Making the NHL takes hard work, determination, and at least some skill and ability. Now, some guys lack the latter quality but are able to make up for it with oodles of the former two qualities, but pretty well every NHL player ever has had a combination of all of those qualities.
One thing that helps a ton is if you have good genetics. Some families just tend to be more athletic than others, thus having a better chance of becoming a professional athlete. Sure, it could be nurture just as much as it is nature, but generally speaking it’s safe to say that both play key roles.
One thing always seems true when you look at NHL siblings of the past, and that’s that there is usually one who is far superior to the other. It’s hard not to feel a little bad for the lesser sibling, but I manage to get over it when I realize most of them have made more money than I ever will in my life by playing a game that they love.
Today’s list salutes those players who were simply nowhere near as good as their brothers, but still played in the NHL nonetheless. Here are the top-15 all-time NHL players who live(d) in the shadows of their brothers:
15 Rob Niedermayer
Rob Niedermayer is arguably the best player to show up on our list, and the only reason he’s here is because of how damn good his older brother Scott was at hockey. I mean, Rob played 1,153 NHL games in his career and scored 469 points before calling it quits in 2011, but he still no doubt never escaped the shadow cast by Scott throughout his Hall-of-Fame career.
14 Jordie Benn
Jordie Benn is no slouch, as he’s already played in over 300 NHL games to this point. One of the newest members of the Montreal Canadiens will likely never escape the shadow cast by younger brother Jamie, who has already won an Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s highest point-getter, and has consistently been at or near the top of the NHL scoring race every season since 2013-14.
13 Malcolm Subban
P.K. Subban is one of the most decorated players in the NHL. He plays with swagger and attitude, and apologizes for none of it (nor should he have to). He’s already won a Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman, and his arrival in Music City last offseason signified the start of a more entertaining era in Nashville. His younger brother Malcolm is a goaltending prospect for the Boston Bruins, and he’s definitely living in P.K.’s shadow so far.
12 Yan Stastny
The Stastny name is a recognizable one in hockey. The first generation saw three brothers, Peter, Marian, and Anton, all play in the NHL together during the 1980s. It could be argued that Anton and Marian lived in the shadow cast by brother Peter, but we went with the more modern version of the “Stastny shadow” and named Yan Stastny as the one who’s had the most trouble escaping his brother’s shadow.
11 Jared Staal
Most of the guys who appear on this list have just one shadow to live in, but poor Jared Staal has to navigate the collective shadow of his three older brothers, Eric, Marc, and Jordan. Those three have combined for over 1,400 points and have played over 2,400 games. Jared was drafted by the Coyotes in the 2nd round of the 2008 NHL Draft, and so far he’s played just two NHL games.
10 Stephen Gionta
Stephen Gionta’s older brother Brian is currently the captain of the Buffalo Sabres, and at 38 years old is putting the final touches on an impressive NHL career. He won a Stanley Cup with the Devils in just his second pro season in 2003, and will play his 1,000th NHL game before the season ends, barring an injury of course.
9 Sylvain Turgeon
If you were a hockey fan in the 1990s, Pierre Turgeon was a household name. Unless you were a pretty close follower of the game, however, you probably never heard of his brother Sylvain. This is perhaps unfair to Sylvain, who recorded 495 points in 669 NHL games before deciding to move to Europe in 1996 to complete his career.
8 Steve Kariya
Paul Kariya was a fan favorite when he broke out in the mid-1990s playing for the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Together with Teemu Selanne they made up what was one of the most entertaining duos of the decade, as all they seemed to do together was score goals. What many don’t know is that Paul’s younger brother Steve also played in the NHL, but obviously with much less success.
7 Marcel Hossa
Marian Hossa is already an NHL legend and he’s still playing in the league, getting ready to battle for a fourth championship with the Chicago Blackhawks. His younger brother Marcel was hoping to follow in his older brother’s footsteps when he made his NHL debut in 2001-02, but that didn’t happen. Marian had recently established himself as an NHLer, and Marcel was determined to do the same.
6 Rocky Trottier
Rocky Trottier is eight years younger than brother Bryan, so the shadow had already been cast for Rocky before his junior career was even underway. He played his last year in the WHL in 1983-84; the Islanders had already finished winning four straight Stanley Cups (and were about to appear in a fifth consecutive Stanley Cup Final), and Bryan already had 960 points in the bank.
5 Valeri Bure
Pavel Bure was easily one of the more electric players who graced the ice in the 1990s. With his bullet-fast speed and soft-as-baby-poo hands, the Russian Rocket brought fans around the league out of their seats, no matter who they cheered for. Pavel’s younger brother Valeri was selected by the Canadiens in the 2nd round of the 1992 draft, four rounds prior to when his older brother was selected in the 1989 draft.
4 Frank Bathgate
We’re going way back to the 1950s-era for this entry. Andy Bathgate was recently named as one of the 100 greatest players of all time by the NHL as part of its centennial celebration. Frank Bathgate, Andy’s older brother, missed out on that distinction by a long shot, playing in only two NHL games and forever living in his brother’s giant shadow.
3 Dennis Hull
Much like the Valeri/Pavel Bure and Pierre/Sylvain Turgeon situations, Dennis Hull only appears on this list because of how good his brother was, and not so much because he was a poor NHL player (he wasn't). The younger brother of NHL legend Bobby Hull, Dennis played 959 games in the NHL, mostly with the Chicago Blackhawks, scoring a respectable 654 points along the way.
2 Brett Lindros
Both the Lindros brothers had their careers cut short thanks to debilitating head injuries, which is a tragic story for another day. Brett Lindros only played in 51 games throughout his NHL career before calling it a career, and he spent that entire time living in the large shadow cast by his older brother Eric.
1 Brent Gretzky
Brent Gretzky is of course one half of the highest scoring pair of brothers in NHL history. Together with older brother Wayne, the pair scored a total of 2,861 points in the NHL, a number that will likely never be eclipsed by any pair of brothers. One thing of note is that just four of the points came from Brent, who only played 13 games in his NHL career.
Brent is 11 years younger than Wayne, so obviously Wayne had already established himself as the best hockey player in the world by the time Brent laced them up in any pro league. Look, even if Brent scored 1,000 points in the NHL, he’d still occupy the first spot on this list. You simply cannot live up to the expectations set by your older bro when your older bro is Wayne Gretzky.
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