Wayne Gretsky was born in Ontario, Canada in 1961. Gretsky played the center forward position in the National Hockey League (NHL) for 21 seasons and four different teams. Nicknamed the "The Great One," Gretsky has more goals and assists than any other player in NHL history. He played the majority of his career with the Edmonton Oilers where he captured the four Stanley Cup Championships. Grestky was named MVP of the NHL nine times, and is the only player in history to record 200 points in a season. The craziest part is that he did this four times in his career.
He holds the record for most goals in a season with 92 scored and is the fastest player to reach 50 goals in a season; this took Gretsky only 39 games. In 1988, Gretsky was traded to the Los Angeles Kings, where he helped bring the culture of ice hockey to the west coast of the United States which skyrocketed interest and participation within the Golden State. Gretsky wore the number 99 and it is the only number retired by the entire NHL, which speaks to the significance of Gretsky.
Gordie Howe, who played right wing, was referred to as "Mr. Hockey" during his playing days and held many records until Gretsky broke them. Howe was born in Saskatchewan, Canada on March 31st, 1928. He played the majority of his career with the Detroit Red Wings and was part of its famous "Production Line." The Red Wings had a dominant offense and were one of the best teams in the league in the 1940s and 1950s.
Howe is known for his dominant play for so many seasons, playing until he was 52 and a total of 32 seasons across the NHL and World Hockey Association (WHA). He finished in the top five for scoring in 20 consecutive seasons, and was the first NHL player to reach 1000 points. Howe retired from the NHL in 1971, but two years later came out to play with his two sons in the WHA for the Houston Aeros. In 1974, he won the MVP for the WHA and played until 1977, when he and his two sons joined the New England Whalers. He was named MVP of the NHL six times throughout his career, and will be remembered for his great scoring and dominant physical play.
Bobby Orr is often regarded as the best defensive player in NHL history and known for his incredible fast skating. Orr's career was shortened over the years due to injuries and he played a total of 12 seasons in the NHL, 10 with the Boston Bruins. In the 1969 and 1974 NHL seasons Orr led all players in the league in scoring, and is the only defensive player to win this award.
Orr was not only a great defensive player, but he was able to skate around other teams on offense and his play style was revolutionary to players today. He won a total of 18 awards to go along with his 2 Stanley Cup Championships. After his great years in Boston, Orr played the final two seasons of his career with the Chicago Blackhawks, but only played a total of 26 games in both those seasons as injury began to tear down him. Orr will be remembered as the ultimate "what if" story in hockey if he had not been forced to retire early at the age of 30, due to painful damage in his knees.
Mario Lemieux played 17 seasons in the NHL all for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Lemeuix, who played center had an intimidating build standing at 6-foot-4, and 230 pounds, but was still a very quick skater. He was a prolific scorer; he was the highest in the league six times and had ten 100 point seasons. Like Orr, Lemeuix also struggled with health issues and was forced to retire for three years during the prime of his career.
Still Lemeuix battled and returned to the ice, and was named an all star his first year back. In the 1988 season, he came so close to breaking the 200 point barrier, but falling just short with 85 goals and 114 assists. Lemieux was able to capture the MVP title three separate times throughout his career, and will be remembered for his great dominance on the ice, as well as his great generosity through Mario Lemieux Foundation off the ice.
Maurice Richard was nicknamed "Rocket" and played right wing. He is known as one of the best scorers in the NHL, and the league named the scoring trophy after him. Richard played for the Montreal Canadiens and was a super star in the 1950s. His most famous goal came in 1952 in game seven against the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup. Forced into the locker room due to a concussion, and later returned to the ice to score the winning goal. He was the first player to score 50 goals in a season, when the season only lasted 50 games, and also the first player in history to record 500 career goals.
In his eighteen-year career Richard was voted an all-star for fourteen of them, and was named the MVP in the 1946-47 NHL season. He was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 1961 and will be remembered just like all these on the lists, as one of the greatest ice hockey players of all time.