Ranking the 10 Greatest NHL Players Who Spent Their Whole Career with 1 Team
One of the most impressive things a player can do over the course of a long career is achieve greatness while skating for a single NHL team.
Many of the game's greatest players were unable to remain with one team, whether it was due to financial reasons, as was the case with Wayne Gretzky, or in order to give an aging star a chance to win that elusive first Stanley Cup, as was the situation when Boston dealt longtime fan favorite Ray Bourque to Colorado in 2000.
In order for a player to manage to stay put for an entire career, it takes loyalty, commitment and chemistry between the star and the organization. But even then it can be difficult.
With that in mind, here's a look at the 10 greatest NHL players who spent their entire careers with one team.
Until he actually finishes his career, Martin Brodeur has to remain slightly lower on this list than he otherwise would be. Especially with Cory Schneider now in the fold in New Jersey, one has to think there's at least a remote possibility that the aging superstar would be interested in taking a last run at a Stanley Cup elsewhere.
But assuming he hangs up his skates as a Devil, Brodeur has the chance to go down as the greatest goaltender ever to play. And he has the statistics to back it up.
Brodeur is the game's all-time leader in wins and shutouts, as well as the owner of a pair of Olympic gold medals and a trio of Cup rings—all of which he compiled while calling the New Jersey area home.
Technically, Joe Sakic laced up for two NHL teams, as the Quebec Nordiques moved to Denver prior to the 1995-96 season.
Nevertheless, Burnaby Joe was the perfect ambassador for the game as a whole in Colorado, though the two Stanley Cups he helped deliver between 1996 and 2001 had a lot to do with the team's prolonged popularity in the area.
As a member of the franchise from 1988 to the present, he has been the best player in team history, as well as one of the most talented offensive weapons of his generation.
A first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee, Sakic's Conn Smythe, Hart and Olympic MVP award cemented his status as one of the greatest players of the 1990s.
Obviously, if a former superstar has the NHL award given to the game's top scorer named after him, it's usually a pretty good indication of how special a player he was during his prime.
Maurice "The Rocket" Richard was arguably the sport's most fearsome offensive force. He combined an unrivaled amount of strength and power with a drive to succeed that was far too much for opposing defenses to handle.
A recipient of eight Stanley Cups, a Hart Trophy and 14 All-Star team selections, Richard's greatest legacy as a Montreal Canadien was likely becoming the first player in league history to ever score 50 goals in a season, as well as the first to hit the 500-goal mark.
Though he passed away in 2000, he remains one of the game's most iconic players, and his memory—particularly in Quebec—won't soon be forgotten.
Though many considered Bobby Hull to be the engine that drove the Chicago Black Hawks (since renamed to the Blackhawks) during the 1960s, Stan Mikita was arguably just as responsible for the team's successes, as the Czech-born center won four scoring titles in five seasons.
As a 21-year-old, Mikita helped Chicago to the 1961 Stanley Cup. And despite being one of the youngest players in the postseason, he managed to lead all players in goals.
From there, he built his legacy as one of the most complete players in the game. And through the use of his famously curved blade, he terrorized goaltenders as a member of the Black Hawks for two decades.
In the end, Mikita retired as the first man to even win a Hart, an Art Ross and a Lady Byng in the same season—a feat he accomplished in consecutive seasons. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame soon after his retirement.
For some, how long the player skated with a team doesn't matter as much as impact he had and if it was seismic enough to compensate for a lack of longevity.
That is especially true in the case of Ken Dryden, who made his mark on the game in a way that few other goaltenders have, despite only playing eight NHL seasons. The massive Cornell product managed to win six Stanley Cups and five Vezina Trophies during that span.
Ironically, in 1964, Dryden was drafted by Boston, the same team he would go on to terrorize as a rookie in 1971. The untested 6'4" stopper led the Canadiens to upsets over the Bruins, North Stars and Black Hawks, and he remains the only Conn Smythe winner to have captured the award before capturing Rookie of the Year.
Though Dryden shocked the hockey world by retiring at the age of 32, he'd long since secured his spot among the game's all-time greatest goaltenders.
Following his retirement, he went on to find success as an author, a politician and as an executive at the NHL level.
As the backbone of the New York Islanders' dynasty of the early-1980s, Denis Potvin established himself as one of the most well-rounded rearguards in NHL history.
Potvin was awarded three Norris Trophies, five NHL First Team All-Star berths and four Stanley Cup rings during his 15 years on Long Island. Though he was overshadowed at times by Larry Robinson and Bobby Orr, he was the game's only premier defender of the era to remain with one team for his entire career.
Tough enough to contain the game's most skilled forwards and talented enough to make a difference on the scoreboard, Potvin's wide array of strengths made him arguably the most difficult defensive presence to plan against for opposing coaches.
If there's one thing that can make a franchise's fanbase remember a player vividly more than 40 years after retiring, it's winning and winning a lot.
That's why big Jean Beliveau remains a celebrated figure in his home province, as the powerful center was a focal point of 10 Stanley Cup champion teams in Montreal, including five as the team's captain.
A winner of two Hart Trophies, a Conn Smythe and 10 postseason All-Star team nods, Beliveau is one of the most decorated champions in hockey history. But it's his individual accolades that make him slightly more qualified for this list than Henri Richard, who took over as team captain following Beliveau's retirement.
Nowadays, it's safe to say that in the 30-team NHL, it would be very difficult for any player to build up a winning pedigree quite as impressive as that of the 6'3" do-it-all Beliveau.
Even before Steve Yzerman began leading Detroit Red Wings to a shelf-full of Stanley Cups, the former No. 4 overall selection was well on his way to being Hockeytown's most celebrated player not named Gordie Howe.
As a rookie, the 18-year-old scoring sensation became the youngest player ever to be selected for an NHL All-Star Game. He then followed that up by registering six consecutive seasons with at least 100 points, announcing his arrival among the game's best.
But it was Yzerman's ability to transform his game during the late-1990s that made him such a special player, and that was a major factor in the Wings' three Stanley Cup titles between 1997 and 2002.
Obviously, the Cranbrook, BC, native became a star by filling nets with the best of the league's offensive weapons. But nonetheless, Yzerman's leadership and drive to succeed were why Detroit made him the longest-serving captain in NHL history, as well as an adopted son of the city.
There are a lot of people outside of the city of Philadelphia that won't be pleased to see Bobby Clarke on this list, but that's probably just the way the former Flyers captain wants it.
As an undersized forward playing junior hockey for the Flin Flon Bombers, Clarke led his league in scoring for three consecutive seasons. But upon being diagnosed with diabetes in 1968, his future in hockey was, at least briefly, in doubt.
However, Clarke was determined to not let the medical condition hamper his ability to play in the NHL. The snarly center would go on to be the best player ever to don a Flyers uniform.
Individually, he was an offensive dynamo, racking up three 100-point seasons and a trio of Hart Trophies. But his true legacy lies within the team success he helped bring to Philadelphia. In both 1974 and 1975, Clarke captained the Flyers to their only two Cups in franchise history, thus cementing his status as a legend in Philadelphia, where he has remained since his retirement in 1984.
As if there was any other choice.
Mario Lemieux entered the NHL in 1984 touted as the one thing that could save the sad-sack Pittsburgh Penguins franchise. Though it would take him a few years to completely accomplish that goal, he most certainly did.
That's because Lemieux overcame a variety of injuries and ailments (including a bout with cancer in 1993) to become the face of the Penguins for two decades, establishing himself as one of the top five players to ever skate in the NHL.
A winner of two Stanley Cups, an Olympic gold medal, two Conn Smythes, three Hart Trophies and six scoring titles, Lemieux's vision and incredibly soft touch with the puck made him virtually impossible to stop, even as his body betrayed him near the end of his career.
What may be most remarkable about Lemieux's run in Pittsburgh, though, is that he was able to return to hockey three seasons after retiring in 1997 and still be among the most dynamic players in the game.