LOS ANGELES — Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Bobby Orr are on top of many people’s lists for the greatest NHLer of all time.
But according to the trio, none of ’em are No. 1.
“Gordie [Howe] in my mind is the best player to ever play the game,” Orr said at Friday’s press conference ahead of the NHL100 announcement.
Gretzky and Lemieux agreed, with Gretzky saying all three would vote for Howe as No. 1.
The trio was gathered as part of tonight’s gala event, in which the NHL will celebrate its centennial by naming the top 100 players of all time. And while there won’t be a numerical assignment to the players named — it’s just a collection of the 100 best — there was universal reverence and respect paid to Howe, who passed away last June at the age of 88.
Howe made his NHL debut in 1946, at the age of 18. He went on to become one of the most dominant players of his era, capturing four Stanley Cups, six Hart Trophies as league MVP and another six Art Ross trophies as the league’s top scorer.
Howe retired in 1971, but came out of retirement to play alongside sons Marty and Mark, and spent his final NHL campaign in Hartford during the 1979-80 campaign, at the age of 51.
In doing so, Howe became the oldest player to ever play in an NHL contest, a record that remains unbroken.
That longevity was a big reason why Gretzky, Orr and Lemieux called him the greatest of all time. Though Lemieux did note one of his former teammates is honing in on that record.
“That’s pretty rare these days,” Lemieux said of playing ’til the age of 51. “Well, except for my buddy [Jaromir] Jagr.”