October 07, 2019

Greatest European Ever?

Nicklas Lidstrom has his autobiography out. It is a quick, easy read. Nothing terribly shocking or controversial in it, but a good trip down memory lane.

I particularly enjoyed the talk of his childhood and his admiration of the great Swedish and European hockey pioneer Borje Salming. Salming was the first European trained player to truly establish himself as a star in the National Hockey League.

When it comes down to the question "who is the greatest NHL European trained player ever?" both Salming and Lidstrom are near the top of the pack. Along with the likes of Alexander Ovechkin, Jaromir Jagr and Dominik Hasek 

There is no shortage of candidates nowadays. When I was a kid it was basically Salming, a young Jari Kurri who still has never truly shaken the label of Gretzky's winger, and a few talented but at times enigmatic stars like Kent Nilsson and Hakan Loob.

Of course there were the Eastern Block stars, notably the Soviets, who were unable to play in the NHL. Igor Larionov and Viacheslav Fetisov in particular established themselves as solid NHL stars late in their careers but were never able to compete in the NHL in their true primes.

Nowadays Canadian kids grow up dreaming of being the next Teemu Selanne, Sergei Fedorov, Pavel Bure or Pavel Datsyuk. And with the likes of Elias Pettersson and Nikita Kucherov this is no trend, but something that will continue forever.

Who is the greatest European hockey player ever? Who is the best European hockey player ever? As you know, in my estimation those are two very different questions.

The greatest means who had the best career, made the most impact, had the greatest legacy. I will always rank Salming high in this regard, along with Ovechkin and Jagr. Best means who was the best player, and when you break it down I still think Sergei Fedorov as about as perfect of a forward as hockey has ever seen. And the same can be said of Lidstrom on the back end.

Who is the greatest? Who is the best? I don't really know, its too tough of a choice! I'm just happy to say I've seen them all and then some

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