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The Last of the Great Six

July 9, 2009

One interesting thing about hockey and I is that I’ve been a hockey fan at two very separate points in my life. One was my childhood – from, say, five or so (1986-87) to twelve or thirteen (1994-95). The other is in the last few years, starting around 2006-07 onward. As a child I tended to be a fan of teams whose jerseys I liked (in order: Quebec Nordiques, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers), or teams that had players I liked (mostly the Penguins). These days, of course, I’m a Montreal Canadiens fan.

All this serves to bring about the fact that, as a child, there were six players who, in my view of the world, stood head and shoulders above the rest. These players were by and large loyal (only one of them played for more than two teams his entire career, and only one of them ever signed with another team during free agency, all the other switched teams only when they were traded, or when their team moved and changed name).

They might not have been the players I considered the best players (though all of them were very good). They might not have been stellar people in their behavior. But all of them, to the child me, personified hockey. They were Patrick Roy, Raymond Bourque, Steve Yzerman, Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky, and Joe Sakic.

Of the six, only Sakic still played by the time I got back into hockey, a few years ago. Gretzky retired in 1999, Bourque in 2001, Roy in 2003, Lemieux (for the second time) and Yzerman in 2006. And today, Sakic announced his retirement.

It’s going to be strange, hockey without Joe Sakic playing.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 10, 2009 1:59 am

    There are great hockey players? ^_~

    Clearly, the useful period for hockey players must be longer than most games – the only game I’m really familiar with the players with, baseball, runs out of them fairly quickly. I can’t think of a player from when I was a kid that’s still playing, let alone at a top level.

    • July 10, 2009 3:11 am

      Players tend to start playing in the NHL around 20-to-25, with the really exceptional players (including most of the above) entering the league as young as 18. Retirement age varies, but late thirties to 40 is about the average these days.

      Extremes run all the way to 47 and counting, which is the current NHL record (held by Chris Chelios, 25 seasons of NHL hockey in 26 years). He played his first season while I was two years old.

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