NHL All-Time Top 10: 10 Best Players To Wear Sweater No.1
There have been a lot of different players to don jersey No.1 in the National Hockey League over the years. It's a number dominated by the goaltending position, and there definitely have been some greats over the year. The sweater has a lot of history to it, demonstrated by the fact that five of the Original Six teams have retired, or at least acknowledged the number (all except Boston).
Who do you think should be considered the best NHL player to wear sweater #1?
Retired sweaters who have worn #1 include:
Eddie Giacomin, New York Rangers
Glenn Hall, Chicago Blackhawks
Bernie Parent, Philadelphia Flyers
Jacques Plante, Montreal Canadiens
Terry Sawchuk, Detroit Red Wings
Honored players include:
Johnny Bower, Toronto Maple Leafs
Turk Broda, Toronto Maple Leafs
WRITER'S NOTE: I tried to focus on players who spent the majority of their career with sweater No.1. Players like Gerry Cheevers or Grant Fuhr, both of whom made the Hall of Fame, spent most of their careers wearing a different number, and were not accounted for in this list.
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10. Roberto Luongo
I think the hardest choice I had to make on this list in terms of where to put him, was Roberto Luongo. Because he is still accumulating stats by playing in today's NHL, its hard to match him up against some of the legends of the past who played in a much different era. While I may take some flack for it, I am going to hold Luongo's lack of playoff success against him, as he has only won three playoff series over three seasons, and never played in the Conference Finals. It's not necessarily fair to lay all that blame at his feet, but then again, the competition he is going against is pretty fierce to say the least.
Luongo was originally drafted by the New York Islanders fourth overall in the 1997 NHL draft. He would only play 22 games for the franchise, before being dealt to the Florida Panthers along with Olli Jokinen for Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha on June 24, 2000. It obviously turned out to be a deal the Islanders would regret, but hindsight is always 20/20.
Luongo played in 317 games over five seasons with the Panthers, posting a 108-154-41 record with a very good 2.68 GAA and very impressive .920 save percentage, while posting 26 shutouts. He also would play in his first All-Star game, earning the nod in 2004. Unfortunately, the talent around him was certainly not the best, and he never tasted the post-season in a Panthers uniform, only coming within seven points of a playoff spot in his final season in Florida.
He would be dealt along with Lukas Krajicek and Florida's 6th round choice (Sergei Shirokov) in 2006 Entry Draft for Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan Allen and Alex Auld. It definitely is not a deal that was nowhere near as one-sided as the move that brought Luongo to Florida.
While Luongo developed into a prominent player in Florida, it is in Vancouver where his career has really taken off, and made him the star he is today. In 324 games (through Sunday April 3rd), Luongo has a record of 192-100-33 (a .631 win percentage), with a 2.35 GAA and a .919 save percentage, while adding 27 shutouts. His best statistical year was his first in Vancouver (2006-07) when he had 47 wins in 76 games, with a 2.29 GAA and .921 save percentage.
For the Luongo, the one knock on his resume has been his playoff performance, where he is 17-17 in 34 playoff games. While he does have respectable numbers of a 2.46 GAA with a .919 save percentage, in the playoffs, it comes down to wins, and there haven't been enough up until now. With Vancouver one of the favorites in this year's playoffs, Luongo can do a lot to impact his legacy by how he succeeds or fails. A Stanley Cup and/or Vezina Trophy will likely have him climb higher up this list.
9. Eddie Giacomin
Eddie Giacomin played in 609 games over a 13-year career in the NHL, with the New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings. He is best known for his time with the New York Rangers, where he spent his first 10-plus seasons.
Giacomin was a six-time All-Star, and was elected as a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1987. His best season was his Vezina Trophy winning season in 1970-71, when he posted a 27-10-7 record with a 2.16 GAA and a league-leading eight shutouts. He was, and still is, one of the most beloved Rangers in their history, with perhaps the likes of Mark Messier, Mike Richter and Brian Leetch the conversation of the favorite sons of Rangers fans in their history.
A great example of this was the night of November 2, 1975, when Giacomin returned to Madison Square Garden as a Detroit Red Wing, his first game n New York after being waived by the Rangers just two nights earlier (and claimed by Detroit). The home crowd turned on the home team Rangers and started with chants of "ED-DIE, ED-DIE," in a Red Wings 6-4 victory. The night still to this day is considered one of the highlights in the famed history of Madison Square Garden.
His all-time career stats included a record of 289-209-96, with a 2.82 GAA and 54 shutouts. In the post-season, he was never able to get the Rangers over the hump and win the elusive Stanley Cup and didn't get a chance to play in the post season as a Red Wing.
Forever No.1 in the heart of Rangers fans (and the retired jersey hanging in the rafters), Giacomin is an NHL legend, who's contribution went beyond just the stats and is a great player to be included in this top 10.
8. Harry Lumley
Harry Lumley was a 16-year NHL veteran who played for five of the Original Six teams, only not having played for the Montreal Canadiens during his career. Lumley's career started at the tender age of 17, when he appeared on two games for the Detroit Red Wings.
He would get loaned to the New York Rangers to play 20 minutes against the Red Wings, covering for an injury to Rangers goalie Ken McAuley.
Lumley's NHL career would take off for the first time in 1944, when he came up from the minors with Detroit and took the starting job away from Cinnie Dion. He helped bring the Red Wings to within a game of a Stanley Cup, before bowing to Toronto in a hard fought seven-game series, a team that would be the nemesis of the Red Wings during Lumley's time with Detroit.
Lumley and the Wings were victorious in 1950, mostly thanks to the play of Lumley, who overcame the loss of star forward Gordie Howe to win the Cup. Lumley was the star, posting a playoff best 1.86 GAA and posting 3 shutouts.
Despite leading his team to a championship, Detroit GM Jack Adams wanted to open a spot for a new goalie he was grooming to be the next starter, a kid named Terry Sawchuk. Because of this, Harry Lumley was dealt to Chicago as part of a nine-player deal in July 1950.
Chicago was a tough team to be a part of for Lumley, as the team just wasn't very good during his time there. In two seasons, he posted just 29 wins, leaving him short of the total he posted in either of his last two years in Detroit (33 and 34).
It was in September of 1952 that Toronto acquired Harry Lumley from Chicago in a deal that saw Toronto send four players to Chicago. It is as a Maple Leaf that Lumley played his best statistical hockey, putting up two amazing years, including an NHL all-time high 13 shutouts in the 1953-54 season. Lumley added a Vezina Trophy that season, but wasn't able to win a playoff round with the Leafs, despite his regular season statistics, the overall team wasn't that good.
In May 1956, he was sent back to Chicago for cash and Eric Nesterenko, where he did not appear again in the NHL. He was then sent to Boston for cash in January 1958, where he would go on to play in parts of two seasons for the Bruins.
For his career, Lumley posted a 330-329-142 record in 803 games, with a 2.75 GAA and 71 shutouts. Elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1980, Lumley's contributions to the game went far beyond the stats show, and is revered in both Toronto and Detroit for the prowess he showed between the pipes.
7. Gump Worsley
There were two distinct different phases to the career of the lovable Lorne "Gump" Worsley. After growing up in the poverty of the Great Depression, Worsley worked his way to the New York Rangers in 1952 at the age of 23. It was there he began a lengthy NHL career, that lasted 861 games over 21 seasons.
In his ten seasons with the New York Rangers, Worsley never won a playoff series. It's hard to put much blame on Worsley, who was usually under siege, facing 30-plus shots seemingly on a nightly basis. He played extremely well, but didn't seem to get rewarded in his record, as he post a winning record in just two of those ten seasons, earning a "lovable loser" label.
In June 1963, Worsley was "saved" from New York by his hometown Montreal Canadiens, in a seven-player deal that sent Jacques Plante to the Rangers. From this point forward, the second phase of Gump Worsley's career began, and that was of a great winner. In a five-season period from 1964-65 to 1968-69, Worsley led the Habs to four Stanley Cups, posting a sub-2 GAA in each of those playoffs. It was quite a change from his days to New York, to say the least.
Worsley would develop such a fear of flying that it curtailed his career after a nervous breakdown in 1969 and seemingly ending his NHL career. The expansion Minnesota North Stars took a chance on Worsley, adding him in 1970, where Worsley led the Stars to three first-round playoff exits.
While the great Gump Worsley doesn't have the gaudy stats to match some of the contemporaries of his era, he still is considered one of the all-time greats, and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1980, despite just a career record of 335-352-150 and a career GAA of 2.88 and 43 shutouts. With the performance he put up in Montreal in his seven seasons there, one can only wonder what his numbers would've been like had he spent his entire career with more defensive responsible teams.
He might've ranked significantly higher than his current standing on this list, but he will have to settle for being No.7.
6. Johnny Bower
In the days of the Original Six era, getting a job at the NHL was difficult to say the least. However, for a goaltender, the task was that much more difficult, as there were only six jobs available. In those days, teams didn't keep a backup goaltender on the roster.
For Johnny Bower, his career was that of pure determination, where many would have given up before his NHL career even started. After a military career in which Bower served starting at age 15 (by lying in his paperwork), Bower came very close to being a part of the Normandy D-Day invasion. A day or two before the invasion occurred, Bower and eight fellow men in his company got sick enough that they had to be hospitalized. That illness may very well have saved Bower's life. If not, it all but saved his hockey career.
Although he was discharged from the Army with severe acute form of arthritis in his hands, to the point his stick hand would lock up in a claw position after games. He stayed patient through 13 years in the minor leagues, including winning MVP and best goalie in the AHL three times, and best goalie in the WHL once during that time.
Although he had a one year stint as a starter with the New York Rangers in 1953-54 (and a cup of coffee the following two seasons), it was not until 1958-59 season when Punch Imlach gave Bower the opportunity to emerge as the No.1 goalie for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Bower took advantage of his opportunity, as he started 475 games in net for the Leafs between 1959 and 1970, at the ages of 34 to 45. Over that time, Bower won four Stanley Cups, including three in a row from 1961 to 1963. He won two Vezina Trophies and back-to-back-to-back goals against average titles from 1963-64 to 1965-66 and also was a part of four All-Star Games.
Bower was known for his fearlessness and grace as an NHL goalie, but was widely known for his poke check, when he would come flying at the skates of an attacking forward to knock the puck away with his stick and eliminate any scoring opportunity.
His career stats saw him post a record of 250-159-90 in 552 games with a 2.51 GAA and 37 shutouts. After retiring in 1969, Bower was voted to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1975.
5. Bernie Parent
Bernie Parent is a great example of a player who had an amazing run over a five or six season period, but unfortunately due to injury, left the game way too early. The Montreal native started his NHL career with the Boston Bruins. After parts of two seasons, he was taken by the Philadelphia Flyers from the Boston Bruins in the 1967 Expansion Draft.
Parent would have a really good first season in Philadelphia, posting a 2.48 GAA in just 38 games, helping the Flyers get a playoff berth in their inaugural season. He played two-plus seasons with very solid numbers, before being dealt to the Toronto Maple Leafs on February 1, 1971 in a five-player/pick trade.
His Maple Leafs career was short lived, but Parent did learn under his idol, Jacques Plante, who was with Toronto at the time. He would go on to become the first Maple Leaf to bolt for the WHA's Philadelphia Blazers. He would play just one season in the league because of a pay dispute, before orchestrating his return to the Flyers by Philadelphia re-acquiring Parent in a May 15, 1973 deal from Toronto.
It was after the return to Philadelphia that Parent's career rose to the level of greatness. Known for his great ability to play the angles (and the required agility to maintain his angles), Parent would be in net for the Broad Street Bullies that won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1974 and 1975. If Bobby Clarke was the heart and soul of the team, than Parent was without a doubt the rock and backbone of the team, as he won both the Vezina and Conn Smythe Trophies each of the two seasons.
His 47 victories in 1973-74 would remain a league record until eclipsed by Martin Brodeur in 2007. His 1.89 and 2.03 goals against average in 1973-74 and 1974-75 were both league bests, as well as was the 12 shutouts he posted each season. Parent was simply the top goalie in the league on back-to-back defending Stanley Cup Champions when an unfortunate very severe neck injury occurred, requiring surgery, and limiting him to just 11 games in the 1975-76 season, one in which ended with a loss in the Finals to Montreal.
One can only wonder if the Flyers would've been able to beat Montreal had Parent been healthy for that season. Parent would return to form from the knee injury, but a couple of seasons later, on February 17, 1979, Parent suffered a career-ending eye injury at the age of 33, after a high stick damaged Parent's eye to the point it impacted Parent's depth perception and sight enough that Parent never played in the NHL again.
His No.1 was retired by the Flyers on October 11, 1979 and was enshrined into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1984, but like many great players in the world of professional sports who fell victim to unfortunate injury, fans alike are left to debate how well Parent stacks up against many of the other all-time greats.
4. Walter "Turk" Broda
"Mr. Maple Leaf" Walter "Turk" Broda wasn't the most athletic looking player and at times, was asked to lose a few pounds off his bulging frame. One famous incident took place between Broda and the legendary Conn Smythe, who at one point replaced Broda until his weight was lowered to a number Smythe was comfortable with.
Growing up in Winnipeg, Broda certainly wasn't the best skater, as several reports discuss how he was put into the net as a kid because of his poor skating ability. I hope at some point Broda thanked those very kids who put him in net, because that decision eventually enabled Broda to become one of the legends of hockey that he became. He was definitely the money goalie of his time, and would be part of any argument for in the history of the game.
Broda won five Stanley Cups as a Maple Leaf (1942, 1947, 1948, 1949 & 1951), two Vezina Trophies (1940-41, 1947-48) and despite his excellent regular season numbers in net (629 GP, 302-224-101, 2.53 GAA, 62 shutouts), it was definitely the post season where his star shined the brightest. With a career playoff record of 60-39 in 101 games played, with a goals against average of 1.98 and 13 shutouts, Broda's resume speaks for itself.
His most famous playoff performance was probably in 1942, when he helped lead the Toronto Maple Leafs from a 3-0 deficit to come back and take the series in seven games against the Detroit Red Wings. It's the only time until this day that a comeback like that has taken place in the Finals (although it's been done twice by the New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers in other rounds since).
Voted to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1967, Broda was definitely not only of the best players to wear sweater No.1, he also is one of the all-time greats of the game. Not bad for a pudgy kid from Winnipeg, who also missed two-and-a-half years serving his country in World War II.
3. Glenn Hall
Glenn Hall is probably best known for his amazing ironman streak of 502 complete games he played in with the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks between the years of 1955 to 1962. Let's not overlook the fact that Hall posted this streak while not even wearing a mask over his face!
Once you get past the game streak, you've only begun to touch the tip of the iceberg on Hall's illustrious career. Glenn Hall is known as the grandfather of the butterfly-style of goaltending, a system utilized in some capacity by just about every, if not all goalies in the NHL today, even though many give the credit erroneously to Patrick Roy.
For the number crunchers and stat lovers, Hall also had incredible career numbers, posting a record of 407-327-163 in 906 career games over an 18-year career. He posted a 2.49 GAA (25th all-time) and had 84 shutouts (4th all-time), was an all-star 13 times, won the Calder Trophy in 1955-56, won three Vezina Trophys (1962-63, 1967-68, and also sharing one in 1968-69 with Jacques Plante), and a Conn Smythe trophy in a losing effort in 1968. He also led the NHL in wins four times, and goals against average once.
Hall also was a Stanley Cup winner for the Chicago Blackhawks in 1961, when he posted an amazing 2.02 GAA in 12 games (8-4) with two shutouts in the postseason run. He also had the distinction of being teammates with two of the other all-time greats, beginning his career learning under Terry Sawchuk in Detroit (before Sawchuk's being dealt to Boston) and ending his career as Jacques Plante's teammate in St. Louis.
Hall also helped lead the expansion St Louis Blues (after being claimed in the Expansion Draft) to the Stanley Cup Finals in their first year of existence, before bowing to the mighty Montreal Canadiens in four games. The next year he teamed with Plante, to form a star power duo that would help put St. Louis on the hockey map, thanks to consecutive trips to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Despite a pre-game tradition of normally becoming physically ill and throwing up, Glenn Hall did it all, which helped to earn him the nickname "Mr. Goalie," and good enough to put Hall near the top of this list. He also was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1975.
2. Terry Sawchuk
Terry Sawchuk was a hard man to understand off the ice throughout his life, which unfortunately, ended too soon. On the ice, he was one of the best players the NHL has ever seen. At the age of 12, Sawchuk injured his arm badly to the point that it had a serious break in it, but he never told anyone. As a result, Sawchuk had one arm that was two inches longer than the other. While it may have impacted the clothing he bought or wore, it certainly did not impact his level of play on the ice.
Sawchuk coming up with the team for a cup of coffee (7 games) in 1949-50, eventually left Detroit Red Wings GM Jack Adams with a gutsy decision to make, when he chose to trade Harry Lumsley, who was coming off a Stanley Cup Championship, to open the starting goaltender spot for Sawchuk before the 1950-51 season. Sawchuk would go on to make Adams look good, by winning the Calder Trophy that season, after leading the league in games, wins and shutouts. His 1.99 GAA was only good enough for second in the league.
The next four years, Sawchuk would do even better, as he posted a sub-2 GAA in each year, while also adding 45 shutouts, 151 wins, and more importantly, three Stanley Cup championships. Despite the success Sawchuk was having on the ice, injuries and a mental strain were taking their toll on him off the ice. As a result, he was constantly fighting injuries of all kinds, including a back injury, worries about his mental health, and a chest injury from a car accident, all impacted Sawchuk at different points in his career.
After his third Stanley Cup title in 1955, Sawchuk was traded to the Boston Bruins, in a 9-player deal. His time in Boston was cut short, as Sawchuk would "retire" from the Bruins in January 1957, from "nervous exhaustion." That summer, he would be dealt back to Detroit, where he seemed to feel more comfortable. However, the same level of success was not there for Sawchuk, mainly because of injuries, one after taking a Bobby Hull slap shot to the face, and also to his hand after having it skated over by Bob Pulford of Toronto.
That's not to say Sawchuk was bad or anything close to it, but he never did approach the sub-2 GAA he had in his first five seasons. Injuries were a primary culprit, as Sawchuk only played above 60 games in two of the seven years in his second stint with the Red Wings. This was after playing in at least 63 games each of his first full six years in the league (the seventh was when he "retired" and only played in 38).
He also never topped five shutouts in a year either, after having posted 66 in his first six-plus seasons. In 1964, he was left exposed in the Intra-League draft, and was taken by the Toronto Maple Leafs, where Sawchuk teamed up with Johnny Bower to form a very successful yet aging duo, capped by a Stanley Cup title in 1967, to this day, the last time Toronto captured the Stanley Cup.
After that Cup, his career took a downturn of sorts, being taken by the Los Angeles Kings in the 1967 Expansion Draft, where he played in just 36 games in the 1967-68 season before being dealt back to the Detroit Red Wings for a third stint. He played in one more season for the Red Wings, suiting up for just 13 games and was dealt that off-season to the New York Rangers, where he would play the final eight games of his career.
Tragedy found Sawchuk on the night of April 29, 1970, when he was allegedly wrestling and/or horsing around with teammate and close friend Ron Stewart, when Sawchuk fell awkwardly and needed to be rushed to a hospital. It led to the removal of Sawchuk's gall bladder, and about a month later, Sawchuk died from internal injuries brought on likely different events and injuries throughout his career.
His career numbers were about as good as anyone could ever hope for, as he was the first goalie to net 100 shutouts. In 971 career games, he had a record of 447-330-172, a GAA of 2.51 and 103 shutouts. Those numbers left Sawchuk as the game's all-time leader in wins and shutouts at the time his career ended. Due to the tragic nature of his untimely death, the normal five-year waiting period for election to the Hockey Hall of Fame was waived, and Sawchuk was inducted in 1971. He is in the top five of all-time goalies, and a case could easily be made for him to hold the top spot. Surprisingly, he is only No.2 on this list however.
1. Jacques Plante
When you are a six-time winner of the Stanley Cup, a 13-time All-Star and a seven time winner of the Vezina Trophy, it's hard to come up with an argument that anyone else who has worn your number is better than you. Despite some strong arguments from some of the other fellow Hall of Famers, I don't think they can touch the resume of Plante. He also revolutionized the position in a few different capacities, forever changing the position for future for all goalies that played the position.
Before Jacques Plante, goaltenders didn't even wear masks. On November 1, 1959, Plante would begin wearing a mask after taking an Andy Bathgate (of the New York Rangers) shot to the face, giving Plante a gash that required seven stitches. He would go on to tweak the mask (with the help of others), and helped to form it into what you see today. Plante also was the first goaltender who was known to wander out of the crease to help with loose pucks. I'm sure the Ron Hextalls and Martin Brodeurs can thank Plante for it becoming part of their craft.
As for his playing career, its hard to put into words how dominant Plante was throughout his career. He made it to the NHL for the first time at age 24, playing in four regular season and four playoff games for the Montreal Canadiens, where he helped win the 1953 Stanley Cup. It would be the first of many to come for Plante, who took control of the starting job in the 1954-55 season. Plante would play at least 52 games a year for the next six seasons.
During this time, the highest GAA Plante would put up was 2.54 in 1959-60, and Plante and the Canadiens would win five straight Stanley Cup titles from 1955-56 to 1959-60. Plante led the NHL in both regular season and playoff GAA each of those seasons, and also won the Vezina Trophy five times in a row over the same span.
Simply put, Plante was the best goalie in the league, and played for the best team in the league. But, before you say he was a product of his team, there are other instances Plante showed his excellence between the pipes. After being slowed down by injuries and even trips to the minor leagues, Plante was dealt to the New York Rangers in June 1963. He would play two seasons with the Rangers before retiring from the NHL.
After an exhibition game for the Jr. Canadiens in 1965, it may have motivated Plante some to return, but he did not return until the 1967 season when he tried to return with the Oakland Seals, first as a coach, but when it was discovered he was still property of the Rangers, Plante was unable to return with the Seals. The following off-season, he was claimed by the St. Louis Blues from the Rangers in the Intra-League draft, where he would play two more seasons at ages 40 and 41, posting spectacular numbers and picking up his seventh Vezina Trophy along the way.
In May 1970, Plante was sold to the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he continued his great play, leading the NHL with a 1.88 GAA in 1970-71, at the age of 42. He played one more plus season with Toronto before being traded to Boston in March 1973, where he played his final eight NHL games, going 7-1 with a 2.00 GAA and two shutouts.
For his career, Plante has numbers that few can come close to, posting a 437-246-145 record in 837 career NHL games, with 82 shutouts and a 2.38 GAA. His hardware includes eight All-Star appearances, seven Vezina Trophies, six Stanley Cups, five times leading the NHL in wins and a Hart Trophy in 1961-62. Look at the entire package of statistics and innovations, and its not hard to see why Jacques Plante tops this list.
Other notable players to wear No.1 in the NHL include: