Hockey is a feisty and competitive sport. To be considered one of the greatest of all time you have to combine speed, strength, aggression, and skill. These players had all of those characteristics in bundles, and then something extra. We are ranking the world’s greatest hockey players of all time.
Crosby is still playing, but he deserves to be in the conversation of best ever thanks to his accomplishments. The Pittsburgh Penguins icon has already achieved so much, including three Stanley Cups since 2005.
Crosby has already won two Olympic gold medals with Canada and has been called up to the All-Star game eight times. At the end of the 2017-18 season, Crosby had 1301 points to his name, but that number is sure to increase as he is still playing.
Known as “Rocket,” Maurice Richard was one of the standout hockey players during his career. Richard was setting records from the very beginning, and it was clear he was going to have a Hall of Fame career. He was the first player in history to manage 50 goals in a single season, amazingly managing the accomplishment in just 50 games.
Richard was also the first player ever to reach 500 career goals, and he paved the way for other stars of the sport outshine everyone else. The NHL’s regular season scoring award is named after Maurice “Rocket” Richard thank to his amazing exploits back in the ‘40s and ‘50s.
Mark Messier’s name will forever be etched into the hockey history books thanks to his success on the ice. Messier won the Stanley Cup six times and played for two of the biggest franchises in history, the Rangers and the Oilers.
He won the Stanley Cup with both teams and is the only pro in history to captain two different franchises to success in the championship series. Messier had a long career and had a total points tally of 2182, primarily made up through assisting teammates.
As far as inspirational players go, few can overlook Mario Lemieux. The center known as “The Magnificent One” was a handful for just about anyone he came up against. At only 19 years old, on his NHL debut, he stole the puck from Ray Bourque, a Hall of Fame defenseman, raced to the other end and scored.
He was announcing himself onto the hockey stage, and everyone sat up to take notice. This kid was going to be special. In total, he scored 766 career goals, but that number definitely would have been higher if he hadn’t spent several seasons away from competition. After beating cancer during the early ‘90s, Lemieux retired from playing in 1997.
He spent several years away from the ice but couldn’t resist the call to return. In 2001 Lemieux came back to the NHL and pretty much picked up where he left off. If he hadn’t skipped those seasons, he might have bagged 1,000 career goals.
Opposing players knew if they were going to stop Bobby Orr from scoring, they would have to do it quickly. Orr was so fast across the ice that he made hockey look easy. The Canadian defenseman was so fast that if he led a breakaway, there was no catching him, the only thing people could hope for was him missing. Something that rarely happened.
Bobby Orr’s first job was to stop his opponents from scoring, but it became clear pretty quickly that if you gave him the puck, he was gone in a flash. He helped define a new role for defensemen and was really the first of his kind, an offensively minded defender. Orr was the first defenseman to top the scoring chart thanks to his 120 points in the 1969-70 season. He was able to score over 100 points in six of his ten NHL seasons. Unfortunately for Orr, injury cut his career short, or else he might have made it even higher in the all-time greatest rankings.
For some there a debate about who is better, Gordie Howe or the man we put at number one. Howe was one of the best scorers in the league and brought a physicality to the ice that few could compete with. He was built like an action hero and had one of the longest careers ever. Howe was nicknamed Mr. Hockey after playing professionally across five different decades, beginning in the ‘40s and retiring in the ‘80s.
Mr. Hockey had initially retired in 1971 but came out of retirement to play alongside his sons. Some believe Howe was the most complete player in history as he was able to match anyone physically, but could just as easily outclass anyone regarding skill. His accomplishments are pretty amazing, and he won four Stanley Cups during the ‘50s. Howe won the Hart Memorial Trophy six times and was selected for the All-Star game an astounding 23 times.
Where do you start when describing The Great One? Wayne Gretzky owns a whole bunch of NHL records and is both the top goal scorer and assist maker in history. He was the ultimate playmaker who turned ice hockey from a one-man-show into the team game it has become today.
Gretzky’s greatest ability was making everyone else on his team play better, and he did it time after time on the ice. The records points scorer, all-time most frequent MVP winner, fastest to 500 goals, you name it, and Gretzky has done it in hockey. Other players won the Stanley Cup more times, but there is no denying that what Gretzky achieved on the ice is going to take something special to be matched.
These players all showed they were pretty much better than anyone else in their era on the ice. They were often the difference between their team winning or losing, and with them in the side, it was usually a victory.