There have been some 600 Albertans that have reached the National Hockey League, more than any other province except Ontario or Quebec. Among them are some of the game’s greatest, spanning generations.
With just six spots available, assembling an All-Time Alberta-Born lineup is no easy task. Considering the province claims 10 NHL legends who have been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as players, snubs are unavoidable.
With that in mind, here’s a look at the best of the best from Wild Rose Country:
G – Grant Fuhr
Born and raised in Spruce Grove, 30 minutes west of Edmonton, Fuhr was selected eighth overall by the Edmonton Oilers in the 1981 NHL Draft. He went on to 10 historic seasons in Edmonton, during which time the Oilers won five Stanley Cups, in 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988 and 1990.
As an Oiler, Fuhr appeared in six All-Star Games (1982, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1988, 1989) and was awarded the Vezina Trophy, recognizing the NHL’s top goaltender, for the 1987-88 season when he set a then-NHL record by appearing in 75 games.
In 1993-94, with the Buffalo Sabres, Fuhr and Dominik Hasek shared the William M. Jennings Trophy, awarded to the goaltenders on the team that allows the fewest goals.
While a member of the St. Louis Blues in 1995-96, Fuhr broke his own record by appearing in 79 games, a mark that still stands today. He also played for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Los Angeles Kings and Calgary Flames over the course of a 19-season NHL career.
Fuhr was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003. He is one of 13 goalies to win at least 400 NHL regular season games (403) and ranks third all-time with 92 playoff wins.
D – Scott Niedermayer
Niedermayer, who was born in Edmonton, won four Stanley Cups and two Olympic titles while earning a host of individual awards en route to his 2013 induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
The third overall pick in the 1991 draft, by the New Jersey Draft, Niedermayer helped the Devils capture the Stanley Cup in 1995, 2000 and 2003. He served as New Jersey’s captain for the 2003-04 season, when he won the James Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenceman.
After 13 seasons with the Devils, Niedermayer signed as a free-agent with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in 2005. In 2007 he captained the Ducks to their only Stanley Cup championship and was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy, making him one of only 10 different defenceman to have ever been named playoff MVP.
A four-time NHL All-Star Team selection (First Team in 2004, 2006, 2007; Second Team in 1998) Niedermayer retired in 2010 after recording 740 points in 1,263 regular season games and suiting up for 202 post-season contests. He was a member of the Canadian Olympic teams that won gold at the Winter Games in 2002 and on home soil in Vancouver in 2010.
D – Bill Gadsby
They didn’t come much tougher than the late Gadsby, who played for three Original Six teams over two decades in the NHL.
The Calgary product’s Hall-of-Fame (Class of 1970) career has deep Alberta roots: he won a provincial midget title while playing minor hockey in his hometown and then joined the Edmonton Junior Canadians before turning pro with the Chicago Black Hawks in 1946.
He spent nearly nine years with the Hawks, before being dealt on to the New York Rangers during the 1954-55 season. In 1961 Gadsby was traded to Detroit, where he played the final five seasons of his career.
Over his career, Gadsby received roughly 650 stitches in his face and had his nose broken 11 times. After contracting polio during training camp with Chicago in 1952, he not only recovered in time for the start of the season but played so well that he earned his first of eight All-Star Game appearances.
A First Team All-Star three times (1956, 1958, 1969) and Second Team All-Star on four occasions (1953, 1954, 1957, 1965), Gadsby was the all-time leader for points by a defenceman, with 568 in 1,248 regular-season games, when he retired in 1966. Gadsby passed away at age 88 in 2016.
C – Mark Messier
Just how big a deal is Messier in the Alberta capital? The road that leads from Edmonton into the suburb of St. Albert is named Mark Messier Trail, honoring a St. Albert kid that became an Edmonton icon.
Edmonton’s third-round draft pick (48th overall) in 1979, Messier was with the Oilers for 12 seasons, serving as captain for the latter three, and was integral to all five of the team’s Stanley Cup titles. He received the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1984 when Edmonton captured its first championship and was awarded the Hart Trophy as MVP of the 1989-90 season, on the way to Edmonton winning its last Cup.
Following a trade from Edmonton to the Rangers, Messier won his second Hart Trophy in 1991-92. In 1994 he captained the Rangers to a Stanley Cup victory, ending a 54-year championship drought for the Blueshirts. He cemented his reputation as one of sports’ great leaders that spring, when he famously guaranteed victory in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against New Jersey, then proceeded to score a hat trick.
Messier skated for the Vancouver Canucks from 1997-98 to 1999-2000, before returning to the Rangers to finish up his career, officially retiring in September 2005 after 25 NHL seasons. He played 1,756 games, second to Gordie Howe, and ranks third all-time (behind Howe and Wayne Gretzky) with 1,887 points. He also trails only Gretzky in career playoff points, with 295. Messier was a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer in 2007.
Since 2006-2007, the Mark Messier Leadership Award has been given to an individual, selected by Messier, who leads by example on the ice, motivates his teammates and is dedicated to community activities and charitable causes.
LW – John Bucyk
An Edmonton native, Bucyk played for the Edmonton Oil Kings and Edmonton Flyers before making his NHL debut with the Red Wings at age 20 in 1955. In the 1957 offseason, Detroit traded the winger to the Bruins for legendary goaltender Terry Sawchuk, and from there Bucyk began an incredible run of 21 seasons in Boston, which included Stanley Cup championships in 1970 and 1972.
The only player to score more than 500 goals as a Bruin, Bucyk had 16 seasons with at least 20 goals. He was the franchise’s all-time leader for games played, assists, and points when he retired in 1978 and has since been surpassed in each of those categories by just one player, Ray Bourque.
Bucyk was named a 1967-68 NHL Second Team All-Star and selected to the First All-Star Team for the 1970-71 season when he set career highs with 51 goals, 65 assists, and 116 points. He was awarded the Lady Byng Trophy, recognizing sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability, following both the 1970-71 and 1973-74 seasons.
Over 23 NHL seasons, Bucyk totaled 556 goals and 813 assists in 1,540 games. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1981.
RW – Jarome Iginla
As a kid in St. Albert during the ‘80s, Iginla was a huge fan of the Oilers. He grew up to become the all-time leader in games, goals, and points for his favorite team’s biggest rival.
After winning back-to-back Memorial Cups (1994 and 1995) with the Kamloops Blazers, Iginla was selected 11th overall when Edmonton hosted the draft in 1995. He was then traded to Calgary (for 2011 Hall of Fame inductee Joe Nieuwendyk), made his Flames debut in the 1996 NHL Playoffs and would spend the next 17 years in Calgary.
With the Flames, he was named an NHL First Team All-Star three times (2002, 2008, 2009), Second Team All-Star once (2004), and skated in six All-Star Games (2003, 2004, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012). His finest season came in 2001-02 when he won the NHL scoring race with 96 points (52 goals, 44 assists) and took home the Hart Trophy as league MVP.
Iginla was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2013, followed by stints with the Bruins, Colorado Avalanche and Kings. He retired in 2017 with 625 goals and 1,300 points in 1,554 regular-season games.
He received many honors that recognize character, including the King Clancy Memorial Trophy and NHL Foundation Player Award in 2004. Additionally, in 2009 he was presented with Mark Messier Leadership Award in a special moment linking two St. Albert kids made good.
Iginla was a three-time Olympian, winning gold at the Winter Games in 2002 as well as 2010 when he set up Sidney Crosby’s famous Golden Goal in overtime of the men’s hockey final against the United States. Iginla is a member of the 2020 Hockey Hall of Fame class that is yet to be enshrined because of the coronavirus.
Iginla just narrowly made the cut ahead of Hanna’s Lanny McDonald, a Hall-of-Fame right wing who scored 500 career goals and was captain of Calgary’s only championship-winning team, in 1989.
Of many tough choices, that was the toughest, and with today’s generation of NHL stars from Alberta already featuring an MVP (Taylor Hall) and the most recent Rookie of the Year (Cale Makar), putting together a lineup for the province will only get tougher in the future.
Brian is an Edmonton-based sports writer and broadcaster. His experience includes working as a sports reporter for the Edmonton Sun, where he covered the Edmonton Oil Kings 2013-14 Memorial Cup championship season.