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The Five Greatest NHL Players of All-Time

The NHL has enjoyed some wonderful players since its beginning in 1917, but few have made the same impact as these five Hall of Famers, the greatest of all-time.

Wayne Gretzky

No player in NHL history has more career points (2,857), goals (894) or assists (1,963) than 'The Great One'. Over 21 seasons in the NHL (1978-1999), Gretzky continuously re-wrote the record books, holding 61 records when he retired.

Gretzky played with the Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues and the New York Rangers over those years.

His most points in an NHL season came in 1985/86 when he scored 215 (52 goals, 163 assists) in 80 games with the Oilers, who he captained to the Stanley Cup four times (1984, 85, 87 and 88).

On four other occasions Gretzky registered more than 200 points in the regular season. Mario Lemieux is the only other player to register 160 points in a season, hitting the mark four times - Gretzky did it nine times.

He captured 18 All-Star awards, 10 Art Ross Trophies as the league's top point-scorer and nine Hart Trophies as the NHL's most valuable player. In 1985 and 88 he won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs.

Bobby Orr

Famous for his leaping celebration in the 1970 Stanley Cup Final, Orr revolutionised the role of a defenseman.

In 1969/70, he became the first defenseman to ever lead the league in points (120) which he repeated in 1974/75 with 135.

In 657 regular season games, Orr amassed 915 points (270 goals, 645 assists) over ten seasons with the Boston Bruins (1966-76) and a brief stint with the Chicago Blackhawks (1976-79).

Injuries shortened his career, but all of Orr's numbers on retirement were the best for his position at the time.

To this day, he still holds the record for most points (139) and assists (102) in a single season by a defenseman.

His tally from deep was only part of Orr's greatness as he proved his defensive abilities by winning eight straight Norris Trophies as the NHL's best defenseman.

He also won the Hart Trophy as the league's MVP three consecutive times and was a Stanley Cup Champion twice with the Bruins, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy on each occasion (1970 and 1972).

Maurice Richard

The first player in history to score 50 goals in an NHL campaign (1944-45), and the first to reach 500 career NHL goals, Maurice 'Rocket' Richard is the namesake of the award given to the league's top goal-scorer.

Richard earned 14 All-Star nominations over an 18-season NHL career for the Montreal Canadiens (1942-1960) and was the centrepiece of the Canadiens’ dynasty which won eight Stanley Cups.

On retirement he was then the league's all-time leader in goals with 544, which remains a Montreal record, smashing the previous best of 324.

Richard died in 2000 at the age of 78 and over 11,000 people lined the streets of Montreal to attend his funeral.

Gordie Howe

Nicknamed 'Mr Hockey' Howe spent 32 seasons in the NHL from 1946-1980, with 25 of those as the face of the Detroit Red Wings, where he became considered to be one of the most complete players to ever lace up a pair of skates.

To this day when a player scores a goal, registers an assist and has a fight in a single game, it is known as the 'Gordie Howe Hat-trick'.

At his retirement, Howe had scored 1,809 regular season points (786 goals, 1,023 assists) which were all records, later broken by Gretzky.

Howe was a 21-time All-Star, and only in 2021 was his all-time NHL games record of 1,767 beaten by Patrick Marleau. He still holds the record for most seasons played and his 22 consecutive 20-goal NHL seasons remain unmatched.

Mr Hockey won six league MVP awards, six scoring titles and four Stanley Cup championships.

Mario Lemieux

One of the greatest goalscorers ever, Mario Lemieux has four of the 17 highest single-season goal records in league history and ranks second all-time with a .754 career goals-per-game average.

Lemieux spent his entire 17 season NHL career with the Pittsburgh Penguins from 1984 to 2006, making nine All-Star appearances and winning three Hart Trophies as the league's MVP.

Over 1990-1992, Lemieux captained the Penguins to back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions being named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner each time.

Lemieux began his Pittsburgh career with six consecutive 100-point campaigns, peaking at 199, which is the fifth-highest ever.

A bout of cancer and other health problems interrupted the prime of his career, but he still managed four more 100-point years following that, returning from retirement to play twice.

He led the league for points six times totalling 1,723 (690 goals, 1,033 assists) in 915 regular season games.

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