July 11, 2012 3:12 AM EST
Best Hockey Players
Hockey in North America has been around for hundreds of years, and the game has evolved in so many ways that the pioneers of the sport might not recognize the game today as their own.
The NHL is approaching its own centennial anniversary. However, the coveted trophy that hockey superstars globally dream of hoisting is the Stanley Cup, which was first awarded in 1893.
Since the trophy's first presentation and the formation of the NHL, the great players have defined the game as they have in the other "Big Four" sports. Great players in the NHL are defined by Stanley Cups, among other league leading accomplishments that they win each season as well as all time.
Here are the top five players to ever step foot on the ice:
Gretzky is universally known as the greatest hockey player of all time.
After 20 seasons in the NHL, his numbers are staggering: 2857 career points, 894 career goals, and 1963 assists. His points total is over 1000 more than the next player on the all-time points list, and he had more assists then the next player on the same points list. If the magnitude of those three records weren't enough, he also holds records for most 100-point seasons (15), most points in the playoffs (47 in one year and 382 in his career), and most games in a row with at least one point (51). It is hard to believe that any of these records will be challenged in the future.
Gretzky played for four teams in the NHL, and won four Stanley Cups with the Oilers. Incredibly, he won the Hart Trophy nine times and is a 10-time Art Ross Trophy winner.
When he retired, he skipped the three year waiting period required until Hall of Fame voting could begin and was voted right in. Gretzky is known for having the highest hockey IQ out of anyone in the history of the game. His offensive production in his 20 professional years cannot be touched by anybody else.
Orr is known in the hockey world for revolutionizing the defenseman position. Orr only played 12 seasons, from 1966-1978, but what he accomplished in that short amount of time is remarkable.
Until Orr came along, defensemen in hockey were generally the big guys on the ice, not known for the fluidity of their skating as much as their hitting, back skating, and passing abilities. However, the 5-foot-11, 200 pound Orr shocked his contemporaries and hockey fans globally with his highly developed skating skills. To this day, Orr is regarded by many as one of the greatest skaters to play in the league.
Orr won two Art Ross Trophies as the league’s leading scorer, and has set every scoring record for defensemen. His career high for points in one season is an astounding 139, and he’s the only defensemen to record nine hat tricks. Orr won eight-straight Norris Trophies as the top defensemen of the year and two Stanley Cups with the Boston Bruins. He is the only player in NHL history to win the Norris Trophy, the Art Ross Trophy, the Hart Trophy, and the Conn Smythe Trophy in a single season.
Orr is remembered as the greatest offensive defenseman of all time and as one of the greatest scorers in NHL history.
Lemieux was 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, but his size didn't restrict him from becoming one of the most skilled players in NHL history.
If “Super Mario” wasn’t playing during the reign of Gretzky, he could have singlehandedly dominated the game as the “Great One” did. However, that made his achievements even more amazing. He won three Hart Trophies, six Art Ross Trophies, and two Conn Smythe Trophies to accompany his two consecutive Stanley Cups.
Playing center for 17 seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins from 1984-2006, and taking a four-year hiatus due to a battle with Lymphoma, Lemieux seemed to always be battling an injury. Coming back in 2000, Mario notched 76 points to be a Hart Trophy finalist for the last time in his career, and also avoided the three-year waiting period to get into the Hall of Fame.
In an era dominated by Wayne Gretzky, Lemieux will be remembered as a superstar in his own right. More specifically, he is remembered for his tremendous skill set and his undying love for the game, making numerous comebacks in his career from harsh injuries and cancer.
Howe played an unbelievable 32 seasons of professional hockey, from 1946-1971 with the NHL's Detroit Red Wings and 1973-1980 with the WHA's Houston Aeros and Winnipeg Jets.
Howe's career longevity, being the only man to compete professionally over five decades, has made him a hockey icon. By the end of his marathon career, he had won four Stanley Cups, six Hart Trophies, and six Art Ross Trophies. He was also elected into the Hall of Fame before his playing career was even over, in 1972.
Howe is remembered as the most consistent hockey player of all time, and is also known for being the face of hockey in five different decades.
Jagr caps off the list, joining his former teammate Lemieux.
The two of them made Pittsburgh a hot bed for hockey, and paved the way for the Sidney Crosby Era in the Steel City. Jagr is still playing in the NHL in his 21st season, currently on the Dallas Stars. He has also played for Washington, Philadelphia and the NY Rangers in his career.
Jagr won the Art Ross Trophy five times and was nominated for six Hart Trophies, although he only won once. Jagr is currently 8th all-time in career points, 12th in assists, and 11th in goals. After a successful season last year with the Flyers, he is projected to go up in the all-time rankings with Dallas this upcoming year.
Jagr is known as perhaps the greatest puck carrier in the game. He is also known for his extraordinary deking and stick handling abilities.