No matter what sport you play, cohesion with your teammates is imperative if you want to have any kind of success.
A entire team must be able to jell in order to attain their goals, but handfuls of teammates need to create a connection deeper than simply getting along and having the same vision. They must practically become one entity - they must not only think the same way, they have to know how the other(s) will react as well.
This connection is necessary between quarterback and wide receiver, pitcher and catcher, and central defenders. It's a common theme throughout all sports - having chemistry with someone else.
But what happens when you add a third person into the mix?
Building the perfect hockey line is impossible - besides the fact that nothing can be perfect, the definition of a "perfect" line will vary from person to person. Some will argue that the stereotypical Grinder-Passer-Scorer line is always the way to go: one guy digs out the puck, one guy sets up the play, one guy puts the puck in the net.
Others will argue that a blend of size and speed is the ideal trio - a gazelle on one wing, a burly power-forward on the other, and a "five-tool player" in the middle, to use the baseball expression.
We can mix and match the types of players that should be on the ice together until we are blue in the face, but one thing that can't be argued is this; every once in awhile, a random (or sometimes not so random) collection of three individuals paired together by a brilliant (or lucky) coach can create a cohesion akin to a pair of figure skaters - every movement graceful, effortless and perfectly timed.
Over the years, we've been lucky enough to witness the magic of some of the greatest lines ever assembled. None were perfect, but all were mesmerizing - and they knew a thing or two about putting the puck in the net, too.
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15 The Million Dollar Line
*We're aware that's Stan Mikita in the photo instead of Murray Balfour, but finding a photo from that era isn't easy!
The "Million Dollar Line" label might have had more to do with Bobby Hull more than anything else, but the combination of Hull and linemates Bill Hay and Murray Balfour sure did look like a million bucks when they were out on the ice. The line was put together in 1960-1961 after injuries to Hull's usual linemates. The three helped lead Chicago to a Stanley Cup that season.
Balfour tragically passed a few years later at the age of 28, but four decades later Hay still remembers the very simple strategy they devised to put pucks in the net, as he told The Guardian in 2010:
"We told Bobby how we'll play the game: 'Murray will get the puck out of the corner and bang it around, and I'll fool around with it a bit, and you shoot it in the goal. That's as simple as we can make it, Bobby.''
14 The Stastny Brothers
The Stastny Brothers were the easiest of the bunch for the hockey world to tag with a nickname thanks to their unique on-ice relationship. Rarely do two brothers play on the same team (let alone the same line), so to have three wearing the same uniform and on the ice together was practically unprecedented.
Not only did the brothers work well together to defect to North America, they had incredible on-ice rapport. The trio moved the puck around the ice at a ridiculous pace and made scoring goals look easy on a regular basis.
13 The Party Line
The Chicago Blackhawks have a history of incredible line combinations (with cool nicknames to boot), but perhaps one of the most famous was "The Party Line." Composed of Steve Larmer, Denis Savard and Al Secord, the trio terrorized opponents for nearly five full seasons before injuries and time caught up to the three. In his book "100 Things Blackhawks Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die," Tab Bamford writers that in the nearly 1,100 games the three played together they combined for a staggering 551 goals and 667 assists, for a total of 1,218 points.
12 GAG Line
The 1960's and 1970's were somewhat of a "golden age" for top-tier National Hockey League talent, as some of the league's greatest legends played during those decades. During the late 60's and early 70's, the buzz south of the border surrounded the Rangers famed "GAG Line" - which stood for "goal a game." Not a bad moniker for the troika of Jean Ratelle, Rod Gilbert and Vic Hadfield - one that was accurate, as the statistics do in fact show that they averaged a goal a game during the years they played together before the Rangers shipped out Hadfield and Ratelle in '74 and '75, respectively.
11 The Espo Line
Over their rich history, the Boston Bruins have been more commonly associated with the "Big Bad Bruin" label - the team that will throw you around like a rag doll figuratively (on the scoreboard) and literally. During the late 60's and early 70's, the Bruins managed to combine brute strength with immense hockey ability to form one of the most feared lines in the history of the sport. Wayne Cashman was the mucker and enforcer, Ken Hodge was the playmaker, and Phil Esposito was the pulse - the all-around superstar who could do it all. They were the original "Legion of Doom," dominating teams mentally and physically while putting up points at record pace.
10 The Sky Line
Any line that boasts the names Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr is going to be a sensational one - even if the third member of the line happened to be a PeeWee player. Thankfully for the Pens, the third member of this line was Kevin Stevens (perhaps he's the one who should be thankful). The trio combined for 365 points in 1992-1993, which included 55 goals from Stevens (a career high) and 160 points from Lemieux.
9 Triple Crown Line
When we discuss the league's most productive scorers of today's NHL, we bring up names like Ovechkin, Stamkos and Perry. The prevailing logic is that the other two playing on the line with these snipers have only one job: get the sniper the puck.
While that can work, for the most part, "one-trick ponies" will always get solved somehow, even if its only temporary. The Triple Crown line was the exact opposite - as Marcel Dionne once put it "“It was chemistry because nobody had a big ego,” said Dionne. “We complimented one another and we never had a bad game because we would also pick up the slack for each other on nights when it was needed.”
With that mentality, the trio of Dionne, Charlie Simmer and Dave Taylor went on the become the famed Triple Crown line. Between 1979 and 1984 there were few line combinations as lethal as Los Angeles top trio.
8 The Legion of Doom
The nickname was almost as scary as seeing them hop onto the ice - almost.
Eric Lindros, John LeClair and Mikael Renberg were one of the most physically imposing lines of their time - and they could put the puck in the net too. Over the two seasons they played together during the mid-90's, the Flyers were one of the NHL's premier teams, in large part due to these three. They combined for 225 goals and 490 points during the time they played together - it paled in comparison to some of the numbers put up in earlier decades, but putting up those kinds of numbers during an era driven by a much tighter, defensive-minded style of hockey was still impressive.
Getting a chance to play on the same team as Wayne Gretzky, for hockey players, is akin to winning the lottery.
Playing on the same line as Gretzky is holding the winning lottery ticket in one hand while finding out you've been randomly selected to receive another few million dollars.
Gretzky and Kurri will always be remembered as one of the league's greatest dynamic duo's but they never had a set "third wheel" that consistently put up numbers with them. Several of the lucky winners of the Gretzky sweepstakes included Esa Tikkanen, Mark Napier, Willy Lindstrom and Dave Semenko, among others. Semenko was more of a bodyguard than anything else, and even he was able to put up respectable numbers alongside The Great One.
6 The Trio Grande
Today, you might confuse the phrase "The Trio Grande" for some sort of ridiculous order at Starbucks. Back in the 80's, it held much more clout, as it was the nickname the famed Islanders line of Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy and Clark Gillies. The three were united in the late 70's, all young, up-and-coming stars at the time. The three clicked immediately, and their legacies as great point-producers (Trottier) and legendary snipers (Bossy) stems from their on-ice chemistry.
If you take a quick look at the NHL's all-time scorers list, you'll see the following names in this order: Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Gordie Howe, Ron Francis, Jaromir Jagr, Marcel Dionne, Steve Yzerman and Mario Lemieux - just to name a few.
The thought might cross your mind: "Wow, imagine any three of these guys would have played together?" You don't need to imagine, though, because it happened in the 1990's. The trio of Jagr, Lemieux and Francis is arguably the most talented "real" line in NHL history - Lemieux would be in the top 5 of scoring himself had injuries not interrupted his demolition of the rest of the league.
The three didn't play together for long, but during the 1995-1996 season, the three combined for a mind-boggling 158 goals and 429 points.
4 The Dynasty Line
It's amazing to think that it took this long for a trio of Montreal Canadiens to find this list, considering the type of talent they had on their teams from their earliest days up until the 1990's. The Dynasty Line consisted of a couple of Habs greats - Steve Shutt and Jacques Lemaire or Peter Mahovlich - and one the members of the Canadiens "Mount Rushmore" in Guy Lafleur. The trio (or quartet, depending on how you want to look at it) put up massive numbers during the 70's, including a record-setting 60 goal season by Shutt in 1976-1977 (the most by a left winger in a season - a record now held by Alex Ovechkin).
3 The French Connection
The French Connection had less to do with staggering numbers and more to do with an unparalleled on-ice chemistry, the legacy they left as a line and their place in Buffalo Sabres history.
The French Connection of Rick Martin, Rene Robert and Gilbert Perreault is one of Quebec's "hockey claims to fame" that doesn't involve the Canadiens or the Quebec Nordiques. The three French-Canadians probably clicked off the ice at first, but what they did on the ice was even more impressive. From 1972 to 1979, Robert (543 points), Martin (521 points) and Perreault (617 points) scored at an incredible pace, combining for 1,681 points over the 7 seasons they were together.
2 The Punch Line
Similar to the aforementioned Jagr-Lemieux-Francis connection, the Lach-Richard-Blake trio was bound to succeed by putting three all-time greats together and simply watching the magic happen. "The Punch Line" had plenty of "punch" to go around, be it with their fists or with their sticks. The three combined for over 350 goals, and might have continued to terrorize the NHL had it not been for Toe Blake's career-ending ankle injury. Blake kept the line together, in theory, but did so from behind the bench, leading the Habs to five straight Cups between 1955-1960 - with a lot of help from Richard.
1 The Production Line
The main objective of a top-line in the NHL? Produce points.
So, what do you get when you're one of the most productive lines of all-time? The nickname "The Production Line."
Gordie Howe already had the ultimate nickname (Mr. Hockey), but the trio's fame earned them a combined label. The Production Line was anchored by Howe and Ted Lindsay - Sid Abel and Alex Delvecchio were the two other members (Delvecchio replaced Abel in 1952). To this day, they remain the only trio to sweep the top three spots in NHL scoring in a single season, which they did in 1949-1950 - Lindsay finished first with 78 points, with Abel edging out Howe by one with 69 points - no doubt a feat that will never be replicated.
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