As part of the NHL Centennial Celebration, renowned Canadian artist Tony Harris will paint original portraits of each of the 100 Greatest NHL Players presented by Molson Canadian as chosen by a Blue Ribbon panel. NHL.com will reveal two portraits each Monday in 2017.
This week, the portraits of forward Andy Bathgate and center Steve Yzerman are unveiled in the 23rd installment.
Bathgate's brilliance often was obscured because he spent much of his career with the New York Rangers during what was largely a down period in their history. For many fans, he's remembered mostly as the player whose backhand shot hit Montreal Canadiens goaltender Jacques Plante in the face on Nov. 1, 1959, leading Plante to become the first NHL goaltender to wear a mask on a regular basis.
However, Bathgate also finished among the NHL's top four scorers in eight consecutive seasons. He tied Bobby Hull of the Chicago Black Hawks for the League scoring lead in 1961-62, though Hull was awarded the Art Ross Trophy because he scored 50 goals to Bathgate's 28. Bathgate won the Hart Trophy in 1959 as the NHL's most valuable player.
As author Stu Hackel writes in his NHL100 profile of Bathgate, 10 months before the Plante incident, Sports Illustrated put Bathgate on the cover, calling him the "most exciting player" in hockey.
"Sports Illustrated's Kenneth Rudeen wrote, 'Already conceded to be the finest player to put on the red, white and blue uniform of the New York Rangers since the heyday of the great prewar wing Bad Bill Cook, Bathgate was making the best start of his short but dazzling career. He shot magnificently, skated with the puck so well that he stirred old-timers to memories of the great stick-handlers of bygone days and passed the puck with uncanny timing and aim.'
"He would capture the Hart Trophy that season, scoring 40 goals (the first Ranger to do so) and adding 48 assists. Bathgate had received serious Hart consideration in the two previous seasons as well. But what made his '59 selection striking was the Rangers -- who had made the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the three prior seasons and finally looked like a Cup contender for a good chunk of the season -- blew a nine-point lead with two weeks remaining and missed the postseason when they lost their final game. But that didn't prevent the voters from naming Bathgate the NHL's most valuable player by a substantial margin over [Gordie] Howe."
"My painting of Andy Bathgate is another in the long list of original six subjects," Harris said. "My resource photo was black and white so getting the colors right was a little challenging, but all in all I was happy how it turned out."
Video: Andy Bathgate had it all: talent, toughness, looks
Yzerman almost had two careers in one during his 22 seasons in the NHL, all spent with the Detroit Red Wings.
In the first, he was one of the League's top scorers, setting Red Wings records with 65 goals, 90 assists and 155 points in 1988-89, when he won the Lester B. Pearson Award (now the Ted Lindsay Award), given to the NHL's Most Outstanding Player as selected by the NHL Players' Association. In the second, he sacrificed some offense but improved his all-around game and become one of the NHL's greatest leaders, captaining the Red Wings to the Stanley Cup in 1997, 1998 and 2002 and winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 1988.
In his NHL100 profile of Yzerman, author Bob Duff writes about Yzerman's understated leadership style.
"Yzerman wasn't the type of captain that gave fire-and-brimstone speeches. He led by quiet example.
" 'Being captain, it's a recognition of leadership,' Hall of Fame left wing and former Red Wings captain Ted Lindsay said. 'A quality [is] that you have to hold your team together, make them perform as a unit.
"'I think Steve Yzerman would be the best illustration. Steve Yzerman didn't kick any butt. He used to show guys how to do it. I think this is where lots of mistakes are made by people who think a guy gets in the dressing room and he makes a big show. That's not true leadership. You do it by leading by example.'
"' You do it the way Yzerman did.' "
"He's the best leader I've ever seen," former teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Luc Robitaille said.
"Steve Yzerman and I are the same age and I have always felt that he is one of the most dynamic and versatile players of my generation." Harris said. "Any player that records 155 points and kills penalties is worthy of being named to the top NHL100."
Video: Steve Yzerman was Detroit's captain for 19 seasons