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Esposito, Yzerman make NHL's Top 100 players list

The two major architects of the Lightning organization were included in the league's countdown.

by Bryan Burns /

The Tampa Bay Lightning didn't see any former or current players make the 100 Greatest NHL Players list, unveiled by the league Friday night as part of this weekend's All-Star Game festivities at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

But two of the major architects of the organization were included in the countdown.

Lightning vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman and Bolts franchise founder Phil Esposito were among the 67 players announced on Friday - the first 33, who played predominantly during the NHL's first half century were named Jan. 1 at the Centennial Classic in Toronto - as members of the top 100 as selected by hockey executives, media members and NHL alumni.

"To be included in the top 100, I'm very proud," Esposito said. "I think it's quite an honor, especially when you think of all the guys that played in the league."

Esposito was a two-time Stanley Cup winner as a member of the Boston Bruins and played in 10 NHL All-Star Games during his 19 seasons in the league between the Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks and the New York Rangers.

Esposito won the Art Ross Trophy five times, the Lester B. Pearson Award three times and the Hart Memorial Trophy two times. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1984 and had his No. 7 jersey retired by the Bruins in 1987.

"As a kid, you just want to play in the NHL," said Esposito, who ranks 10th all-time in the NHL for scoring (1,590 points), sixth for goals (717), fourth for power-play goals (249) and second for game-winning goals (118). "You just want to play. But to be in the Hall of Fame and then to win scoring championships and MVP awards and Stanley Cups, it was a dream come true."

Esposito was the driving force behind Tampa Bay being granted a conditional expansion franchise on December 6, 1990 and was the Lightning president and general manager when the team began play during the 1992-93 season.

A bronze statue of Esposito stands outside AMALIE Arena, greeting fans as they walk up the steps to enter the rink.

Esposito currently serves as the color commentator on Lightning radio broadcasts.

"I had so many great memories and moments in the league, but the absolute top, the crumbles on top of the ice cream sundae, was getting the Tampa Bay Lightning," Esposito said. "To me, it's my greatest achievement. It's nice being a part of the 100, but getting the Lightning is the absolute pinnacle."

Yzerman won three Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings as a player and another as a Red Wings executive in 2008. He was a 10-time NHL All-Star Game selection, won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1998, the Lester B. Pearson Award in 1989 and the Selke Trophy in 2000.

At the age of 21, Yzerman was named captain of the Red Wings, becoming the youngest captain in the history of the franchise, and he would hold that honor for 19 seasons, the longest captain tenure in NHL history.

Yzerman currently ranks seventh all-time in the NHL for scoring (1,755), eighth for assists (1,063), ninth for goals (692), tied for 10th for game-winning goals (94) and third for shorthanded goals (50)

In 2007, the Red Wings retired Yzerman's No. 19. In 2009, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

With Tampa Bay, Yzerman was named the NHL's General Manager of the Year following the Lightning's run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2015. The Lightning have played in three Eastern Conference Finals and one Stanley Cup Final during Yzerman's seven-season reign as general manager.

The 100 Greatest NHL Players list was compiled as part of the celebration surrounding the Centennial year of NHL hockey in 2017.  

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