Choosing the six greatest hockey players of all time at each position -- a Hall of Fame All-Star squad if you will -- is a mind-boggling task. Not only do you have to slice and dice your choices from over 5,000 players who have played in the League since its inception to a half dozen, you also have to pass over so many legends from so many different eras in order to come to your final picks.
For example, who do you select as your all-time greatest center? Wayne Gretzky? Mario Lemieux? Phil Esposito, Stan Mikita, Marcel Dionne, Darryl Sittler, Jean Beliveau or Mark Messier? How about your left wing? Do you go with Bobby Hull? Luc Robitaille? Dave Andreychuk or Michel Goulet? To round out the top line, who is your right wing of choice? Gordie Howe? Mike Bossy? Jari Kurri? Guy Lafleur or Maurice Richard?
In your defensive zone, which two defensemen would you choose to patrol the blue line? Bobby Orr? Ray Bourque? Paul Coffey? Larry Robinson? Denis Potvin? Doug Harvey? Chris Chelios? Eddie Shore? The choices don't get easier when you have to pick your netminder. Who do you go with when names such as Ken Dryden, Patrick Roy, Terry Sawchuk, Jacques Plante, Grant Fuhr, Dominik Hasek, Billy Smith, Tony Esposito and Gump Worsley are staring you in the face?
Questions, questions, questions!
There are no right or wrong choices for this all-star squad, just a lot of individual opinions.
Wayne Gretzky -- Gretzky didn't get the nickname "The Great One" for nothing. The NHL's all-time leading scorer not only won four Stanley Cups in his career, he also holds almost every scoring record in NHL history. In 1,487 games, Gretzky tallied 894 goals and 1,963 assists for 2,857 total points in his high-scoring career. The Brantford, Ontario native also won nine Hart trophies as the League's MVP, 10 Art Ross trophies as the NHL's top scorer and two Conn Smyth Trophies as the playoff's most valuable player. The 20-year veteran appeared in the All-Star Game every year in his career. Gretzky, who was voted a First Team All-Star eight times in his career, also was the only player ever to be named win the game's MVP while representing three different teams. No. 99 holds the individual records for most goals (92), assists (163) and points (215) in the regular season. He also is the highest scoring center in League history. During his time in the NHL, Gretzky registered 14 100-or-more point seasons, four 200-point seasons, nine 50-or-more goal seasons, five 60-or-more goal seasons and two 80-or-more goal seasons. His No. 99 was retired by the League after he hung up his skates for good after the 1998-99 season. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Nov. 22, 1999.
Bobby Hull -- No left wing during his era struck fear in the hearts of goalies more than Bobby Hull. "The Golden Jet" not only had a deft scoring touch around the net, he also had a shot that was clocked at 120 mph, making him a netminder's nightmare. The Chicago Blackhawks great tallied 610 goals and 560 assists in his illustrious career. Hull won the Art Ross trophy as the League's scoring champion three times (1960, '62, '66) and won the Hart trophy as the regular season MVP twice (1965, '66). The lethal winger also led the Blackhawks to their first Stanley Cup championship since 1938, when he notched four goals and 10 assists in 12 postseason games during the 1960-61 season. Hull recorded 129 points in 119 career playoff games off 62 goals and 67 assists. In January 1970, Hull was voted the top NHL player of the 1960s by the Associated Press. He was also voted a First Team All-Star 10 times in his career and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1973.
Gordie Howe -- Judging from his first year in the NHL, Howe didn't play like he was going to be the best right wing of all time. The 18-year-old Saskatchewan native made his NHL debut at the tender age of 18 with the Detroit Red Wings in the 1946-47 season, tallying only seven goals and 22 points in 58 games. But the six-foot, 205-pound forward did create a buzz with his feisty, physical style. In his second season, Howe doubled his on-ice production, registering 44 points off 16 goals and 28 assists. He went on to play 24 more years in the NHL, winning six Hart Trophies as the League's MVP, six scoring titles and was voted a First Team All-Star 12 times. Howe also played in the most All-Star Games of any NHLer (23), compiling 10 goals and nine assists along the way. Howe, who also played for the Hartford Whalers, finished with 801 goals and 1,049 assists for a grand total of 1,850 points in 1,767 games. The high-scoring winger also led the Red Wings to four Stanley Cup championships in his tenure in Detroit. "Mr. Hockey" played in All-Star games spanning five decades and more impressively also played professional hockey in six decades. The former Detroit great was one of the first true power forwards in the game, who combined a deft scoring touch to go along with his ruggedness. "The Production Line" member finished his career with 1,685 penalty minutes on his NHL resume. Howe was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972.
Doug Harvey -- Harvey is probably the best all-around defenseman of all time. The former Montreal Canadiens backliner, who played in the League from 1947 until 1969, could do it all on both sides of the puck. He not only was selected to the NHL All-Star team 11 consecutive times, he also won an impressive seven Norris Trophies in eight years from 1955 to 1962. The 20-year NHL veteran also won six Stanley Cup championships in his career. Harvey, who recorded 540 points in 1,113 games, was a huge piece of the Canadien squad that won five straight Cups from 1956 to 1960. One needs to look no further than to Hall of Famer Toe Blake's quote on Harvey to find out what type of player he was. "Doug Harvey was the greatest defenseman who ever played hockey – bar none." Harvey was elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1973.
Bobby Orr -- If there was one player who revolutionized the way defensemen play in the NHL it was Orr. The former Boston Bruins' defender not only brought an offensive element to what was mostly a defensive position when he came into the League in 1966, he also proved that forwards weren't the only ones who could dominate games. In his Hall of Fame career, Orr won the Art Ross trophy for the League scoring championship twice (1970, 1975), becoming the only defenseman to ever accomplish the feat. The world-class player also won the Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman eight consecutive times and also reeled in the Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player three times. In the postseason, Orr was just as good, as he helped lead the Bruins to two Stanley Cup titles during his time wearing the black and gold. Orr not only tallied the game-winner in both title wins, he also garnered the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP both times. The former rookie of the year scored 270 goals and 645 assists in his majestic career. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1979.
Patrick Roy -- No goaltender in the history of the NHL has had more success between the pipes than Roy. The Colorado Avalanche goaltender not only holds the record for regular-season wins in the NHL, he also is the all-time leader in victories in the playoffs. The Quebec City native has captured four Stanley Cup championships in his stellar career (two with Montreal and two with Colorado). In his rookie year, he not only won his first-ever Stanley Cup, but also captured his first Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP. The former Canadien goaltender is the youngest player ever to win the distinguished award (20) and also is the only player ever to win the trophy three times. The future Hall of Famer has won the Vezina trophy three times, the William Jennings Trophy four times and has played in 10 NHL All-Star Games. Roy is the NHL's all-time leading goaltender in games, minutes and shutouts in the postseason and the all-time leader in 10-plus win playoff seasons (8). The Avalanche goalkeeper has won 20 games or more 16 times, 30 or more 12 times and 40 or more one time in his noteworthy career.