Two of the most popular players for the 1970s and 1980s were wingers Rick "Nifty" Middleton and Lanny McDonald. They were different types of players yet had similar careers.
The question we pose today is: Who was better? Rick Middleton or Lanny McDonald?
After a rocky start with the impatient New York Rangers, Rick Middleton joined the Boston Bruins and delivered surprising results. He became an exciting fan favorite, even though he was not the typical Boston hockey hero. He was not rough and tumble, but rather a fancy pants with incredible stickhandling ability especially in traffic. Add to that his great skating which featured a couple different gears to change it up and he could deke defenders right on to the highlight reel.
Moreover, Middleton rounded out his game into a solid overall game. And he did it all very cleanly, only collecting 157 penalty minutes in over 1000 NHL games. In 1982 he won the Lady Byng Trophy in 1982.
You can read my full Rick Middleton biography here.
Lanny McDonald's bushy mustache is his trademark, but so were such characteristics as speed, work ethic, and commitment. Those traits, not really counting his facial hair, helped make him a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
McDonald enjoyed his greatest season in 1982-83 when McDonald unthinkably challenged Wayne Gretzky for the NHL goal scoring total. Gretzky would end up with the crown thanks to his 71 goals, but McDonald wasn't far behind with an overachieving 66. It was simply an amazing season for McDonald.
Another amazing season was Lanny's last. He was grizzled veteran by 1989, but he scored his 500th goal, 1000th assist and, scoring a memorable playoff goal along the way, finally won his first Stanley Cup.
You can read my full Lanny McDonald biography here.
There seems to be some consensus that Lanny is one of the more borderline Hockey Hall of Famers. Nifty is similarly borderline, but he's on the other side of the line - not enshrined. The difference may very well be McDonald's ties to Toronto and, for that matter, Canada where he played the bulk of his career as a beloved, mustachioed face of two franchises. Middleton never played for a Canadian team, but had he excelled with Toronto for a few years, it wouldn't surprise me if he would have been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame by now, too.
You tell me - who was better? Rick Middleton or Lanny McDonald.