Best NHL Players of All Time – Top 10 Hockey Legends

Best NHL Players of All Time

The National Hockey League (NHL) has been home to some of the most remarkable talents in the world of sports. Throughout its storied history, the league has witnessed the rise of extraordinary athletes who have left an indelible mark on the sport of ice hockey. These individuals have mesmerised fans and captivated audiences with their unparalleled skills, tenacity, and dedication to the game.



NHL Period (Active)


Gordie Howe

1946 – 1980


Wayne Gretzky

1979 – 1999


Bobby Orr

1966 – 1979


Mario Lemieux

1984 – 2006


Maurice “Rocket” Richard

1942 – 1960


Bobby Hull

1957 – 1980


Jean Beliveau

1950 – 1971


Mark Messier

1979 – 2004


Terry Sawchuk

1949 – 1970


Steve Yzerman

1983 – 2006

The best NHL players of all time have transcended the boundaries of their era and have become timeless legends. From the early pioneers who laid the foundation for the sport’s growth to the modern-day superstars who continue to redefine the game, each generation has produced remarkable talents that have shaped the NHL’s identity.

Within the fast-paced and physically demanding world of ice hockey, these players have showcased their prowess, leading their teams to victory and etching their names into the history books. Their accomplishments go beyond individual achievements; they have redefined positions, shattered records, and set new standards for excellence in the sport.

Top 10 Best NHL Players of All Time

As we delve into the stories of these extraordinary players, their contributions to the game, and the impact they’ve had on the NHL and ice hockey as a whole, we begin to appreciate the artistry and passion that makes them the best the sport has ever seen.


1. Gordie Howe – 1946 – 1980

Gordie Howe, also known as “Mr. Hockey,” was a legendary NHL player who graced the ice from 1946 to 1980. Born on March 31, 1928, in Floral, Saskatchewan, Canada, Howe’s career spanned an incredible 33 seasons. He played primarily as a right winger for the Detroit Red Wings and the Hartford Whalers.

Howe’s playing style combined skill, physicality, and goal-scoring ability, making him a dominant force on the ice. He held numerous records throughout his career and earned a reputation for his toughness and longevity. Gordie Howe’s list of achievements is impressive, including four Stanley Cup championships, six Hart Trophies as league MVP, and 23 NHL All-Star selections.

His offensive prowess was remarkable, amassing 801 regular-season goals and 1049 assists, setting a standard that few have surpassed. Even after retiring from the NHL, Howe came back to play in the WHA (World Hockey Association) in his 40s, further showcasing his incredible talent.

2. Wayne Gretzky – 1979 – 1999

Wayne Gretzky, often referred to as “The Great One,” enjoyed a spectacular NHL career from 1979 to 1999. Born on January 26, 1961, in Brantford, Ontario, Canada, Gretzky’s impact on the game of hockey is unparalleled. He played as a center and is widely regarded as the greatest hockey player of all time.

Gretzky’s career took off with the Edmonton Oilers, where he won four Stanley Cups before being traded to the Los Angeles Kings in 1988. He later played for the St. Louis Blues and the New York Rangers before retiring in 1999.

Throughout his career, Gretzky rewrote the NHL record book, setting records for most career goals (894) and assists (1,963), among many others. His vision, passing, and playmaking abilities were unmatched, earning him a remarkable 10 Art Ross Trophies as the league’s leading point-scorer and nine Hart Trophies as league MVP.

3. Bobby Orr – 1966 – 1979

Bobby Orr revolutionized the game of hockey during his active years from 1966 to 1979. Born on March 20, 1948, in Parry Sound, Ontario, Canada, Orr is considered one of the greatest defensemen in NHL history. He played for the Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks.

Orr’s style of play combined exceptional offensive and defensive skills, and he was known for his end-to-end rushes and scoring ability from the blue line. He redefined the role of defensemen, becoming the first to consistently join the offensive rush and win scoring titles.

In his career, Orr won two Stanley Cups with the Bruins and earned numerous accolades, including eight Norris Trophies as the NHL’s best defenseman and three Hart Trophies as league MVP. His most iconic moment came in 1970 when he scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal, securing his status as a hockey legend. Unfortunately, knee injuries cut his career short, but his impact on the sport remains enduring.

4. Mario Lemieux – 1984 – 2006

Mario Lemieux, often hailed as one of the greatest hockey players of all time, was born on October 5, 1965, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. He made his NHL debut in 1984 as a center for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Lemieux’s playing career spanned an illustrious 17 seasons, during which he showcased remarkable skills, vision, and goal-scoring prowess. He was a dominant force on the ice and earned the nickname “The Magnificent One.”

Throughout his career, Lemieux faced numerous challenges, including health issues, but his determination and talent allowed him to overcome adversity. He temporarily retired in 1997 due to health concerns but made a triumphant comeback in 2000, adding another remarkable chapter to his legacy.

Lemieux’s contributions to the game extended beyond his playing years. He became a co-owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins, leading the team to multiple Stanley Cup victories as both a player and an owner. His impact on and off the ice solidified his status as an icon in the world of hockey, inspiring generations of players to come.

5. Maurice “Rocket” Richard – 1942 – 1960

Maurice Richard, known affectionately as “The Rocket,” was born on August 4, 1921, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. He was a trailblazing forward who played his entire NHL career with the Montreal Canadiens from 1942 to 1960. Richard was the first player in NHL history to score 50 goals in a single season, achieving the milestone in the 1944-1945 season, which earned him the title of “Rocket.”

Blessed with exceptional speed and a powerful shot, Richard was a dominant offensive force and a key component of the Canadiens’ success during his tenure. He won numerous Stanley Cups with the team and was a fan favorite for his passionate and determined style of play.

Richard’s career was not without controversy. In 1955, he was involved in a highly publicized incident known as the “Richard Riot,” where his suspension sparked rioting in Montreal. Despite this, he remained a beloved figure in the hockey world and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961.

6. Bobby Hull – 1957 – 1980

Bobby Hull, born on January 3, 1939, in Pointe Anne, Ontario, Canada, is widely regarded as one of the most influential and exciting players in NHL history. Hull was a left-winger known for his incredible speed and one of the most powerful shots the game has ever seen. He began his NHL career with the Chicago Blackhawks in 1957, and later played for the Winnipeg Jets and Hartford Whalers before retiring in 1980.

Hull’s offensive abilities were unparalleled during his era. He was the first player to score more than 50 goals in a single season, achieving the feat in the 1961-1962 season, and he went on to win the Hart Trophy twice as the league’s most valuable player.

Beyond his impressive goal-scoring records, Hull was also known for popularizing the curved hockey stick blade, which revolutionized shooting techniques. His impact on the game extended to the World Hockey Association (WHA) as well, where he played a crucial role in establishing the league’s credibility and helping it compete with the NHL.

Bobby Hull’s legacy continues to inspire aspiring players to push the boundaries of skill and creativity on the ice.

7. Jean Beliveau – 1950 – 1971

Jean Beliveau was a legendary ice hockey player from Canada who made his mark in the NHL playing as a center for the Montreal Canadiens. He was born on August 31, 1931, in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, and began his NHL career in the 1950-1951 season. Beliveau quickly established himself as one of the most dominant players of his era, known for his exceptional skills, leadership, and sportsmanship.

During his illustrious 20-year career, Beliveau won an impressive 10 Stanley Cup championships with the Canadiens (1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, and 1971). He was a 17-time All-Star and won the Hart Trophy (MVP) twice (1956, 1964) and the Conn Smythe Trophy (Playoff MVP) twice (1965, 1966).

Jean Beliveau retired in 1971, leaving a remarkable legacy in the NHL. He finished his career with 507 regular-season goals and 712 assists in 1,125 games played. After retiring as a player, Beliveau remained involved in hockey operations and served as a respected ambassador for the sport until his passing on December 2, 2014.

8. Mark Messier – 1979 – 2004

Mark Messier, born on January 18, 1961, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, is widely regarded as one of the greatest NHL players of all time. Playing as a center and left winger, Messier enjoyed an illustrious 25-year career in the NHL. He made his debut with the Edmonton Oilers during the 1979-1980 season.

Known for his leadership qualities and fierce competitiveness, Mark Messier captained two different teams to victory in the Stanley Cup – the Edmonton Oilers (1984, 1985, 1987, 1988) and the New York Rangers (1994). He was also awarded the Hart Trophy (MVP) twice (1990, 1992) and the Conn Smythe Trophy (Playoff MVP) in 1984.

Messier’s physical and offensive prowess earned him numerous accolades, including 15 All-Star selections. He retired in 2004 with a remarkable 694 regular-season goals and 1,193 assists in 1,756 games played.

9. Terry Sawchuk – 1949 – 1970

Terry Sawchuk was a highly accomplished Canadian goaltender, born on December 28, 1929, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He began his NHL career with the Detroit Red Wings during the 1949-1950 season, quickly establishing himself as one of the best goalies in the league.

Known for his remarkable reflexes and ability to make acrobatic saves, Sawchuk played an essential role in helping the Red Wings win the Stanley Cup three times (1952, 1954, 1955). He was a four-time Vezina Trophy winner (awarded to the best goaltender) during his time with the Red Wings.

Over the course of his career, Terry Sawchuk played for several teams, including the Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Los Angeles Kings, and the New York Rangers. Tragically, Sawchuk’s life was cut short when he passed away on May 31, 1970, at the age of 40, due to a lung condition.

10. Steve Yzerman – 1983 – 2006

Steve Yzerman, often referred to as “The Captain,” is a former NHL player from Canada, born on May 9, 1965, in Cranbrook, British Columbia. He spent his entire illustrious 22-year career as a forward with the Detroit Red Wings.

Yzerman was known for his incredible leadership and offensive skills, making him one of the most respected players in the NHL. He led the Red Wings to three Stanley Cup championships (1997, 1998, 2002) and won numerous awards during his career, including the Conn Smythe Trophy (Playoff MVP) in 1998.

Apart from his NHL success, Yzerman represented Team Canada in international competitions, winning a Gold medal in the 2002 Winter Olympics.

After retiring as a player in 2006, Yzerman transitioned to an executive role in hockey operations. He served as the general manager for the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he continued to make a significant impact on the sport.

Top NHL Players Ever

The NHL has witnessed the brilliance of numerous legendary players who have left an everlasting impact on the sport of ice hockey. From the iconic Gordie Howe, “Mr. Hockey,” to the incomparable Wayne Gretzky, “The Great One,” and the trailblazing Bobby Orr, these players have redefined the game and set new standards of excellence.

Players like Mario Lemieux, Maurice “Rocket” Richard, and Bobby Hull have showcased their incredible skills and made significant contributions to the sport. The incomparable Jean Beliveau and the fierce Mark Messier displayed unparalleled leadership and sportsmanship, guiding their teams to multiple Stanley Cup victories.

Even in the goaltending position, players like Terry Sawchuk displayed extraordinary reflexes and acrobatics to secure their teams’ success. Finally, the legendary Steve Yzerman, known as “The Captain,” not only led his team to Stanley Cup glory but also continued to influence the game in an executive capacity after retiring.

Each of these top 10 NHL players of all time has left an indelible mark on the sport and inspired generations of players to come. Their remarkable achievements, passion for the game, and dedication have solidified their status as true icons in the world of ice hockey, making them the best the sport has ever seen.

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