Lord Stanley of Preston’s Cup has many misspellings and erroneous names engraved into it. In 1972, Boston was misspelled “BQSTQN”. In 1984, Peter Pocklington gave his father’s name Basil instead of his own, which is now covered up by a sequence of “X’s”. Dickie Moore won six cups and had his name spelled five different ways. However, unfortunately for these 10, it’s no mistake that their names have never been carved even once into Stanley’s mug.
It may come as a surprise to some, but the NHL doesn’t own the Stanley Cup and simply rents it from two trustees. Also, there are actually three renderings of the “Stanley Cup”: the original bowl from 1892, the most well-known “Presentation Cup” created in 1963 and the Hall of Fame’s “Replica Cup” of 1993. Many players have never lifted even one cup, but it was Ted Lindsay who first hoisted the cup above his head in 1950 because he wanted to give the fans a better view. There’s no doubt though, that the best view of the cup is from right below it, in one’s own hands.
On the touchy subject of never grasping sports’ most elusive piece of hardware, the legendary Marcel Dionne once stated that: “We all would’ve loved to win a Stanley Cup. That goes without saying. But just because we didn’t, doesn’t mean we’re something less or we failed in some way.” They may never have tasted the sweet nectar of champagne from Stanley’s chalice, but that doesn’t mean we can’t toast to their greatness. And, if it’s any consolation, even Lord Stanley himself never saw a championship game or even got to present the trophy that bears his name.
10. Darryl Sittler
At number 10, how could we not put up the great Darryl Sittler, who remains the only player in NHL history to reach a double digit point total for a single game. Shattering the Rocket’s record of eight points, Sittler enshrined his name in the NHL’s history books with a record that will undoubtedly continue to stand for decades. Sittler also gets credit for standing up to the infamous Harold Ballard, who shipped his best friend and line mate Lanny McDonald to Colorado. Sittler, the Leafs’ second youngest captain in team history and who was immune to Ballard’s wrath because of his no-trade clause, immediately snatched the trainer’s scissors and slashed the ‘C’ off his jersey.
9. Gilbert Perreault
A giant roulette wheel. That’s what decided the first pick of the 1970 Entry Draft, which was surely going to be used on Gilbert Perreault. Buffalo’s general manager Punch Imlach went with number 11, his favourite number, and left it up to Fate and Lady Luck. It was the best pick he ever made. Using his “tap-dancing moves” to elegantly evade his opponents, Gilbert never won a cup but stole the hearts of the Sabres’ faithful with his grace and class, Always humble, when asked how he would be remembered, he posed as hypothetical fan from the future, saying, “I never saw him play.” We respectfully disagree.
8. Dale Hawerchuk
Coming in at number eight, Dale Hawerchuk foreshadowed what was to come at the finals of a Peewee Tournament in Montreal when he scored all eight goals in an 8-1 victory, breaking a record previously held by Guy Lafleur. With such pure talent from a young age, it is unsurprising that Hawerchuk was consistently compared to the Great One from a young age, with the Winnipeg Jets’ director of player personnel Mike Doran once asserting that, “He has the same instincts, that puck sense, of Gretzky.” The comparison may seem bizarre today, but Hawerchuk still had a distinguishable career, tallying up an impressive 1,508 points in 1,285 games.
7. Adam Oates
Perhaps the greatest high school dropout to ever play the game, Adam Oates cracks the top 10 for his pure playmaking abilities. A sentiment any hockey player growing up can relate to, Oates always wanted to impress the man in the stands. He credits his father with teaching him “If you can be unselfish, your teammates will always like you… And it just kind of became my role (as a playmaker), where I was obviously trying to please my dad…” His father must certainly have been pleased when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012 after finishing with over 1,000 assists in his career. At least, he must have been happier than the time his self-described “punk” son burnt his recently restored Mercury Cougar to the ground.
6. Pat Lafontaine
Pat Lafontaine always remained true to his American roots, despite playing a year of minor league hockey in Quebec. He remained with New York state-based teams for his entire NHL career. Lafontaine joked that, “I think I’m the only player in history who has been traded twice and hasn’t had to change his license plate. I’ve never been one to stand in motor vehicle lines.” To this day, his 1.17 points per games remains the highest of any American-born player in league history.And we imagine he still doesn’t like the line at the DMV.
5. Mike Gartner
Mike Gartner’s unparalleled agility and solid, blisteringly precise shot land him at number five on our list. In fact, Gartner still holds the record for fastest skater at the Skills Competition, which he set in 1996. The poor guy was traded by the Rangers to the Maple Leafs late in New York’s Stanley Cup season of 1993-94.
Off the ice, Gartner was well respected and played an influential role during the labour disputes of the 1990s, later serving as the President of the NHL Players’ Association and working with the NHLPA’s Goals & Dreams Foundation.
4. Peter Stastny
“Peter the Great” today serves his home nation of Slovakia as a member of the European Parliament, though he comes in at number four for his success on the smaller NHL ice rinks. “The small ice made for a more physical game because you don’t have much room to move. But I never minded. I could take a hit and keep the puck.” Stastny was also afforded the great honour of being Slovakia’s first ever flag-bearer during the 1994 Olympics. As general manager for Slovakia in the run-up to the Salt Lake City Olympics, he dismissed suggestions that it was a “win-win situation”, calling it a “win win win win win win situation”. His infectious nature is hard to deny.
3. Mats Sundin
Captain Mats, with an Olympic gold medal hanging from his neck, never reached the NHL’s true summit. Sundin was traded to Toronto as part of a deal that sent fan favourite Wendel Clark to the Nordiques and led Don Cherry to stammer, “You’re kidding me… This has got to be April 1st. This is a joke.” He faced enormous expectations right from the start and more than met them, finishing as the Leafs’ lifetime leader in both goals and points. He may have once sent his stick into the stands, but it is what he accomplished on the ice that sent his jersey to the rafters.
2. Marcel Dionne
The Little Beaver finishes as our runner-up for the simple fact that, in spite of his brilliance during the regular season, Dionne never could perform quite as well during the playoffs. While his playoff numbers left much to be desire, today Dionne ranks ninth in career assists, fifth in points and fourth in goals, though he was second in each of those categories when he retired in 1989. Though he’s featured on a Canadian postage stamp, Dionne quickly adapted to life in the United States. “Detroit may have been the place to play, but L.A. was the place to live. Beach, 80 degrees, Hollywood stars. Any fool that says you need three feet of snow to play hockey is wrong. You can be successful wherever you go.”
1. Brad Park
Brad Park tops our list for this sad fact: every single season Park played in the NHL, his team qualified for the playoffs; and each time, he was denied that elusive sip of champagne. At the time of his retirement, he was second in points by a defenceman to only the great Bobby Orr, who also defeated Park four times for the Norris Trophy. Park, a true ambassador for the sport, contended that, “There was nothing insulting about being rated number two to such a super superstar.” Second place may have been the theme of Park’s career, but he’s still number one in our books; well at least on this list.
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