The Most Iconic Player in the History of Every NHL Franchise

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistNovember 7, 2013

The Most Iconic Player in the History of Every NHL Franchise

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    The NHL is all about its images.

    If any longtime hockey fan closes his eyes and thinks back to his favorite player, he can easily picture Bobby Hull flying down the ice in Chicago, Gordie Howe going into the corner in Detroit or Maurice Richard fending off a defender with his outside arm as he flies toward the goal.

    These are iconic hockey images that have lasted decades.

    Not all teams have iconic players at the level of Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr or Mario Lemieux, but every club has its iconic player.

    Some teams have many icons, but we have narrowed it down to one for all 30 NHL teams.

    Here's our say, and we are interested in what you have to say as well.


    When franchises have moved, we look at the team's ultimate destination. So, for example, the Dallas Stars are considered but not the Minnesota North Stars.

Anaheim Ducks: Teemu Selanne

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    Teemu Selanne is clearly in the final stages of a career that began with the Winnipeg Jets in the 1992-93 season. He scored a rookie record 76 goals in that season and became one of the game's great superstars.

    Selanne played with the Jets until the 1995-96 season, but he has been with Anaheim since that time. The Finnish Flash has been one of the dominant goal scorers in league history. He has scored 678 goals in his career and all but 147 of them have come in a Ducks uniform.

    Selanne has been one of the game's best skaters and a superior sniper. When he has had time and space, no player with the possible exception of former New York Islander Mike Bossy could pick a corner like Selanne.

    No player represents the Ducks' franchise like him. Other greats include Paul Kariya, Scott Niedermayer and Ryan Getzlaf.

Boston Bruins: Bobby Orr

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    The Original Six franchises all have long and memorable histories, and they are all loaded with players who were brilliantly talented.

    The Boston Bruins have no shortage of these stars, but none have ever been brighter or meant more to the team than Bobby Orr.

    His famous flying goal (3:52 mark) that gave the Bruins the 1970 Stanley Cup may be the most iconic image in league history. It is certainly the most memorable moment in Boston Bruins history.

    There have have been many great skaters, shooters, playmakers and defenders in NHL history. No player ever combined all of these talents like Orr.

    Some of the other Bruins icons include Eddie Shore, Milt Schmidt, Phil Esposito, Ray Bourque, Johnny Bucyk and Gerry Cheevers.

Buffalo Sabres: Gilbert Perreault

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    The Buffalo Sabres found their franchise player in their first year of existence.

    The Sabres debuted in the NHL in the 1970-71 season and quickly found a player who could bring their fans out of their seats in center Gilbert Perreault.

    Perreault was a brilliant skater from Quebec who appeared to be the kind of player the Montreal Canadiens wanted to take the torch from Jean Beliveau. However, the Sabres won the first pick in their initial entry draft and were able to select Perreault. 

    He scored 38 goals during his rookie season and would go on to score 512 goals for the Sabres in a career that would conclude in 1986-87.

    Hockey fans still revel in the memory of Perreault flying up the ice and scoring a dazzling goal.

Calgary Flames: Jarome Iginla

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    The Flames have had their share of outstanding players since moving to the Canadian West from Atlanta following the 1979-80 season.

    The booming shot of defenseman Al MacInnis, the frenetic style of Theoren Fleury and the explosive wrist shot of Joe Mullen all come to mind when it comes to the Calgary Flames.

    However, no player has meant more to the franchise than Jarome Iginla. For many years, as long as the Flames had Iginla supplying offense and power on the right wing, they felt they had a chance to win. 

    Iginla scored 525 goals while playing for the Flames until he was finally traded to Pittsburgh late in the 2013 season. During the most recent offseason, Iginla signed with the Boston Bruins.

    However, Iginla represented the Flames like few others. He skated hard for them, handled opponents with his physicality in the corners and scored key goals.

    He's the most iconic player in franchise history.

Carolina Hurricanes: Rod Brind’Amour

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    Rod Brind'Amour was traded from the Philadelphia Flyers to the Carolina Hurricanes early in the 1999-2000 season.

    Brind'Amour became the franchise's most iconic player in the 2000s. He was never the most gifted player, but Brind'Amour played the game with heart, intelligence and superb instincts.

    He scored 31 goals and 70 points in the 2005-06 season and then registered another 12 goals in the Stanley Cup playoffs as the Canes won their only Stanley Cup championship.

    Eric Staal, Cam Ward, Ray Whitney and Ron Francis all deserve consideration, but Brind'Amour is the player who best symbolizes the Hurricanes.

Chicago Blackhawks: Bobby Hull

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    Bobby Hull was perhaps the sport's most popular player through the large majority of the 1960s.

    When Hull had the puck on his stick, everyone would get out of the their seats and stand up so they could get a better view of The Golden Jet in full flight. 

    There have been few images more memorable in Chicago sports history than Hull going from end to end with the puck on his stick and then unloading his powerful slapshot.

    Nobody shot the puck harder or drew more oohs and ahhs than Hull.

    Teammate Stan Mikita was also a Chicago icon while Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane fill that role now, but Hull scored 50 or more goals in five different seasons with the Blackhawks (and four more with the Winnipeg Jets). That makes him the franchise's most memorable player.

Colorado Avalanche: Joe Sakic

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    Joe Sakic came up with the Quebec Nordiques as a rookie in the 1988-89 season and his game matured and developed for seven seasons before the franchise moved to Colorado.

    Sakic was in full bloom by the 1995-96 season, scoring 51 goals in the Avalanche's first year in Denver. Sakic was never anything but a superstar until he retired after the 2008-09 season.

    Sakic, along with Peter Forsberg and Patrick Roy, became the leaders of one of the NHL's most exciting and successful franchises. Sakic was a key part of the teams that won the 1996 and 2001 Stanley Cups.

    He is the franchise's most iconic player.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Rick Nash

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    Rick Nash was basically the only reason to watch Columbus Blue Jackets hockey until he was traded to the New York Rangers in 2012.

    Nash was the No. 1 pick in the 2002 NHL draft and scored 17 goals as he felt his way through his rookie season in 2002-03. A year later, he was a superstar who netted 41 goals for the Jackets.

    He would score 30 or more goals in six other seasons before he said goodbye to Columbus. Nash combined his size and strength with an array of head and shoulder fakes to become the Blue Jackets' all-time icon.


Dallas Stars: Joe Nieuwendyk

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    Joe Nieuwendyk played brilliantly with both the Calgary Flames and Dallas Stars during a career that also included stints with the Toronto Maple Leafs, New Jersey Devils and Florida Panthers.

    However, while he was arguably better and more productive with the Flames than he was with the Stars, he became the Stars' franchise icon when he helped Brett Hull deliver a Stanley Cup in 1999.

    Nieuwendyk scored 20 or more goals six times in his career with the Stars and his relentless play in the 1999 Stanley Cup playoffs—11 goals, 10 assists and six game-winning goals—makes him a franchise icon.

Detroit Red Wings: Gordie Howe

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    Gordie Howe was Wayne Gretzky's idol growing up.

    In The Great One's mind, no matter what he ever accomplished on the ice, he could not top anything Mr. Hockey ever did.

    That's typical Gretzky, and while his overall offensive numbers are greater than Howe's, he may not have surpassed his idol's reach.

    Howe scored 801 NHL goals, and all but 15 of them were with the Detroit Red Wings. He won six Hart Trophies and was a member of four Stanley Cup-winning teams.

    He was certainly the most beloved player on a franchise that has boasted the likes of Ted Lindsay, Alex Delvecchio, Steve Yzerman and Sergei Fedorov.

Edmonton Oilers: Wayne Gretzky

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    The greatest scorer in NHL history and perhaps the sport's greatest player ever.

    The numbers certainly say so. One of the best-known stats in hockey is that, if you did not include any of Gretzky's 894 goals, he would still be the NHL's all-time leading scorer on the strength of his 1,963 assists.

    Gretzky had plenty of help from a very talented cast of supporting teammates, but he was the No. 1 Oiler of all-time. He was a part of four Stanley Cup-winning teams before being traded to the Los Angeles Kings prior to the 1988-89 season.

    Gretzky scored 50 or more goals eight times in his career with the Oilers, including his magnificent 1981-82 season during which he scored 92 goals and notched 120 assists. Gretzky reached the 50-goal mark in his first 39 games that season.

    Gretzky would go on to break that 212-point record in 1985-86 when he scored an astonishing 215 points.

Florida Panthers: Pavel Bure

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    Pavel Bure is recognized more for his time with the Vancouver Canucks than he is for his time with the Panthers, but he certainly had spectacular results in South Florida.

    Bure scored 152 goals in 223 games for the Panthers and regularly made the crowd gasp with his game-altering speed and ability to change directions in an instant. That gave him the ability to get wide-open scoring chances, which he buried with regularity.

    He was simply the most eye-catching player in Florida history.

    Scott Mellanby, Olli Jokinen and Roberto Luongo also deserve consideration, but we give the nod to Bure.

Los Angeles Kings: Marcel Dionne

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    Wayne Gretzky is the player who is credited with putting hockey on the map in Los Angeles. That's only among people who had their heads buried in the sand.

    Before Gretzky got to Los Angeles, the Kings had Marcel Dionne. The player known as Little Beaver was one of the most exciting talents the game has ever known.

    Dionne had scored 40 or more goals twice in his career with the Detroit Red Wings before being traded to the Kings. He went on to have eight seasons with 100 or more points in Los Angeles, scoring 570 goals and 780 assists in his 1,350 games with the Kings.

    Gretzky may be the most famous player in Kings history, but Dionne was the player who made the sport count in Southern California.

Minnesota Wild: Mikko Koivu

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    Mikko Koivu may likely be replaced in this position by high-scoring Zach Parise or all-around defenseman Ryan Suter in future seasons, but Koivu represents the best of the Minnesota Wild franchise.

    Not only can Koivu set up his teammates with pinpoint passes, he can also put the puck in the net. He has scored 20 or more goals three times in his nine years with the Wild and his play in the defensive end has always been superb.

    That makes him the most iconic player in franchise history.

Montreal Canadiens: Maurice Richard

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    No team has had more brilliant players than the Montreal Canadiens.

    Maurice Richard was their brightest light. He was a brilliant goal scorer who netted 544 goals in his career—all with the Canadiens—and was a part of eight Stanley Cup-winning teams.

    Richard scored 82 goals in 133 playoff games and was virtually unstoppable when the Stanley Cup was on the table.

    Richard probably means more to the Canadiens than anyone. On a franchise that featured Jean Beliveau, Guy Lafleur, Yvan Cournoyer, Larry Robinson and Ken Dryden, that makes him one of the most remarkable icons of them all.

Nashville Predators: Shea Weber

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    Shea Weber may have the most dangerous slap shot in the league.

    While Weber regularly finishes second to Zdeno Chara in the hardest shot competition at the NHL's skills competition, Weber has a more effective shot in games because he gets it away quicker and can put it on net with greater frequency. 

    Weber has scored 112 goals and 186 assists during his career in Nashville. He has never worn another NHL uniform and is the team's captain. He will get a chance to lift the Stanley Cup first if the Predators ever become the NHL champions.

New Jersey Devils: Martin Brodeur

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    Martin Brodeur is the only goaltender to earn a spot on this list.

    He has his name on nearly every significant goaltending record in NHL history and is responsible for helping the New Jersey Devils earn three Stanley Cup championships.

    Brodeur has a 2.23 career goals-against average and .913 save percentage. He has carried the Devils on his back for many years and has been loved by Devils fans while maintaining respect in the locker room.

    He is the most iconic player in Devils history.

New York Islanders: Mike Bossy

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    Mike Bossy did not look like hockey's version of Superman. As a matter of fact, put a pair of horned-rim glasses on him and you have the NHL's version of Clark Kent.

    There was something studious about Bossy's look when he was answering questions from the media, but the instant you put him on the ice, there was something magical. He was a brilliant goal scorer who got it done with amazing hand-eye coordination, great shooting skills and the instincts to know where he could beat the goaltender.

    He almost never failed. Bossy scored 573 goals in a 10-year career that was cut short because of back problems. He scored 50 or more goals in every season but his last, when he was held to 38.

    On a franchise with such notables as Bryan Trottier, Denis Potvin, Billy Smith and Clark Gillies, Bossy was the greatest icon of them all.

New York Rangers: Rod Gilbert

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    This may be one of the more controversial selections, as the more obvious choice would be Mark Messier.

    A strong argument can be made for Messier because he led the Rangers to the 1994 Stanley Cup. He was the captain of that team and delivered on his famous guarantee of victory when the Rangers trailed the New Jersey Devils 3-2 in their playoff series.

    The Rangers eliminated the Devils and beat Vancouver in the Stanley Cup Final.

    For his part, Gilbert was among the most beloved players in franchise history, scoring 406 goals in a career that lasted from 1960 to 1978.

    He played his entire career in New York and his No. 7 uniform hangs high in Madison Square Garden's rafters.

    In addition to Messier—who played six years with the Rangers—and Gilbert, Brian Leetch and Eddie Giacomin also deserve consideration for the franchise's most iconic player.

Ottawa Senators: Jason Spezza

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    Another controversial choice.

    Daniel Alfredsson is undoubtedly the greatest player in Ottawa Senators history. There is no argument there.

    However, he chose to leave Ottawa as a free agent last summer and close out his career by trying to win the Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings.

    That decision hurt the Senators and their fans to the core.

    Eventually, the feeling is that he will be welcomed back to the Senators in one capacity or another, but that may be several years from now.

    A few months ago, Alfredsson was the franchise's icon. He may be that in a few years.

    Right now, we give the nod to Jason Spezza, who is the club's current captain and has scored 236 goals and 637 points in 625 career games with the Sens.

Philadelphia Flyers: Bobby Clarke

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    Bobby Clarke was the greatest Flyer of them all.

    During the reign of the Broad Street Bullies that saw the Philadelphia Flyers win their only two Stanley Cup titles, Clarke was their best player and unquestioned leader.

    Were his tactics questionable at times? Yes!

    But he was only motivated by winning and helping the Flyers reach their potential. If you played against Clarke and his vicious elbows and slashes, you hated him. If you were his teammate, you loved the way he played and the sacrifices he made to bring the Flyers the Stanley Cup in 1974 and 1975.

Phoenix Coyotes: Shane Doan

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    Shane Doan has been playing with the Phoenix Coyotes since 1995-96, their initial season in the desert.

    He started his career the year before with the Winnipeg Jets and has been with the Coyotes every step of the way.

    Even though the team has been anything but stable in the last few seasons, Doan has always been committed to the Coyotes and remaining in the desert.

    That has made him a fan favorite and a player worthy of great respect. Doan has scored 825 points in 1,262 games and is unquestionably the franchise's most iconic player.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Mario Lemieux

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    Mario Lemieux had a brilliant playing career with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He made hockey relevant in Western Pennsylvania and led the Penguins to their first two Stanley Cup championships.

    With the exception of Wayne Gretzky, Lemieux had no peers when it came to creativity and scoring. However, Lemieux was bigger, stronger and perhaps faster than Gretzky, and his ability to make moves with the puck was sensational.

    Lemieux had the ability to embarrass even the best defenders because of his unprecedented skill level.

    After his playing career was over, Lemieux stayed active with the Penguins and his involvement with the team ensured that it would stay in Pittsburgh and thrive there.

St. Louis Blues: Brett Hull

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    Brett Hull may not have had his father Bobby's following during his career, but he may have been a better and more effective player.

    Hull was an important player with the Calgary Flames, Dallas Stars and Detroit Red Wings, but was at his best with the St. Louis Blues from 1988 to 1998. Hull scored 228 goals over a three-season span from 1989-90 through 1991-92.

    Hull's ability to put the puck in the net made him one of the game's most dangerous players in NHL history.

    He is the most iconic player in St. Louis Blues history, earning an edge over Adam Oates.

Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks

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    Something just wasn't right for Joe Thornton during the end of his run with the Boston Bruins. 

    Thornton was the Bruins' best player, but went scoreless in a seven-game playoff series loss to Montreal in 2004 that basically sealed his fate with the Bruins.

    A lockout wiped out the next season, but when the NHL returned in 2005-06, the Bruins decided to go in another direction. They traded him the San Jose Sharks in a move that was great for him and his new team.

    Thornton would score a league-high 125 points in the 2005-06 season and followed that up 114 points in 2006-07. 

    While the Sharks have never enjoyed great postseason success, Thornton has become the franchise's most iconic player.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Martin St. Louis

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    After playing the first two years of his career with the Calgary Flames, Martin St. Louis was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    He has done nothing but produce for them in the ensuing 13 seasons. St. Louis scored 102 points in the 2006-07 season and was one of the Lightning's best players during their 2004 Stanley Cup run, scoring nine goals and 15 assists in 23 games.

    He scored one of the most important goals in franchise history when he netted an overtime winner in the sixth game of the Stanley Cup Final against the Flames in Calgary. That goal allowed the Lightning to send the series to a seventh game that the Lightning eventually won.

    St. Louis may well be replaced by Steven Stamkos in the next few years, but for now he remains Tampa Bay's most iconic player.


Toronto Maple Leafs: Bobby Baun

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    The Toronto Maple Leafs have not won a Stanley Cup since 1967.

    Their long-suffering fans saw the team get back to the playoffs last year, and while they had the Boston Bruins on the ropes in the first round, they endured one of the most painful postseason defeats in recent memory.

    With that defeat in mind, the Leafs fans had to turn to their history books for comfort. Perhaps no moment is more comforting than the one provided by longtime Leafs defenseman Bobby Baun, who scored the game-winning goal in overtime of the sixth game of the 1964 Stanley Cup Final despite a broken ankle.

    The Leafs would defeat the Detroit Red Wings 4-0 in the seventh game and Baun's heroic performance makes him the most iconic player in franchise history.

Vancouver Canucks: Trevor Linden

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    Trevor Linden was not the most talented player in Vancouver Canucks history. However, he may have had the most heart of any player who every put on a Canucks jersey.

    Linden played the first nine seasons of his career with the Canucks before he was traded to the New York Islanders in the 1997-98 season. The fans never got over that move and were most relieved when Linden returned in 2001-02, spending the last six seasons of his career in the Pacific Northwest.

    Linden ranks just ahead of Stan Smyl, Thomas Gradin, Tony Tanti and the Sedin twins as the Canucks' most iconic player.

Washington Capitals: Mike Gartner

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    Some young fans may think the Washington Capitals' history begins and ends with Alex Ovechkin, but it does not. 

    The Caps have had many memorable players including the explosive Mike Gartner, who makes our list as the team's most iconic player just ahead of Rod Langway, Dennis "Pee-Wee" Maruk, Peter Bondra and Ovechkin.

    Gartner was one of the fastest skaters of his era, and when his golden wheels were in motion, he was basically unstoppable. Gartner had nine consecutive seasons with 30 or more goals for the Caps and topped 40 goals in five of them.

    Gartner gave the Caps offense the explosiveness and creativity it needed when he arrived in 1979-80.

Winnipeg Jets: Evander Kane

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    This is just the Jets' third season, and since we are not including either the Atlanta Thrashers' history or the previous version of the Jets, we have to go with the talented Evander Kane.

    There is little doubt that Kane has a chance to become a dominant player. Kane scored 30 goals in 2011-12, the Jets' first season in Winnipeg, and 17 in last year's lockout-shortened season.

    When the Jets need a big goal, he's the player that head coach Claude Noel looks to first. While he's not a superstar yet, he has a chance to get there and is the team's most dynamic and iconic player.