Power Ranking the Best Quiet Leaders in the NHL
Leadership in the NHL is a quality that isn't often measured by being the loudest guy in the room. A quiet confidence and professionalism can be infectious in a locker room particularly when one of the best players has a team-first attitude.
A strong will to win, perseverance and toughness and a relentless work ethic are some characteristics shared by some of the greatest leaders to put on a pair of skates. They don't call out their teammates in the press, question the coach's decisions publicly or take every opportunity to get in front of the microphone and camera.
These players happen to be some of the best in the game, leaders of men on the ice and battle-tested through the rigors of the NHL. They were the clear-cut leaders of their teams during their playing days but did so with a style that makes hockey players the most humble and endearing in professional sports.
Here are the best quiet leaders in NHL history. Enjoy now!
15. Jonathan Toews
His resume is short but impressive. The baby-faced captain of the Chicago Blackhawks is nicknamed "Captain Serious" for his no nonsense approach to the game on the ice. He is far from a vocal leader, but the young Toews knows how to motivate his team, leading Chicago to its first Stanley Cup since 1961.
The Blackhawks' impressive season-opening streak this year is due in large part to the leadership from their captain. Toews is the youngest member of the Triple Gold Club after winning Olympic gold and the Stanley Cup in 2010.
14. Ray Bourque
One of the classiest and best leaders in the game, Ray Bourque was unable to lift the Stanley Cup in Boston during his career with the Bruins. He ultimately won the cup as a member of the Colorado Avalanche, but is best remembered for his 21 seasons in a Bruins' sweater.
The five-time Norris Trophy winner set a standard in the NHL as the longest tenured captain in NHL history before his trade to Colorado. Despite ending his career in Colorado, Bourque's loyalty to the Bruins was legendary. He deferred larger contracts elsewhere to stay with the Bruins, and was a a fan favorite for his talents at both ends of the ice.
13. Mats Sundin
European captains are typically soft-spoken by nature and Mats Sundin was no different. Toronto's all-time leader in goals and points was loyal to the Leafs (almost to a fault in the eyes of some) for 13 of his 18 seasons.
He captained Toronto for 11 of those 13 years and though he was unable to win a Stanley Cup for the Maple Leafs, he refused to leave the club at the end of his contract because he didn't want to be a "rental player".
12. Rod Brind'Amour
Rod Brind'Amour was known throughout his career as one of the hardest working players in the NHL. Brind'Amour's offseason fitness regimen was legendary and reflected his gritty, rugged style that wasn't rewarded until later in his career.
After beginning his career in St. Louis, Brind'Amour was traded to Philadelphia where he played nine seasons and set a franchise record with 484 consecutive games played. Brind'Amour served as an alternate captain and developed into the premier defensive center in the NHL.
He would finish his career in Carolina after being traded from Philadelphia in the 1999-2000 season. He eventually went on to captain the Hurricanes 2006 Stanley Cup championship team.
11. Scott Niedermayer
Scott Niedermayer is the only hockey player to win every major North American award in his career: Four Stanley Cups, two Olympic gold medals, a Memorial Cup, a World Cup, a World Junior Championship and a IIHF World Championship.
Niedermmayer helped the New Jersey Devils to three Stanley Cup titles before heading to Anaheim to join his brother Rob. The brothers' Niedermayer would help lead the Ducks to a Stanley Cup in 2007.
10. Trevor Linden
The Vancouver Canucks named Trevor Linden captain at age 21 making him one of the youngest captains in NHL history. "Captain Canuck" Linden helped lead the Canucks to prominence in the early 1990's and a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 1994.
Respected by his peers on and off the ice, Linden was elected as president of the NHLPA in 1998. In addition to his leadership with the player's association, Linden is also very active with many charitable organizations. He was recognized in 1997 by being awarded the King Clancy Memorial Trophy and again in 1998 with the NHL Foundation Player Award for his work in the community.
9. Wayne Gretzky
For all the accolades that were thrown upon him and the records that crumbled beneath his skates, Wayne Gretzky maintained a tolerable ego and solid leadership. Though he could be vocal, Gretzky's style could be described as lead by example.
When you are the best player on the planet and are setting the NHL on it's side, you don't need to do much else to get someone's attention.
8. Mario Lemieux
Mario Lemieux has taken leadership in Pittsburgh to a new level. He singularly saved hockey in the city and was largely responsible for the Penguins' sweet new rink at the Consol Energy Center.
His perseverance and courage in the face of cancer magnified his already otherworldly talents. The respect and appreciation that Lemieux received upon his return from early retirement speaks to how Lemieux transcended team loyalty.
The "if" and "but" argument with Lemieux about what he could have accomplished can last forever, and his talent and achievements will be remembered just as long.
7. Ron Francis
Ron Francis began his career in Hartford as the Whalers' top pick in the 1981 draft. Over the next 23 seasons, Francis would average 77 games played at over a point per game. He retired as the number four scorer in NHL history.
He was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991 and became more recognized for his talents at both ends of the ice. While he could score with the elite players in the NHL, Francis was a tremendous talent in the defensive zone, winning the Selke Trophy in 2005. He would twice captain the Penguins in Mario Lemieux's absence before moving on to Carolina in 1998.
Francis' return to the franchise (relocated) that drafted him saw him captain the Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup Final in 2002. He retired in 2004 and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007.
6. Niklas Lidstrom
Filling the shoes of an icon could be challenging for almost anyone else, but Nik Lidstrom made the retirement of Steve Yzerman as seamless as could have been expected. The Swedish defenseman inherited the "C" and led Detroit to another Stanley Cup in 2008.
A permanent fixture in the Norris Trophy discussion, Lidstrom's absence in Hockeytown has been (dare I say) harder to fill after his retirement than Yzerman's.
5. "Teeder Kennedy"
Theodore Samuel "Teeder" Kennedy wasn't the best skater to ever play the game but played with a fierce grit and determination. He was the first NHL player to win five Stanley Cups and is the last Toronto Maple Leaf to win the Hart Trophy.
Kennedy played his entire 15-year career in Toronto and was a captain for eight of them. He was compared to Syl Apps as a center who used his wings effectively. While Apps was a much better skater and stick-handler, Kennedy did the dirty work in the corners. Known for his terrific play at each end of the ice, Kennedy also had a knack for scoring clutch goals.
He is the youngest player in NHL history to score a Stanley Cup-winning-goal and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966.
4. Joe Sakic
Named as the captain of the Quebec Nordiques in 1992, Joe Sakic literally took a struggling franchise to new heights as they became the Colorado Avalanche in the 1995-96 season. As the captain of the franchise, Sakic twice took the Avalanche to the Stanley Cup Final winning the cup and cementing his legacy in Denver.
Always classy and humble to a fault, Joe Sakic remains one of the most underrated and under-appreciated players in NHL history. Joe Sakic retired from the Avalanche in 2009 and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2012.
3. Steve Yzerman
Simply known as "The Captain", Steve Yzerman was the quiet guy with the funny name, playing in the shadows of Gretzky, Lemieux and Messier until Detroit became Hockeytown. Scotty Bowman convinced the once-prolific scorer to play a more complete game and turned the Detroit Red Wings from playoff underachievers to perennial contenders.
Yzerman retired in 2006 as the second leading scorer in Red Wings history and the sixth in NHL history. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009.
2. Syl Apps
To this day, Syl Apps is regarded as on of the greatest players to wear a Toronto jersey. The non-drinking, non-smoking and non-swearing Apps was considered by many to be too soft to play in the rugged NHL. He put those suggestions to rest by dropping the gloves when he needed to.
A pole vaulter for Canada in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Apps was signed to play hockey for the Maple Leafs by Conn Smythe after watching Apps play football for McMaster University. He would win the Calder Trophy his rookie season and go on to captain Toronto for seven years total.
Apps would miss two seasons after enlisting in the Canadian Army during World War II, but would return to captain the Maple Leafs.
Syl Apps retired at age 33 as a three-time Stanley Cup winner and was inducted in to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961.
1. Jean Beliveau
The most Stanley Cup titles by any human being is the unofficial title held by Montreal Canadiens legend Jean Beliveau. He won ten as a player and then another seven as a team executive. "Le Gros Bill" as he was nicknamed, was the captain of the Canadiens for 10 years, leading Montreal to five Stanley Cups.
One of the classiest players to ever wear Le Tricolore sweater, Beliveau was the greatest leader in hockey history. He retired in 1971 after 21 seasons and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972.