The NHL has had dozens and dozens of truly great players in its long history.
These NHL legends are worth a chance on the ice now, years after some of them have retired because they were just that good. Here are 12 of the best to ever play in the NHL.
Wayne Gretzky is regarded as the best ice hockey player who ever lived, and his nickname, “The Great One,” only backs that assertion up. He spent 21 years in the league, playing for the Edmonton Oilers, the LA Kings, the St. Louis Blues, and the New York Rangers.
He played almost 1,500 games in his professional career, scoring 894 goals, assisting 1,963 times, and scoring 2,857 points in the regular season. During his time as captain for the Oilers, Gretzky led them to four out of their five Stanley Cups.
One of the few players already considered a legend that still plays today is Sid “The Kid” Crosby. He started his career back in 2005 with the Pittsburgh Penguins and has been there ever since.
His number of achievements is almost too long to list. He is an eight-time All-Star, a three-time Stanley Cup winner, a nine-time Penguins MVP. He is 34 now and doesn’t have many seasons left, but he has undoubtedly left a mark that won’t be forgotten.
If you don’t think Gretzky is the greatest ever, it is probably because you believe Ovechkin is. The current captain of the Washington Capitals, Ovechkin, has spent almost two decades in the league.
He is an eight-time First-Team All-Star, has been in the NHL All-Star game 11 times, won the Stanley Cup back in 2018, and has been the cover athlete for three NHL video games. Many believe he should have more Stanley Cups to his name, but he’s a surefire Hall-of-Famer regardless, and might finish as the all-time NHL leading goal-scorer.
Mark Messier had a long and successful career in the NHL. Drafted by the Oilers in 1979, he would go on to play for the Rangers and the Canucks, before retiring in 2004. Three years later, he was inducted into the NHL Hall of Fame.
Messier played in the NHL All-Star game 15 times, won the Stanley Cup six times, five times with the Oilers and once with the Rangers, and won the Hart Memorial Trophy in 1990 and 1992. Winning the Cup with the Rangers also meant he is the only player to captain two different teams to a championship win.
“Le Magnifique” was just that, a brilliant player who won two Stanley Cups as a player for the Pittsburgh Penguins. No. 66 had incredible stickhandling skills and competed yearly with Gretzky for the Art Ross Trophy in their playing days.
He later became a part-owner of the Penguins.
You have to go back several years to see just how good Gordie Howe was. He played professionally from 1946-1971, and then again from 1973-1980. He spent his career at the Detroit Red Wings, Houston Aeros, New England Whalers, and the Hartford Whalers.
He won the Hart Memorial Trophy six times; he played in the All-Star game a whopping 23 times and won the Stanley Cup four times. Howe passed away at the age of 88 in 2016, but it is impossible to forget the legacy he left behind.
Bobby Orr didn’t have a career that spanned as long as other players on this list. He began playing professionally in 1966 and retired in 1978 due to persistent injury. He spent his career between the Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks.
He holds the record for being the first defenceman to score 30 and then 40 goals. He was the first player to record 100 assists in a season. He is also the only player to win the Norris Trophy, Art Ross Trophy, Hart Trophy, and Conn Smythe Trophy, all in the same season. For a man who only played 657 games, his legacy is remarkable.
Another Bobby on this list is Bobby Hull. He started his career in 1957 and played for 23 seasons before retiring. His career was spent at the Black Hawks, the Winnipeg Jets, and the Hartford Whalers.
He is a three-time recipient of the Art Ross Trophy, and a 10-time member of the All-Star Team. He also took home the Stanley Cup championship in 1961 and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983.
Guy Lafleur played two seasons professionally, the first went from 1971-1985, and his second stint was from 1988-1991. He spent his career playing for the Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers.
During his time on the ice, he was a three-time Art Ross Trophy winner, a two-time Hart Memorial trophy winner, a six-time All-Star, and to top it all off; he bagged the Stanley Cup five times. He is also on the list of the 100 Greatest NHL Players in History.
Another legend who is still playing is Connor McDavid. There isn’t much you can say about him that hasn’t been said before. The young gun is only 24 years old and is already regarded as one of the best ever.
He has only been in the league since 2015 and has already been a four-time All-Star game player, a three-time Art Ross Trophy winner, a two-time Hart Memorial Trophy winner, and a four-time NHL First All-Star team member. While he hasn’t won a Stanley Cup yet, it is only a matter of time at this point.
Jaromir Jagr has been playing in the NHL since 1988 and has spent time at the Penguins, Capitals, New Jersey Devils, the Flyers, the Dallas Stars, the Bruins, the Florida Panthers, and the Calgary Flames.
He is a 13-time All-Star game player, having played in it every year from 1996 to 2004. He is a five-time Art Ross trophy winner, a one-time Hart Memorial Trophy winner, a three-time Lester B. Pearson award winner, and he has won the Stanley Cup twice, going back to back in 1991 and 1992.
The legendary Avalanche icon scored 625 goals, won two Stanley Cups, won a Conn Smythe and Hart, and also was the MVP of the 2002 Olympics for gold-medal winning Canada.
He scored 20 or more goals 11 times.