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All Decade

Moment of the Decade: 100 Greatest NHL Players gala

Gathering of hockey legends for League's Centennial Celebration selected as best of 2010s

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / NHL.com Columnist

Moment of the Decade: NHL 100

Moment of the Decade: 100 years of the NHL

The NHL's celebration of 100 years of hockey earns the Moment of the Decade

  • 01:00 •

In the runup to the unveiling of the NHL First and Second All-Decade Teams on Jan. 24 (6:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN), the NHL will be announcing its best plays, moments, events, coaches and team of the 2010s.

One selection, chosen by NHL.com and NHL.com International staff members, will be unveiled each day in the runup to the release of the all-decade teams. Today is Moment of the Decade, which occurred at the NHL100 event in Los Angeles on Jan. 27, 2017, when the 100 Greatest NHL players were honored in a televised gala.  

 

Over 12 months in 2017, the NHL Centennial Celebration featured one spectacular event after another, the League celebrating its past, present and future on the 100th anniversary of its creation.

But no single moment was more breathtaking than a 90-minute gala on Jan. 27, both on stage and backstage at Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.

On New Year's Day 2017 in Toronto, the first 33 names on the list of 100 Greatest NHL Players were announced, giants of the game from 1917 through 1967 celebrated during the NHL Centennial Classic at Exhibition Stadium.

The remaining 67, chosen by a blue-ribbon panel to represent the League's second half-century, were saluted in a televised gala in Los Angeles. It would be the centerpiece of 2017 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend, a second group of players walking onto the stage to one crushing ovation after another.

Never before had so many of the NHL's greatest players been in one room. Indeed, it can never happen again.

Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, one of six active skaters on the 100 Greatest NHL Players list, tried to make sense of the gathering, his head swiveling as one legend after another wandered into a pre-gala cocktail party.
"There are so many," Crosby said. "To see Mario [Lemieux] and Wayne [Gretzky], then to see Maurice Richard's son here representing his father. It's incredible to see the trickle-down effect and what this all means to families."

Almost en masse, the legends made the short stroll from their hotel to Microsoft Theater through an adoring gauntlet of fans, oohs and ahhs and "Oh my God, look, it's…" rippling through the crowd.

"It's humbling to be here today," honoree Mark Messier said. "I probably played against most of these guys. If not, then I watched them intently growing up. And if they're older than that, then I knew about them through the history of the game. I'm not sure if there's been an event I've been to since being a part of the NHL that has had a room full of so many incredible ambassadors of this magnitude."

Backstage, Gretzky was being pulled through the curtain by the show's producers every 10 minutes, the NHL's Centennial Ambassador barely able to catch his breath.

"Overworked and underpaid!" he announced loudly to the laughter of everyone.

Awaiting his introduction, Boston Bruins icon Bobby Orr sat in tears as he watched a video paying tribute to his late friend, Gordie Howe.

Jokes were told, memories shared, war stories related that might even have been true.

The gala complete, every legend crowded onto the stage for a final bow to yet another standing ovation, finding old friends and new acquaintances for photos and to exchange contact information.

If the event was priceless, so too was it about one dollar.

Amid the chaos, Orr handed a grinning Gretzky a $1 note; something about a wager Orr had lost regarding how Gretzky would get his wife, Janet, up onto the stage.

"I don't remember exactly what the bet was," Gretzky would say with a grin over breakfast the following day. "But I do recall telling Bobby that if he signed that dollar bill, it would be worth $1,000."

 

All-Decade schedule:

Jan. 15: Save of the Decade: Braden Holtby, Game 2, 2018 Stanley Cup Final

Jan. 16: Coach of the Decade: Joel Quennevile

Jan 17: Franchise of the Decade: Chicago Blackhawks

Jan. 18: Playoff Series of the Decade: 2014 Western Conference Final, Los Angeles Kings vs. Chicago Blackhawks.

Sunday: Game of the Decade: 2013 Eastern Conference First Round, Game 7, Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

Monday: Event of the Decade: 2014 Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium

Tuesday: Moment of the Decade: NHL100 in Los Angeles

Wednesday: Goal of the Decade

Friday: First and Second All-Decade Teams

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