G) - New Jersey - Holds the record for most win.

The worst NHL player ever may have been Bill Mikkelson. In three seasons his plus/minus was -147 in 147 games. Meaning his just stepping on the ice was worth a full goal for his opponent.

San Diego Gulls
As long as I doing this, here are a few records for the Western Hockey League team of my youth.
  • Most Goals & Most Assists - Len Ronson
  • Most Goaltender Wins - Jack McCartan
  • Best Player - Willie O'Ree (pictured)


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed watching and cheering the San Diego Gulls.

Anonymous said...

Bobby Orr was incredible. One year, he had a =/- of 124 -- that's is a =/- of over 1 1/2 every game. Hockey was different in the 50s and 60s. In those days, it was a rarity to find a player who weighed over 200 lbs. Shifts were longer, and play was more methodical, which is probably why Orr stood out so much. He skated past players like they were statues. And, of course, in the 50s and early 60s, padding was nearly non-existent.

Jack McCartan was on the gold medal team of 1960 in Squaw Valley -- the first miracle on ice.

Willie O'Ree was probably not the best player in the WHL, but he clearly was the most exciting. He was fast and skated with complete abandon. And, he played hockey eve though he was 95% blind in one eye. He made the NHL that way. Terrific spirit.

Gretzky's team in the early 1890s scored 446 goals -- over 5 a game.

Good memories.

stevewckrt said...

The greatest defenseman to ever play the game. Bobby is the one flying through the air after scoring the tying goal that led to Boston's 1970 Stanley Cup victory.
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