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Homenhl

Top 10 oldest players in NHL history

Profile Picture: Drew Levison

November 30th, 2021

Hockey is a sport for rugged bodies gliding at high-speeds towards each other and resulting in collisions of epic proportions on a frigid, icy surface. In other words, a game for the young. Or is it?

In the history of the National Hockey League, there are both current and legendary examples of players whose bodies defied Father Time to last way beyond their expected "best by" dates. Join us now as we count down the top 10 oldest players in NHL history.

10. Mario Lemieux

Position: Center
Age in final game:
40
Teams:
Pittsburgh Penguins
Years active:
1985-2006

One of the all-time greatest to play the game, Mario Lemieux played most of 17 years for the Pittsburgh Penguins. In the process, he racked up 1,895 points in 1,022 games. That places him seventh all-time on the points list. But here’s the thing: "The Magnificent One" suffered numerous injuries that impacted his career totals. There are some who say that he may have had as many as Wayne Gretzky has he been healthier. Regardless, retiring at 40, with his pedigree, was astounding.

9. Niklas Lidstrom

Position: Defense
Age in final game:
41
Team:
Detroit Red Wings 
Years active:
1992-2012

Regarded as one of the greatest defensemen in all of NHL history, Swedish-born Lidstrom played 20 seasons for the Detroit Red Wings. In that time, he helped the Wings to four Stanley Cup championships, he won the Norris Trophy (awarded to the league’s best defenseman) no less than seven times(!), and was the first European ever named as the NHL’s playoff MVP. His durability and consistency at the position paired with his on-ice hockey IQ and vision were unparalleled in his era.

8. Joe Thornton 

Position: Center
Age in final game:
42
Teams:
Boston Bruins, San Jose Sharks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers
Years active:
1998-present

This entry is notable for the fact that Joe’s still going strong. One of only two active players on this list, Thornton was selected first overall by the Boston Bruins in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. That’s the same year that Radiohead’s OK Computer was released, if you’re playing the home game. Today, he continues to ply his trade (and sporting his signature, Paul Bunyan-esque beard) for the Florida Panthers. In between, the game’s current elder statesman has had stops in San Jose, Toronto and overseas playing for HC Davos of the Swiss league. Way to go, Joe!

7. Dominik Hasek 

Position: Goalie
Age in final game:
43
Teams:
Chicago Blackhawks, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators,
Years active:
1991-2008

One of two goalies on this list, "The Dominator" was an in-net force to be reckoned with throughout his lengthy career. The Czech netminder was a wall during the 1990s and early 2000s, backstopping the Chicago Blackhaws, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings and Ottawa Senators throughout his 16-years in the league. Oh, and he’s also a two-time Stanley Cup champ who holds the record for most Vezina Trophy wins. Now that’s domination.

6. Teemu Selanne

Position: Right Wing
Age in final game:
43
Teams:
Winnipeg Jets, San Jose Sharks, Colorado Avalanche, Anaheim Ducks
Years active:
1993-2014

This Finn played 21 seasons in the NHL for four teams – the Winnipeg Jets, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche. During that time, Teemu became the highest-scoring Finnish-born player in NHL history and sits in 11th on the list of all-time NHL point-getters with 1,457 points. In 2017, Teemu was named one of the "100 Greatest NHL Players" in history by a Blue Ribbon panel of distinguished members of the hockey community and was just the second Finn ever elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

5. Zdeno Chara

Position: Defense
Age in final game:
44
Teams:
New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators, Boston Bruins, Washington Capitals
Years active:
1998-present

The other active player on this list, "Z", as his teammates like to call him, is still going strong into his mid-40s. Currently playing for the New York Islanders, the 6’9” defenseman is a massive presence on the ice. His size and wingspan make him one of the toughest players to skate against, because he can reach opposing players while they’re still two or more strides away. Drafted by the Ottawa Senators in 1996, he’s also played for Boston and the Washington Capitals. And everywhere he’s gone, he’s been a literal "tower" of defensive strength. And that’s "Z" scoop on Chara.

4. Jaromir Jagr

Position: Center
Age in final game:
45
Teams:
Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, New York Rangers, Dallas Stars, Boston Bruins, New Jersey Devils, Florida Panthers, Calgary Flames
Years active:
1991-2018

This one’s a little complicated. "Jaro" retired from the NHL four years ago. Though no longer active as an NHLer, at 49, he’s still playing his heart out for Team Kladno in the Czech league - and he shows no signs of wanting to slow down. That said, the NHL portion of his career was spectacular! He sits third all-time in points (2,122) after playing for nine teams. He’s most renowned for being a gloriously mulleted Robin to Mario Lemieux’s Batman during their time together in Pittsburgh, as they dominated the league together for a stretch in the late 1990s early 2000s. Check back here in about 10 years to find out how Jagr at 60 is crushing it in the Czech league.

3. Johnny Bower

Position: Goalie
Age in final game:
45
Teams:
New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs
Years active:
1954-1970

Ah, classic! Nicknamed "The China Wall" for his uncanny ability to stop puck, Bower played in the Golden Age of hockey from 1945 to 1969. He was a four-time Stanley Cup champ with the Toronto Maple Leafs (after being traded from the New York Rangers). In fact, he’s the last goalie to win a Cup in Toronto, as the Leafs have gone fallow since being backstopped by Bower for their last championship win in 1967. What’s even more remarkable is the fact that Bower had poor eyesight. Some players just have an instinct, and Bower had a nose for the puck.

2. Chris Chelios

Position: Defense
Age in final game:
48
Teams:
Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Atlanta Thrashers
Years active:
1984-2000

They don’t come much tougher – or much more durable – than good ol’ Kristos! A three-time Stanley Cup champ (one with the Montreal Canadiens and two with the Detroit Red Wings), Chelios holds the record for most games played in the NHL by a defenseman (1,651) as well as the record for most career playoff games played (266). Oh, he is also tied with Gordie Howe for most NHL seasons played (26). "Chelly" also has the dubious distinction for being in the most postseason losses at 117. No other player in any other professional sport in North America comes close to that backhanded "honor".

Annnnd… the oldest NHLer in league history is none other than...

1. Gordie Howe

Position: Right Wing
Age in final game:
52
Teams:
Detroit Red Wings, Hartford Whalers
Years active:
1947-1980

What to say about Mr. Howe (as Wayne Gretzky used to call his hockey idol)? Aside from the fact he played the pro game at a high level into his early 50s (his early 50s!), he was the inspiration to a generation of would-be greats. Gretzky wore #99 on his jersey in honour of Howe’s #9 with the Detroit Red Wings (and later the expansion Hartford Whalers).

Though he sits fourth overall in all-time points (1,850) his legend is cemented into the fabric of the game. In fact, there’s a trifecta situation in the game nicknamed after him – the Gordie Howe Hat Trick. To get one, a player has to score a goal, get an assist, and also get a penalty all in the same game. It’s a testament to Howe’s tenacious style of play combined with his undeniable skills as a goal scorer and playmaker. There could be only one "Mr. Hockey" and Howe will forever be that man.

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