If I gave you the next minute to name the greatest hockey players who played before World War II, who would the average hockey fan of today be able to name?
Eddie Shore. Maybe Howie Morenz? Cyclone Taylor? Georges Vezina, if only because of the trophy that bears his name.
If you read this blog, you are undoubtedly interested in hockey history. So there is a greater chance you will name a few more than the average hockey fan. King Clancy, Frank Nighbor, Joe Malone, Frank Boucher and the Cook brothers, Bill and Bun.
But the average hockey fan today has never heard of Busher Jackson or Newsy Lalonde, Nels Stewart or Charlie Conacher, Aurel Joliat or Hooley Smith.
These are just names off the top of my head. There are many more, but most fans won't know these names.
It makes me wonder - 100 years from now, how many fans will remember the more modern players that we all grew up with?
Sure, multimedia will better archive the contributions of such players. Still, will Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Guy Lafleur, Bobby Orr, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin be the only players remembered from our eras?
Think about this - Who immediately comes to mind as the best players between World War II and NHL expansion in 1967, hockey's celebrated golden era? Maurice Richard, Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull, Jean Beliveau, Ted Lindsay and long time goalies like Glenn Hall, Terry Sawchuk, Johnny Bower and Jacques Plante. It seems to me hockey fans are already losing the memories of the likes of Stan Mikita, Doug Harvey, Red Kelly. Pierre Pilote, Andy Bathgate, Dickie Moore and Norm Ullman. Tim Horton is known for coffee and donuts.
Even the players I grew up with are already being forgotten on the macro level. People are already forgetting about Dale Hawerchuk and Denis Savard and Tom Barrasso and Bobby Smith, at least outside of where they played.
The Hockey Hall of Fame exists to remember the all time greats, but hockey's true immortals is a really short list. That list, based mostly on perception more than anything, are truly the Greatest Hockey Legends.