Based on the skill, speed, precision, endurance and mental sturdiness required to achieve success at the NHL's highest level, I like to put the hockey elite among the greatest athletes in the world. My greatest argument for this is that in order to perform their job, hockey players have to master their craft on one-eighth inch of stainless steel blade.
Sidney Crosby can hit a baseball almost 400 feet, but can Albert Pujols skate without a traffic cone? Probably not as well as his nemesis on the Brewers, Nyjer Morgan. In fairness to Big Albert, the Milwaukee outfielder grew up aspiring to be a San Jose Shark agitator instead of a baseball's most famous dual personality.
Hockey players are also famously humble in spite of the incredible talents they possess. There are certainly some personalities that dispel that generalization, but the narcissistic-to-humble ratio is far greater in the other three major sports.
That being said, someone's entertainment value was rated by their ability to steal the spotlight. I won't include NHL owners on this list because, for the most part, they are all eccentric, rich folk; closets with skeletons 10 deep that would make Bruce Wayne jealous.
For the most part, I'll eliminate the media as well. For every NHL player who is grounded from a small town with a funny name, there is an ostentatious announcer who wants to be the star. For Pete's sake, Jack Edwards, settle down: It's mid-November and it's the first period. He's hardly the only culprit, as most fans will agree. If you happen to catch a regional broadcast in any NHL city, close your eyes and you wonder if there is even another team on the ice.
I didn't want to include Don Cherry in here, but I have to, simply based on the goofy outfits he wears. He doesn't get a slide, but I'll give him props for a funny move he pulled against his former team, the Boston Bruins. While leading the Bruins with less than a minute left in the game, Cherry called a timeout. He then promptly turned around to the Boston crowd and started signing autographs for the Boston fans. As much as I am not a fan of "Grapes," that's a pretty funny way to stick it to your old boss.
This is not necessarily a list of the greatest players ever, but let's be honest: If you're a fan of the NHL and the game of hockey, there is no denying the talent that must be included. They are, after all, here to entertain us as the brilliant gladiators of the frozen arena. Are you not entertained?
There's sure to be an omission or two, so feel free to add your own and tell me why. I don't want to read "Steve Konowalchuk" without an explanation.