In the 95-year history of the NHL, the League has yet to see an Obama -- or a Romney for that matter -- crack an NHL roster. Several U.S. presidents, however, have shared surnames with former NHL players, with 26 players sharing the last name of the 28th President, Woodrow Wilson. Plenty of Taylors, Harrisons and Johnsons abound in NHL history, and as millions of people line up at the polls Tuesday in the United States and decide whether Barack Obama will receive another four years or if Mitt Romney will become the 44th man to sit in the Oval Office, it seems appropriate to see which presidentially named players could make up an all-time competitive starting lineup.
Much like the standard pool of players at the annual NHL Draft, some positions and names are deeper than others. The goaltenders with presidential names are not a particularly large group, for example, and some presidents only get so many matches. William Howard Taft for instance shares a surname with just one NHL player -- defenseman John Taft, who played 15 games for the Detroit Red Wings during the 1978-79 season. Of course that still makes Taft one better than Abraham Lincoln, who, despite being considered by many historians as the greatest president in U.S. history, has never shared a last name with an NHL player. Neither has the first U.S. president, George Washington.
Still, there is a formidable group of those that share monikers with former presidents; some, like former Colorado Rockies and Hartford Whalers forward Randy Pierce, were probably better hockey players than their counterparts were presidents. Of course, whether Pierce's body of work (138 points in 277 games) is really more impressive than Franklin Pierce's (the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 and the Gadsden Purchase in one term) is subject to debate.
But debating season is over. It's Election Day, and here is our best shot at the all-time presidential team:
C - Mark Johnson: For a group of players that share names with U.S. Presidents it seems reasonable that the top-line center should be someone so closely associated with USA Hockey's finest moment. Johnson was a pivotal player for the U.S.'s "Miracle on Ice" team at the 1980 Winter Olympics and scored two goals in the historic medal-round upset of the Soviet Union, but his NHL statistics were impressive enough in their own right to make U.S. presidents Andrew Johnson and Lyndon B. Johnson proud. In 669 games with the Penguins, North Stars, Whalers, Blues and Devils Johnson scored 203 goals and added 305 assists.
LW - Harvey "Busher" Jackson: Andrew Jackson's presidency was one of the most transformative the White House ever saw, and while Busher's career didn't impact the NHL like Old Hickory's impacted the U.S., his 15 NHL seasons landed him in the Hall of Fame with good reason. Jackson scored 241 goals and added 234 assists in 633 games between 1929 and 1944; he led the League in scoring in 1932 with Toronto and won a Stanley Cup that same season. If may not be a career with the same lasting impact of dismantling the Bank of the United States and providing the impetus for the modern-day Democratic Party, but Jackson was still one of the top goal-scorers of his day.
RW - Dave Taylor: Zachary Taylor's legacy as President probably has more to do with brevity than policy achievements. While his administration set the stage for the Compromise of 1850, which some historians say delayed the U.S. Civil War, Taylor died just 16 months into office, giving him the third-shortest Presidency in history. By contrast, Dave Taylor left the NHL with a full and impressive resume. Taylor played his entire career (1,111 games) with the Los Angeles Kings, appearing in four All-Star Games and scoring 431 goals to go with 638 assists.
D - Tom Johnson: In the days before Bobby Orr, blueliners were expected to stay at home rather than join the rush. Johnson managed to get his fair share of points considering his era (51 goals and 213 assists in 978 games), but his longevity and defensive stability were hallmarks of a career in which Johnson played in eight All-Star Games and won six Stanley Cups with Montreal. Johnson's achievements landed him in the Hall of Fame in 1970.
D - Doug Wilson: In perhaps the strongest combination of president and player, Woodrow Wilson and Doug Wilson both left impressive legacies in their respective shadows. Woodrow's presidency saw the establishment of the U.S. Federal Reserve as well as victory in World War I. Doug did his best to match, scoring 237 goals and adding 590 assists in 1,024 games with Chicago and San Jose. Wilson's best season in 1981-82, in which he had 39 goals and 46 assists in 76 games, is among the finest campaigns by a blueliner in any era.
G - John Adams: John Adams had a career that is hardly attention-grabbing. In a total of 22 games over two seasons with Boston and, appropriately, Washington, Adams had a 9-10-1 record with a 4.32 goals-against average. Those numbers aren't stellar, but Adams is the only player in NHL history who has both the same first and last name as a U.S. president -- and in this case, he happens to share his first and last name with two of them. This is enough to give him the nod over Jim Harrison, who had a 28-59-9 record with a 4.22 GAA over six seasons with four teams -- though Harrison's career was more impressive than William Henry Harrison's, which lasted only 32 days after a bout with pneumonia likely brought on by his refusal to wear an overcoat while delivering a lengthy speech during a chilly inauguration day.
Coach - Bob Johnson: Ron Wilson gives Bob Johnson a close run as the finest coach to share a name with a U.S. president. Wilson has a 648-561-101-91 record, compared with Johnson's 234-188-51 mark. But "Badger Bob" (Mark Johnson's father), despite having fewer wins, had a higher career winning percentage and might have come close to Wilson's victory total had he not tragically died of cancer in 1991. That, along with Johnson's 1991 Stanley Cup victory with Pittsburgh and his induction a year later into the Hockey Hall of Fame, put him above the rest.
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