NHL – Five Players Who Changed The Game

25 Jul

The game that started out being played on frozen ponds in Canada has evolved a great deal over the years. Here are five players who changed the game in professional hockey:

1. Jacques Plante – the veteran Montreal Canadiens’ goaltender changed the game forever when he became the first to don a mask on a regular basis, going against the macho attitude of the old guard at the time. He also was the first goalie to play the puck outside the crease in support of his defensemen – another facet of the game that is now considered standard procedure. Plante won 6 Stanley Cups with the Habs.

2. Borje Salming – the Swedish-born defenseman was one of the first European players to make a major impact in the NHL, opening the floodgates for future generations of players from overseas. Those players brought with them a wide-open style of play that changed the way the game is played in North America. Prior to Salming’s arrival, the few Europeans who gave the NHL a try were considered soft and had a reputation for avoiding the physical play of the North American game, but Salming, in playing 16 seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, showed the toughness and stamina that wiped out that stereotype. Salming was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1996.


3. Bobby Orr – he was the first of what today is referred to as the “offensive defensemen”. Prior to his arrival in the NHL, defensemen were mainly plodding, slow-skating “stay-at-home” players who defended the front of their net and did little else. Orr revolutionized the position, using his speed, skating and puck-handling ability to join the offensive rush and become a real scoring threat. In fact, he even won the Art Ross Trophy, awarded to the league’s highest scorer for a season, twice in his career, a feat unheard of before Orr came along. His game wasn’t all about offense, however, as he won eight consecutive Norris Trophies as the best defensemen and 3 MVP Awards.

4. Wayne Gretzky – obviously these players aren’t being listed in order of importance as to their impact on the game, since no player in NHL history changed the game as much as “The Great One” did. Gretzky re-wrote the league’s record book and set standards that most likely will never be matched again. He holds 40 regular season records and 15 playoff records. Scoring 100 points in a season (total of goals and assists combined) is a feat only the league’s top superstars ever accomplish. Gretzky is the only player in league history to top 200 points in a season, and he did it 4 times. Number 99 won 9 Hart Trophies as league MVP, and is unquestionably the greatest hockey player of all time.

5. Maurice Richard – “The Rocket” was a legendary player with the dominating Montreal teams of the 1940s, 1950s and early ’60s, serving as captain of the team also. He changed the game in that he was the first player to score 50 goals in a season, doing it in 50 games in 1944/45. He helped the Habs win 8 Stanley Cups, and also helped change the game by speaking out against perceived prejudice against French-Canadian players by league officials.


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