Over the course of the NHL’s 98 year history, there have been many records put away into the books, rarely to be broken. The class of the best to ever take the ice is fairly crystal clear. At the top would be Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Bobby Orr, with others trickling below them. Awards are named after some of the all-time greats. For example, the Maurice Richard Trophy, named after the first man to score 50 goals in 50 games and 500 all-time, awards the player with the most goals each season.
A unique way that teams honour the best players in their respective history is by retiring the jersey number that the player wore with them. The tradition began when the Toronto Maple Leafs retired Ace Bailey’s #6 on February 14th, 1934. Of course, Gretzky’s #99 is the most common number to be retired, as it was honoured by the entire NHL. Lemieux’s #66 hasn’t been retired by the league, but no one has worn it since his retirement, as it is known to be “unofficially retired”.
Aside from those numbers, the #9 is the most common retired number, put to the rafters 10 times, by 9 individual teams (New York Rangers retired it twice). Nine is often referred to as the best number of all-time, for the number of superstars to have donned it on their backs. Because nine if the most retired number, we will use it to take a look at the best #9’s in NHL History.
The Best Retired Players Who Wore #9
Lanny McDonald – Calgary Flames
McDonald and his wonderful moustache scored 544 goals and 1090 points in 1111 games for the Leafs, Rockies and Flames. He won one Stanley Cup with the Flames.
Johnny Bucyk – Boston Bruins
Bucyk recorded 597 goals and 1472 points over his 1664 game career. He went on to win two Stanley Cups with the big, bad, Bruins.
Paul Kariya – Anaheim Mighty Ducks
Kariya had a tremendous career, despite never capturing the Cup. He scored 402 goals and 989 points over 989 games in 15 NHL seasons. His number should be retired, or at least honoured, by the Ducks.
Bernie Nicholls – Los Angeles Kings
Nicholls played for six teams over his 18-year career, never winning a Cup through 13 postseasons. He scored 475 goals and 1209 points in 1127 games.
The Best Current #9’s
Matt Duchene – Colorado Avalanche
The 3rd overall pick in 2009 by the Avs has become their go-to-guy. In six NHL seasons, he has scored 126 goals and 318 points in his 419 games. Duchene hopes to bring the Avalanche back to their glory days in the near future.
Tyler Johnson – Tampa Bay Lightning
The 5’9, undrafted forward has become the Lightning’s top point producer at the age of 25. In total last year, Johnson scored 42 goals and 95 points in 103 games, taking Tampa to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Mikko Koivu – Minnesota Wild
The Wild captain has played the most games in franchise history. He’s scored 144 goals and 500 points over 681 games, leading the Wild to 10 of their 18 playoff wins in history.
Zach Parise* – New Jersey Devils
Parise looked to be on pace to become one of the best #9’s ever before he signed in Minnesota and had to change to #11 because of captain Koivu. In 502 games as a Devil, he scored 194 goals and 410 points, captaining them to the Cup Finals in 2012.
The Five Best #9’s in NHL History
5: Mike Modano – Dallas Stars
Often regarded as the best American to ever play, Modano won one Stanley Cup with the Stars. Over his career, he scored 617 goals and 1520 points in 1675 games, in an era when scoring was beginning to decline. Modano was drafted 1st overall by the Minnesota North Stars in 1988, making his NHL debut in the 1989 playoffs. His most successful individual season came in 1993-94, when he scored 50 goals. As for his records as an American, Modano has the most goals, points, playoff points, and games played by any American-born player in NHL history.
4: Glenn Anderson – Edmonton Oilers
Anderson played wing on the best line of all-time with Gretzky and Messier. In 1354 games, he scored 591 goals and 1313 points, winning six Stanley Cups in his time. Anderson was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009. He was a Canada Cup champion twice, and had his #9 retired by the Edmonton Oilers in 2009. Anderson was drafted 69th overall in 1979 Edmonton. He played 16 NHL seasons split between the Maple Leafs, Blues, Rangers, and Oilers.
3: Bobby Hull – Chicago Blackhawks
Hull played 1182 games in the NHL, scoring 672 goals and 1299 points for the Blackhawks, while he also coached the Winnipeg Jets in the WHA at the same time he played for them. He won one Stanley Cup. Hull was a three-time Art Ross Trophy winner for most individual points in a season, two Hart Memorial Trophies as MVP of the league, and an astounding 10 First All-Star Team selections. Over his 23 playing seasons, Hull became one of the leagues best and only player’s to ever play over a span of four decades.
2: Maurice Richard – Montreal Canadiens
Regarded as one of, if not, the best goal scorer in NHL history. He scored a total of 626 goals in 1111 games for the Habs on his way to a remarkable eight Stanley Cups. Richard was a First Team All-Star seven times and won the Hart Trophy in 1946-47. One of his most prestigious accomplishments was winning the Lou Marsh Trophy as the Canadian Athlete of the Year in 1957. Richard was feared for his glaring eyes on the ice, staring down opponents as he approached them. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961, just one year after retiring.
1: Gordie Howe – Detroit Red Wings
The ageless wonder played an unheard of 26 NHL seasons, as well as six more in the WHA. Howe racked up 869 goals and 2010 points in 1924 games. The 87-year-old is one of the most respected players of all-time. Howe’s incredible career can be summed up through his list of seemingly unbreakable records. He’s played the most regular season games ever, with 1767, and also the most with one team, at 1687. He’s played the most NHL seasons, ties with Chris Chelios, at 26, and also the most consecutive 20-goal seasons with 22, spanning from 1949 to 1971. He has the most goals (801) and points (1850) by any right-winger in history. Howe has the most All-Star Game appearance ever, with an unbelievable 23 games. Lastly, Howe was the oldest man to ever play an NHL game, at 52 years. That record will certainly never be broken, as players at 40 are really pushing it these days.
Who do you believe was the best player to ever wear #9? Let us know in the comments below!