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March 23, 2017

Top 1000 Players In Hockey History


Yes, you read that right. While the NHL is preparing to celebrate their Top 100 Players, GreatestHockeyLegends.com is preparing to celebrate the Top 1000.

Of course, the GreatestHockeyLegends.com 100 Greatest Hockey Players of All Time is the most popular feature in the website's long history.

Now I'm adding the Top 100 Hockey Players by decade, too:













March 15, 2017

The Top 150 Canadian NHLers of All Time





2017 may be the 100th anniversary year of the National Hockey League, but it is also the 150th anniversary for Canada as a nation. 


So let's celebrate both anniversaries in the most Canadian way possible - by remembering the top 150 Canadian NHL players of all time.



Below you will see my personal selections as to Canada's Top 150. I have ranked the top ten, and in what should be no surprise they are consistent with my previous selections of the top 100 players in hockey history.

Beyond the top ten I have ranked my top 150 Canadian selections simply by position.

Let's begin:

1. Wayne Gretzky (C)  - "The Great One" wanted to be the best every day. He was not the most physically gifted, but with unmatchable passion and intelligence he did more with less. More than anyone else, by leaps and bounds.


2. Bobby Orr (D) - The perfect hockey player. I would concede he had the greatest career if he lasted longer. Unfortunately that if always enters that conversation, making it impossible for me to grant him top billing.


3. Gordie Howe (RW) - Hockey is a man's game. "Mr. Hockey" is the man. Both Bobby Orr and Wayne Gretzky will tell you Gordie was the greatest player ever.


4. Mario Lemieux (C) -  Super Mario was the most gifted player ever, even more talented than Bobby Orr. The same if enters the conversations regarding Lemieux.


5. Rocket Richard (RW) - More than a hockey player: Rocket's incomparable legacy transcended the game to reach religious levels in Quebec and beyond. Simply amazing.


6. Jean Beliveau (C) - Head of the Class: Hockey's original gentle giant set the standard of class and excellence in Montreal that lasts to this day.


7. Bobby Hull (LW) - The Golden Jet reached amazing heights. He one of the rare true superstars in a sporting world that overuses that term far too liberally.


8. Guy Lafleur (RW) - Every goal was an event for The Flower


9. Eddie Shore (D) - Old Time Hockey! Eddie Shore was the main event in the hockey world in the early days of the NHL's existence. He dominated and entertained like few others all from the blue line. Only Orr joins Shore as defensemen who were the best player in the world.


10. Patrick Roy (G) - St. Patrick saved the day. I figure each block of 10 in my ranking of 100 should have at least one goaltender. Patrick Roy is universally considered to be the greatest goalie of all time.


Centers

Stan Mikita (C) - Overshadowed by Hull, Mikita may have been better
Howie Morenz (C) - The NHL's first superstar
Mark Messier (C) - Edmonton's native son became Manhattan's messiah
Sidney Crosby (C) - Player of Destiny
Phil Esposito (C) - The Most Underrated Superstar?
Steve Yzerman (C) - Stevie Wonder did it all
Bryan Trottier (C) - The most complete player of his day
Joe Sakic (C) - No Ordinary Joe
Henri Richard (C) - Overshadowed, but little brother was more complete player
Marcel Dionne (C) - Scoring King
Bobby Clarke (C) - Great Villain, Great Hero
Ron Francis (C) - Quiet Excellence
Milt Schmidt (C) - Mr. Boston Bruins
Syl Apps (C) - The Perfect Gentleman
Ted Kennedy (C) - Heart of the Leafs Dynasty

Max Bentley (C) - Dipsy Doodle Dandy

Newsy Lalonde (C) - Extra! Extra!
Bill Cowley (C) - Early Day Gretzky
Gilbert Perreault (C) - Gil The Thrill
Joe Malone (C) - NHL's First Scoring Star
Elmer Lach (C) - Centre of Attention
Dave Keon (C) - Beloved Maple Leaf
Jonathan Toews (C) - Captain Serious
Eric Lindros (C) - Reviled But Dominant

Frank Boucher (C) - A Beautiful Mind
Frank Nighbor (C) - Early Genius
Sid Abel (C) - Enabling The Production Line
Denis Savard (C) - The most electrifying player ever?
Doug Gilmour (C) - Heart of a lion
Dale Hawerchuk (C) - High Flying Jet
Joe Nieuwendyk (C) - The complete package
Alex Delvecchio (C) - Center of Attention
Jean Ratelle (C) - Classy and Classic
Darryl Sittler (C) - Maple Leafs Hero
Norm Ullman (C) - Underrated Hall of Famer
Adam Oates (C) - Passing Fancy
Pierre Turgeon (C) - Quiet Greatness
Bernie Federko (C) - Marching Saint
Guy Carbonneau (C) - Defensive Greatness
Rod Brind'Amour (C) - Complete Player
Vincent Lecavalier (C) - Jean Beliveau-lite
Joe Thornton (C) - Jumbo Joe
Butch Goring (C) - Last Piece of Islanders' Dynasty

Wingers

Mike Bossy (RW) - The best pure goal scorer of all time?
Ted Lindsay (LW) - Anything but terrible
Boom Boom Geoffrion (RW) - Loud And Proud
Frank Mahovlich (LW) - The Big M
Dickie Moore (LW) - The Man Who Would Make The Fans Forget About The Rocket
Bill Cook (RW) - Greatest Right Winger Before Howe, Richard
Charlie Conacher (RW) - The Big Bomber
Luc Robitaille (LW) - Cool Hand Luc

Johnny Bucyk (LW) - Boston's Chief

Andy Bathgate (RW) - Sharp Shooter

Busher Jackson (LW) - Controversial Superstar
Toe Blake (LW) - Great Player Turned Great Coach
Doug Bentley (LW) - No One Trick Pony
Aurel Joliat (LW) - The Little Giant
Bob Gainey (LW) - Admired By Russians
Yvan Cournoyer (RW) - The Roadrunner
Brendan Shanahan (LW) - Shanny's the man
Michel Goulet (LW) - Terribly Underrated
Mike Gartner (RW) - 700 Goal Man
Glenn Anderson (RW) - Mr. Playoffs
Jarome Iginla (RW) - Canadian Hero
Lanny McDonald (RW) - Alberta's Top Cowboy
Cam Neely (RW) - Bashin' and Crashin'
Bert Olmstead (LW) - Imposing and Skilled
Mark Recchi (RW) - Three Time Champ
Steve Shutt (LW) - Sharp Shooter
Dave Andreychuk (LW) - Big Man on Power Play
Theo Fleury (RW) - Good Things Come In Small Packages
Vincent Damphousse (LW) - Total Package
Martin St. Louis (RW) - Speed And Passion
Rod Gilbert (RW) - The Greatest Ranger
Bill Barber (LW) - High Flyer
Claude Lemieux (RW) - Clutch Scorer
Dino Ciccarelli (RW) - Dino The Dinosaur
Patrick Marleau (LW) - Shark Shooter
George Armstrong  (RW) - Captain Maple Leaf
Cy Denenny (LW) - One of NHL's Earliest Scoring Stars
Wendel Clark (LW) - Heart of the Maple Leafs
Trevor Linden (RW) - Captain Canuck
Reggie Leach (RW) - The Riverton Rifle
Steve Larmer (RW) - Iron Man
Kirk Muller (LW) - Captain Kirk
Clark Gillies (LW) - Imposing Islander
John Tonelli (LW) - Ultimate Role Player
John Ferguson (LW) - The Toughest of Tough
Tim Kerr (RW) - Power Play Specialist
Rick Tocchet (RW) - Rough and Tumble
Paul Henderson (LW) - Canadian Hero


Defense

Doug Harvey (D) - Firewagon Hockey
Ray Bourque (D) - Out of the shadows of Orr
Denis Potvin (D) - Captain of the Isles dynasty
Larry Robinson (D) - The prototypical NHL defenseman for any era
Paul Coffey (D) - Greatest skater rivalled Orr's heights
Red Kelly (D) - Superstar at two positions
King Clancy (D) - Heart of the Maple Leafs
Cyclone Taylor (D) - Hockey's First Legend
Brad Park (D) - In Bobby's Shadow
Chris Pronger (D) - Dastardly Good
Scott Stevens (D) - Captain Crunch
Pierre Pilote (D) - Last Of His Kind
Dit Clapper (D) - Star Forward, Superstar Defenseman
Tim Horton (D) - Blue Line Stud to Coffee Legend
Serge Savard (D) - Minister of Defense
Scott Niedermayer (D) - Hockey's Winningest Man
Earl Siebert (D) - Rearguard Roughian 
Al MacInnis (D) - Big Shot
Guy Lapointe (D) - Montreal's Big Three
Rob Blake (D) - Big Man On D
Larry Murphy (D) - Cerebral Defender
Kevin Lowe (D) - Oilers Defensive Conscience
JC Tremblay (D) - Playmaking Defender
Jacques Laperriere (D) - Cerebral defender
Shea Weber (D) - Big Shot
Duncan Keith (D) - High Flying Hawk
Drew Doughty (D) - King of the Blue Liners
Brent Burns (D) - Beard Power
Bill Gadsby (D) - Hall of Fame Defender
Eric Desjardins (D) - Versatile Defender

Goaltenders

Jacques Plante (G) - Plante changed the face of hockey
Terry Sawchuk (G) - Perfect Goalie, Imperfect World
Martin Brodeur (G) - Hockey's Winningest Goalie
Glenn Hall (G) - Mr. Goalie
Ken Dryden (G) - The Thinker
Bill Durnan (G) - Ambidextrous Puck Stopper
Bernie Parent (G) - Philly's Playoff MVP
Charlie Gardiner (G) - The Smiling Scotsman
Johnny Bower (G) - The China Wall
Grant Fuhr (G) - Spectacular
Billy Smith (G) - Battling Billy
Tony Esposito (G) - Tony O Shutout King
Gump Worsley (G) - The Most Colourful Goalie
Roberto Luongo (G) - Louuuuuu!
Ed Belfour (G) - Eddie the Eagle
George Hainsworth (G) - Early Goaltending Great
Mike Vernon (G) - Saving Grace
Rogie Vachon (G) - Hall of Fame Goalie
Clint Benedict (G) - Praying Bennie

March 07, 2017

Canadian Museum of History Opens Hockey Exhibit This Week



For the past year or more I have been working as a hockey consultant for the Canadian Museum of History. This Friday the exciting new exhibition Hockey In Canada opens. Here's a sneak peek:

http://www.historymuseum.ca/hockey/

Hockey is a beloved Canadian pastime, a rite of passage for kids, the heartbeat of small towns, an economic engine in big cities and a source of patriotic pride that so permeates our culture, we might call it a national obsession. But how did this sport come to be Canada’s game? What does our love of hockey reveal about us as a people? These questions and more will be explored in Hockey in Canada – More Than Just a Game, an exhibition developed by the Canadian Museum of History that celebrates the sport’s evolution and its widespread appeal.

The puck drops on March 10, 2017 at the Museum of History — 150 years after Canadian Confederation and 100 years after the birth of the National Hockey League.

“With Hockey in Canada – More Than Just a Game, we want to step back and look at the big picture: hockey’s cross-cultural origins, its historical impact and its place in our daily lives and in the collective psyche of Canadians,” said Jean-Marc Blais, Director General of the Canadian Museum of History. “It’s not about which team has won the most Stanley Cups, or which elite players have scored the most goals or the richest contracts. It’s about why Canadians love to play and watch hockey. It’s about team spirit, the fans and the emotional appeal. It’s about hockey’s role in our society and even in international diplomacy. It’s about why hockey matters to Canadians.”

The exhibition will feature items from the Museum’s National Collection and other Canadian memory institutions. The overarching motifs of community, family and popular culture will be anchored by star objects, not so much to glorify hockey’s heroes as to show their enduring influence. Jacques Plante’s “pretzel” goalie mask will illustrate innovations in player safety, while Hayley Wickenheiser’s skates will represent the growth of women’s hockey and the commitments and challenges of hockey families. Maurice “Rocket” Richard’s jersey and his Hall of Fame and Stanley Cup rings represent the relevance to hockey of politics, identity and the power of media.

Other one-of-a-kind artifacts, such as singer Shania Twain’s hockey-inspired stage costumes, plus hockey cards, souvenirs and table hockey games show far-reaching cultural impacts beyond the rink. These objects, along with video clips of historic highlights, memorabilia and more, will add up to an exciting, interactive experience that evokes the smell of sweat, the flick of a wrist-shot and the roar of a Canadian crowd.

Hockey in Canada – More Than Just a Game will be presented at the Canadian Museum of History from March 10 to October 9, 2017.

March 02, 2017

Rick Green

The mid 1970s Washington Capitals were quite arguably the worst team in modern NHL history.

In 1974-75 they record eight wins. Just eight wins! Sixty seven losses and five ties. Just twenty one points in the standings. 181 goals scored, and an embarrassing 446 scored against.

In 1975-76 they improved but barely. Eleven wins, ten ties. Fifty nine losses. thirty two points. Almost 400 more goals surrendered

The only reward for such ineptitude is the first overall draft pick they secured for the 1976 NHL draft. History has shown this to be one of the weakest drafts ever, but the Caps passed over one of the high scoring Saskatoon Blades teammates Blair Chapman and Bernie Federko.

They took a big, stay-at-home defenseman named Rick Green. They immediately signed him and rushed him into the NHL on the worst team in the league.

The results were predictable.

Rick Green would prove to be a very good defender. He had imposing size. Decent mobility. He could make a strong first pass or effectively clear the zone. He was going to be a NHL player for a long time and be a nice complimentary defenseman.

But he was never going to be an elite defender. He was not going to be a true number one blue liner. He had little offensive upside. He was not going to be a huge difference maker on his own. And especially not as a 20 year old rookie on the worst team in hockey.

The early results should have been predictable. A broken wrist in his rookie season did not help, but his lack of help hindered probably even more. When the turnaround never happened, fans turned on him quick. They booed him off the ice regularly, even though the target of their unhappiness was actually the team management and coaching staff.

Things started to get better by Green's fourth year in the league. The team was finally gaining some respectability in the league, and the play of Green and defense partner Robert Picard was a big part of it. And the fans changed their tune on Green, voting him as the Capitals' Unsung Hero in 1980.

Green ultimately did lead to the Capitals ultimate turn into a NHL power in the 1980s, but it was indirectly. On September 10, 1982 the Capitals traded Green and Ryan Walter to Montreal in exchange fore Rod Langway, Brian Engblom, Craig Laughlin and Doug Jarvis. While the latter three all proved to be solid contributors, it was Langway who finally gave the Capitals a game changer an elite defenseman.

Green quietly went on to be a long time presence on the Montreal Canadiens blueline, and he helped them win the Stanley Cup in 1986.

Green left the NHL in 1989 and played in Italy for a season. He returned to the NHL in 1990-91 with the Detroit Red Wings. In 1991-92 he eventually joined the New York Islanders after sitting out the first half of the season. Four games after finally joining the team he broke his foot.

In 845 NHL games Rick Green scored 43 goals, 220 assists and 263 points.

February 25, 2017

Jacques Laperriere

Jacques Laperriere grew up idolizing Doug Harvey. He ended up filling the legends' shoes, while wearing the same sweater #2.

Laperriere started with Montreal in 1962, the year after Harvey was sent packing to New York. Laperriere won the Calder Trophy as the league's best rookie, and also was named to the 2nd All Star Team. In his sophomore campaign, Laperriere was named to the 1st All Star Team and won the Norris Trophy as best blueliner, despite missing some regular season games and the entire playoffs due to injury.

It was obvious right from the start of his career with Les Habitants that he would be a key part of some great Habs teams. He was the classic pre-Bobby Orr offensive defenseman, anchoring the offense like a football quarterback, prefering to make incredible passes than rushing it himself.

Laperriere was not a noted physical combatant, though he did use his body effectively to defend against opposing forwards. He also had a reputation as a top shot blocker. He had a long fuse, but he would drop the gloves once in a while too. Once he picked up 30 minutes in penalty for one altercation with Chicago's Stan Mikita.

No doubt Laperriere was tough. He had some terrible injuries he had to overcome during his playing days, for some reason usually in the playoffs. He suffered a broken leg in the 1965 semi finals, the year he won his only Norris trophy as the league's best defensemen. He played with a broken wrist while winning the 1971 Stanley Cup. In 1973, another Cup-winning year, he played 10 post season games with an odd helmet-face mask contraption to protect a broken nose.

Laperriere would be part of six Stanley Cup championships during his playing days, most of which featured him as the backbone of a very underrated Habs defense group. By Montreal standards the Laperriere era, which also featured the likes of J. C. Tremblay, Terry Harper and Ted Harris, was very much unheralded by history. Though he was elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1987, he remains one of the more anonymous of the Montreal greats.

Upon retirement he turned to coaching, prefering the assistant role more so than that of head bench boss. He was a long time assitant coach in Montreal, helping to bring along such star defensemen as Eric Desjardins, Mathieu Schneider, Chris Chelios, Larry Robinson and Petr Svoboda

February 24, 2017

What If Wayne Gretzky Had No Hart?


Wayne Gretzky won a mind-boggling eight consecutive Hart Trophies as the National Hockey League's Most Valuable Player. He even won a ninth Hart, making in nine out of 10 years - the entire decade of the 1980s.

Think about that for just a moment.

There was no questioning Wayne Gretzky's dominance, and his decade long league MVP status is exhibit one.

But there were runners-up, and they all deserve some sort of recognition, too. So let's take a look at who was the best player in hockey during each season of the 1980s who was not named Wayne Gretzky.

1979-80 - Marcel Dionne, 166 votes. This is not a big surprise as Dionne beat out Gretzky for the Art Ross Trophy as the league's leading scorer, though on a bit of a technicality. Both players tied for the league lead with 137 points, but Dionne scored two more goals than did the teenage phenom. The tie-breaker rule gives the award to the player who had more goals. Other Finalist: Tony Esposito (64 votes)

1980-81 - Mike Liut, 237 votes. Despite setting new NHL record for assists and points in a season, Gretzky barely won this Hart vote with 242 votes. Edmonton struggled despite Gretzky's greatness. Meanwhile in St. Louis goalie Mike Liut was nothing short of spectacular. His peers thought he was the most dominant player that season even, voting him as the Lester Pearson award winner (now known as the Ted Lindsay Award.). Other Finalist: Marcel Dionne (24 votes)

1981-82 - Bryan Trottier, 130 votes. This wasn't even close. How could it be? Gretzky scored 92 goals and 212 points and earned 315 votes. Trottier, the 1979 Hart Trophy winner, had a heck of a season, too, with 50 goals and 129 points. Other Finalist: Mike Bossy (34 votes).

1982-83 - Pete Peeters, 159 votes. Peeters had one of the hottest goaltending performances ever, registering a 40-11-9 record and a 2.36 GAA. But it wasn't close as Gretz, who had 196 points this season, had 266 votes. Other Finalist: Denis Savard (67 votes).

1983-84 - Rod Langway, 102 votes. This wasn't even close, as Gretzky had 306 votes. But it is amazing to think that a defensive defenseman who scored 78 fewer goals and and 172 fewer points than Gretzky was deemed to be the second best player in the league that season! Other Finalist: Bryan Trottier (54 votes).

1984-85 - Dale Hawerchuk, 91 votes. Another 200+ point season means another Hart vote that is not even close as Gretzky gets 303 votes. But Hawerchuk fuels the Winnipeg Jets with 53 goals and 130 points, third best in the league behind Gretzky and Jari Kurri. Other Finalist: Pelle Lindberg (56 votes)

1985-86 - Mario Lemieux, 130 votes. With a record setting 163 assists and 215 points they should have just used Gretzky's 281 votes to suggest renaming the trophy after him. But young Mario Lemieux, the man who would one day take the Hart away from Gretzky, has a fantastic season, too. He scores 48 goals, 93 assists and 141 points. Other Finalist: Mark Howe (32 points).

1986-87 - Ray Bourque, 95 votes. No one comes close to Gretz's 255 votes but Boston's standout defenseman Ray Bourque puts up 95 points while playing stellar defense. Other Finalist: Mike Liut (39 votes).

1987-88 - Mario Lemieux, 292 votes. With Wayne Gretzky missing 16 games due to injury, Mario Lemieux runs away with the Hart Trophy thanks to his 70 goal, 98 assist, 168 point campaign. But did you know another player outvoted Gretzky in this balloting? Oilers teammate Grant Fuhr had 106 votes to Gretzky's 73.

1988-89 - Mario Lemieux, 187 votes. Even though Mario outscored Gretzky 199 points to 168, Hart Trophy votes gave Gretzky the decided edge with 267 votes. It was Gretzky's first year in LA and he helped turned the lowly Kings into playoff threats. Other Finalist: Steve Yzerman (109 votes).

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