Top 10 NHL Lines

Ah… the lore of hockey. A rich tradition of boys calling themselves Iggy, Vinny, Chelly, Patty, Ovi…you get the idea. Good thing we have sports writers to add some color. Hockey lines have been labeled as far back as the 1920s when Bun Cook, Frank Boucher and Bill Cook formed the Rangers’ A-Line which was the train line that ran right underneath their home rink, Madison Square Garden. (this and some of the data below if from the terrific book – Hockey: A People’s History by Michael McKinley). The naming of lines had its heyday in the 1950s and 60s but has since waned; one of the many drawbacks of the frequency of player movement. Perhaps that should be a goal of THW, a nickname for at least 1 line on each club (who’s up to the challenge).

** This is neither a list of the greatest talent nor the most clever nicknames but a blending of the two. There’s also no real order to the list – it’s just ten of the great ones.

Here are The Hockey Writers Top 10 Hockey Lines

1. ZZ Pops

Had some grief at Puck Daddy about this line but I’m going to stick with it. I think the name is clever and the guys are all top notch players..

Zach Parise – Travis Zajac – Jamie Langenbrunner  New Jersey Devils (2007 – present)

The two Zs should be obvious and if you didn’t already guess – Langenbrunner is a seasoned veteran. HF Boards thinks they are amongst the best in the league.

2. The Bread Line

Mac Colville – Neil Colville – Alex Shibicky  New York Rangers (1930s)

Not because of the Depression but because they were the team’s Bread and Butter. Just so you know how good these guys were, if you adjusted their stats each guy would have had 133 points during their best season (402 combined points according to sdexceed). Neil Colville is in the HHOF.

3. The Legion of Doom

Eric Lindros – John Leclair – Mikael Renberg  Philadelphia Flyers (1994 – 97)

For a few years they were very scary to play against.

4. The Triple Crown Line

– Our feature on the Triple Crown Line

Dave Taylor – Charlie Simmer – Marcel Dionne  Los Angeles Kings (1979 – 84)

The first trio to each score 100 points in the same NHL season. Named after the team logo (the King’s Crown) tied with the association of horse racing’s ultimate accomplishment.

5. (LILCO) Long Island Lightning Company

Billy Harris/Mike Bossy – Clark Gillies – Bryan Trottier (1977 – 86)

Named after the local utility and known for lighting up the goal light behind the net, this line won the Cup 4 straight years. They will probably be the last to ever do so. Bossy, Gillies and Trottier are all members of the Hockey Hall of Fame

6. KLM

** Obviously not in the NHL but I thought they were worth a mention in hopes of education those that are newer to our great game.

Vladimir Krutov – Igor Larionov – Sergei Makarov  Soviet National Team (1980s)

Simply one of the games best trios. They beat up on world competition through the eighties and changed the game as we know it.

7. The Punch Line

Toe Blake – Elmer Lach – Rocket Richard  Montreal Canadiens (1943 – 48)

Known for there offensive punch (and maybe a little more if you got on the Rocket’s wrong side)

While reminiscing on the greats of the game it may seem a little odd to show a clip of a funeral. I wanted to include this for a couple of reasons. To show what kind of love the city of Montreal has for its hockey stars, how embedded the game is into our culture and also to share the words of advice that Jean Beliveau gives us at the end of the clip.

8. The Kraut Line

Bobby Bauer – Milt Schmidt – Woody Dumar  Boston Bruins ( 1936 – 42)

Not because they were German but because they all hailed from Berlin, Ontario – which changed it’s name to Kitchener after WW1. The fellas finished 1-2-3 in scoring in 1940 and won Stanley Cups in 1939 and 41. For obvious reasons, as WW2 came on they changed there name to the Kitchener Kids.

9. The French Connection

Gilbert Perreault – Rick Martin – Rene Robert  Buffalo Sabres (1972 – 79)

3 outstanding French Canadien players coming together as the William Friedken/Gene Hackman film is winning Oscars. The film won 5 Oscars but the great Perreault never won a cup.

10. The Production Line

Ted Lindsay – Sid Abel – Gordie Howe  Detroit Red Wings (1947 – 52)

These guys could produce points with the same consistency as the then booming Detroit automotive production lines.

* honorable mention goes out to Eric Lindros who was on two great lines, The Legion of Doom  as well as the Crazy Eights with Recchi and Fedyk (who wore numbers 88, 8 and 18)

  • bigpeeps

    I loved the West Coast Express, but they could only keep it together for a couple of years. All three of those players, bertuzzi, naslund and morrison have been plagued by inconsistency and confidence issues thoughout their careers. Had Bert not screwed up and Naslund not gotten tired, who knows? A great line, but they didnt make history.

    Now lets see the top ten lines in 2010…. you can start with the Tom And Lerri line in Montreal.

  • Jon

    What about the West Coast Express?

  • Jim Neveau

    Very nice list sir. Only omission I really see here is the MPH Line for the Chicago Blackhawks. During their seven years together, Pit Martin, Jim Pappin, and Dennis Hull combined for over 1300 points. If I remember correctly, they had a year during the early 70’s when they had nearly 300 points as a group.

    The lines you have are fantastic, but that MPH Line was really something special.

  • Danny B

    First, I really like this list. Cool stuff and some hockey history for those, like myself, who were not around to see some of these classic lines. Since I’m from Ottawa and gained significantly from this trio, I’d like to mention the Pizza Line: Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, and Dany Heatley. These guys dominated in 2005-2006, with Alfredsson 103pts in 77 games, Spezza 90pts in 68 games, and Heatley 103pts in 82 games. Together these guys got me and many happy fans lots of free pizza for scoring 5 or more goals in a game. Cheers to them!

  • Kevin Hunter

    Bruce: Another line comes to mind: Jean Beliveau – Boom Boom Geoffrion – Bert Olmstead, playing at the same time as Maurice Richard – Henri Richard – Dickie Moore. That was some team!

  • Bill

    HI. nice article. I think Billy Harris was traded (along with Dave Lewis for Butch Goring) before the Isles ever won a cup. The line that went on to four straight cups and a 5th straight final was Trottier, Bossy and Gillies. If Harris was indeed part of the “Long Island Lighting Co.”line, it was only a short while and not for any cups.

    • Brooks Simpson

      And that line was commonly known as the Tri Grande by the 1979-80 season …

      • Brooks Simpson

        Trio Grande …

        Trust me. I watched it.

  • Brooks Simpson

    What of the NY Rangers’ Goal-a-Game (“GAG”) line of Rod Gilbert (RW), Jean Ratelle (C), and Vic Hadfield (LW)? Two HOF guys, after all. Recall that Trottier and Bossy played with several left wings, including Tonelli and Bourne, and the LILCO name faded away (actually, they were the “Trio Grande,” because the LILCO line was originally Trottier, Gillies, and Bill Harris), but a lot of hockey writers get that confused.

    • Bruce Hollingdrake

      Thanks Brooks – I did consider the GAG line…just ran out of numbers..

  • Kevin Hunter

    Bruce: two lines that deserve honorable mention (at least) 1) Patrik Elias – Jason Arnott – Peter Sykora , considered best in league at one time 2) Guy Lafleur – Steve Shutt – Jacques Lemaire, who were awesome to watch Yours is a great list and filled with great memories.

    • Bruce Hollingdrake

      Hi Kevin – thanks for that.
      I chose not to include the Lemaire line simply because while they played the were never refereed to with a moniker. I’ve heard them called the Dynasty line but living here in Montreal I can tell yo that nobody I knew ever called them that….
      I considered the A-Line as well as the EGG line…hard to stop at 10.