August 12, 2007

The Top 36: Pre-1950s Debate

One of the toughest aspects of naming the top players of all time is including players from eras that precede us. There is usually next to no video footage. We have to rely on the word of mouth of those who saw them first hand. For most of us, that is through archived media reports or memoirs of former players and others associated with the game.

I feel my list of the top 36 players of all time needs to include representation from the pre-1950s. I submitted just 3 names on my initial list: Eddie Shore, Howie Morenz and Syl Apps.

No one has objected to Shore, and only one person said anything about Morenz. All he said was that it is too difficult to compare him to modern era players.

Syl Apps objections are quite common, which is fine though surprising in a way too. I never saw Apps of the 1940s Leafs dynasty play either, but I'm a big fan of them. For those who don't a lot about Apps, feel free to read his biography. I'm not trying to change your minds. I'm just trying to justify Apps as a serious candidate for this study.

Many of the people objecting at Apps' inclusion are also lobbying for much more current stars. This isn't unexpected, as we're all aware of the modern player like Pavel Bure or Ron Francis or Adam Oates.

I was really glad to see some of my readers argue against Apps but in favor of other players of the pre-1950s era. Some names dropped include Dit Clapper, Sprague Cleghorn, Bill Cook, George Hainsworth, Milt Schmidt and Newsy Lalonde. The three names I'm really leaning towards right now Teeder Kennedy, Frank Boucher, King Clancy, and Turk Broda.

So you tell me: Who should get the nod from this era?


vdkhanna said...

This crop from the '20s, '30s and '40s definitely deserves to be considered. If you look at Top 50 or Top 100 lists that have been published in the past, the likes of Conacher, Apps, Cook and Cleghorn are indeed represented.

That said, however, I'd exclude them simply because of the context of this study. Since this is for a world sports book coming out of Ireland, emphasis should be placed on the post-1950s players. The names of the top 36 should be names that are very familiar to the average hockey reader.

The Puck Stops Here said...

The talent pool from which hockey players are drawn has grown considerably over the years. There are more people in Canada then in the 1930's and more of them play hockey. There are more people in the rest of the world playing today also. In the earlier days of the NHL it was not clear that all the best players in Canada got routed to the NHL. Until World War 2 ended, there are cases of players who showed up for a team's training camp and proved themselves worthy of a job in the NHL - when they had been total unknowns who came off the street. That could never happen anymore.

The increase in the talent pool of hockey players and the amount of effort spent finding potential talented players and developing them is directly linked to the level of the players in the game. That is not to say that no great players could have existed in the earlier days when minor and junior systems were not set up to the extent that they are today, but it does say that the level of hockey played (and hence the level of the best players) has significantly improved. That is why I only chose two pre 1950 players (Shore and Morenz) in my top 36 player list. I dont think the other candidates (Schmidt, Lalonde, Clapper, Apps, Hainsworth, Cyclone Taylor, Joe Malone, Cy Denneny, King Clancy etc) were sufficiently far ahead of their peer group (given they played among a lesser peer group then we see today) to be included in the top 36 all time

Anonymous said...

What about Nels Stewart? Whereas a lot of guys from that era seemed to burn out as they approached 30 (Morenz, Conacher, Babe Dye), 'Old Poison' continued to be productive well into his late thirties. And while the same could be said for fellow power fowards Denneny and Cook, he didn't have the benefit of sublime linemates as they did (sorry, Hooley Smith!).

Anonymous said...

i'm really surprised king clancy,joe malone,george vezina didn't make the top 36 .you should do a top 50 or 100 and start with 1900-1920 years first.then 1920-1930 etc,etc.