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.
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:
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.
13 The Party Line
12 GAG Line
11 The Espo Line
10 The Sky Line
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.”
8 The Legion of Doom
The nickname was almost as scary as seeing them hop onto the ice - almost.
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.
6 The Trio Grande
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.
4 The Dynasty Line
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.
2 The Punch Line
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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