The 10 Greatest Hockey Players of All Time [Ranked in 2021]

Hockey is a top sport dearly loved in the Great White North.  Not only does Canada have the best hockey players of all time, but it also has a huge number of passionate hockey fans. In fact, 12% of Canadians consider themselves hardcore hockey fans and follow all hockey-related events. 

This is huge!

What’s more:

Pretty much all of the most famous hockey players are born in Canada.

The question is:

Who is the greatest hockey player of all time?

To find out, check out our list of top ten hockey players. And yes, they’re all Canadian.


Greatest Hockey Players of All Time

10. Martin Brodeur

First on our list of top hockey players of all time is Martin Brodeur. Born in Montreal in 1972, he played for the New Jersey Devils for an impressive 21 seasons from 1991 to 2014. With four Vezina trophies and three Stanley Cups, he is definitely a contender for the best hockey player of all time.

Without a doubt, Brodeur is one of the most iconic goalies in the NHL. Altogether, he has more than 691 career victories under his belt. His family greatly influenced his career. Martin Brodeur’s father was part of the Canada team that won a bronze medal at the 1956 Winter Olympics held in Cortina d’Ampezzo.

While playing for the Devils, Brodeur has won numerous honours and broke multiple records. In December 2014, after his contract with the Devils expired, he joined the St. Louis Blues. However, he only appeared six times for them before retiring in 2015.

In 2018, Brodeur moved back to work with the Devils at the front office. The same year, he was welcomed to the Hockey Hall of Fame.


9. Sidney Crosby

Sidney Crosby also makes it to our list of best hockey players. The Nova Scotia native joined the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2005 at the tender age of 18 and won the 2005 World Junior Championship. In 2007, he won the Art Ross Trophy and the Hart Trophy. That year, he became the youngest captain in the NHL. At the end of his first season, Crosby became the youngest NHL player to score 100 points.

And that’s not all:

In 2009, he won the Stanley Cup, followed by the Rocket Richard Trophy in 2010. His meteoric rise continued at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, where he scored a dramatic goal to clinch the gold medal for Canada.

In his second season, Crosby made more progress and broke even more records. He scored 120 points from 79 games, which won him the Art Ross Trophy.

In 2011, Sidney Crosby suffered a concussion as a result of an on-ice hit. This forced him to miss the whole 2010-2011 NHL season. However, after treatment and rehabilitation, he returned to the team in March 2012. Crosby hit another purple patch during the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 seasons when he won back to back Stanley Cups with the Penguins.

On February 21, 2021, Crosby became the first Penguins player to represent the franchise in 1,000 games.

Unlike the other players on our list, Sidney Crosby is still active. Can he add more silverware to his impressive collection? We wouldn’t bet against it


8. Mark Messier

Mark Messier is celebrated as one of the best Canadian hockey players. Born in St.Albert, Alberta, in January 1961, Messier played for the New York Rangers, Vancouver Canucks, and Edmonton Oilers in an impressive career that lasted from 1979 to 2004.

He is the only hockey player to become a captain for two teams to Stanley Cup victories. In a span of ten years, Messier won five Stanley Cups with the Edmonton Oilers and one with the New York Rangers. With such remarkable success, he deserves to be listed as one of the top 10 hockey players of all time. He comes third when it comes to the most points in the regular season with 1,887, after Wayne Gretzky and Jaromir Jagr.

Messier was nicknamed the “Moose” thanks to his determination, strength, and agility, paired with great sportsmanship. He won the Hart Trophy two times, in 1990 and 1992, as the most valuable player. Also, he won the Conn Smythe Trophy for being the most valuable player in the 1984 playoffs. Another award he won was the Ted Lindsay Award for the most valuable player from the NHL Players’ Association during the 1989-90 and 1991-92 seasons.

Messier was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007 and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. Finally, he was named one of the top 100 Greatest NHL Players in 2017.


7. Bobby Hull

Next on our list of the greatest hockey players of all time is Bobby Hull. His greatness in ice hockey is known globally, and his biography has been translated into 26 different languages.

The Point Anne, Ontario, native played for the NHL Chicago Black Hawks from 1957 to 1972. Over time, Bobby earned himself the name “The Golden Jet” thanks to his blond hair, super skating speed, and swinging slap shot.

During the 1959-1960 season, Hull scored 39 goals. And two years later, he scored 50, equalling Maurice Richard’s record. The 1965-1966 NFL season saw Hull reach higher scores of 54 goals and 43 assists.

In 1961, Bobby Hull helped the Black Hawks win the Stanley Cup. He won the Art Ross Trophy in 1962 and 1966 as the highest scorer. In 1965 and 1966, he won the Hart Trophy as the most valuable player. Also in 1965, The Golden Jet won the Lady Byng Trophy, which celebrates ability and great sportsmanship. 

Next:

Hull played for the Winnipeg Jets in the World Hockey Association (WHA) from 1972 to 1979. Between 1972 and 1974, he was also the coach. He hit a purple patch in the 1974-1975 season, scoring a mouth-watering 77 goals. He would return to NHL and ultimately retire after the 1979-1980 season. Give how impressive Bobby Hull stats are, it’s no surprise that he is widely regarded as a contender for the best hockey player of all time.


6. Jean Beliveau

Jean Arthur Beliveau (1931-2014) was one of the most popular hockey players and NHL all-time top scorers. In a prolific career with the Montreal Canadiens between 1953 and 1971, he won as many as ten Stanley Cups

But that’s not all:

As a Canadiens executive, he won the Stanley Cup a further seven times between 1973 and 1993. How about that?

Beliveau grew up in Victoriaville, Quebec, where he started his hockey career. Later, he joined a local hockey league team in 1946. He is recognized as one of the hockey greats due to the number of goals he scored. At 6 ft. 3 inches and 93 kg, he was also one of the biggest NHL players, known for his speed, skilful puck handling, and agility.

Over the course of his career, Beliveau scored 507 goals and became the team captain in 1961. He won the Art Ross Trophy in 1956 for the highest scorer, the Hart Trophy in 1956 and 1964 as the most valuable player, and the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the play-offs.

After his retirement, Beliveau was appointed vice president of the Canadiens. In 1972, as a recognition of his extraordinary achievements, he was inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame without having to wait for the usual three years.

And with that, we’re halfway there! Moving on to the top five!


5. Maurice Richard

We cannot discuss the best Canadian hockey players without Maurice Richard (1921-2000). Another contender for the mantle of the best hockey player ever in Canada, the superstar played 18 seasons for the Montreal Canadiens.

Now:

Richard became the first hockey player to score 50 goals in a single season in 1944-1945. In addition, he was the first player to reach 544 goals in his career before he retired in 1960.

What’s more:

During his 18 years with the Montreal Canadiens, Richard won eight Stanley Cups in 1944, 1946, 1953, and 1956–60. In 1947, he won the Hart Trophy as the NHL most valuable hockey player. He played in 13 All-Star Games and was included in 14 post-season NHL All-Star Teams. These Maurice Richard stats are impressive and tell a tale of one of the greatest hockey players.

Sadly, Maurice Richard was diagnosed with abdominal cancer in 1998 and died two years later. He was given a state funeral by the province of Quebec. He had previously been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame a year after his retirement.


4. Bobby Orr

Born in March 1948, Robert Gordon Orr is among the best NHL players of all time and was the first defenceman to score 30 and then 40 goals in a season, in 1969-1970 and 1974-1975, respectively.

Orr joined the Boston Bruins in 1966. During his ten years with them, he helped the team win two Stanley Cups in 1970 and 1972. Additionally, he helped the team to the playoffs for eight consecutive seasons.

Check this out:

In his stellar career, which made Bobby Orr one of the most exciting hockey players of all time, he more than 16 awards. Remarkably, he won the Norris Trophy for the most valuable defenceman eight times between 1968 and 1975. Additionally, he scored 64 points (21 goals and 43 assists) during the 1968-1969 season.

Bobby Orr won the Art Ross Trophy in 1970 and 1975 and the Hart Trophy three times between 1970 and 1972 as the most valuable player. In his career, Orr won several seasonal defenceman records for 102 assists, 46 goals, and 139 points.

In 1976, Bobby Orr joined the Chicago Black Hawks as an assistant coach. He retired in 1979 and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame the same year. After his retirement, Orr has written several books, including his memoirs, My Story (2013).


3. Mario Lemieux🥉

Born and raised in the Montreal working-class district of Ville-Émard, Mario Lemieux is one of the top 5 hockey players in the history of the sport. He started his career at the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, where he scored a mind-blowing 282 goals in 70 games for Laval Voisins during the 1983-1984 season.

On the back of his impressive debut season, Lemieux joined Pittsburgh Penguins in 1984. During his astonishing career, which spanned over two decades, he earned scored 100+ points in ten seasons and scored 13 goals in All-Star Games, a record he holds jointly with Wayne Gretzky. In addition, he won the rookie of the year Calder Memorial Trophy award.

During his first stint at Pittsburgh Penguins, he won the award for the most valuable player (MVP) in the 1987-1988 season. In the 1990-1991 season, he was forced to missed 54 games due to a back surgery. After his recovery, Lemieux led his team to win the Stanley Cup. He won the playoff MVP award and another one in the subsequent season. 

Lemieux is the only player to score more than 30 power-play goals in two seasons and the only player with more than 70 power-play points in a single season, which he did on three occasions (80 in 1988, 79 in 1989, and 79 in 1996).

Lemieux’s achievements are awe-inspiring, given his recurring injuries and health issues.

The thing is:

He was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which kept him out of the sport for long. 

Who knows:

If it hadn’t been for that, he might be even higher on our list of the best hockey players of all time. 

Lemieux returned to the NFL in the 1995–96 season, winning his third MVP award. He retired at the age of 31 in 1997 and was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame the same year. Later, Lemieux made a successful comeback with the Penguins between 2000 and 2006.


2. Gordie Howe🥈

Gordon “Gordie” Howie was born in March 1928 in Saskatchewan and died in 2016. He is remembered as one of the top NHL players of all time

What’s more:

He’s also one of the best looking hockey players – at least as far as we’re concerned.

On a more serious note:

Howe played in the NHL for 26 seasons (25 of those for the Detroit Red Wings) and in the WHA for 6 seasons. Due to his skillfulness, he was nicknamed Mr. Hockey. By the time he retired, Howe had recorded 801 all-time NHL goals, 1049 assists, and a massive total of 1850 all-time hockey points.

Howe assisted the Detroit Red Wings to four Stanley Cups in 1950, 1952, 1954, and 1955. Altogether, Howe played 1,767 NHL games in over 32 seasons. He was skilful at puck handling, tough, and adept at wrist shots.

But wait! There’s more:

Howe won the Hart Memorial Trophy six times as the most valuable player for the 1952–1953, 1957–60, and 1962-1963 seasons. And if that wasn’t enough, he also won the Art Ross Trophy for being the top scorer in 1951–54, 1957, and 1963.

Howe retired after the 1970–71 season. The following year, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Last but not least, he was honoured with the first NHL Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008.

Which leads us to the end of our list of the best hockey players of all time and…


1. Wayne Gretzky🥇

Wayne Douglas Gretzky was born in January 1961 in Brantford, Ontario. He was taught to play hockey early on by his father and demonstrated a precocious talent. At only 6 years old, Wayne was playing hockey with a team of boys aged 10-11.

Next:

Gretzky participated in the Junior World Cup competition in 1978, where he was the youngest player and the top scorer. He later joined the Indianapolis Racers in the WHA as a professional player during the 1978–1979 season.

The Wayne Gretzky position was as a centre. After the sale of his contract to the Edmonton Oilers, he now joined the NHL during the 1979–1980 season. He was the team captain and led his team into winning four Stanley Cups in 1983–1984, 1984–1985, 1986–1987, and 1987–1988.

The all-time hockey stats show Gretzky lead among the top hockey players

Check this out:

He won the Art Ross Memorial Trophy for the best scorer for seven consecutive years between 1980 and 1987 and on further three occasions in the 1989–1990, 1990–1991, and 1993–1994 seasons. Additionally, he was the first hockey player to win the Hart Memorial Trophy for the most valuable player consecutively for eight years in 1979-1987 seas. He retired after the 1998–1999 season and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1999.

Still not convinced?

Then get a hold of this:

“The Great One” has the most goals (894, many of them among the greatest hockey goals of all time), assists (1,963), and the most all-time hockey points scored (2,857) in NHL history. In fact, he has more assists than total points scored by any other player!

Whoah! Let that sink in for a minute. Wayne Gretzky truly is the hockey GOAT. 🏆 🏒🐐 


Final Thoughts

Hockey is loved across Canada, the US, and much of Eastern Europe. But as we have seen, the best hockey players of all time all hail from the Great White North. 

Now:

It goes without saying that our list is not exhaustive. And like all such lists, it’s also subjective. We bet many of you will raise an eyebrow at the absence of such titans of the game as Alex Ovechkin and Jagomir Jagr, among others. 

Still, we hope you enjoyed this journey through the hockey hall of fame as much as we did. We’ll catch you on the next one.

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