November 22, 2013

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.

11-20
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

21-30
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

31-40
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

41-50
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

51-60
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

61-70
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

71-80
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

81-90
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

91-100
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

45 comments:

Anonymous said...

Martin Brodeur below the top 40? THat is a joke.

Anonymous said...

Not really Brodeur is overrated. He was never even top 2 in save percentage...

Carlos Saldivia said...

With all due respect--I don't believe Lindros should qualify for this list..Also, sticking strictly to "legends," Bobby Baun and Paul Henderson accomplished much greater and memorable legendary feats than Lindros..

Thank you very much for taking the time to put together and posting the list though..

Chazac said...

Leaving off Cam Neely who defined the term 'Power Forward' is a omission. I still rate Orr - even with the shortned career - above Gretsky. Sorry but my eyes told me something different when it came to seeing Orr vs. Gretzky.

Anonymous said...

There's a certain breed of troll that prowls the internet looking for lists that don't have Martin Brodeur as the #1 goalie of all-time or top-10 among all players. Don't mind them, Joe.

Dan said...

I would argue for dominik hasek as the greatest goalie of all time even by your criteria (though certainly by mine)

Derek said...

I don't think people give Milt Schmidt enough credit. His offensive numbers were not that high but he was spoken of just under Richard and Howe in his era. He was the best 2 way player in the game.

Anonymous said...

Neely should be on the list and Parent should be higher. Alos, I think that Hasek should be the #1 rated Goalie as well. He did more with less.

Anonymous said...

No Adam Oates?

Anonymous said...

@ Carlos Saldivia

Bobby Baun and Paul Henderson were not even top 30 players at any point in their careers. Why would they make this list over Lindros?

CzechFan said...

Well, it´s a top 100 from Canadian and NHL point of view. In Europe in 70´s and 80´s the only possibility we could see best canadian players was through Canada Cup and Summit Series.
In 1972 Canada played with USSR seven tight games. From canadian roster there are 10 players on your list, from Soviet roster 2.
In 1976 Canada played in Canada Cup three games with Czechoslovakia, two were very tight. From canadian roster there are 11 players on your list, from CSSR roster 1.
In 1981 Soviets defeated Canada 8:1 in the finals. From canadian roster there are 11 players on your list, from SSSR roster 3.
I understand international games were not the main criterion of your list, but still I think this is quite lopsided. Players like Firsov, Vasiliev, Maltsev, Suchy, Nedomansky, Petrov, Jakushev, Holecek, Larionov, Hlinka, Novy, Martinec, Krutov, Kasatonov etc. were same as good as say Clarke, Cournoyer, Dionne, Robinson, Potvin, Trottier, Parent or Dryden. On the other hand there are couple of canadian players whose legacy was far greater in Europe than in Canada, goalie Seth Martin comes to mind.
Even though I have a different view, I appreciate your effort, it´s evident you thought your list carefully over and I´ll sure spend quite a few winter evenings with it.

Tom said...

Nice list, where impact on the game has more value than "who scored more goals".

Neely.. he may be a god in Boston (I like him a lot) BUT without Janney/Oates or another comparable playmaker he would have been a 25goalscorer in a high scoring era messing defensemen up against the boards.
"Defined the Term Power forward"..Already before Neely there have been players who could score and were initimidating as shit (with hits and fists), e.g. Al Secord, Clark Gillies.

I still can't understand how underestimated Lindros ist.
The only thing he didn't have was a puppet string attached to his helmet to keep his head up. The first HUGE guy who combined size, monstrous hitting ability, skating, scoring, playmaking. A true one-man-show. Way bigger impact on the game than neely.
Just my opinion.

Carlos Saldivia said...

@Anonymous

When I was posting the comment, I looked up to see the title of the post and misread it as "100 greatest "LEGENDS" of All Time," instead of Greatest Players..

Sticking "strictly to legends," Bobby Baun and Paul Henderson, IMHO, accomplished much greater and memorable legendary feats than Lindros (that is to say, no question at all that Lindros was greater, but Baun and Henderson are more legendary due to their individual feats--Baun 1964 Finals Gm 6-7 -- Henderson 1972 GW goal in Summit Series)..

Anonymous said...

Oates: 6th in assists, only one of top 12 in career assists not on the list. (Top 7 in season assists 12 times)

Gartner: 6th in goals only one of top 12 in career goals not on the list. (Ranks 2nd all time for Caps in G, A, P.)

Anonymous said...

Yeah Brodeur is a great goaltender, but until he surpasses Roy for playoff wins, he won't be considered greatest goaltender of all time.

In fact, I would iterate that Roy could challenge Gretzky and Orr for #1 of all time. He was the greatest clutch player and was probably the closest player to "win the Cup by himself." Gretzky had Kurri and Coffey, Orr had Esposito and Bouwer. Roy's 1993 Habs did have Rob Brown and Denis Savard, great stars in their own right, but a stratosphere below Orr's or Gretzky's best teammates.

Roy was arguably the real captain of the Habs. Captain Guy Carbonneau was rumoured to be on his last legs in 1993, his Habs not expected to go far, but it was Roy who thrust them to the top.

Tom said...

Rob Brown never played for the Canadiens (wasn't a star either).
The '93 Canadiens were similar to Florida in '96, disciplined team defense and a hot goalie.
But Roy's "heroics" are overrated IMO.
In his Montreal days he played for a franchise that had been playing one of the most disciplined team defenses for decades. And in Colorado he simply joined one of the most talented and deepest teams.
In '93 let's not forget about McSorley. Without the measurement of Marty's stick in Game 2 probably nobody would remember Roy in '93.
Giguere in '03 was way more valuable than Roy in '93. Five Shutouts to none..
Best Goalie?
Modern day era it's Hasek, no comparism. Before that I haven't seen any of the oldtimers..

Joe, thanks for your effort. I appreciate it everytime I read about a player who I couldn't find in my Hockey Scouting Reports :)

Anonymous said...

Great list Joe. I suppose I could add/subtract a few .... BUT only one real omission for me ..... CAM NEELY!

Anonymous said...

Great list. My only tweak would be moving Roy; maybe it's just because I'm a Wings fan but I certainly saw massive ego-induced goof-ups on his part. i go with Sawchuk.

No Neely; no player has benefited more from ESPN "discovering" hockey than Neely. Revisionist hockey has him as THE power forward when he played in an era when there were plenty. Neely was good, but if it weren't for the fact that he played in Boston I don't think he even makes the HoF.

glrreed Red said...

No Phil Housley and how good do you think Gretsky would have been playing d or during an earlier era where he would have to pay for every point he made. He was protected doesn't deserve Orrs number one spot

Anonymous said...

Great List. No complaints.

Anonymous said...

Ummm... ever hear of Evgeni Malkin??

How do you leave a guy with two scoring titles and a Conn Smythe off a top *100* list?

Anonymous said...

how can you forget Pavel Bure???
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMFUJfqWqrk

Joe Pelletier said...

Re: Bure - take a closer look bud. He's there.

Save The Planet said...

Well done but if you are considering legends where is Darryl Sittler? Sittler was a scoring force on a mediocre Leaf team in the 70's. He also scored the Canada Cup winning goal in '76 and had a record 6 goal 4 assist night at MLG against the Bruins in February 7,1976.

Anonymous said...

There's Bobby Orr, then there's everyone else. Orr was sick. His YouTube documentaries are a must-see for any hockey fan.

john schober said...

Eric Lindros.Are you kidding.A selfish,over rated,hack.Tirned,his back on the Nordiques.And we all,know what they did,later.

Anonymous said...

Mike Modano, I guess he isn't there because he's from the U.S. There seems to be a bit of national prejudice in this list. Anyway the Sakic/Roy vs Modano/Belfour playoffs were remarkable. In fact The Hockey News did a really nice dual article on Modano and Sakic because of how similar their talent and careers were and because of their mutual respect for each other. I think it was 2006 or around that time when I saw the article. Mike Modano pretty much made hockey a success in the city of Dallas where it would otherwise have floundered and eventually be de-expanded or moved.

I would add Paul Kariya, JS Giguere, Jarome Iginla, Cam Neely and well . . . Hayley Wickenheiser and Manon Rheame just because they had the balls to try. And Theo Fleury if for no other reason than as a cautionary tale.

Thanks for making the list, it was a fun read and Lindros deserves to be there, disliking someone makes it difficult for less mature people to accept someone's talent but he was dominant in the game and its obvious from his career.

Anonymous said...

Gretzky is rightly #1 on this list. How would the NHL look today had he not been traded to the Kings? I bet quite a few less teams. Gone would be the Lightning, Panthers, Sharks, Ducks, Predators, Senators, Coyotes, Blue Jackets, and Wild. The Jets would have not left Winnipeg. Atlanta wouldn't have lost a SECOND team to Canada. And #99 would still be available for use in the NHL.

Tony L said...

But what is Ovechkin doing above Selänne? By any measure he ain't better yet

Anonymous said...

This might sound blastphemous to some purists, but I think Crosby should be higher. In the top 15 at the very least if not the top 10. I'm comparitively young, but I've watched pretty much all of the post-Gretzky era, which has probably been the most competitive never mind international era in hockey history, and he is without question the most gifted player I've ever seen.

He's already proven himself to be not just a winner but a leader on winning teams on both the international and club levels, both in Junior and Senior. But on a personal level, there are absolutely no glaring flaws with his game. Some guys are better scorers than Crosby (Ovechkin), some are better stickhandlers or better defensively (Datsyuk), but Crosby is elite level at everything, which is what makes him so dangerous. (Not to mention he's the best passer in the league, has the best instincts, and is the hardest to take off of the puck). Right now he's absolutely dominating the best conditioned set of athletes in the NHL.

In terms of absolute legacy, I'm not completely ignorant of the past. I wouldn't put him at a level with Gretzky, Lemieux, or Orr. I'd probably even put him below Howe. But I think he already belongs in a class with Richard and Beliveau for sure on the basis of pure talent. Consider he has the fourth-highest points per game right now in the history of the game, and set a lot of NHL records.

Moreover, Hasek should be higher too. He's criminally underrated.

Anonymous said...

Crosby is no way deserves to be in the top 10-15. In fact, in terms of career accomplishments (1 scoring title and 1 MVP by the age of 26) he shouldn't even be in the top 50. There's no way he should be ahead of Selanne, Lindros, Forsberg, Sakic, Yzerman, Fedorov, etc. He is one of the most overrated players in recent memory. Don't let NBC tell you otherwise.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't put Crosby in the top 10, either, but to say he doesn't deserve to be there is just your opinion. Since 1970, the only players I have seen with more talent then Crosby are Orr, Gretzky and Lemieux. The title is 100 greatest hockey players, not greatest nhl careers.

hockey stuff said...

I guess that the top three could be debated. The game has changed so much from Howe's beginning to Gretzky's.It's hard to compare over the different eras.They were all great in their time.

Anonymous said...

I was a kid in Montreal during the 50's and an avid fan of the Canadiens. as great as Jacques Plante was we all knew Sawchuck was
the greatest.

Anonymous said...

I am missing a us flag flying high here... the whole list is such a pile of bullshit, just a simple minded american mongoloid can put his together in this order.

monty said...

how is datsyuk 92 out of 100

Anonymous said...

Longevity of superior play is the biggest reason I would alter the top 3. I don't think there is any sane arguement for not having Howe/Gretzky/Orr in some order as the top three. Only one of those players was a MAJOR factor in the game for as many as five decades. Rookie in '47 (though he lost the ROY to Howie Meeker - mistake in hindsight? Perhaps.) Superstar in the 50s, 60s, and 70s - and he was a driving force in the WHA merger - Howe is my #1

Anonymous said...

Lemieux and Orr are the two best. Gretzky had Messier Kurri and Coffey.
Lemieux had Jagr and cancer. He played half the amount of games Gretzky played

jared lammi said...

No Claude Giroux? THAT is a joke!

Anonymous said...

I think more of the great Soviet Union Player's deserve to be considered in the Top 100 and if the Officiating during the 1987 Canada Cup was not so obviously biased against the Soviet's that Year the Soviet Union would have won the 1987 Canada Cup!

Anonymous said...

Lemieux had a lot more than just Jagr. (Ron Francis, Paul Coffey, Mullen, Murphy, Recchi...do Penguins fans not realize how great the team around him was?) but I'd put Lemieux at #2 overall.

I'd put Crosby much lower as his career isn't near over and while he and Evgeni Malkin are highly marketed the Penguins haven't been a great playoff team under his leadership ever since Malkin has no longer been on an ELC. Part of that is just the salary cap era, but they haven't shown the ability to lead the team back to the Finals without that great team around them.

Lindros belongs higher because before he was injured he was the second most dominant player I've ever seen (behind Lemieux). If he'd ever had a team around hior even another abover average center to draw some attention away from him he would be much higher on the list...instead he spent his whole prime facing everything the other team had to offer. In today's game Stevens would be given 5-10 games and Lindros would have been given time to heal properly, just like Crosby was. He's been disliked (by everyone,even Philly it seems) but really, for how much longer are we going to hate a man for what he did at 18? Lemieux wouldn't even stand up when the Pens drafted him...we seem to have gotten over that.

Anonymous said...

Good your on my side Hasek always beat Roy and has the greatest career save percentage of all time for gods sake

Gerrit Farley said...

No Mike Modano?

hthjason@yahoo.ca said...

Bernie Parent Phil/Tor goalie.

Robert from Markham said...

Quite a list. Clearly number 1 must be either Gretzky or Orr. I have always place Orr at the top of the list because hockey before and after Orr were different games. In his short hockey life, he altered the whole role of the defense, and so, the way the game is played. Gretzky was a remarkable hockey lusus naturae (with remarkable statistics) who did much for publicizing hockey. But since "the game's the thing", my nod would go to Orr! Still, an excellent list.

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