The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Canadian Hockey Players of all time. This list of famous Canadian Hockey Players is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Canadian Hockey Players.
With an HPI of 66.40, Maurice Richard is the most famous Canadian Hockey Player. His biography has been translated into 31 different languages on wikipedia.
Joseph Henri Maurice "Rocket" Richard (; French: [ʁiʃaʁ]; August 4, 1921 – May 27, 2000) was a Canadian professional ice hockey player who played 18 seasons in the National Hockey League (NHL) for the Montreal Canadiens. He was the first player in NHL history to score 50 goals in one season, accomplishing the feat in 50 games in 1944–45, and the first to reach 500 career goals. Richard retired in 1960 as the league's all-time leader in goals with 544. He won the Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player in 1947, played in 13 All-Star Games and was named to 14 post-season NHL All-Star Teams, eight on the First-Team. In 2017 Richard was named one of the 100 Greatest NHL Players in history. His younger brother Henri also played his entire career with the Canadiens, the two as teammates for Maurice's last five years. A center nicknamed the "Pocket Rocket", Henri was on a league record 11 championship teams, and enshrined alongside Maurice in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Richard, Elmer Lach and Toe Blake formed the "Punch line", a high-scoring forward line of the 1940s. Richard was a member of eight Stanley Cup championship teams, including a league record five straight between 1956 and 1960; he was the team's captain for the last four. The Hall of Fame waived its five-year waiting period for eligibility and inducted Richard in 1961. In 1975 he was inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame. The Canadiens retired his number, 9, in 1960, and in 1999 donated the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy to the NHL, awarded annually to the league's regular season leading goal-scorer. The oldest of eight children, Richard emerged from a poverty-stricken family during the Great Depression. He was initially viewed as a fragile player. A string of injuries prevented him from joining the Canadian military during the Second World War. Outspoken and intense, he was renowned for his physical and occasionally violent style of play. Richard was involved in a vicious on-ice incident late in the 1954–55 season during which he struck a linesman. NHL President Clarence Campbell suspended him for the remainder of the season and playoffs, which precipitated the Richard Riot in Montreal. The riot has taken on a mythical quality in the decades since and is often viewed as a precursor to Quebec's Quiet Revolution. Richard was a cultural icon among Quebec's francophone population; his legend is a primary motif in Roch Carrier's short story The Hockey Sweater, an emblematic work of Canadian culture. In 1998, Richard was diagnosed with abdominal cancer and died from the disease two years later. He became the first non-politician honoured by the province of Quebec with a state funeral.
With an HPI of 66.05, Wayne Gretzky is the 2nd most famous Canadian Hockey Player. His biography has been translated into 54 different languages.
Wayne Douglas Gretzky (; born January 26, 1961) is a Canadian former professional ice hockey player and former head coach. He played 20 seasons in the National Hockey League (NHL) for four teams from 1979 to 1999. Nicknamed "The Great One", he has been called the greatest hockey player ever by many sportswriters, players, and the NHL itself. Gretzky is the leading scorer in NHL history, with more goals and assists than any other player. He garnered more assists than any other player scored total points, and is the only NHL player to total over 200 points in one season – a feat he accomplished four times. In addition, Gretzky tallied over 100 points in 16 professional seasons, 14 of them consecutive. At the time of his retirement in 1999, he held 61 NHL records: 40 regular season records, 15 playoff records, and 6 All-Star records.Born and raised in Brantford, Ontario, Canada, Gretzky honed his skills at a backyard rink and regularly played minor hockey at a level far above his peers. Despite his unimpressive stature, strength and speed, Gretzky's intelligence and reading of the game were unrivaled. He was adept at dodging checks from opposing players, and consistently anticipated where the puck was going to be and executed the right move at the right time. Gretzky became known for setting up behind his opponent's net, an area that was nicknamed "Gretzky's office".Gretzky was the top scorer in the 1978 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships. In June 1978, he signed with the Indianapolis Racers of the World Hockey Association (WHA), where he briefly played before being traded to the Edmonton Oilers. When the WHA folded, the Oilers joined the NHL, where he established many scoring records and led his team to four Stanley Cup championships. Gretzky's trade to the Los Angeles Kings on August 9, 1988, had an immediate impact on the team's performance, eventually leading them to the 1993 Stanley Cup Finals, and he is credited with popularizing hockey in California. Gretzky played briefly for the St. Louis Blues before finishing his career with the New York Rangers. Gretzky captured nine Hart Trophies as the most valuable player, 10 Art Ross Trophies for most points in a season, two Conn Smythe Trophies as playoff MVP and five Lester B. Pearson Awards (now called the Ted Lindsay Award) for most outstanding player as judged by his peers. He led the league in goal-scoring five times and assists 16 times, won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy for sportsmanship and performance five times, and often spoke out against fighting in hockey.After his retirement in 1999, Gretzky was immediately inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, making him the most recent player to have the waiting period waived. The NHL retired his jersey number 99 league-wide, making him the only player to receive such an honour. Gretzky was one of six players voted to the International Ice Hockey Federation's (IIHF) Centennial All-Star Team. Gretzky became executive director for the Canadian national men's hockey team during the 2002 Winter Olympics, in which the team won a gold medal. In 2000, he became part-owner of the Phoenix Coyotes, and following the 2004–05 NHL lock-out, he became the team's head coach. In 2004, Gretzky was inducted into the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame. In September 2009, following the Phoenix Coyotes' bankruptcy, Gretzky resigned as head coach and relinquished his ownership share. In October 2016, he became partner and vice-chairman of Oilers Entertainment Group.
With an HPI of 65.74, Gordie Howe is the 3rd most famous Canadian Hockey Player. His biography has been translated into 38 different languages.
Gordon Howe (March 31, 1928 – June 10, 2016) was a Canadian professional ice hockey player. From 1946 to 1980, he played twenty-six seasons in the National Hockey League (NHL) and six seasons in the World Hockey Association (WHA); his first 25 seasons were spent with the Detroit Red Wings. Nicknamed "Mr. Hockey", Howe is often considered the most complete player to ever play the game and one of the greatest of all time. At his retirement, his 801 goals, 1049 assists, and 1850 total points were all NHL records that stood until they were broken by Wayne Gretzky, who himself has been a major champion of Howe's legacy. A 23-time NHL All-Star, he still holds the NHL records for most games and seasons played. In 2017, Howe was named one of the "100 Greatest NHL Players".Howe made his NHL debut with the Red Wings in 1946. He won the Art Ross Trophy for leading the league in points each year from 1950–51 to 1953–54, then again in 1956–57 and 1962–63, for a total of six times, which is the second most in NHL history. He led the NHL in goal scoring four times. He ranked among the top ten in NHL scoring for 21 consecutive years and set an NHL record for points in a season (95) in 1953, a record which was broken six years later. He won the Stanley Cup with the Red Wings four times and won six Hart Trophies as the NHL's most valuable player. He also led the NHL in playoff points six times. Howe retired for the first time in 1971 and was immediately inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame that same year. He was then inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame the next year, but came back two years later to join his sons Mark and Marty on the Houston Aeros of the WHA. Although in his mid-40s, he scored over 100 points twice in six years, won two straight Avco World Trophies (1974 and 1975) and was named most valuable player in 1974. He made a brief return to the NHL in 1979–80, playing one season with the Hartford Whalers, then retired at age 52. His involvement with the WHA was central to their brief pre-NHL merger success, forcing the NHL to recruit European talent and expand to new markets. Howe was most famous for his scoring prowess, physical strength and career longevity, and redefined the ideal qualities of a forward. He is the only player to have competed in the NHL in five different decades (1940s through 1980s); he also played a shift in a 1997 game for the Detroit Vipers of the IHL, playing professional hockey for a sixth decade. He became the namesake of the "Gordie Howe hat trick": a goal, an assist and a fight in the same game, though he only recorded two such games in his career. He was the inaugural recipient of the NHL Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008.
With an HPI of 63.28, Henri Richard is the 4th most famous Canadian Hockey Player. His biography has been translated into 17 different languages.
Joseph Henri Richard (February 29, 1936 – March 6, 2020) was a Canadian professional ice hockey player who played centre with the Montreal Canadiens in the National Hockey League (NHL) from 1955 to 1975. He was nicknamed "Pocket Rocket" after his older brother, Canadiens' legend and fellow Hockey Hall of Famer Maurice "Rocket" Richard. Henri won 11 Stanley Cups as a player, the most in NHL history. In 2017 Richard was named one of the '100 Greatest NHL Players' in history.
With an HPI of 62.15, Phil Esposito is the 5th most famous Canadian Hockey Player. His biography has been translated into 22 different languages.
Philip Anthony Esposito ( ESP-ə-ZEE-toh, Italian: [eˈspɔːzito]; born February 20, 1942) is a Canadian broadcaster, and former professional ice hockey executive, coach and player. A member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, he played 18 seasons in the National Hockey League for the Chicago Black Hawks, Boston Bruins and New York Rangers. He is considered one of the greatest players of all time, and is the older brother of fellow Hall-of-Famer Tony Esposito, a goaltender. After retiring as a player, Esposito served as head coach and general manager of the New York Rangers before co-founding the Tampa Bay Lightning. He was the principal studio analyst for the NHL on Fox 1995–1998. He now serves as Tampa Bay's radio colour commentator. In 2017, Esposito was named one of the '100 Greatest NHL Players' in history.
With an HPI of 61.12, Bobby Hull is the 6th most famous Canadian Hockey Player. His biography has been translated into 26 different languages.
Robert Marvin Hull OC (born January 3, 1939) is a Canadian former ice hockey player who is regarded as one of the greatest players of all time. His blonde hair, legendary skating speed, end-to-end rushes, and ability to shoot the puck at very high velocity all earned him the name "The Golden Jet". His talents were such that one or two opposing players were often assigned just to shadow him—a tribute to his explosiveness. In his 23 years in the National Hockey League (NHL) and World Hockey Association (WHA), Hull played for the Chicago Black Hawks, Winnipeg Jets, and Hartford Whalers. He won the Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player twice and the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's leading point scorer three times, while helping the Black Hawks win the Stanley Cup in 1961. He also led the WHA's Winnipeg Jets to Avco Cup championships in 1976 and 1978. He led the NHL in goals seven times, the second most of any player in history, and led the WHA in goals one additional time while being the WHA's most valuable player two times. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983, the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 1997, and received the Wayne Gretzky International Award in 2003. In 2017 Hull was named one of the '100 Greatest NHL Players' in history.
With an HPI of 60.03, Georges Vézina is the 7th most famous Canadian Hockey Player. His biography has been translated into 19 different languages.
Joseph Georges Gonzague Vézina (; French: [ʒɔʁʒ vezina]; January 21, 1887 – March 27, 1926) was a Canadian professional ice hockey goaltender who played seven seasons in the National Hockey Association (NHA) and nine in the National Hockey League (NHL), all with the Montreal Canadiens. After being signed by the Canadiens in 1910, Vézina played in 327 consecutive regular season games and a further 39 playoff games, before leaving early during a game in 1925 due to illness. Vézina was diagnosed with tuberculosis, and died on March 27, 1926. The only goaltender to play for the Canadiens between 1910 and 1925, Vézina helped the team win the Stanley Cup in 1916 and 1924, while reaching the Stanley Cup Finals three more times. Nicknamed the "Chicoutimi Cucumber" for his calm composure while in goal, Vézina allowed the fewest goals in the league seven times in his career: four times in the NHA and three times in the NHL. In 1918, Vézina became the first NHL goaltender to both record a shutout and earn an assist on a goal. At the start of the 1926–27 NHL season, the Canadiens donated the Vezina Trophy to the NHL as an award to the goaltender who allowed the fewest goals during the season. Since 1981, the award has been given to the most outstanding goaltender as determined by a vote of NHL general managers. In Vézina's hometown of Chicoutimi, the sports arena is named the Centre Georges-Vézina in his honour. When the Hockey Hall of Fame opened in 1945, Vézina was one of the original nine inductees, and in 2017 the NHL included him on their list of the 100 greatest players in league history.
With an HPI of 59.87, Mario Lemieux is the 8th most famous Canadian Hockey Player. His biography has been translated into 39 different languages.
Mario Lemieux (; French: [ləmjø]; born October 5, 1965) is a Canadian former professional ice hockey player. He played parts of 17 National Hockey League (NHL) seasons (his whole NHL career) with the Pittsburgh Penguins from 1984 to 2006, assuming ownership in 1999. Nicknamed "The Magnificent One" or Le Magnifique (as well as "Super Mario"), he is widely acknowledged to have been one of the greatest players of all time. A gifted playmaker and fast skater despite his large size, Lemieux often beat defencemen with fakes and dekes.Drafted first overall by the Penguins in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft, Lemieux led Pittsburgh to consecutive Stanley Cup championships in 1991 and 1992. Under his ownership, the Penguins won additional titles in 2009, 2016, and 2017. He is the only man to have his name on the Cup as both a player and an owner. He also led Team Canada to an Olympic gold medal in 2002, a championship at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, and a Canada Cup in 1987. He won the Lester B. Pearson Award as the most outstanding player voted by the players four times, the Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player (MVP) during the regular season three times, the Art Ross Trophy as the league's points leader six times, and the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoffs MVP in 1991 and 1992. He is the only player to score one goal in each of the five possible situations in a single NHL game, a feat he accomplished in 1988. At the time of his retirement, he was the NHL's seventh-highest career points scorer with 690 goals and 1,033 assists. He ranks second in NHL history with a 0.754 career goals-per-game average, behind only Mike Bossy (0.762).Lemieux was never able to play a full season, and during his career he played in 70 or more games in a season on only six occasions. Lemieux's career was plagued by health problems that limited him to 915 of a possible 1,430 regular season games between the opening of the 1984–85 campaign and the final game of 2005–2006. Lemieux's NHL debut was on October 11, 1984 and his final game took place on December 16, 2005. His numerous ailments included spinal disc herniation, Hodgkin's lymphoma, chronic tendinitis of a hip-flexor muscle, and chronic back pain so severe that other people had to tie his skates. He retired on two separate occasions due to these health issues, first in 1997 after battling lymphoma before returning in 2000, and then a second and final time in 2006 after being diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. Lemieux also missed the entire 1994–95 season due to Hodgkin's lymphoma. Despite his lengthy absences from the game, his play remained at a high level upon his return to the ice; he won the Hart Trophy and scoring title in 1995–96 after sitting out the entire previous season, and he was a finalist for the Hart Trophy when he made his comeback in 2000. In 1999, he bought the then-bankrupt Penguins and their top minor-league affiliate, the American Hockey League's (AHL) Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, and is currently the team's principal owner and chairman. The Hockey Hall of Fame inducted Lemieux immediately after his first retirement in 1997, waiving the normal three-year waiting period; upon his return in 2000, he became the third Hall of Famer (after Gordie Howe and Guy Lafleur) to play after being inducted. Lemieux's impact on the NHL has been significant: Andrew Conte of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review called him the saviour of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and after Lemieux's retirement, Wayne Gretzky commented that "You don't replace players like Mario Lemieux ... The game will miss him." Bobby Orr called him "the most talented player I've ever seen." Orr, along with Bryan Trottier and numerous fans, speculated that if Lemieux had not suffered so many issues with his health, his on-ice achievements would have been much greater. In 2017, he was named one of the "100 Greatest NHL Players". In 2004, he was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame.
With an HPI of 59.40, Bobby Orr is the 9th most famous Canadian Hockey Player. His biography has been translated into 32 different languages.
Robert Gordon Orr (born March 20, 1948) is a Canadian former professional ice hockey player, widely acknowledged as one of the greatest of all time. Orr used his ice skating speed, scoring, and play-making abilities to revolutionize the position of defenceman. He played in the National Hockey League (NHL) for 12 seasons, starting with 10 with the Boston Bruins followed by two with the Chicago Black Hawks. Orr remains the only defenceman to have won the league scoring title with two Art Ross Trophies. He holds the record for most points and assists in a single season by a defenceman. Orr won a record eight consecutive Norris Trophies as the NHL's best defenceman and three consecutive Hart Trophies as the league's most valuable player (MVP). Orr was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1979 at age 31, the youngest to be inducted at that time. In 2017 Orr was named by the National Hockey League as one of the "100 Greatest NHL Players" in history. After his hockey career, he became a well-known scout for many professional teams. He also spends time talking to and mentoring young skaters. Orr started in organized hockey at age eight. He first played as a forward but moved to defence and was encouraged to use his skating skills to control play. Orr's play in Ontario provincial competition attracted the notice of NHL scouts as early as age twelve. At fourteen, Orr joined the Oshawa Generals, the Bruins' junior hockey affiliate, and he was an all-star for three of his four seasons. In 1966, Orr joined the Boston Bruins, a team that had not won a Stanley Cup since 1941 and had not qualified for the playoffs since 1959. With Orr, the Bruins won the Stanley Cup twice, in 1970 and 1972, and lost in the 1974 Final. In both victories, Orr scored the clinching goal and was named the playoff MVP. In the final achievement of his career, he was the MVP of the 1976 Canada Cup international hockey tournament. In 1976, Orr left Boston as a free agent to join the Black Hawks, but repeated injuries had effectively destroyed his left knee, and he retired in 1978 at age 30. Orr's first professional contract was one of the first in professional ice hockey to be negotiated by an agent. It made him the highest-paid player in NHL history as a rookie. His second contract was the first million-dollar contract in the NHL. However, after his retirement, Orr learned he was deeply in debt and he had to sell off most of what he owned. Orr broke with his agent Alan Eagleson and sued the Black Hawks to settle his contract. Orr and his family returned to Boston where Orr went into business to rebuild his finances. Orr aided the investigations that led to Eagleson's fraud convictions and disbarment. Orr also supported the lawsuit that exposed the corruption of the NHL's pension plan. Orr entered the player agent business in 1996 and today is president of the Orr Hockey Group agency. The agency represents over 20 active NHL players. Orr is also active in charitable works and in television commercials. Since 1996, Orr has coached a team of junior hockey players in the annual CHL Top Prospects Game. Orr was married in September 1973 to Margaret Louise Wood. He is the father of two sons and is a grandfather.
With an HPI of 58.22, Guy Lafleur is the 10th most famous Canadian Hockey Player. His biography has been translated into 19 different languages.
Guy Damien Lafleur (born September 20, 1951), nicknamed "The Flower" and "Le Démon Blond", is a Canadian former professional ice hockey player. He was the first player in National Hockey League (NHL) history to score 50 goals and 100 points in six consecutive seasons. Between 1971 and 1991, Lafleur played for the Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers and Quebec Nordiques in an NHL career spanning 17 seasons, and five Stanley Cup championships in 1973, 1976, 1977, 1978, and 1979 (all with the Canadiens). In 2017 Lafleur was named one of the '100 Greatest NHL Players' in history.
Pantheon has 92 people classified as hockey players born between 1885 and 1997. Of these 92, 82 (89.13%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living hockey players include Wayne Gretzky, Phil Esposito, and Bobby Hull. The most famous deceased hockey players include Maurice Richard, Gordie Howe, and Henri Richard. As of October 2020, 22 new hockey players have been added to Pantheon including Bernie Geoffrion, Ernie Collett, and Bert McCaffrey.
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Which Hockey Players were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 10 most globally memorable Hockey Players since 1700.