June 29, 2016

Hockey Hall of Fame 2017?

In 2016 the Hockey Hall of Fame righted some wrongs and finally inducted some overdue honourees, namely Eric Lindros and Sergei Makarov, as well as long overlooked Rogie Vachon. Pat Quinn was inducted in the builder's category.

The Hall was able to finally include these polarizing cases thanks in large part to a weak first-year-eligible class in 2016. Goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, defenceman Roman Hamrlik and forwards Milan Hejduk and Vinny Prospal headlined the group, none of which will likely ever make it to the Hall of Fame.

In recent years the first year eligible induction classes have been very strong, often featuring 3 or 4 very worthy candidates.

Which begs the question - who will be first year eligible in 2017?

Let's take a look:

Forwards: Daniel Alfredsson, Petr Nedved, Ray Whitney, Ryan Smyth, Saku Koivu, Teemu Selanne, Todd Bertuzzi

Defense: Ed Jovanovski, Tomas Kaberle

Goaltenders: Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Nikolai Khabibulin, Tomas Vokoun

Teemu Selanne is the only obvious candidate for immediate election. On first impression only I'd be willing to listen to cases for Alfredsson, Smyth and Koivu, though I am not certain any of them would make the cut.

June 27, 2016

Quinn, Lindros, Makarov and Vachon Named To HHOF

The Hockey Hall of Fame announced on Monday the induction class of 2016.

Hopefully they offered apology speeches to the players and families, as all four nominees were long overdue for such recognition.

Headlining the class of 2016 is the late Pat Quinn. Inducted as a builder, he was a giant of the hockey world, both figuratively and literally. His coaching and managing resume through several eras is impressive and his legacy continues to be felt wherever he left, especially in Vancouver. The only reason he was not inducted already had to be because of his high ranking position with the Hockey Hall of Fame prior to falling ill. I suspect the Hall waited until 2016 to induct him out of respect to his grieving family.

The Hall announced three additions to the player's category.

Eric Lindros was always a controversial player, though in hindsight many of us are guilty of not respecting him. His contract demands made him despised back in the 1990s, but many are accepted commonplace nowadays. And the way we dismissed his concussion problems is almost shameful. We know a lot better now. When healthy Lindros was the best player of his generation, and it is on the ice that we only should be allowed to judge him. His inclusion is long overdue. As history continues to evolve he may be best remembered as a tragic figure. His

Sergei Makarov was an amazing talent out of Soviet Russia that, like a few of countrymen, should be included in the Hall of Fame regardless of anything he did in his NHL career. He came to the NHL late in his career and, even though he was one of the best of the original wave of Soviet stars to play in the league, was a shadow of his former self. But in the 1980s he was easily one of the top 10 players in the world, perhaps even top five. Many will say he was the best player in Soviet hockey in the 1980s.  Hopefully the Hall includes a few more of his countrymen in coming years.

Rogie Vachon was perhaps the biggest surprise. The popular goalie from the 1970s has waited seemingly forever, last playing in 1982. Though I was comfortable with the high bar set for goaltenders entering the Hall of Fame, there was always plenty of clamoring for Rogie's inclusion every year. Perhaps we will see the Hall of Fame consider more goalies from the past like Tom Barrasso, Curtis Joseph and Mike Richter.

By electing three skaters the Hall of Fame continued to ignore some interesting talent, as they can vote in a maximum of four players. Dave Andreychuk, Theo Fleury, Alexander Mogilny, Mark Recchi, Jeremy Roenick and Keith Tkachuk all wait, rightly or wrongly.

Also ignored was the women's category, with no women voted in. Again, I might add. They should have been able to pick one of Karen Bye-Dietz, Danielle Goyette, Manon Rheaume, Kim St. Pierre, Cassie Campbell-Pascall and Vicky Sunohara.

June 25, 2016

100 Greatest Hockey Players Of All Time

What follows is a listing of the 100 greatest hockey players of all time, in my opinion. As discussed earlier, the definition of greatness is a very personalized endeavour and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.

While there is no way of ever truly ranking the top 100 definitively, it is important for the creators of such lists to be open and transparent of how the came to their conclusions. That accountability allows the reader to better understand the process. 

Although admittedly I'm using a completely unscientific formula, I weigh career achievements (era statistics, awards, championships) and legacy (impact on and off ice, peak dominance) equally high. I rank player ability as the third most important ingredient, as first and foremost as a tie breaker. Hence, I'm not necessarily looking for the better player, as in text book definitions of what a hockey player should be, but for players with the greatest careers and greatest legacies. Therefore the best player is not necessarily the greatest player. 

The list actually came together fairly quickly, because I constantly cross-referenced other lists. I first ranked players by position, and by era, and by nationality. When I created my master list of the top 100 players of all time, I held myself accountable by staying true to those previously made lists. Some tweaking was necessary, of course, but before I adjusted the top 100 list, I had to make sure I stayed true to my original lists.

Without further ado, I present the GreatestHockeyLegends.com Top 100 Greatest Hockey Players of All Time:

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.

Doug Harvey (D) - Firewagon Hockey
Stan Mikita (C) - Overshadowed by Hull, Mikita may have been better
Howie Morenz (C) - The NHL's first superstar
Jacques Plante (G) - Plante changed the face of hockey
Ray Bourque (D) - Out of the shadows of Orr
Phil Esposito (C) - The Most Underrated Superstar?
Mike Bossy (RW) - The best pure goal scorer of all time?
Steve Yzerman (C) - Stevie Wonder did it all
Mark Messier (C) - Edmonton's native son became Manhattan's messiah
Dominik Hasek (G) - Unorthodox Dominator reached highest peak

Nicklas Lidstrom (D) - Ageless Wonder
Denis Potvin (D) - Captain of the Isles dynasty
Ted Lindsay (LW) - Anything but terrible
Bryan Trottier (C) - The most complete player of his day
Joe Sakic (C) - No Ordinary Joe
Jaromir Jagr (RW) - Based on talent alone, Jagr is a top ten player
Henri Richard (C) - Overshadowed, but little brother was more complete player
Valeri Kharlamov (LW) - Soviet star never had chance to play in NHL
Sidney Crosby (C) - Player of Destiny
Larry Robinson (D) - The prototypical NHL defenseman for any era

Paul Coffey (D) - Greatest skater rivalled Orr's heights
Terry Sawchuk (G) - Perfect Goalie, Imperfect World
Vladislav Tretiak (G) - A hero's legacy on both sides of the Atlantic
Red Kelly (D) - Superstar at two positions
Marcel Dionne (C) - Scoring King
Bobby Clarke (C) - Great Villain, Great Hero
Viacheslav Fetisov (D) - Freedom Fighter
King Clancy (D) - Heart of the Maple Leafs
Jari Kurri (RW) - More Than A Wing Man
Peter Stastny (C) - Second Highest Scoring Player of 1980s

Boom Boom Geoffrion (RW) - Loud And Proud
Martin Brodeur (G) - Hockey's Winningest Goalie
Peter Forsberg (C) - Swede Sensation
Glenn Hall (G) - Mr. Goalie
Brett Hull (RW) - Hull of a shot
Alexander Ovechkin (LW) - Alexander The Great
Frank Mahovlich (LW) - The Big M
Ron Francis (C) - Quiet Excellence
Milt Schmidt (C) - Mr. Boston Bruins
Dickie Moore (LW) - The Man Who Would Make The Fans Forget About The Rocket

Ken Dryden (G) - The Thinker
Syl Apps (C) - The Perfect Gentleman
Bill Durnan (G) - Ambidextrous Puck Stopper
Sergei Makarov (RW) - Rushin' Russia
Cyclone Taylor (D) - Hockey's First Legend
Brad Park (D) - In Bobby's Shadow
Bill Cook (RW) - Greatest Right Winger Before Howe, Richard
Ted Kennedy (C) - Heart of the Leafs Dynasty
Max Bentley (C) - Dipsy Doodle Dandy
Teemu Selanne (RW) - The Finnish Flash

Borje Salming (D) - Hockey's Most Important Player?
Chris Chelios (D) - Captain America
Newsy Lalonde (C) - Extra! Extra!
Chris Pronger (D) - Dastardly Good
Scott Stevens (D) - Captain Crunch
Pierre Pilote (D) - Last Of His Kind
Bill Cowley (C) - Early Day Gretzky
Gilbert Perreault (C) - Gil The Thrill
Dit Clapper (D) - Star Forward, Superstar Defenseman
Joe Malone (C) - NHL's First Scoring Star

Charlie Conacher (RW) - The Big Bomber
Elmer Lach (C) - Centre of Attention
Dave Keon (C) - Beloved Maple Leaf
Eric Lindros (C) - Reviled But Dominant
Luc Robitaille (LW) - Cool Hand Luc
Frank Boucher (C) - A Beautiful Mind
Johnny Bucyk (LW) - Boston's Chief
Andy Bathgate (RW) - Sharp Shooter
Turk Broda (G) - Playoff Hero
Tim Horton (D) - Blue Line Stud to Coffee Legend

Brian Leetch (D) - American Beauty
Serge Savard (D) - Minister of Defense
Sergei Fedorov (C) - Larger Than Life
Frank Nighbor (C) - Early Genius
Busher Jackson (LW) - Controversial Superstar
Bernie Parent (G) - Philly's Playoff MVP
Toe Blake (LW) - Great Player Turned Great Coach
Doug Bentley (LW) - No One Trick Pony
Charlie Gardiner (G) - The Smiling Scotsman
Pavel Bure (RW) - The Russian Rocket

Scott Niedermayer (D) - Hockey's Winningest Man
Pavel Datsyuk (C) - Dats Incredible!
Aurel Joliat (LW) - The Little Giant
Earl Siebert (D) - Rearguard Roughian 
Al MacInnis (D) - Big Shot
Bob Gainey (LW) - Admired By Russians
Sid Abel (C) - Enabling The Production Line
Johnny Bower (G) - The China Wall
Yvan Cournoyer (RW) - The Roadrunner
Billy Smith (G) - Playoff Battler

June 22, 2016

Las Vegas Hockey History

The National Hockey League may have made pro sports history by becoming the first major league pro sports organization to come to Las Vegas, but hockey does have a history in Nevada.
▶ 1968: The Las Vegas Gamblers, a senior amateur team, plays in the California-Nevada Hockey League until 1971. 
▶ 1971: From the ashes of the Gamblers came the semipro Las Vegas Outlaws. For the next two seasons they played as an independent team without a formal league. 
▶ 1991: Fast forward to the modern era when Wayne Gretzky arrived in Sin City. The Los Angeles Kings defeated the New York Rangers 5-2 in an NHL preseason game played on an outdoor rink at Caesars Palace. 13,007 hockey fans watch Gretzky score in the third period. The slushy ice survived the 85-degree evening. 
▶ 1993: The Las Vegas Thunder join the International Hockey League as an expansion franchise. The team, featuring a lot of former NHL players, played at the Thomas and Mack Center and were initially quite popular.

At the same time the Las Vegas Aces play the first of two semi-pro seasons in the Pacific Southwest Hockey League.

And the Las Vegas Flash play the 1993-94 season in Roller Hockey International.
▶ 1997: The Los Angeles Kings defeat the Colorado Avalanche 4-3 in overtime in Frozen Fury I, an NHL exhibition series that continues today. Frozen Fury was at the MGM Grand Garden through 2015. Two games will be played at the T-Mobile Arena in 2016.
▶ 1997: The Nevada Gamblers/Blackjacks join the Western States Hockey League for junior clubs. The team folded in 1999.
▶ 1998: The Las Vegas Coyotes participate in the 1998-99 season of Roller Hockey International.
▶ 2001: The Nevada Rattlers participate in the Western States Hockey League until 2003
▶ 2003: The Las Vegas Wranglers join the ECHL and ultimately outlast the IHL Thunder. The Wranglers, known for the zaniest of promotions, played out of the Orleans Arena at the Orleans Hotel off the famous "Strip." The team lasted until 2014. .
▶ 2011: Jason Zucker became the first NHL player ever from Las Vegas. Zucker was actually born Newport Beach, California but his family moved to Las Vegas when he was two months old. He spent his youth in Nevada before leaving to Michigan as a teenager to better develop his game.

June 16, 2016

Crossovers: Hockey and Superman

Montreal Comic Book Shop Librarie Millenium Hockey Art Superman Comics Winter Snow Scene Painting

The comic book shop in Montreal has just received a delivery of freshly printed Superman and other heroes comics. The Millenium comic book store situated on Marianne in the borough of Plateau Mont Royal of the city of Montreal is a great place to meet and discuss the latest exploits of our favorite super heroes and practice some hockey moves.

Nine Stories On Number Nine: Gordie Howe

Here are nine great stories from the GreatestHockeyLegends.com archives about the legendary Gordie Howe.

Watch for increasing Gordie Howe content over the next little while I was we celebrate the life of very possibly the greatest hockey player to have ever lived.

"Mr. Hockey" Gordie Howe

Gordie Howe was once quoted as saying "Hockey is a man's game." In the game of hockey, Gordie is the man.

Hall of Famer Bill Gadsby claimed "He was not only the greatest hockey player I've ever seen, but also the greatest athlete."

The right winger was a giant in his time at 6'1" and 205 lbs. He had the build of a heavyweight boxing champion. And he knew how to fight.

Part of the legend of Gordie Howe is his unmatchable toughness. He had "windshield wiper elbows" and like to give "close shaves" to anyone who dared to challenge. Ask any hockey experts who they'd choose as the toughest NHLer ever, and most would put their money on Gordie Howe against anyone else.

Those who knew Gordie away from the rink would never believe his on ice instincts.

"Despite an even temperament and a real distaste for combat, there is a part of Howe that is calculatingly and primitively savage," Mark Kram wrote in Sports Illustrated in 1964. "He is a punishing artist with a hockey stick, slashing, spearing, tripping and high-sticking his way to a comparative degree of solitude on the ice."  Full Story

The Night Teeder Kennedy Almost Killed Gordie Howe

The Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings have been around almost as long as the National Hockey League itself. So needless to say the two teams have had heated rivalries over the course of that time.

But never was the rivalry as heated as during their Stanley Cup playoff series in 1950. Things over-boiled right in game one. That was the night Teeder Kennedy almost ended the career of a young Gordie Howe. Full Story

Should Gordie Howe Have Played Center?

Gordie Howe is the greatest right winger in the history of the game.

Punch Imlach, the legendary coach of the 1960s Toronto Maple Leafs dynasty, believed Howe would have been even better had the Red Wings played him at center.

"At center, you would have to have two and three guys on him all the time," Imlach reasoned in a 1968 interview. "That would leave his wings open for passes and no one in the league, including Stan Mikita, makes a better pass to both the right and to the left than Howe."

One of Howe's rare traits was he was ambidextrous. He could switch hands and shoot and pass equally as well with either hand.

"When he's on the right wing," Imlach continues, "there is a chance to pin him to the boards, give him only a move to the left while at center he'd have much more room to roam." Full Story

Who Was Better? Rocket Richard vs. Gordie Howe

Teams nowadays would be jealous of the Original Six era. Every team was loaded with Hall of Famers and stars. Even the role players would be stars now.

But no superstars were bigger than Maurice "Rocket" Richard of the Montreal Canadiens and Gordie Howe of the Detroit Red Wings.

Their careers more or less coincided, with each leading their teams in epic clashes of dynasties in the 1950s. They were fierce rivals, sincerely detesting each other. And as such debate has raged amongst fans ever since: Who was better? Richard, or Howe? Full Story

Rangers Let Gordie Howe Get Away

The Detroit Red Wings meet the New York Rangers tonight. It is the only time this season the two Original Six teams will compete, unless of course they meet in the Stanley Cup finals.

Did you know that it was the New York Rangers who actually discovered Gordie Howe? A scout by the name of Fred McCorry saw the 15 year old Howe dominating games in Saskatoon and convinced the Rangers to offer him a try-out at training camp.

Remember, Gordie was just 15 years old at the time. Going alone from Saskatoon to Manhattan is scary enough for any teenager, but Howe was a particularly shy and introverted kid. He did not enjoy his taste of the Big Apple at all.

Gordie did not even know how to put on the equipment. He arrived with his own skates, but his family was too poor to be able to buy all the required equipment. The Rangers provided him with all the padding necessary for the training camp, but Howe had to watch other players to learn how to put it all on.

Needless to say, the Rangers veterans were quite shocked by this, and teased Howe about it relentlessly. The bashful Howe just took it, but things got worse. An unnamed vet was said to have taken Gordie's food plates on a regular basis until Alf Pike found out and stepped up for the kid. Howe was losing weight and going hungry.

Needless to say the intimidated youngster Howe was incredibly homesick and desperate to get back home to Saskatchewan. He fled, probably never having any intention of playing big league hockey ever again. Full Story

Gordie Howe's Heroes

"Hockey is a man's game," Gordie Howe used to be fond of saying. Which is appropriate, because when it comes to hockey, Gordie Howe is the man.

Gordie's son Mark was recently inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. He did not have to look far to find his hockey hero when he was growing up.

Which begs the question - who did Gordie hero worship as a kid? Full Story

Gordie Howe's Surprise

I can never get enough of the story associated with this picture of Gordie Howewith his parents Ab and Katherine.

The photo was taken on March 3rd, 1959. The Red Wings were honouring "Mr. Hockey" with Gordie Howe Night between the first and second periods in a game against Boston.

Howe was presented with a bevy of gifts estimated to be worth $10,000, which was more than most players were making in 1959. The gifts included clothes, luggage, a trip to Miami, toys for the kids and a brand new station wagon.

But the biggest surprise of the night was who drove the station wagon out to center ice. Much to Gordie's surprise, it was Gordie's parents, Ab and Katherine, in the front seat.

This is significant because even though Gordie played 13 years in the NHL by this point, this was the first time his parents had ever come to Detroit. It was their first time watching their son, the greatest hockey player of them all, play hockey in the NHL with their own eyes.

The teary eyed Howe was too overcome by the surprise. He was not able to score on Gordie Howe Night. Full Story

The Hunting Trip That Almost Cost Gordie Howe His Life

A lot of hockey fans know that Gordie Howe suffered a fractured skull early in his career, yet obviously overcame to have arguably the greatest career in hockey history.

As scary as that incident was, apparently that was not Gordie's closest brush with death.

Emile Francis, the long time manager/coach of the New York Rangers grew up not far away from the Howe family, and he often got together with Gordie and his brother Vic in the summer. They liked to play baseball.

Here's how Francis tells the story, thanks to the 1968 edition of Sport Review's Pro Hockey magazine:

"A couple of years after he started playing pro hockey, Gordie bought his parents a home in Saskatoon right across the street from the ball park. I'll never forget the day we were coming in to play a game about the same time Gordie and his brother, Vic, were returning from a hunting trip.

"Gordie was driving and Vic was sitting behind him with a shotgun between his knees. They must have suddenly hit a bump because the gun went off. Vic didn't know it was loaded. It tore a hole in the roof of the car, missing the back of Gordie's head by inches." Full Story

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