NHL: Wayne Gretzky and the All-Time Ontario-Born NHL Team
As Canada's largest providence, it's no surprise that so many players from Ontario have made the NHL. Hockey-reference.com lists 2,056 Ontario-born players who have gone on to play in the NHL.
This is by far and away, the most of any Canadian providence. With so many players to choose from, narrowing down an all-time team will keep some great players out of the mix.
Adam Oates, Rob Blake, Doug Gilmour and Dave Andreychuk all had had successful careers, but you won't find any of them on this team.
Left Wing: Bobby Hull
Center: Wayne Gretzky
Right Wing: Brett Hull
The greatest hockey player of all time is a no-brainer to be the first line center. His left wing, Bobby Hull may be the best ever at the position. "The Golden Jet" scored 913 goals in his pro career (between the NL and WHA) and had arguably the best slap shot the game has ever seen.
His son Brett might have played for the United States during the Olympics and World Championships, but he was born in Belleville, Ontario, which makes him eligible for the team. The younger Hull scored 741 goals in his NHL career, which ranks third all time.
Left Wing: Frank Mahovlich
Center: Phil Esposito
Right Wing: Mike Gartner
Phil Esposito was the NHL's most productive forward during the late 1960s and early 1970s. He was the league's leading goal scorer from 1970-1975. Esposito helped Bruins win the Stanley Cup in 1970 and 1972.
Before he was a Senator for Toronto, The Big M was a four-time champion with the Maple Leafs. Mahovlich later won two Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadians and played for Canada during the 1972 Summit Series.
Mike Gartner may be the most underrated player in NHL history. He holds the record for most seasons with at least 30 goals (17) and scored at least 30 times in 15 consecutive seasons, a record he holds with Jaromir Jagr. The Ottawa-born right wing never won a Stanley Cup, but he is one of the most consistent scorers of all time.
Left Wing: Brendan Shanahan
Center: Ron Francis
Right Wing: Dino Ciccarelli
The greatest player in Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes is an ideal choice to center the third line. Francis was well respected during his playing days, winning the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy on three occasions. Francis was also a strong defensive player, in addition to being the fourth all time in points.
His linemates will be two former Detroit Red Wings.
Brendan Shanahan was one of the NHL's most productive offensive players at a time when scoring was declining (aka the deadpuck era). He only scored fewer than 20 goals twice during his career and was an integral player for Scott Bowman's Stanley Cup-winning teams in 1997-1998 and 2002.
Dino Ciccarelli's conduct often overshadowed his accomplishments on the ice. This is a big reason why he had to wait eight years to be inducted in to the Hall of Fame. However, 608 career goals won't keep him off this team.
Ciccarelli may not be the best player to never win a Stanley Cup, but he is the best player that was never selected in the NHL draft.
Left Wing: Bob Gainey
Center: Eric Lindros
Right Wing: Pat Veerbek
Adam Oates, Doug Gilmour, Dale Hawerchuk and Joe Nieuwendyk all had stellar careers, but none of them ever reached the level of play that Eric Lindros had in the middle of the 1990s.
Injuries and controversy derailed what once seemed like a first ballot Hall of Fame career, but Lindros was once a top-five player and the Sidney Crosby of his day. He ranks 18th all time in points per game and won the MVP award in 1995.
Dave Andreychuk may have scored 640 goals in his career, but it's hard to keep a four-time Selke winner off this team. Bob Gainey may be the best defensive forward in NHL history and helped the Montreal Canadians win five Stanley Cup championships.
Pat Verbeek wasn't the biggest guy on the ice, but he was one of the best power forwards during his prime. Verbeek probably won't make the Hall of Fame, but his career production gets him on this team over Steve Larmer.
First Defensive Pair
Bobby Orr and Larry Robinson
Orr is the most dominant defenceman in NHL history. He won the Norris trophy for eight consecutive seasons.
Larry Robinson was integral part for six Stanley Cup winning teams. He also played in the playoffs for 20 consecutive seasons, an NHL record.
Second Defensive Pair
Paul Coffey and Larry Murphy
Paul Coffey was the most prolific scoring defenceman throughout the 1980's and 1990's. He won four Stanley Cups and three Norris trophies. Larry Murphy was once a teammate of Coffey, but had quite the career himself. Murphy was a three time All-Star and four time Stanley Cup champion. He is one of the better defenceman that never won the Norris Trophy.
Third Defensive Pair
Chris Pronger and Scott Stevens
This would be a nightmare matchup for any scoring line. Pronger and Stevens are two of the most intimidating enforcers in NHL history.
Despite his villainous image, Pronger has been a winner everywhere he has gone in his career since his days with the Hartford Whalers.
Stevens was an equally important piece for those New Jersey Devils Stanley Cup teams as Martin Brodeur. His infamous bodychecks on Eric Lindros and Paul Kariya are still talked about amongst hockey fans.
Starter: Ken Dryden
Backup: Tony Esposito
He only played for eight seasons, but Ken Dryden secured his place amongst the best goalies ever with five Vezinas and six Stanley Cup championships.
Curtis Joseph has the most wins ever for a goalie without a championship ring but was never quite as dominant as Phil's younger brother.