Throughout the history of sports, one of the most esteemed honors an athlete can receive is wearing only one jersey throughout the duration of his or her career.
Major League Baseball has players like Derek Jeter (New York Yankees) and Cal Ripken Jr. (Baltimore Orioles). The NF: has Barry Sanders (Detroit Lions) and Dan Marino (Miami Dolphins). The NBA has Larry Bird (Boston Celtics) and Reggie Miller (Indiana Pacers).
Just like the leagues mentioned above, the NHL has also had many athletes that were able to play with only one organization throughout their careers. Some of the great players that immediately come to mind are Dennis Potvin (New York Islanders), Steve Yzerman (Detroit Red Wings), Jean Beliveau (Montreal Canadiens) and, of course, Mario Lemieux (Pittsburgh Penguins), among others.
Unfortunately, some of the all-time great hockey players couldn’t say the same thing about their long, terrific careers on the ice. Whether it was due to a team rebuild, or the player wanting a better chance at winning a Stanley Cup, even some of a franchise's best players have to leave for greener pastures at some point. Sometimes the onus is on the team itself, as they feel a player has nothing left to offer and will essentially dump him, only for him to show that he indeed had a lot more in the tank. It's become rarer and rarer for a player to spend his whole career with one team, now that there is a salary cap and money trumps loyalty in today's sports landscape.
Alas, check out 15 NHL players who weren’t able to stay with one franchise, and instead ended their playing days with random teams.
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15 Daniel Alfredsson - Detroit Red Wings
To begin the list, we are going to start with one of the more recent players to trade in his long time uniform to attempt to win a Stanley Cup – Daniel Alfredsson.
Alfredsson, drafted in the sixth round of the 1994 NHL Entry Draft, was – and really still is – the most popular player in the history of the Ottawa Senators. A team captain from 1999-2013, Alfredsson currently holds the franchise records in regular season goals, assists and points, while also having their playoff record in games played, goals, assists and points as well.
However, in a quest to win his first title, Alfredsson bolted his Canadian club to join the Detroit Red Wings at the age of 41. While he had a very solid season in 2014 (18 goals, 31 assists), the Red Wings' failed Cup venture ended Alfredsson’s career in Detroit.
Before Alfredsson called it quits, he signed a one-day contract with his former team, thus ending his career with the team he started with.
14 Bobby Hull - Hartford Whalers
Bobby Hull, who was known as “The Golden Jet,” was a revolutionary player during his time (1957-1980) – most notably spent in the NHL with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Before darting to the World Hockey Association in 1972, Hull was one of the fastest and explosive players during his era. To back up this claim, Hull was a three-time Art Ross Trophy winner, a 10-time All-NHL first team left winger, a two-time Hart Memorial Trophy Winner and a 1961 Stanley Cup Champion, amongst others.
However, when the WHA merged with the NHL in 1979, Hull made his long anticipated return to the league; albeit, not with the Blackhawks.
Instead, Hull stayed with his WHA club, the Winnipeg Jets, before being traded to the Hartford Whalers just 18 games into 1980. After only having six goals and 17 points in the 1979-80 season, Hull put on a New York Rangers jersey for five exhibition games before hanging up his skates for good.
13 Brett Hull - Phoenix Coyotes
As the old saying goes, “like father, like son.”
Brett Hull, the son of Bobby Hull from the previous slide, began his career with the Calgary Flames before becoming a mainstay in the St. Louis Blues lineup from 1987-1998.
During his time with the Blues, Hull was a seven time All-Star and a Hart Memorial Trophy winner, while surpassing 500 goals and 400 assists over his 11 years.
After making two separate, successful three-year stints with the Dallas Stars and Detroit Red Wings, at 41 years old, Hull decided to decided to spurn a return to the Stars and sign a two-year pact with the Phoenix Coyotes.
After his first season was cancelled due to a work stoppage, Hull only played in five games with the Coyotes in 2005 before ending his career.
12 Borje Salming - Detroit Red Wings
Playing in the NHL from 1973-1990, Borje Salming is known as both the first Swedish NHL superstar and arguably the best defenseman in the Toronto Maple Leafs storied history.
During his tenure north of the border, Salming is the career Maple Leafs leader in points, goals and assists among defensemen, assists among all players and best career plus-minus.
However, in 1989, Salming decided to play one more season – except it was going to be with the Detroit Red Wings. Unfortunately for Salming, his time in Detroit wasn’t successful; for the first time in his NHL career, he failed to pass the 20 points mark, as he only played in 49 games. Remember these weren't the Wings of our time. This was during just about the darkest period in their storied history, not a place to go if the Stanley Cup was your goal.
11 Olaf Kolzig - Tampa Bay Lightning/Toronto Maple Leafs
When you hear the name Olaf Kolzig, hockey fans will think of one thing; the greatest goalie in Washington Capitals history.
During his time in D.C., the netminder set records for the Capitals in wins (301) and shutouts (36). On top of that, Kolzig was a two-time All-Star and the Vezina Trophy winner in 2000, while leading the Capitals to their only Stanley Cup appearance in 1998.
After losing his starting job in the middle of the 2008 season, Kolzig decided not to return and opted to sign with the Tampa Bay Lightning on a one-year deal for the 2008-09 season. After being the primary backup for the Lightning, Kolzig tore his biceps in January and was then shipped to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the trade deadline.
Since he was injured for the rest of the season, Kolzig retired before ever officially wearing a Maple Leafs jersey.
10 Darryl Sittler - Detroit Red Wings
Joining the aforementioned Borje Salming as one of the greatest Toronto Maple Leafs of all-time is Darryl Sittler. Along with being a 10-year captain, Sittler was the first Maple Leaf to reach the 100-point mark (41 goald and 59 assists), while also still holding the record for most points in an NHL game with 10.
However, after a very rocky relationship with the Maple Leafs decision-makers, Sittler forced their hand and asked for a trade to the Philadelphia Flyers or Minnesota North Stars, which was granted.
After three strong seasons in Philadelphia, Sittler – after just being named team captain earlier that day – was shipped to Michigan to play for the Detroit Red Wings.
After not reporting to training camp for many days, Sittler eventually joined his new team and had his worst season as a professional. After only getting 11 goals and 27 points in 61 games, Sittler decided to retire at 34 years old.
9 Grant Fuhr - Calgary Flames
Although he played for six different teams over 19 seasons, Grant Fuhr is best known for his time as the goalie for the Edmonton Oilers dynasty, as teammate Wayne Gretzky referred to him as “the best goalie that ever played.”
During his time with the Oilers, Fuhr won a multitude of awards, including six All-Star appearances, five Stanley Cups and a Vezina Trophy in 1988. To add to his resume, Fuhr holds the longest undefeated streak in NHL history by a goaltender (23) and the most assists by a goaltender in a single season (16), while also being one of 10 players in NHL history with over 400 wins.
After up and down seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres, Los Angeles Kings and Saint Louis Blues, Fuhr’s final stop was with the Calgary Flames. At 37, Fuhr simply couldn’t play as a starter anymore, as he ended his illustrious career with only five wins in 23 games.
8 Chris Chelios - Atlanta Thrashers
Chris Chelios is arguably the best American in NHL history, and is best known as a Montreal Canadien, Chicago Blackhawk or Detroit Red Wing. Sure, three teams is a lot; however, his 10 years with the Red Wings, nine with the Blackhawks and seven with the Habs make each stop notable.
During his 26 seasons with the three teams mentioned above, Chelios won three Stanley Cups, was an 11-time All-Star and a three time Norris winner, while also currently being number four on the all-time games played list.
However, Chelios’s desire to play until age 50 put him in a peculiar situation. When he didn’t receive an NHL contract offer, Chelios decided to join the American Hockey League’s Chicago Wolves, until the Atlanta Thrashers gave him a chance in the middle of the 2009-10 season. Seven games and zero points later, Chelios was sent back to the minors and retired in August at age 48.
7 Brian Leetch - Bostin Bruins
Any time Brian Leetch is brought up, you will see images of him donning the red, white and blue jerseys for the New York Rangers. From 1987-2004, Leetch was a fixture on the Rangers blue line, as he won the Calder Trophy, the Norris Trophy twice, and the Conn Smythe Trophy during the team's 1994 Stanley Cup run.
When the organization decided to sell many of their known pieces during the 2004 trade deadline, Leetch was sent to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a package of draft picks and young prospects.
After only suiting up for the Maple Leafs for 15 games, Leetch joined the Bruins for the 2005-06 season after the league wide lockout. Although he performed admirably (32 points in 61 games), he ended his playing career at 37, before having his number retired by the Rangers in 2008.
6 Mats Sundin - Vancouver Canucks
Although he began his career with the Quebec Nordiques, from 1994-2008, Mats Sundin was the face of the Toronto Maple Leafs franchise. Not only does Sundin hold the Maple Leafs records in goals (420), assists by a forward (567) and points (987), but also is the first Swedish player to secure 1,000 career points and reach the 500 goal milestone.
Instead of opting to retire with the Maple Leafs, Sundin narrowed his choice down to the Vancouver Canucks and the New York Rangers so he could get to the Stanley Cup Final.
After joining the Canucks in December, Sundin put up 28 points in 41 games while being knocked out in the second round of the playoffs.
5 Martin Brodeur - St. Louis Blues
The most recent jersey swap happened last season, as the New Jersey Devils' best goaltender of all time traded in his red sweater for a blue one.
Martin Brodeur, who is noted for leading the Devils to three Stanley Cups in 1995, 2000 and 2003, while also being a four-time Vezina Trophy winner, five-time Jennings Trophy winner and a 10-time NHL All-Star. Brodeur also is the only goalie in history to have eight 40-win seasons and one of only two goalies to score a goal in both the regular season and playoffs.
After entering free agency in 2014, Brodeur signed with the St. Louis Blues in December after their starter, Brian Elliot, was injured. His tenure with the Blues is a forgettable one; after playing in only seven games, Brodeur announced his retirement and joined the Blues front office.
4 Ray Bourque - Colorado Avalanche
When you think of Ray Bourque, not only is he one of the greatest Boston Bruins to ever live, but he is also one of the best defensemen in the history of the game.
Bourque is known as one of the most honored players in the NHL; he has five Norris Trophy awards and is first with 13 NHL First Team All-Star appearances, while also being first in history in points by a defenseman, goals by a defenseman, shots on goal and is always in the conversation for the NHL’s best all-time players.
Unfortunately, one thing Bourque couldn’t do was bring a Stanley Cup to the Boston Bruins organization. Realizing time was running out on his career, the Bruins brass shipped Bourque to the Colorado Avalanche in hopes that one of their greats could reach a personal goal.
While only playing in 39 games in his first season in Colorado, Bourque became a force on the ice and in the locker room, and at age 39, came in second for the Norris Trophy.
In his last season, Bourque finally reached his goal, as the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup in 2001.
3 Gordie Howe - Hartford Whalers
The name Gordie Howe is synonymous with the Detroit Red Wings, as the man known as “Mr. Hockey” was a mainstay in the organization, while even having a hat trick named after him.
Over his 26 year NHL career, Howe holds records for most games played (1,767), most games played with a single team (1,687), most regular season points by a right-winger (801), most consecutive seasons with 20+ goals (22), most All-Star game appearances (23), and is first in Red Wings history in points, goals and games played.
In 1974, Howe ditched the NHL to play in the WHA, where he had the opportunity to play with his sons. However, after the merge between the leagues happened, Howe had the chance to retire and say he only played for one team throughout his NHL career.
However, Howe decided to play one more season – at age 51 – for the Hartford Whalers. In 80 games, Howe secured 15 goals and 41 points, and then retired at seasons end.
2 Mike Modano - Detroit Red Wings
In what isn’t even really an argument, Mike Modano is the best player in the Minnesota North Stars/Dallas Stars franchise. In 20 seasons with the organization, Modano is tops in every major category, including games played, goals, assists, points, power play goals, short-handed goals, game-winning goals, shots and hat tricks. To add, Modano is a five time All-Star, a Stanley Cup champion (1999) and has the most points by an American born player (1,374).
At the end of the 2010 season, it seemed to signal the end for Modano; however, he didn’t think so. While the Stars didn’t want to re-sign their star player, Modano (just like many others on this list) signed with the Detroit Red Wings in hopes of continuing his career.
Unfortunately, Modano’s career ended in sad fashion; injuries limited him to just 40 games, and he put up a below average four goals and 11 assists in his final season in the NHL.
1 Bobby Orr - Chicago Blackhawks
Bobby Orr didn’t play long – only 12 seasons – but he made his mark as the best defenseman in NHL history, and is in the conversation as the best to ever put on skates.
Orr, through and through, was a Boston Bruin. Known as one of the first true two-way defensemen, Orr won a record eight Norris Trophies, was an eight-time All-Star, the NHL’s plus-minus leader a record six times, three Hart Trophies and was a two-time Stanley Cup winner, among many more honors. Orr is also the first player to get 100 assists in a season, while also being the only person in NHL history to win the Norris Trophy, Art Ross Trophy, Hart Trophy and Conn Smythe Trophy in one season (1969-70).
If anyone shouldn’t have worn another sweater, it should have been Orr. However, after not being told about a contract offer from the Bruins by his agent, Orr moved on to the Chicago Blackhawks, where he played in 26 total games in two seasons, while having only six goals and 21 assists.
After realizing it was over, Orr ended his playing career at 30.
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