The National Hockey League (NHL) has the highest average attendance of any major sport league in the world, with 21,000 fans per game on average during the 2013-2014 season. The NHL is full of great players who have put up amazing numbers over their careers – but who are the best of all time? Here are our picks for the top 10 NHL players of all time, including stats and impact on their team and the game as well as their overall legacy. So who’s number one? Read on to find out!
1) Wayne Gretzky
This isn’t even close. Not only did Gretzky dominate his era, he reached numbers that haven’t been touched by anyone since. During his 20-year career, Gretzky scored 894 goals—239 more than Bobby Hull, who is second on the all-time list. He added 1,963 assists to lead in that category as well.
2) Mario Lemieux
In a game against New Jersey on December 31, 1988, Mario Lemieux set an NHL record for scoring goals in consecutive games with his 13th straight game. He also became only one of two players to score at least three goals in four consecutive playoff games. As a team, Lemieux led Pittsburgh to back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 1991 and 1992 and is a six-time winner of both league MVP and top goal scorer titles.
3) Gordie Howe
Born March 31, 1928 in Floral, Saskatchewan, Howe is widely considered to be one of the greatest hockey players ever. Nicknamed Mr. Hockey and The Hockey God, Howe won four Stanley Cups with Detroit and an impressive six Hart Trophies as league MVP. His professional career lasted 25 years, including 17 years as a player-coach; he retired at age 52 with 801 goals and 1850 points in 2049 games.
4) Bobby Orr
Bobby Orr is widely regarded as one of, if not THE greatest hockey player to ever play. A defenceman who played on two Stanley Cup-winning teams and was a part of three more. He won eight Norris Trophies and four Conn Smythe Trophies. He was named to fourteen consecutive NHL All-Star games and retired with 270 career goals, 897 career assists, 1,483 career points, 924 career penalty minutes and thirty-nine playoff goals.
5) Mark Messier
In 1992, Mark Messier signed a one-year deal with his hometown team, The Edmonton Oilers. It was worth $3 million and is considered by many to be one of the best free agent signings in hockey history. In his first season back in Edmonton, Messier helped lead them to their fifth Stanley Cup championship.
6) Jean Beliveau
Beliveau was a cornerstone of two dynasties—the Montreal Canadiens teams that won five consecutive Stanley Cups from 1956 to 1960 and nine in total with Beliveau in their lineup. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame at age 31 and remains one of hockey’s most beloved players, despite never scoring more than 50 goals in a season.
7) Patrick Roy
3 Cups (1986, 1993, 1994) Vezina Trophy (1986) Conn Smythe Trophy (1986) Hart Memorial Trophy (1993) Lester B. Pearson Award (1993, 1994) Olympic Gold Medalist in 2002! I mean really what else can you say about Patrick Roy. For my money he is no doubt a top 3 goalie of all time along with Ken Dryden and Terry Sawchuk.
8) Maurice Richard
Richard was a right winger who scored 507 goals and 844 points in his career, winning two Stanley Cups in Montreal (1944-45, ’53-54). A nine-time all-star, Richard scored 30 or more goals 11 times. Nicknamed The Rocket, he was one of the top players in hockey history. The Canadiens retired his number and they named a wing at their arena after him.
9) Steve Yzerman
While Wayne Gretzky will forever be regarded as The Great One, and Mario Lemieux hailed as The Magnificent, Mr. Hockey is still most deserving of his moniker. Over a 20-year career spent with only one team (Red Wings), Yzerman registered 692 goals and 1,063 assists for 1,755 points in 1,514 games—numbers surpassed by only Gretzky.
10) Sidney Crosby
Sidney Crosby is a Canadian-born professional ice hockey player who serves as captain of both the Pittsburgh Penguins in his native Canada and Team Canada internationally. Crosby has been named to multiple All-Star Teams, awarded an Art Ross Trophy, and is one of only three players to win back-to-back Hart Trophies as league MVP.