In “the beginning,”note The roots of the league go back to 1917 with four teams (among them the Canadiens and Maple Leafs) and grew to as many as ten before the Great Depression and World War II forced the league to downsize. there were the “Original Six,” the six teams that formed the NHL from the folding of the New York Americans in 1942 until the league's expansion in 1967.
Boston Bruins: First NHL team south of the border. Famous former players include Bobby Orr, Cam Neely and Ray Bourque. The team throughout its history is known for having very physical, fight heavy games, special mention going to the previously mentioned Neely, and Forward Shawn Thornton for the most penalty minutes of the last two seasons due to fighting. Current captain and defenseman Zdeno Chára is the tallest guy ever to play in the leaguenote Six feet, nine inches (2.06 meters).. Their 39-year Cup drought ended when they won in 2011. Have won more titles than any other American team but Detroit. They REALLY don't like Montreal.
Chicago Blackhawks: Current Stanley Cup champions. A team with both history (Tony Esposito, Bobby Hull) and rising stars (Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews). Known for the longest time of having an incredibly stingy owner who would place the bottom line over winning the Stanley Cup. Interestingly, as soon as said owner died (to boos from the fans when asked for a moment of silence), his son took over and changed things. One of those things was finally allowing home games to be broadcast on Chicago TV. That has pushed CSN Chicago and WGN to their highest ratings ever. Even NBC and Versus have enjoyed some of the highest ratings they've had for playoff games. Everyone was very happy and the team suddenly played very well, ending a 49-year Cup drought in 2010 and following it up with another Cup win in 2013. The Blackhawks are known for having a very rowdy fanbase, being loud enough to hear WAY outside the Chicago Stadium/United Center, and being raucous enough to earn the United Center the nickname “The Madhouse on Madison”. They really don't like Detroit and they don't like Vancouver much either◊. Neither do they like St. Louis.
Detroit Red Wings: Consistently good (have made the playoffs the last 22 years) within recent memory and therefore hated outside Detroit. The general dislike is newer than a lot of people think, since the post-expansion revival came after almost twenty years of being somewhat of a league Butt Monkey and a strenuous rebuilding process. Before then, there just weren't as many teams to pass the Cup around to, but they were the most dominant of the American-based teams. Fans have a habit of chucking octopodes onto the ice during the playoffs (in the Original Six days a playoff team needed to beat two teams in best-of-7, thus eight wins, to win the Cup). The feelings betwixt them and Chicago are mutual, but Detroit fans tend to have more creative chants.
Montreal Canadiens: AKA the Habs.note For “Les Habitants”, an old term for French-origin inhabitants of Quebec. Older than the NHL; their history begins in the NHL's predecessor league, the National Hockey Association. Has won 24 championships, a feat surpassed only by the New York Yankees. Also the last Canadian team to win the Cup (1993). Goaltender Jacques Plante made the goalie mask regular gear after stopping an Andy Bathgate slapshot with his nose in 1959. Pretty much the team of French Canada with the departure of the Quebec Nordiques to Colorado in 1995. Their long, storied history includes some legendary French players: Maurice ‘Le Rocket’ Richard, Jean Beliveau, Guy Lafleur and Patrick Roy. They hate Toronto with a passion, they surely don't like Boston, and they really don't like Zdeno Chara.
New York Rangers: AKA the Blueshirts. Name comes from the fact that the first owner was a guy namedTex.note “Tex's Rangers,” and his first name was actually George. Most recent year of glory was 1994, when the Curse of 1940 was broken (the longest Cup drought in history at 53 seasons). The Rangers have a fierce rivalry with the Devils, which made Messier's Game 6 hat trick and Matteau's double OT goal in Game 7 of the 1994 Conference Finals that much sweeter. Has a recent history of overpaying for players, though management seems to be trying to change that. The team no longer plays “Let's Go Band” at home games because every time it's played, diehards will chant “Potvin sucks!”.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Known for bad declension,note Technically, it's correct because the team isn't named after the things that grow on trees but the Canadian Maple Leaf Regiment that fought in World War I. being hated by the rest of Canada (especially among Montreal fans), being the most valuable franchise in the league, and not having won the Cup since 1967 (the league's longest current drought after the Blackhawks' win in 2010note The Blues have a Cup drought that is almost as long, having never won the league championship since their formation in 1967—but the Leafs' drought is still longer, since the Blues began play after the Leafs won the 1967 Cup..), or before 2013, a drought of 9 years not even qualifying for the playoffs. Their rivalry with the Canadiens is the oldest in the league. They hate their provincial rivals, the Ottawa Senators, a lot and have kicked them out of the playoffs on multiple occasions. The Toronto Maple Leafs are far and away the most profitable and popular team in the sport, with season tickets to the Air Canada Center (their home rink) unavailable for a minimum of ten years, and home games rarely not sold out. Their immense profitability and popularity has ensured that, despite their losing streak (going on fifty years), they are not in any danger of closing shop any time soon.
Current League Format: The league is currently divided into two conferences (Eastern and Western), each with two divisions (Atlantic and Metropolitan for the East; Central and Pacific Divisions for the West). The conferences used to be named the Prince of Wales Conference and the Clarence Campbell Conference (respectively), and the divisions used to be called the Adams, Norris, Patrick, and Smythe (there were only four divisions in those days) before 1992. With the start of the 1992-1993 season Commissioner Gary Bettman realigned and renamed the conferences and divisions (East and West Conference; Atlantic, Northeast and Southeast division for East, Pacific, Northwest and Central for West). Another realignment became necessary after the Atlanta Thrashers, who were in the Southeast division, moved to Winnipeg, screwing up the alignment of the East conference. With the start of the 2013-2014 season the league will apply the four-division setup mentioned before.
To further put into perspective how idiotic this plan is, the they split the Northeast/Florida division in order to "preserve traditional rivalries" like the Penguins and Flyers, Rangers and Devils, etc. while splitting up one of, if not the most storied rivalry not just in hockey, but in all of sports. The Hawks/Wings rivalry is considered second only (if that) to Habs/Bruins and while there is no real objective manner of ranking them, the Hawks and Wings have played each other more times than any two teams in the history of the league.
Additionally, the conferences are deliberately imbalanced because they wanted to allow for 2 more expansion teams. When it takes more than one hand to count the teams who consistently lack financial stability and are prime for relocation, one of which went bankrupt and has been under league ownership for four years while the league tries keep it from being relocated (and has never once turned a profit in its entire time in its current location), they have no business even thinking about expansion anytime soon. Some even suggest killing a franchise or two instead.
For information about Original Six teams, refer to the above section.
Boston Bruins: Original Six
Buffalo Sabres: Don't bring up Brett Hull's goal in 1999 to them. Please. Their original uniform design remains the most popular overall, given the backlash against their Goat's Headred and black era, and the Buffaslug. The team of the “French Connection” (a reference to the movie of the same name), a forward line from the 1970s consisting of three French-Canadians (center Gilbert Perreault, with Rick Martin to his left and Rene Robert on his right). Also the team that had The Dominator—goalie Dominik Hasek—for his most dominant years. Besides him, they've mostly lacked star power over the past few years.
Detroit Red Wings: Original Six
Florida Panthers: Started fast for an expansion team: they came very close to making the playoffs in their first season and made it to the Finals a few years later. After that, there hasn't been much for them; their berth in the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs is their first in over a decade. Not to mention that 2012 was their first year in winning a divisional championship. Their most notable contribution came during their Cinderella Finals run in 1996, when fans would litter the arena with plastic rats, causing extensive delays in games (due to one of their players killing a rat with his stick in the locker room... yeah, fans are weird). Named after an endangered cougar. Their arena also has a multiple personality disorder, having gone through five different names in fifteen years.
Montreal Canadiens: Original Six
Ottawa Senators: Not related to the old Ottawa Senators (1883–1934) who won the Cup 11 times. Their first two seasons were absolute disasters (their 1992–93 season saw them win only 10 games of 84), but they slowly grew into perennial playoff contenders for most of the last decade. (Although they could never get past the Leafs whenever they met, and their only final appearance was a defeat to the Ducks.) Once got into a massive brawl with the Buffalo Sabres with 100 penalty minutes and goalies going at each other. Also, former star player Dany Heatley is disliked by fans.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Southernmost team to win the Cup (2004). They were first attempt to market hockey in a southern state since the Atlanta Flames (who moved to Calgary), and help start a wave of expansion teams and team relocations during The Nineties when they showed a steady fanbase. They set single-game attendance records for a few years due to playing in a then-vacated domed baseball stadium (now Tropicana Field and home to the Rays), which was larger than any hockey arena but also made it hard to keep the ice solid. Has been in ownership turmoil ever since, though they've had stretches of good play in the past decade. Set a new standard for stadium Rule of Cool in 2011 when renovations to the St. Pete Times Forumnote now Tampa Bay Times Forum; the newspaper changed its name included the installation of Tesla coils in the rafters that shoot real lightningduring the pregame intro and after goals. Oh, and despite those aforementioned Florida Panthers (who play in a suburb of Miami), the Bolts predate them by one year.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Original Six
Carolina Hurricanes: Formerly the Hartford Whalers, and formerly of the WHA; moved in 1997 because they were getting squeezed financially by the Original Six Bruins and Rangers (and they were playing in a tiny arena that was literally part of a shopping mall complex). First couple of years in North Carolina didn't go so well either on or off the ice (half-empty arenas are a persistent problem for NHL teams in the South, especially if the team is less than awesome). A Cup run in 2002 and a Cup victory in 2006 has turned things around, though (Raleigh just hosted a successful All-Star Game which speaks to the fanbase support the team has cultivated), and they had usually been in contention with Washington for the Southeast Division titles.
Columbus Blue Jackets: The second NHL team in Ohio (the Cleveland Barons note Also the name of a longstanding minor-level American Hockey League (AHL) franchise from 1937 to 1973, then from 2001 to 2006. played from 1976 to 1978). Has a cannon in their home arena as part of the team's honoring the state of Ohio's contributions to the Union (hence the name). Made the playoffs for the first time in 2009, the last current team to do so (they're still looking for their first postseason win, as they were swept by the Red Wings). For a while they were the undisputed Butt Monkeys of the league, culminating in a Humiliation Conga of sorts that saw the team finishing in dead last in the 2011-2012 season, losing the first draft pick of the 2012 offseason to Edmonton, losing their only big-name player, Rick Nash, to the Rangers, getting screwed out of the 2013 All Star game they were supposed to host thanks to the 2012 lockout, and finally, to put the icing on the cake, missing the 2013 playoffs by one point. However, with some crucial trades, a resurgence in goaltending (former new goaltender Sergei Bobrovski was a major factor in the team's sudden roaring back to life and took home the Vezina for it), new management (fan-loathed GM Scott Howson was fired to much rejoicing about a month into the 2013 season), three first-round draft picks in the 2013 offseason, and the move to a conference that better conforms to the team's playing style, the team's future is looking much brighter.
New Jersey Devils: Formerly the Kansas City Scouts AND the Colorado Rockies. During most of their early history, they were the league's undisputed Butt Monkey. note once being referred to as a “Mickey Mouse organization” by no less than The Great One himself, Wayne Gretzky. Then in 1988 they took a level in badass and since then have only missed the playoffs three times. The team of Martin Brodeur, who is always in the discussion of best goalie ever and currently holds numerous career records. Traditionally won with defense and came up with the neutral zone trap that led to low-scoring games all across the league in the years before the lockout. Does not like the Rangers,note The chant in the link happens at every home game, without exception, no matter who they're playing against or what point it is in the season. even the front office: They've made trades with every team … except the Rangers. Though historically they have had trouble selling tickets (except for games against the Rangers and Flyers), this has recently changed due to the coming of age of their fans that grew up watching them win 3 Cups as children. Recognized in hockey circles as a heavily strict and heavily disciplined franchise, with a team-first mentality. Oh, and they're named after a cryptid called The Jersey Devil that supposedly haunts the Pine Barrens region. Hockey fans in New Jersey are typically torn between being loyal to either the Devils, Rangers or the Flyers (older fans in North Jersey tend to root for the Rangers while South Jersey, closer to Philly than Newark, roots for the Flyers).
New York Rangers: Original Six
New York Islanders: New York's other team. Known as the ‘Fishsticks’ due to their unpopular 90's jersey where they changed the logo for the 1995–96 season and it was too similar to the fisherman on boxes of Gorton's fishsticks, they have usually been bullied out of the media by the big-time Rangers, and have their radio coverage on the College Radio station of Hofstra University (but with professional broadcasters) due to lack of listener interest or room on the dial because of the Rangers, Knicks, Nets and Devils all staking their claim on the big New York sports stations. Did have a string of four straight championships in the early '80s. Since then, history and a hatred for the Rangers are really all they have going for them. Haven't won a playoff series since 1993. Has a reputation for managerial ineptitude: trading away future stars, overpaying on contracts, etc. (outstanding ones being injury prone goaltender Rick DiPietro to a 15-year contract, which got bought out half-way throughnote as he wasn't even with the Islanders, but their minor league team Bridgeport Sound Tigers; and Alexei Yashin, whose buying out in 2007 would be spread out until 2015... when he retired in Russia in 2012!), not to mention their 1997 franchise sale to a con artist who convinced the NHL he had the money to afford an NHL franchise, only to be found out that he couldn't. Nassau Coliseum is by far the crappiest arena in the league, and is the second oldest in the league, after Madison Square Garden, the Rangers' home; they've attempted to build a new arena for years, only to be stopped by Nassau County's massive webs of red tape. They'll be moving to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn in 2015, which will be the smallest arena in the league.
To be fair about the DiPietro contract, it seems to have become more of a harbinger of contracts to come: more double-digit-year contracts for more high-profile players have since been made by teams around the league, and recently the league voided a 17-year contract between Ilya Kovalchuk and the Devils because it evaded the salary cap too blatantly (they later settled on a 15-year one that the league was fine with).
Philadelphia Flyers: One of the teams created in the 1967 Expansion, and the first of the expansion-era teams to win the Stanley Cup. Historically known as the Broad Street Bullies of the '70s, where they pretty much punched their way to the Cup. (Although Bernie Parent's skimpy less-than-2-goals-against average probably had a little to do with it. Many Philadelphia cars at the time sported bumper stickers declaring “Only God saves more than Bernie Parent”.) Has chronically lacked a permanent goaltender in recent years. Their arena has been named after four different banks that ate each other up one after the other.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Another of the teams created in the 1967 Expansion. The team of Sidney "Sid the Kid" Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but really, it's Mario Lemieux's team. He's saved them from bankruptcy at least twice; first as the hot number 1 pick in 1984 that revitalized the team, and then again by buying the team outright, and then coming out of retirement to put butts back in the seats and thereby becoming the first ever player/owner in the NHL. Although they faced potential relocation a few years ago, first to Hamilton, Ontario and then to Kansas City, a new arena deal was struck in 2007, and the new building opened in 2010. Recently have been plagued by injuries to several of their core players, most infamously the concussion that sidelined Crosby for all but a handful games in 2011.
Washington Capitals: The team of Alexander Ovechkin. Their first season saw them with the worst winning percentage in modern NHL history (8 wins in 80 games). Nowadays usually have much more regular-season success, but Every Year They Fizzle Out, especially six straight years since 2008, in the first or second round of the playoffs. Their first and so far only Stanley Cup Final appearance was in 1998, in which they were swept by the Detroit Red Wings.
Chicago Blackhawks: Original Six
Colorado Avalanche: Formerly the Quebec Nordiques, which joined the NHL in the 1979 WHA merger. This is the league's second venture in Denver (the Rockies became the New Jersey Devils in 1982). Had a strong rivalry with the Red Wings in the '90s when both were good. The Avs won two Stanley Cups, in 1996 (in their first season in the new city!) and 2001. The team of Joe Sakic. When the Avs won their second Cup, it was Ray Bourque's final NHL game. As the Nordiques, they were best known for playing in the shadow of the Habs, their heated rivalry with Buffalo, and for drafting Eric Lindros, whose subsequent trade to Philadelphia (without having played a game for Quebec) became the building blocks for the Avs' first Stanley Cup run.
Dallas Stars: Formerly the Minnesota North Stars. One of the teams created in the 1967 Expansion. Faced several ownership issues in Minnesota, including a merger with another failed team in 1978 (the Oakland Seals/California Golden Seals/Cleveland Barons), and a threat to move the team to San Jose before the merger was dissolved with the formation of the Sharks. Despite leaving a hockey-rich market in 1993, the Stars have surprisingly thrived in Dallas, winning the Cup in 1999 (although the nature of the Cup-winning goal remains a point of contention, especially in Buffalo).
Minnesota Wild: Awarded as a 2000 expansion team largely as an apology for allowing the North Stars to be hijacked to Dallas. Helps that the Wild ownership has been far more committed to the local market than any of the Stars' owners ever were, having retired #1 as a tribute to the hockey fans of Minnesota at the first Wild game. Until 2009 they didn't have a permanent captain (the position was rotated among the players). Arguably holders of the most unusual winning streaks in the game today—they've never lost a home opener and are undefeated against the Oilers at home.
Nashville Predators: A consistently decent team since about 2004, that has problems both with other people knowing they exist and staying solvent: the fanbase is pretty decent, but corporate sponsors are lacking for them, not to mention attempts in 2007 to move the team to be the "Hamilton Predators" that fell through and then to Kansas City. Part of this situation might be the defensive-minded approach that its coach Barry Trotz (the only coach the team has ever had since it started playing in 1998) has implemented — it's effective in winning games but doesn't make for exciting play that can draw fans in, but that changed with the addition of Mike Fisher (after being traded from the Senators, where he was a fan favorite), husband of country superstar Carrie Underwood as well as making it past the first round of the playoffs twice. Are currently holding the largest contract in the league after matching the Flyers' offer sheet to captain Shea Weber ($110M, 14 years).
St Louis Blues: One of the teams created in the 1967 Expansion. The oldest franchise still without a championship, although they made the Finals in their first three seasons (due largely to divisional alignments of the time guaranteeing one of the 1967 expansion teams facing an Original Six team in the Finals). They were once owned by Ralston Purina, and nearly moved to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan before a new owner was found that would keep the team in St. Louis. Brett Hull had his best years as a Blue.
Winnipeg Jets: Formerly the Atlanta Thrashers, who never even won a playoff game having been swept by the Rangers in their lone postseason appearance in 2007. On May 31, 2011, the team was sold and moved to Winnipegnote The second time a team moved from Atlanta, the first being the Flames in 1980. for the next season, resurrecting the previous team's name due to overwhelming fan support for it (this has also led to a massiveContinuity Snarl, as the history of the original Winnipeg Jets is now entrenched in the backstory of the Phoenix Coyotes, a severely contentious issue among Jets purists). Season tickets for Winnipeg's 2011–12 season sold out in 17 minutes. The team then remained two years geographically miscast in the Southeast Divisionnote OK, Winnipeg is in the southeastern part of Manitoba. before the league and the players' union accepted a new realignment.
Anaheim Ducks: Formerly the "Mighty Ducks of Anaheim", this team was founded by Disneyfollowing the success of The Mighty Ducks movies. Thankfully changed their name before winning a Stanley Cup in 2007, the first Californian team to do so. They have a fierce geographic rivalry with the Los Angeles Kings known to fans as the Freeway Face-Off.
Calgary Flames: Once home to one of the best mustaches in the league, belonging to Hall of Famer Lanny McDonald. Major rival to the Edmonton Oilers, as part of the Battle of Alberta. The rivalry was most heated in the 80s, when both teams had stockpiled incredible amounts of talent, the Oilers taking most of the series versus the Flames. (Although in 1986, the Oilers did the Flames a favor by scoring on themselves in Game Seven.) Also broke Canada's heart when they couldn't seal the deal back in 2004 — although there was a potential Cup-winning goal scored by the Flames late in game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals that is still a sore point for Flames fans today. The franchise started as the Atlanta Flames from 1972 to 1980, before moving northwest to join Edmonton in the NHL.
Edmonton Oilers: The last surviving team from the World Hockey Association that remains in its original city, and the only one of the four that joined the NHL (Quebec Nordiques, Winnipeg Jets, Hartford Whalers) that never actually won a WHA title. The team most people think of when they talk about Wayne Gretzky. Won the Cup five times in seven years (1984, '85, '87, '88, and '90; a fluke own-goal cost them the chance to play for the 1986 trophy, and Gretzky was traded in the 1988 off-season). Simply put, they were an offensive juggernaut in the '80s, shattering records. The '90s, though, were a different story: changing economics forced management to dismantle the team (by the start of the 1992 season, most of the players from the dynasty years were gone), though they did make the playoffs somewhat consistently in the late 1990s. They last made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006, only to be defeated by the Carolina Hurricanes in the seventh game. Since then, they've had a string of last or next-to-last-place finishes in their division (including finishing dead last in the league in 2009–10 and 2010–11). They've accumulated a considerable amount of young talents, but have yet to be able to turn that into a winning season.
Los Angeles Kings: One of the teams created in the 1967 Expansion. The team traded for Wayne Gretzky in 1988, a move which probably saved the Kings but almost caused the Canadian government to interfere (Serious Business doesn't begin to describe hockey in Canada). Was the NHL's first team in a warm-weather city. Has a rather large and loyal fanbase. 2012 Stanley Cup champs, their victory being the first since their inception, with an impressive 16–4 playoff record.
To elaborate, the Kings were billed as one of the favorites to contend for the Cup at the beginning of the season, but they didn't have it easy in the regular season. Then they took serious levels in badass after squeaking in as the 8th seed and defeated Vancouver, St. Louis and Phoenix, all of them being the top three seeds in the Western Conference! This only makes their playoff run all the more remarkable.
Phoenix Coyotes: Formerly the original Winnipeg Jets. After years of being threatened of relocation (helped by a former owner filing the team for bankruptcy in 2009, followed by four years of the Coyotes operated by the NHL itself - Hell-bent on keeping them in Arizona, even if Hamilton, Seattle, Quebec City, Kansas City, and even Saskatoon were offering to get the team) finally got a new owner in 2013. Surprised everybody in 2009–10 as one of the best teams in the league, finishing second in their division with 50 wins. They'd then do it again two years later by winning their first ever divisional championship … for both sides of the franchise!
If the current sale does go through and the team stays, they're expected to be renamed the Arizona Coyotes, following the NFL's Arizona Cardinals, who play next door to the Coyotes.
San Jose Sharks: The first team of the 1990s expansion, born out of a failed attempt to relocate the North Stars to the Bay Area, and one of the more successful examples from a business perspective. They currently have a reputation of doing well in the regular season but not so well come playoff time; in 2010 and 2011 they made it to the Western Conference Finals, but lost in four games to Chicago and five to Vancouver, respectively. Of late, sports media and many fans seem to feel the "choker" label no longer applies (both teams they have lost to in the recent Finals were extremely potent), but popular opinion being what it is, they will likely be "chokers" until they win a Cup.
Vancouver Canucks: Unusually for a hockey team, until recently their goalie (Roberto Luongo) was captain (although this is considered unofficial by League rules, which have prohibited goalies from wearing the "C" on their sweater for over 60 years. He wore it on his mask instead.). Has reached the Stanley Cup Final three times and lost, twice to teams from New York (Islanders in '82, Rangers in '94) and to the Boston Bruins in 2011. The "Flying-V" sweater from 1978-85 is generally considered to be one of the ugliest uniforms in League history, though some would argue that they've never really had good luck with uniforms. Home to the Sedins, twin brothers with such uncanny chemistry that "Henrik to Daniel... Goal!" is one of the most common sounds in the league. Some people consider them to be rather creepy. Their lasttwo Cup losses sparked riots in Downtown Vancouver. Have developed a notable (and particularly hostile) rivalry with the Blackhawks in the past few seasons meeting them in the playoffs three years in a row. After losing to them in 2009 and 2010,note The Hawks would go on to win the Cup this year. they nearly swept them in 2011 before the Hawks came back to force game 7 which the Canucks finally won in overtime. Slowly becoming hated across Canada more than the Leafs.
Two Roads To The Top
Unlike Major League Baseball which runs its' own farm teams and baseball and football which rely almost entirely on NCAA college ball to develop the rising generation of players, the NHL splits recruiting between two parallel systems — the NCAA and the Canadian Hockey League (also called the Major Juniors). Both of these, in turn, increasingly recruit from both sides of the border and both offer unique advantages to players — the CHL offers an earlier start (age 16 or occasionally earlier if a player is considered exceptional) and faster track while the NCAA offers a degree from a (sometimes quite prestigious) U.S. university as a fallback and more stability (CHL players can be traded at a moment's notice just like NHL players). Another option is the United States Hockey League (USHL), also a junior league.
While both draw from the same pool of youth hockey players, once a player has committed to one or the other there's no switching — the NCAA considers (ex-)CHL players professionals ineligible for their ‘amateur’ sport while a player with a year in an NCAA program under his belt would be, at 19, too old to start out in the CHL (although both retain existing players up to age 22–23). The USHL, on the other hand, is strictly amateur, which allows players to go to the NCAA.
Names to know
Wayne Gretzky: The Great One. Near universally considered the best hockey player of all time, he holds over 60 league records including most goals and led Edmonton to four Stanley Cup championships. He was traded to Los Angeles in 1988, and played briefly with St. Louis and the Rangers. He retired in 1999, and coached the Coyotes for four seasons (but the team were perennial losers under him). Also one of the nicest players to set skate to ice, staunchly avoiding fights and always playing a clean game, as evidenced with him winning the NHL's Lady Bying Memorial Trophy for good sportsmanship and complementary playing skill five times. His #99 was retired league-wide in 2000.
His records are so dominating that, in the fourteen years since he's retired, his career points (a point being a goal or an assist) is still completely untouched, nearly 1000 points higher than second place. Besides scoring more goals than anyone in league history (894), even if you only count his assists (1,963), the amount still tops any other player's career point total.
Gretzky has finished his career with 2,857 points. The next one in the scoring lists is Mark Messier with 1,887 career points. The closest active player, Jaromir Jagr, is 1,199 points behind him and has been playing in the NHL for 23 years now so it's unlikely he'll come much closer.
Gordie Howe: The man who held most of the league's records before Gretzky came along and smashed them. Also known as "Mr. Hockey". The unofficial stat of a ‘Gordie Howe Hat Trick’ is named after him, indicating that a player has scored a goal, an assist, and a fighting major in one game, even though Howe himself rarely accomplished this feat. Howe came out of retirement to play alongside his sons in the World Hockey Association before retiring again with the Whalers in 1980. He then came out of retirement again to play a shift with a minor league team in the 1990s for the sole purpose of becoming the only man ever to play professional hockey in six consecutive decades. Gretzky's hero growing up — the two would play on a line together at the 1980 All Star Game, with Gretzky as the youngest player and Howe as the oldest.
Maurice ‘the Rocket’ Richard: One of the greatest players in his generation and best goalscorers of any. First player to ever score fifty goals in fifty games. Not many have followed.
Bobby Hull & Brett Hull: Father and son who, while they never played during the same years, were both feared for their booming shot. Bobby stunned the hockey world in 1972 for jumping to the World Hockey Association and the first million-dollar contract in hockey history. Between them, they've scored over 1300 NHL goals. ‘The Golden Jet’ and ‘The Golden Brett,’ respectively.
Stan Mikita: Along with Bobby Hull is considered one of the greatest Blackhawks of all time, having developed a distinct Red Oni, Blue Oni playing style with Hull that proved highly effectivenote And is somewhat mirrored with modern Hawk stars Jonathan Toews (blue) and Patrick Kane (red) and led to the team's 1961 Cup. The two were honored in 2011 with life-size bronze statues outside the United Center right by that one guy who tends to be associated with great Chicago athletes. Mikita is the actual career leader in ‘Gordie Howe hat tricks’ (see above).
Guy Lafleur: A dynamic offensive star for the Canadiens during the Seventies. Known for his hair flying behind him as he zoomed down the wing. Known as ‘The Flower’ as such (and because it is also a direct French translation of his surname.
Mario Lemieux: Perhaps the only player who could rival Wayne Gretzky (Gretzky said Mario was actually better than he was) in skill, and points (1.88 points per game to Gretzky's 1.92), if his career wasn't plagued by injuries: chronic back problems (to the point he could hardly tie up his own skates), lots of hip issues and freakin' cancer, before finally retiring due to a heart issue. He retired once previously for three years, and took a full year off. Currently part of the ownership group of the Penguins and its AHL farm team, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Wore #66.
Jaromir Jagr: Lemieux's longtime lancer during the Pens' glory years in the 90s and once owner of one of the most legendarymullets in sports history. Served as captain for Pittsburgh for a time after Mario's first retirement before the team's financial troubles led to him being let go. After a few seasons with the Capitals and Rangers the seemingly washed-up star returned to Europe to play in the KHL where he improved, eventually to the point of leading the Czech national team to gold at the World Cup. Wears #68 in honour of his grandfather who died in the Czech uprising of 1968. At age 39 he set his sights on a return to the NHL leading to the infamous 2011 "Jagr Watch" in the days leading up to the summer free-agency period. All signs pointed toward him returning to Pittsburgh but the deal fell through at the last minute and he eventually signed with the Pens' Arch-Enemy, the Flyers. As expected, Internet Backlash ensued. He was traded to the Bruins in 2013.
Marcel Dionne: Fifth all-time in points and third only behind Gretzky and Lemieux in 100-point seasons. One of the most talented players to never win the Cup. Ironically, his less talented brother, Gilbert, pulled it off with Montreal in 1993.
Mark Messier: The last WHA-era player to retire after the merger. ‘The Moose’. Won the Stanley Cup five times with his hometown team in Edmonton, but is better known for winning it with the Rangers in 1994 — he's the only player to ever captain two different teams to the Cup. He is often considered to be one of the greatest leaders to ever play hockey, sometimes nicknamed 'The Messiah' in New York for his legendary playoff performance with the Rangers in 1994. Second to Gretzky in all-time points scored, though by a wide margin (1,887 points to Gretzky's 2,857). In 2004, Messier retired when he was on his second stint with the Rangers.
Sidney Crosby: ‘Sid the Kid’. Entered the NHL as a child hockey prodigy originally from Nova Scotia. One of the best players playing today, and the one most likely to be recognized by non-hockey fans. Scored the game winning goal for Canada in the 2010 Olympic finals. Also one of most hated players outside of Pittsburgh, particularly in Washington, Philadelphia, and Detroit. When it comes to international hockey, pretty much all of the US hates him because of the aforementioned gold medal-winning goal, which came against the United States. Was sidelined with a concussion in consecutive games in early 2011note The former of which being the outdoor Winter Classic. and was out until November when he returned for a couple weeks but was out once again until March. (Unintentionally) the face of a string of high-profile concussions currently plaguing teams and players throughout the league.
Mike Modano: Probably the best player in Stars history, so much so that even though he signed with Detroit, when he returned to Dallas they still cheered for him. He is still beloved in Minnesota as well, having helped lead the North Stars to the 1991 Finals; his last game for the Stars was against the Wild in St. Paul, and he received a standing ovation at the end of the game when he came back out in a North Stars throwback. Currently holds the scoring record among American-born players.
Dave ‘Tiger’ Williams: The NHL's all-time leader in penalty minutes with a staggering 3966 in 962 games. A feared fighter who was also fairly productive offensively with several 20-goal seasons (and one with 35) compiling a very respectable 513 career points total. A colorful character in the Seventies and Eighties, (in)famous for his ride-your-stick-like-it's-a-broom goal celebration.
Teemu Selänne: ‘The Finnish Flash’. Now in his forties and still going strong, an Anaheim Duck for the second time, he's one of the most prolific goal scorers in league history and holds the record for most goals and points in his rookie season. A mainstay on the Finnish national team, he's played in four Olympics and is considered a national hero.
Pavel Bure: ‘The Russian Rocket’ — one of the premier goalscorers of the Nineties. A dynamic talent, his career was ended prematurely by injuries. The last player to post back-to-back sixty-goal seasons.
Alexander Ovechkin: Captain of Washington, and one of the most electrifying players in the league today. Fans either love his energy, or hate his showboating. While being one of the most eligible bachelors in professional sports, he was noted for preferring the simple family life, and is an admitted Momma's Boy. Of course his mother is an two-time Olympic Gold Medal winner from the Soviet women's basketball team. He is also apparently BFFs with DJ Pauly D, and now engaged to Russian tennis player Maria Kirilenko.
Daniel and Henrik Sedin: Identical twins that have played together for their entire lives, except for during the 2011 All-Star Game, when they were drafted by opposite teams. Considered to be two of the best players currently playing, in the past two years they have both each individually won the award for the league's highest scorer (along with various league MVP awards, Henrik with the Hart Memorial Trophy in 2009 – 10 and Daniel with the Ted Lindsay Award in 2010–11).
Joe Thornton: Captain of the San Jose Sharks, called ‘Jumbo Joe’ for his large size. Considered one of the best passers in the League (he consistently has some of the most assists in the entire League), has recently drawn some comparisons to Steve Yzerman (see below) for committing to the defensive side of the game at the cost of reduced offense. Also known as a very nice guy during interviews and off the ice, but recently has started to react to the media with snarl and a little condescension due to their continued insistence on trotting out the “choker” label whenever the Sharks start to do poorly.
Steve Yzerman: The longest-serving captain in NHL history, wearing the C for Detroit for twenty years (19 seasons due to the 2004-05 lockout). Once an offensive superstar that approached Gretzky and Lemieux's scoring skills, Yzerman reinvented himself as a two-way player to help lead the Wings to three Stanley Cup titles. As GM for Team Canada, he put together the 2010 Gold-winning squad, and is the latest GM for the Tampa Bay Lightning (the position in Detroit not opening up any time soon).
Paul Henderson: A very good player in the NHL and later WHA in The Sixties and The Seventies but famous for scoring the most dramatic and important goal in Canadian hockey history — the series-winning goal in the final game of the epic 1972 Summit Series versus the Soviets.
Sean Avery: The most hated player in the league. He was traded from the Red Wings to the Kings as a result of his behavior. He was then traded from the Kings to the Rangers in 2006, and the New York fans fell in love with his attitude that culminated in introducing an ingenious but outlandish tactic against the rival Devils in the 2008 playoffs. He signed with Dallas after that year to make more money, but was suspended and ordered to enter anger management by the league after making a crack about Dion Phaneuf getting his sloppy seconds before a game. He was waived and rejoined the Rangers later that year, and retired with them three years later because head coach John Tortorella notoriously disliked him, regularly demoting him without reason. Notably, he has different sides — he is very fashion-conscious (once interning with Vogue magazine one summer) and appeared in anad publicly supporting gay marriage, leaving many detractors in the decidedly weird position of siding with him.
Jonathan Toews: Captain of the Blackhawks and the youngest member of the Triple Gold Club.note The group of players and coaches who have won the sport's three most prominent championships—the Stanley Cup, Winter Olympics, and IIHF World Championships. Entering the 2013–14 season, 25 players and one coach had won all three titles. Known as Captain Serious for his somewhat cold demeanor that occasionally borders on "Stop Having Fun" Guys. Has a notable bromance with Patrick Kane.
Bob Probert: Considered one of the greatest enforcers ever to play the game. But he was far from a one-dimensional fighter, averaging around 15 goals a year in his early seasons and once putting up 29 to go with 62 points and 398 penalty minutes. A member of the fairly exclusive 3000-penalty-minute career club in the NHL, with 3300 in 935 games.
Dave Bolland: Former center for the Blackhawks (before being traded to Toronto in 2013) and definite fan favorite due to being a central figure in the Hawks' rivalry with Vancouver. One of the few players in the league known for being exceptionally good at shutting down the Sedins and their Creepy Twins play style. Was injured with a concussion in a game against the Lightning in March 2011 and didn't return until game 4 of the first round of the playoffs. He did so in dramatic fashion, preventing a sweep and changing the momentum of the series to eventually force game 7. This combined with certain personality quirks, such as never smiling after a goal only to laugh hysterically all the way to the penalty box◊ has earned him great Memetic Badass status of the Crazy Awesome variety. Suspectedof being◊ a Time Lord.
Steven Stamkos: Centre for the Tampa Bay Lightning, known for his speed and scoring ability. His career started off with an unremarkable rookie year (which he blamed on improper off-ice training), but quickly improved, winning the Rocket Richard trophy the following year. Took a puck to the nose in the 2011 Eastern Conference finals, only to reappear minutes later with a face cage, impressing pretty much everybody.
Paul ‘BizNasty’ Bissonette: Enforcer for the Coyotes who is more notable for his Twitter account than his playing. Aside from frequently bringing the league PR team to tears, he revels in Self-Deprecation about being a perennial fourth-liner and/or “healthy scratch” and has built up a solid fanbase in doing so. May be the reason the league has now instituted a social media blackout for players on gamedays. You can (and should) follow him right here.
Dan ‘CarBomb’ Carcillo: BizNasty's former partner in crime who, having bounced around several teams became a very polarizing figure among said teams' fanbases, most recently in Philadelphia. For the 2011 season he signed with Chicago whose fans, after some initial skepticismnote There was still some bad blood from the 2010 Cup Finals. very quickly welcomed him with open arms. His original Twitter account was deleted after an infamous tweet about a girl who just wanted her Daddy to be proud that may have been the reason for his favorable reception by Hawks fans. His new (slightly more SFW) account is right here.
Evgeni ‘Geno’ Malkin: Russian player for the Pittsburgh Penguins, known for being considered one of the top three best players in the league in recent years. Was MVP of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals. Had trouble getting in the league from Russia and getting accustomed to the English language. He has been cold lately due to injuries, but this year looks good for him.
Patrick Sharp: Another one of the Blackhawks' stars from Thunder Bay, ON. Tends to serve as The Kirk to Toews and Kane's respective Spock and McCoy.note Even though Toews is actually The Captain Was named MVP of the 2011 All-Star game while being the only one among his Hawk teammatesnote Out of four of them drafted to Team Staal, which lost anyway. Recently had consecutive overtime winning goals in games the days immediately before and after the birth of his first child - who is already being shipped with Eric Staal (also of Thunder Bay)'s son born two days later.
Also, the only player in the league capable of equalling Henrik Lundqvist's Memetic Sex God status.
Daniel Alfredsson: Currently the longest serving captain in the NHL and has played over 1000 games and has over 1000 points with the same team (Ottawa Senators). Was the first European captain to lead his team to the Stanley Cup Final.note Detroit's Nicklas Lidström, also Swedish, would be the first European player to win the Cup as a captain one year later. Was a part of the CASHnote Captain Alfredsson, Spezza, Heatley line until Dany Heatley demanded a trade out. Ottawa fans love their captain and often chant Alfie during games which can lead to this. He has also inspired a following called the Church Of Alfie. Oppositely, he is hated in Toronto for mocking then captain Mats Sundin after Sundin was suspended for throwing his broken stick into the crowd and also for this hit on Darcy Tucker.
Dany Heatley: Once a rising star with the now defunct Thrashers and later the Ottawa Senators, he was responsible for the death of his teammate and friend Dan Snyder as a passenger due to complications from a car accident where Heatley, as the driver, was speeding. Charged and pled guilty to second-degree vehicular homicide, but not sentenced to jail due to Snyder's parents pleading for leniency. Enjoyed later professional success after transferring to the Senators, but his back-to-back fifty-goal seasons seem a distant memory these days. Demanded to be traded from Ottawa, earning enmity from their fans. Landed in San Jose. Currently with the Minnesota Wild.
Dale Hunter: Known to be one of the most feared enforcers in the NHL, Hunter could add points on the board and notches to opponents' bodies every chance he got. He had some pretty impressive runs with the Quebec Nordiques and the Washington Capitals, becoming just part of a handful of goons that scored more than 1000 points and 3000 penalty minutes in his career. He stepped in as coach of the Capitals after Bruce Boudreau was fired due to inconsistency problems and managed to get them to the playoffs in the 2011-12 season, advancing to the second round and taking the New York Rangers to the limit before eventually being ousted in seven games. He left the job and returned to being head coach of the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), alongside his brother, Mark, serving as the Knights' current GM. Rather infamous for crosschecking Pierre Turgeon into the boards after conceding a goal in the 1993 playoffs against the New York Islanders. Although the Islanders went on to shock the Pittsburgh Penguins without the aid of their best skater, not winning a playoff series since then hasn't healed any Hunter-inflicted wounds.
Bryan Trottier: Arguably the most complete forward of the 80s. Trottier won an Art Ross, six Stanley Cups and one as an assistant coach, was a rather tough SOB, and a dominant penalty killer.
Mike Bossy: Known as one of the game's great goal scorers, Bossy scored at least 50 goals in every year of his career until his last. Unfortunately he left the game after just ten years due to a debilitating back injury. Became Overshadowed by Awesome due to his four-year dynasty with the Islanders immediately preceding Gretzky's golden years (in fact, the fifth consecutive Islanders final was against the Oilers, who proceeded to start their dynasty)
Matt Cooke: Winger for the Penguins. Was once (and in some places, particularly Boston, still is) one of the most hated players in the league infamous for his reckless play and flying elbow that led to several players, most infamously the Bruins' Marc Savard,note The hit he took from Cooke, however, was one of several from different players in a very short time span. receiving serious sometimes career-ending injuries. Following a long suspension that had him miss the last several months of the 2010-11 season, as well as some soul searching brought on by his wife falling ill and the concussion that sidelined his teammate Sidney Crosby, he vowed to change his game and spent the entire offseason relearning his play style. He finished the following season with no more than the average player's total penalty minutes, none of which were majors, and his offensive production improved dramatically.note Of course, being on a line with Crosby following his eventual return could only have helped. While many will likely never forgive him for his past actions, he is now frequently cited as proof that other infamously dangerous players can change although so far few have followed his lead.
Luc Robitaille: Currently the highest-scoring left-winger in NHL history, and the leading scorer in Los Angeles Kings history, playing for them in three different stints. The first stint was most notable for playing on a line with Wayne Gretzky. His season in Pittsburgh was most notable for an appearance in the Jean-Claude Van Damme movie Sudden Death; his best season outside of Los Angeles came in 2001-02, when he won the Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings. Still connected to his original team, though, he retired a King, and joined their front office, helping to put together the 2012 Cup-winner.
Doug Gilmour: A defensive forward who played for seven different NHL teams, and as captain of three of them (the Flames, the Maple Leafs, and the Blackhawks). Though he was only 5’10” tall and was a relative lightweight, he had an intensive style of physical play that earned him his "Killer Doug Gilmour" nickname. Won the Stanley Cup once with the Flames in their only victory in 1989 and the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the NHL's best defensive forward in 1993 when he played in Toronto. Gilmour is currently the GM of the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) in his hometown of Kingston, Ontario.
Eddie Shack: A left-sider who played on six different NHL teams, beginning with the New York Rangers in 1959 and culminating with the Pittsburgh Penguins when he retired in 1975. Known more for his long nose than for his actual hockey scoring talent, owing to receiving manyFan Nicknames such as ‘The Nose,’ ‘Pugnacious Pinocchio’ and ‘The Entertainer’. He was nevertheless a fan favourite in his role with the Toronto Maple Leafs when he joined in 1961. In his prime in 1966, before the Leafs won their last Stanley Cup, he was immortalized in a novelty song called “Clear the Track, Here Comes Shack” by a group calling itself “Douglas Rankine with the Secrets”, which became a huge hit in Canada, being #1 on the Canadian pop charts for three months. Appeared in TV commercials across Canada where he lampshaded his long nose by joking, “I have a nose for value.”
Mats Sundin: The first European-born player to be drafted first overall in the NHL Entry Draft. He was drafted by the Quebec Nordiques in 1989, and subsequently traded to the Maple Leafs in 1994. After a 94-point season in 1995-96, he would be named the captain of the Leafs, serving that position until he was traded to the Canucks in 2009. During that tenure, he would end up becoming the all-time leader in scoring for the Leafs, and be a key centerpiece of the team's offensive efforts.
Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry: A duo that along with the now-returning Dustin Penner lead the "Kid Line" that pushed the Ducks to the Stanley Cup. Both are the same age, form a one-two punch that even lead to a goal in the 2010 Olympics final, and got some commends: Getzlaf is the current captain, and Perry won both the Hart and the Rocket Richard trophies.
Bobby Orr: Unquestionably the greatest defenseman to play hockey and about the only player giving Gretzky competition for “best ever”, yet had his career cut short due to a plague of knee injuries. Won the Cup twice with the Bruins. Scored “The Goal” to win the Stanley Cup in 1970, one of the most iconic moments in NHL history.
Eddie Shore: The most dominant defenseman of his era — the late 1920s through 1940 — would have won a pile of Norris Trophies had the award existed when he played, and like Orr, he played the bulk and best portion of his career in Boston. Won the Hart Trophy four times as league MVP. Known for being extremely ill-tempered and violent as well as skilled. Later became the owner of the AHL's Springfield Indians for three decades, leading them to a period of glory in the early 1960s where they won three consecutive regular season titles and three consecutive Calder Cups (the AHL's equivalent of the Stanley Cup) from 1960 to 1962, to the point where it was speculated that the Indians “could have played in the NHL” without even finishing last.
Ray Bourque: A defenseman considered second only to Orr. Holds the record for most consecutive All-Star games (19 in a row), most points scored by a defenseman and the unofficial record for most shots on goal (over 6000). Played for 22 years (20½ of those with Boston, the remaining 1½ with Colorado) before finally getting to raise the cup after his final game.
Paul Coffey: The premier offensive defender in his day, breaking many of Bobby Orr's records. Known for his tremendous skating ability, but also for sometimes hanging around the offensive end for too long (particularly later in his career).
Al MacInnis: Known for his incredibly powerful shot, often leaving trophy sized bruises on players courageous enough to attempt to try and block it, despite being a great defenceman in all regards. Split his career between the Flames and Blues. Won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1989 when the Flames won their only Cup.
Chris Pronger: Contrasting Nicklas Lidström, he is the epitome of physical domination in the defensive zone. Very big. Plays on the edge, nearly drawing infractions, but only nearly, drawing the ire of fans and players everywhere, except for his own. Currently out with a concussion, which many believe could be career-threatening given his age. Drew the unending ire of Edmonton fans when, after helping the Oilers reach the Finals in 2006, he spurned them for Anaheim and helped the Ducks to win the Cup.
Zdeno Chara: Slovakian-born captain of the Bruins. At 6’9” (well over seven feet with skates) is the tallest person to ever play in the NHL,note And therefore hoisted the Cup higher than it had ever been before in 2011 and holds the league record for hardest slap shot. Involved in a somewhat controversial hit against Max Pacioretty of the Habs. Habs fans thought it was dirty and he should have been suspended. Bruins fans attest the injury was because of the glass between the benches that isn't present at other stadiums. Due to the teams' known relationship and the Serious Business nature of hockey in Canada, the Montreal police got involved and Air Canada threatened to pull their sponsorship of the league. He's fluent in seven different languages and wants to learn an eighth.
Larry Murphy: He earned credentials as one of the best two-way defenders in the 1980s and 1990s, being one of the key players that helped the Pittsburgh Penguins win two consecutive Stanley Cups after strong stints with the Los Angeles Kings, Washington Capitals and Minnesota North Stars. The Detroit Red Wings would add him to their winning ways, earning him two more titles. In his time with the Penguins, he created the Murphy Dump, as coined by broadcaster Mike Lange: Murphy would clear out the puck from his zone so that it traveled just enough not to cause an icing call.
Denis Potvin: One of the greatest defensemen the game has ever seen. The #1 overall pick in 1974 for the New York Islanders propelled the team to the playoffs in just their third year of existence. He's the reason Rangers fans continued to chant "Potvin Sucks!" long after he'd retirednote it begun as Potvin broke the ankle of Rangers' forward Ulf Nilsson in the 1979 semifinals; without him, the Rangers lost the finals to the Habs (though the chant was briefly relevant again when unrelated goalie Felix Potvin joined the Islanders, and struggled).
Niklas Kronwall: Swedish defenseman for the Detroit Red Wings. Not especially large or heavy but pretty much a one-man wrecking crew. His signature backwards charges on the boards coined the phrase “to get Kronwalled”.
Shea Weber: Canadian blueliner and captain of the Nashville Predators. Known as one of the best active defenseman in the league, has been a finalist for the Norris Trophy twice and been in the top ten four consecutive times. Famous for his howitzer of a slapshotnote In case you didn't notice, that shot went through the netting. Currently holds the largest contract in the NHL (14 years, $110M).
Jacques Plante: ‘Jake the Snake’. Innovated the modern goalie mask, and was the first to wear it regularly. Also innovated the concept of skating behind the net to stop the puck. Won the Vezina Trophy seven times (note that the criteria then was different than the one now). His habit of knitting to relax helped establish goaltender as the likely position of any Cloud Cuckoo Lander that laced up their skates. Moved to Switzerland after his retirement.
Terry Sawchuk: Considered the (or at least among) best goalies of the Original Six era. Had his best years with Detroit in the 50s and 60s, but also spent time with the Bruins, Leafs, Kings and Rangers before dying in a freak fall at age 40. He held a record that many thought could never be broken, 103 shutouts, until it was done in 2009 by …
Martin Brodeur: considered by most to be the best goalie of all time. In addition to the most shutouts, he holds the records for most wins, most shutouts in a seasons, saves in a career, and many more. He has won the cup three times with the Devils and two Olympic gold medals with Team Canada. Broke Patrick Roy's record for most wins and is still going strong with over 600 compiled.
Miikka Kiprusoff: Was not a starting goalie until after he was traded from the San Jose Sharks to the Calgary Flames in the summer of 2003. In the starting spot he then set a modern-day NHL record for lowest goals-against average before backstopping the Flames all the way to game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals, in an unlikely and charismatic playoff run by a scrappy underdog team. Has continued to be an outstanding goalie in the years since, frequently stealing wins with his acrobatic goaltending.
Roberto Luongo: Currently with the Vancouver Canucks, and was the first goaltender in decades to be a team captain, a title he relinquished after the 2009–10 season. While his technique borders on unorthodox, his frequent, and often incredibly athletic, saves leave viewers (and shooters) scratching their heads. After Martin Brodeur's embarrassing loss to Team USA in the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, Luongo took over as Team Canada's goalie, and helped salvage the tournament in his hometown, culminating in a gold medal. That was sort of a big deal. Since then, he's come under fire for his complete collapse in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals and been the subject of a seemingly unending soap opera regarding a potential trade from the Canucks. Has a hilarious self-deprecatingTwitter account.
Ryan Miller: Goalie for the Sabres and Team USA. Has made an art of stealing, or at least keeping 'em in games his teams might have no business being in. Comes from a hockey family out of Lansing, Michigan—his brother Drew plays for Detroit, and cousins Kevin, Kelly and Kip (all brothers) are retired NHLers, and all five starred for Michigan State.
Antti Niemi: Goalie for the San Jose Sharks. Notable for having helped the Blackhawks to the trophy in 2010; and for being in the rare position of winning a Cup, being released by the winning team, and signing with the team he helped beat to reach the Stanley Cup Finals. Also notable for being something of a MemeticBadass, for his rather acrobatic butterfly goaltending—at one point during the 2011 playoffs he wound up playing while standing on his head during several shots.
Tim Thomas: Panthers goalie, former goalie for the Bruins who helped them win the Cup in 2011. Fifth goaltender and only second American player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoff MVP. Known for making lots of ridiculously hard saves and a very unorthodox playing style. Didn't actually become a starting goalie in the NHL until he was well into his thirties, having played in Europe and minor leagues over the years. Also known for his controversial opinions on the federal government and refusing to meet Barack Obama.note When the Boston Bruins were invited to the White House following their Stanley Cup-win in 2011 (as is traditional for American Stanley Cup-winners), Thomas opted not to go.
Patrick Roy: Revolutionized the goaltending position in the '80s with a new butterfly style to stop low shots. Is considered one of the best goalies when the game is on the line, and has an uncanny knack to dominate playoff overtime. Among Montreal fans, he shares a reputation with Ken Dryden (see below) as a brilliant young goaltender who left the team when he was at the top of his game.note Roy, after the Canadiens fell behind 9-1 at home against Detroit in December 1995 (the final score was 11-1 for the Wings), angrily declared it would be the last game he ever played in Montreal, and he got his wish, spending the rest of his career with the Colorado Avalanche. One of the fiercest competitors ever to play. Recently, he was hired as Colorado's new coach.
Ken Dryden: As with Patrick Roy, Dryden was a former Hab who was a skilled goalie and left the team too soon when he was in his prime. He left the Canadiens (and the NHL as a whole) after only seven seasons over a contract dispute, and used the time to study law at McGill University in Montreal. Since retiring from hockey, in addition to being a lawyer, Dryden became an author and businessman, and was elected to Parliament in 2004 in a Toronto riding as a Liberal Party candidate. He served as a member for seven years until he lost to a Conservative candidate, Mark Adair, in the 2011 election.
Dominik Hašek: ‘The Dominator’. The goalie most known for his stint with Buffalo in the '90s. Often stuck on bad Buffalo teams but still managed to challenge Roy and Brodeur as the best goalie in the NHL year after year. If you ever hear, "How in the world did he do that?" during a broadcast, chances are they're talking about Hasek making a save — if Jacques Plante is the Beethoven of goalies, Hasek is the Miles Davis. Went on to win two Stanley Cups with Detroit. Won the Vezina Trophy for best goalie six times, a record for its current criteria. He's also the only goalie to have won the Hart Trophy as league MVP twice, and the only one in the post-Original Six era to win the award at all (Plante being the last one before Hasek, in 1961).
Glenn Hall: Nicknamed ‘Mr. Goalie’ during his career for his skill at his position. Habitually vomited before most games, but still managed to play 502 consecutive games once, a record for a goalie that will almost certainly never be broken (even the best goalies now will sit about ten or fifteen games a season).
Ron Hextall: Best known for his years in Philadelphia, Hextall changed the way goalies played by his willingness to come out of the net (way out of the net) and aggressively pass the puck forward instead of stopping it or guiding it to the side for a teammate to pick up. He was the first goaltender in NHL history to deliberately score a goal (instead of getting credit for the goal by being the last player to touch the puck before the opposing team screwed up and scored on their own net). Also well known for using his stick as an axe on opposing players' legs and even fighting.
Marc-André Fleury: Goalie for the Penguins, known for being very flexible and able to make amazing saves, particularly the save on Alex Ovechkin during game 7 of the 2009 Eastern Semifinals which was a major turning point in the game that led to the Pens absolutely dominating the Caps. He also had a memorable save in the final seconds of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, literally jumping to the side of the net a la a Secret Service man taking the bullet for the President. Despite that, had some really bad moments in the 2013 playoffs.
Grant Fuhr: Drafted eighth overall by the Edmonton Oilers in 1981, Fuhr would become one of the best goalies in the 1980s while playing alongside Andy Moog and later Bill Ranford. In the later stages of his career, he fought against injuries and substance abuse problems, but he still managed to obtain 403 victories in his career. He holds the current NHL record for 76 consecutive starts and 79 appearances in 1996 with the St. Louis Blues.
Andy Moog: Rising up as a goaltender with the Oilers, Moog showed a lot of moxie while splitting time with Grant Fuhr, even managing to win one of the Stanley Cup titles for Edmonton in the 1984 playoffs. He would then be traded to the Boston Bruins for Bill Ranford and cemented his reputation as one of the best of his position. Considered to be The Habs Killer due to being able to beat the Montreal Canadiens each time they met in the playoffs. He's known to have the scariest goalie mask in history (though it's since been given a run by the Bruins' current goalie, Tuukka Rask).
Ed Belfour: Known as The Eagle thanks to his emblematic mask that always sported an eagle in every team he's played with, Belfour is considered one of the best goalies of all time. Drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks, Belfour would come up with one of the best seasons for a rookie in 1990–91 by obtaining 43 victories, 2.47 GAA and 4 shutouts and took them to the Stanley Cup Finals in the 1991–92 season, only to be swept by the Mario Lemieux-led Penguins. Tensions between him and backup goalie Jeff Hackett led him to be dealt to the San Jose Sharks and later he landed to the Dallas Stars, where he helped them win the Stanley Cup in 1999 against the Buffalo Sabres. He was also known as Crazy Eddie due to his drunken anticsnote In perhaps the most famous such instance, the year after he won the Cup, he was picked up from a Dallas nightclub by a police officer and offered him $100,000 to let him off. When the cop refused, Belfour offered progressively larger bribes, culminating in one billion dollars … and then throwing up all over himself. and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2011.
Pekka Rinne: Finnish goalie of the Nashville Predators and one of the best in the business. Very tall (6'5" - 1.96m) and with tremendous reach but still very quick on his feet and agile despite his size. Has been a Vezina Trophy finalist twice. His outstanding play - coupled with some excellent blueliners - has allowed the offensively challenged Predators to become a regular guest in the playoffs during the last few years. One of the very late draft picks (round 8, pick #258 in 2004) to make it into a bona fide All Star.
Tuukka Rask: Another Finnish elite goaltender and current netminder of the Boston Bruins. After being drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs he got traded to the Bruins for Andrew Raycroft (which didn't turn out to be a smart deal for the Leafs) early and has served mostly as a backup to two-time Vezina winner Tim Thomas for most of his career. The lockout-shortened 2012-2013 season saw him emerge as the full-time starter - aided by Thomas taking a sabbatical - and by all accounts he did an amazing job. Rask backstopped the Bruins to within two wins of a Stanley Cup win and got a massive contract soon after. Very competitive and prone to hilarious temper tantrums when things aren't going his way.
Corey Crawford: AKA Crow, the current Blackhawks goalie. After many years as a backup, became the starting goalie in 2011, and despite a disappointing season in 2012, ended up being crucial in their 2013 Stanley Cup run (and like Quick, ended up swearing on national TV!)).
Coaches and other people
Frederick Arthur Stanley: Lord Stanley of Preston (1841–1908), he purchased the original trophy that came to bear his name, the Stanley Cup, in 1892, to be awarded to the champion of Canadian hockey. Stanley never actually saw the Cup awarded, as he returned home to England prior to its first awarding in 1893. The Stanley Cup was originally a challenge cup among amateur teams, but became a professional championship in the 1910s, and the de facto championship trophy of the NHL after 1926.
Peter Pocklington: owner of the Edmonton Oilers from 1978 to 1998, he brought Wayne Gretzky to the team; put his father's name on the 1983–84 Stanley Cup (an accident, he claims); traded Gretzky to Los Angeles for two players, three draft picks, and $15 million in 1988; and had to sell the team after falling into bankruptcy. He is not liked in Edmonton.
Don Cherry: Former coach of the Boston Bruins during the '70s and early '80s who is now host of Hockey Night in Canada's Coach's Corner segment. Best known for his flamboyant dress style and propensity to say controversial things which at times lands him in hot water. (Most notable was a five-minute-long debate with co-host Ron MacLean about the impending War in Iraq in 2003. Note that the entire argument had nothing to do with hockey at all.) Coach's Corner has also been subject to a seven-second delay in the past due to Cherry's controversial nature. Cherry himself played only one game for the NHL (a playoff game with the Bruins in 1955), but had played on three AHL teams, the Hershey Bears (the oldest pro hockey team currently in existence outside the NHL Original Six, and yes, it's owned by the chocolate company), the Rochester Americans (also known as the Amerks), and the Springfield Indians. Earned the nickname ‘Hot Lips Don’ in a 1993 playoff game when he kissed Doug Gilmour, then of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Incidentally, they were both born in Kingston, Ontario.
Gary Bettman: Current NHL Commissioner (in fact, its first Commissioner; previously there were Presidents). Spearheaded the league's push into nontraditional markets (new franchises in Nashville and Atlanta, as well as movement of teams southwardnote Quebec to Colorado, Winnipeg to Phoenix, Hartford to Carolina; the Stars don't belong here because the decision to move to Dallas was made shortly before Bettman took over.). Has generated a lot of Hatedom from fans accusing him of being anti-Canadian, having blocked several attempts to move financially struggling franchises in Nashville, Pittsburgh, and Phoenix/Arizona; however, he allowed the relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg, satisfying his pie in the sky dream of keeping the Coyotesnote the original Winnipeg Jets in Arizona and fulfilling Winnipeg's desire to return to the NHL, with the consequence of NHL history repeating itselfnote Many Thrashers fans blame the Atlanta Spirit ownership group for intentionally sabotaging the team's viability in Atlanta; however, many also criticize the league for not putting effort in keeping the team in Atlanta as they did for other markets. He is also accused of being generally detrimental to the sport with THREE labor stoppages, including the cancellation of the entire 2004-05 season, and the subsequent move of games from ESPN to the NBC Sports Network (formerly Outdoor Life and later Versus) due to the latter's much less extensive exposure.
Scotty Bowman: winningest coach in the league's history (1244 regular season wins, 223 playoff wins). Won nine Stanley Cups as a coach with three different teams (Canadiens, Penguins, and Red Wings), and coached the St. Louis Blues to three consecutive Cup appearances from 1968–70. Currently the Senior Advisor of Hockey Operations for the Blackhawks. Was recently awarded the Order of Canada (basically, he's a Canadian knight).
Al Arbour: hockey's second winningest coach (782 regular season wins, 123 playoff wins). Holds the record for most wins with one team (740). Best known as coach of the dynasty New York Islanders, but he also won Stanley Cups as a player with the Red Wings, Blackhawks and Maple Leafs, and was captain of Scotty Bowman's St. Louis Blues.
The Sutter Family: Six brothers from Viking, Alberta that have played in the NHL for a combined total of over 5,000 games — Darryl, Duane, Brian, Brent, and twins Ron and Rich. These six men have all said their older brother Gary was better at hockey than any of them… he just chose to stay at home and help operate the family farm. Several have gone on to coach in the league as well. The second generation of Sutters are breaking into the NHL as well, with Brandon and Brett having played at the top level, and several more possibly on the way in coming years.
Howie Meeker: A former player and TV commentator who became more famous as a children's educator in the sport with TV shows and books devoted to teaching the game. He also was a strong advocate for better quality kid's safety equipment in the sport.
Roger Neilson: Coach of the Ottawa Senators. Sadly passed away from cancer in 2003. Infamous for his bending of the rules, such as putting a defenseman in goal for a penalty shot, who could legally leave the goal and check the other guy, and having goalies block the net with their stick when they were pulled. The innovator of the Towel Power tradition (fans waving towels) when he stuck a white towel on the end of a player's stick and waved it as a mock surrender flag as a symbol of his disgust with the officiating in the game.
The Staal Brothers: Four brothers from Thunder Bay, Ontario who are currently signed to NHL contracts. Three of the four are currently signed with the Carolina Hurricanes.
Eric, the oldest brother, is the current Captain of the Carolina Hurricanes and was a part of the team during their 2006 Stanley Cup win.
Marc is the second oldest and is the only defenceman of the four. He currently plays for the New York Rangers.
Jordan was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins and won the Stanley Cup with them in 2009, becoming a fan favorite even compared to superstar teammates Crosby and Malkin, before being traded to Carolina in the 2012 offseason. Interestingly, he started playing in the NHL a year before his older brother Marc.
Jared is the youngest brother. He was originally drafted by the Phoenix Coyotes but was traded to Carolina in 2010. Has not yet become an NHL regular, so he has not yet been able to play in a game with Eric.
Brendan Shanahan: Already well known by hockey fans for his time as a player (1000 points and three Stanley Cups), Shanahan became a rather polarizing figure in 2011 when he replaced Colin Campbell as the league's disciplinarian. As opposed to Campbell, who gained much criticism for punishing some incidents and letting many others slide, Shanahan's agenda seems to be to hand out suspensions for absolutely everything (which, given that he was decidedly less than saintly as a player, has opened up the Hypocritical Humor gate). At this point, half the fans are complaining that he's even worse than Campbell, and the other half argue that he's exactly what the game needs. Stay tuned. Shanahan is a firm proponent of the idea that new media is not evil as he has appeared in online videos explaining every suspension he's handed out so far in detail, so fans aren't scratching their heads wondering about his application of the rules.
Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick: Widely regarded as the best play-by-play commentator in the sport. Has a unique vocabulary, and knows just about everything there is to know about hockey. Was born and raised in Indiana, a state known for its basketball rather than its hockey, and is a noted fan of baseball's Pittsburgh Pirates. Nickname comes from the doctorate he earned at Bowling Green State University.
Brian Burke, former GM of the Leafs who, along with his son Patrick has become the most outspoken voice for LGBT equality in professional sports. His other son, Brendan, was openly gay working as a manager for Miami University had made efforts to end homophobia in the sport before dying in a car crash in 2010. In his honor, Blackhawks defenseman and personal friend Brent Sopel carried the Stanley Cup in Chicago's pride parade that year. In 2012, the Burkes founded the You Can Play campaign, which seeks to emphasize to young athletes that sexuality has no bearing on their ability to excel at the sport, and that if you can play … you can play. So far support for the campaign has been overwhelming with dozens of big name players contributing videos.
Harold ‘Pal Hal’ Ballard: The GM of the Leafs beginning in the 1971-72 season until his death in 1990. Was a penny-pincher who was stridently anti-union (which didn't earn the approval of Leafs fan favorites Darryl Sittler and Hap Day), refused to hire any Europeans, and was notoriously rude, selfish and insulting. He made misogynistic comments in an interview with beloved CBC host Barbara Frum on As It Happened and destroyed Foster Hewitt's broadcasting booth at Maple Leaf Gardens, where he coined phrases forever associated with the hockey vernacular such as “He shoots! He scores!” and “slapshot, when the Hockey Hall of Fame wanted to preserve it. He also got into a battle with new league president John Ziegler in 1978, when the league added a rule requiring player names on the backs of jerseys; when Ziegler threatened heavy fines for the Leafs' noncompliance, Ballard had blue letters added to the blue jerseys for a couple of games, before being allowed to have the Leafs finish the season with no names on their backs, so long as they complied for the next season (they did).
John A. Ziegler, Jr.: President of the league from 1977–92. In a spectacular backfire on Ballard's part, Ziegler, a Red Wings executive, was his pick to succeed Clarence Campbell. The perceived favorite for the job, Flyers owner Ed Snider, favored merger talks with the WHA, and Ballard believed that he could get Ziegler to keep the WHA out. Ziegler almost immediately opened up merger negotiations, and went after Ballard to boot (see above). Ziegler also fought to keep the North Stars in Minnesota, opting to give the team owners an expansion franchise in San Jose instead of relocating the team (and thus beginning the modern expansion era). He was ousted following the 1992 players' strike, leading to the owners eliminating the position of president and creating the office of the commissioner.
Bill Wirtz and Rocky Wirtz: Father and son, former and current owner of the Blackhawks. The former was usually blamed for the team's 47-year Cup drought, being considered a cheapskate (hence the nickname "Dollar Bill"), engineering the 1994 lockout and doing unpopular acts such as blacking out local TV broadcasts. But once his son took over, Rocky soon revived the team, bringing a new fanbase and two Stanley Cups.
Jeremy Jacobs: Owner of the Boston Bruins since 1975. While fans complimented his rebuild of the team in the late 2000s, including the first Cup in 39 years, he had previously earned hatred for the team's decay, and subsequently for his participation on the 2012 lockout.
In the three major North American sports leagues (or the “Big Two Sports … and Hockey”, if you prefer) that have a best-of-seven playoff series format (the others being the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball), a team has come back from being down three games to none to win the series only four times. Three of them have been in the NHL (the fourth being the 2004 Boston Red Sox over the New York Yankees):
The 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Detroit Red Wings in this manner to win the Stanley Cup, after Detroit head coach Jack Adams was suspended midway through the series.
The New York Islanders defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1975 Quarterfinals, and fell just short of repeating the feat against the Philadelphia Flyers in the following round.
The 2010 Philadelphia Flyers did this to the Boston Bruins in the Conference Semifinals, and to top it off, even spotted the Bruins the first three goals of Game 7, only to win that game by a score of 4–3.