The sport of hockey is one of the most challenging in the world, and Brendan Shanahan has a memorable quote that suggests players like Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos and many others are some of the greatest athletes in the NHL:
Is hockey hard? I don't know, you tell me. We need to have the strength and power of a football player, the stamina of a marathon runner, and the concentration of a brain surgeon. But we need to put all this together while moving at high speeds on a cold and slippery surface while five other guys use clubs to try and kill us, oh yeah did I mention that this whole time we're standing on blades 1/8 of an inch thick? Is ice hockey hard? I don't know, you tell me. Next question.
Now there are many good players in the NHL today, but there are only few who have the unique balance of traits that Shanahan alludes to in his quote.
While Zdeno Chara is a great defenseman, he is a very slow skater who uses his size and stick to help him cover a lot of ice. By the same token, Chara is still one of the league's top defenders, but he isn't very athletic. Additionally, there are players who may have offensive skills but can't play physical and are small and weak on the puck.
NHL players are among the best conditioned in professional sports, and they play one of the most challenging games. There are not many players in the NHL who have the combination of speed, size and skill along with the ability to play at a high level, but this list will recognize many of those players.
Here are the NHL's 29 best pure athletes in the league today.