NHL: 7 Best Over the Hill Athletes in NHL History

Mike Shannon@@DLman91Featured ColumnistJuly 28, 2011

NHL: 7 Best Over the Hill Athletes in NHL History

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    There is no other job besides athletics where your age is expected to match your performance level.  Athletes over 35 are considered "over the hill" and on the downside of their careers but that is not always the case.

    In the NHL, a player who has superior ice vision and skills can make up for a lack of speed and succeed at a high level.  There have been several players throughout the years who have defied Father Time but seven men in particular deked Father Time at the blue line and scored top shelf.

#7: Mark Recchi

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    The Recchin' Ball, aside from having one of the most strenuous workouts in NHL history, also managed to maintain a high level of play for 22 years in the league.  Recchi won three Stanley Cups during his career and also holds Philadelphia's single season scoring record with 123 points in 1992-1993.

    However, after Recchi turned 35, he didn't slow down at all.  He scored more than 20 goals in two seasons with the Penguins and, after bouncing around and landing with the Boston Bruins, Recchi remained a scoring threat and power play stalwart.

    Recchi's physical style of play would shorten the careers of most average men but, as Mark has proven time and time again, he his far from the average man.

    Career statistics after age 35:

        GP Goals Assists Points
    2005-06 Pittsburgh Penguins 63 24 33 57
    2005-06 Carolina Hurricanes 20 4 3 7
    2006-07 Pittsburgh Penguins 82 24 44 68
    2007-08 Pittsburgh Penguins 19 2 6 8
    2007-08 Atlanta Thrashers 53 12 28 40
    2008-09 Tampa Bay Lightning 62 13 32 45
    2008-09 Boston Bruins 18 10 6 16
    2009-10 Boston Bruins 81 18 25 43
    2010-11 Boston Bruins 81 14 34 48

#6: Chris Chelios

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    The "Ageless Wonder" Chris Chelios played over 1,600 games during his NHL career and only missed the playoffs twice.  Let me type that again so it is completely understood:  In 26 years in the National Hockey League, Chelios only missed the playoffs twice. 

    Since Chelios played until he was 48, it's almost possible to compare him to other "over the hill" athletes but, since I'm paid the big bucks, I will do my best. 

    After turning 35, Chelios played in two All-Star games and captained the United States hockey team at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, earning a silver medal.  In 2001-2002, he was an awesome plus-40 with the Red Wings and logged 126 penalty minutes the next year.

    Chelios finished his career 11th in penalty minutes and won three Stanley Cups.  Just the fact that Chelios was able to survive 26 years in the league is a testament to both his endurance and his high level of play.

    Career statistics after age 35:

        GP Goals Assists Points +/- PIM
    1998–99 Chicago Blackhawks 65 8 26 34 -4 89
    1998–99 Detroit Red Wings 10 1 1 2 5 4
    1999–00 Detroit Red Wings 81 3 31 34 48 103
    2000–01 Detroit Red Wings 24 0 3 3 4 45
    2001–02 Detroit Red Wings 79 6 33 39 40 126
    2002–03 Detroit Red Wings 66 2 17 19 4 78
    2003–04 Detroit Red Wings 69 2 19 21 12 61
    2005–06 Detroit Red Wings 81 4 7 11 22 108
    2006–07 Detroit Red Wings 71 0 11 11 11 34
    2007–08 Detroit Red Wings 69 3 9 12 11 36
    2008–09 Detroit Red Wings 28 0 0 0 1 18
    2009–10 Atlanta Thrashers 7 0 0 0 -2 2

#5: Jacques Plante

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    Jacques Plante, the first goaltender to wear a mask, was also the first goalie to venture outside his crease in order to play the puck.  He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1978 and had his number retired by the Montreal Canadiens as well.

    However, Plante was not just a trend-setter, he was also very successful after the "prime" of his career.  After turning 35, Plante won more than half of the games he started in every year except for once.  He also had an amazing 1.88 goals against average in 1970-71 while playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    Plante is recognized as one of the game's great goaltenders and his statistics speak for themselves.  His career stats obviously include his later years which are almost as impressive as his prime.

    Career statistics after age 35:

      GP W L T SO GAA
    1964–65 Baltimore Clippers AHL 17 6 9 1 1 3.01
    1968–69 St. Louis Blues NHL 37 18 12 6 5 1.96
    1969–70 St. Louis Blues NHL 32 18 9 5 5 2.19
    1970–71 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 40 24 11 4 4 1.88
    1971–72 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 34 16 13 5 2 2.63
    1972–73 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 32 8 14 6 1 3.04
    1972–73 Boston Bruins NHL 8 7 1 0 2 2.00
    1974–75 Edmonton Oilers WHA 31 15 14 1 1 3.32

#4: Dominik Hasek

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    The Dominator is a future Hall of Famer and holder of 25 Buffalo Sabres franchise records.  One of the most dominant (see what I did there?) goaltenders of the recent era, Hasek has 389 career wins to go along with 81 shutouts.  Seemingly owning a Slinky for a spine, Hasek made numerous highlight reel saves throughout his career and managed to win a Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings.

    In his later years, Hasek did not slow down, winning 41 games in 2001-02 and never allowed his goals against average to go above 2.5, an absolutely awesome achievement.  Hasek was the first goaltender to win the Pearson award for most outstanding player and won 6 Vezina's during his illustrious career.

    Career statistics after age 35:

      GP W L T SO GAA
    2000–01 Buffalo Sabres 67 37 24 4 11 2.11
    2001–02 Detroit Red Wings 65 41 15 8 5 2.17
    2003–04 Detroit Red Wings 14 8 3 2 2 2.20
    2005–06 Ottawa Senators 43 28 10 4 5 2.09
    2006–07 Detroit Red Wings 56 38 11 6 8 2.05
    2007–08 Detroit Red Wings 41 27 10 3 5 2.14
    2009–10 HC Pardubice 36 24 12 0 3 2.24
    2010–11 HC Spartak Moscow 44 23 18 3 7 2.45

#3: Nicklas Lidstrom

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    The only active player on this list, Lidstrom is one of the greatest defensemen to ever play the game and doesn't seem to be slowing down.  Lidstrom's accomplishments are almost too numerous to mention but here goes:  He's won four Stanley Cups, seven Norris trophies, and has been to 11 All-Star games.  He also won a gold medal at the 2006 Olympics, leading his native Sweden over Finland.

    Since turning 35, Lidstrom has remained the unquestioned leader of the Detroit Red Wings, missing only 28 games in his entire career.  Lidstrom also managed to score his first career hat trick at age 40 against the St. Louis Blues.

    Career statistics after age 35:

      GP G A P +/-
    2005–06 Detroit Red Wings 80 16 64 80 21
    2006–07 Detroit Red Wings 80 13 49 62 40
    2007–08 Detroit Red Wings 76 10 60 70 40
    2008–09 Detroit Red Wings 78 16 43 59 31
    2009–10 Detroit Red Wings 82 9 40 49 23
    2010–11 Detroit Red Wings 82 16 46 62 -2

#2: Johnny Bucyk

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    A large winger for his time, Bucyk was always overshadowed by Bobby Hull and never seemed to get the recognition he deserved as a scorer.  He retired as the fourth leading scorer of all-time and and scored over 550 goals. 

    After turning 35, Bucyk scored 183 goals with the Bruins and helped to lead one of the most feared power plays in the league.  While fans in Boston might realize how great Bucyk was, it's time the rest of the hockey world stood up and took notice as well.

    Career statistics after age 35:

          GP G A P
    1971–72 Boston Bruins NHL 78 32 51 83
    1972–73 Boston Bruins NHL 78 40 53 93
    1973–74 Boston Bruins NHL 76 31 44 75
    1974–75 Boston Bruins NHL 78 29 52 81
    1975–76 Boston Bruins NHL 77 36 47 83
    1976–77 Boston Bruins NHL 49 20 23 43
    1977–78 Boston Bruins NHL 53 5 13 18

#1: Gordie Howe

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    Mr. Hockey, what more is there to say?  Howe played hockey in four decades, won four Stanley Cups, six Hart trophies, six Art Ross trophies and is one of the greatest of all-time.

    An ambidextrous player, meaning he could shoot right or left handed, Howe scored 975 goals in his career which spanned two different hockey leagues.  He played 32 years in all, setting tons of records along the way and scoring 20 goals in 22 straight seasons. 

    I could continue to go on and on about Howe's amazing career but I'll let you scroll through the stats yourself.

    Career stats after age 35:

          GP G A P
    1963–64 Detroit Red Wings NHL 69 26 47 73
    1964–65 Detroit Red Wings NHL 70 29 47 76
    1965–66 Detroit Red Wings NHL 70 29 46 75
    1966–67 Detroit Red Wings NHL 69 25 40 65
    1967–68 Detroit Red Wings NHL 74 39 43 82
    1968–69 Detroit Red Wings NHL 76 44 59 103
    1969–70 Detroit Red Wings NHL 76 31 40 71
    1970–71 Detroit Red Wings NHL 63 23 29 52
    1973–74 Houston Aeros WHA 70 31 69 100
    1974–75 Houston Aeros WHA 75 34 65 99
    1975–76 Houston Aeros WHA 78 32 70 102
    1976–77 Houston Aeros WHA 62 24 44 68
    1977–78 New England Whalers WHA 76 34 62 96
    1978–79 New England Whalers WHA 58 19 24 43
    1979–80 Hartford Whalers NHL 80 15 26 41
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