The Star Wars franchise is one of the most financially successful film series of all time. Its popularity, which extends across several generations (from 1977 to 2016 and beyond), is unparalleled in the world of cinema. This prompted the Walt Disney Company to purchase Lucasfilm Ltd. for over $4 billion back in 2012, a purchase that has proved to be money in the bank for the media conglomerate that “makes dreams come true.”
Both Star Wars and the NHL provide us with heroes. And in a very real way, as George Orwell wrote, heroes “fill up the horizon of [our] minds.” The parallels between Maple Leaf Square in Toronto and Victory Square in Oceania are more than apparent for those that have read 1984; we’ll save that for another day. Today we‘ll focus on heroes and keep things both light and positive.
The following is a meld (which may seemed “forced” at times) of the Top 15 NHLers as Star Wars Characters.
15 Ray Bourque as Han Solo
From smuggler to hero, the Millennium Falcon captain’s transformation from a self serving scoundrel to hero came via the fact that he was actually hired to do a job, albeit reluctantly. Ray Bourque devoted his entire career to the Boston Bruins and his heart undoubtedly belongs to Bean Town, yet his Stanley Cup ring says Colorado Avalanche. In this context, Bourque and the Bruins had to weigh his legacy against hoisting Lord Stanley; they chose the latter and Bourque won the Cup as a hired gun, and retired thereafter.
14 Jaromir Jagr as Lando Calrissian
Lando Calrissian, the old acquaintance of Han Solo who makes his first appearance in The Empire Strikes Back, is the guy you want on your team. To that end, and along with his Billy Dee Williams-like flow, who better than the ageless Jaromir Jagr to play the part? After breaking out under the wing of Mario Lemeiux with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Jagr has gone on to play a key role on several NHL teams while winning a ton of NHL hardware along the way. Now at 44 yrs old, Jagr is still an NHL All-Star and still lookin’ good.
13 Alexandre Daigle as a Stormtrooper
Generally regarded as the biggest bust in NHL history, the 1st overall pick in the 1993 draft, Alexandre Daigle, had a forgettable career - much like that of a Storm Trooper. And really, it’s not so much that Daigle was a poor player, he was just a forgettable one. Those in the hockey world all remember Daigle’s famous and ominous comment of, “I’m glad I got drafted first, because no one remembers number two.” In case you forgot who “number two” was that year, it was Chris Pronger, who won the Norris, the Hart, a Gold Medal (twice), and the Cup; he’s also in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
12 Brent Burns as Chewbacca
Brent Burns already had the crazy beard (a thing of beauty really), but when he donned the Chewbacca mask at the 2016 NHL All-Star Game skills competition, that sealed the deal. Largely owing to the fact that he does sport a wicked beard, Burns has had a bunch of nicknames, one of which is “Chewie.” On his 2016 ASG inspiration Burns says, “the Chewie thing. I’ve been hearing the nickname for a couple of years now. Among other nicknames. But we thought to go with that one.”
11 Phil Kessel as Jabba the Hut
Phil the thrill is well known in the hockey world for two things, sniping and being out-of-shape. Additionally, in Star Wars when Jabba speaks there are subtitles. When Kessel speaks there “ought” to be subtitles; his inability to articulate answers to the easiest of questions is astonishing. Kessel describes himself in the following way, “Nice Guy. Tries Hard. Loves the Game.” This however, is about it. According to Kristina Rutherford’s Sportsnet article, you’re not going to get much more from Phil, other than that his favorite food is “obviously ice cream, everyone loves ice cream.”
10 Jonathan Toews as Poe Dameron
Captain Serious has led the Chicago Blackhawks to three Stanley Cups and is one of the steadiest players in the NHL – a true performer when the chips are down. Although X-wing fighter pilot Poe Dameron is new to the Star Wars franchise, his ability to deliver in the clutch showed the potential of a one-day leader in The Force Awakens. Jonathan Toews is a true leader and Dameron seems poised to mirror that leadership as the Star Wars franchise moves forward.
9 Connor McDavid as Kylo Ren
Once the pupil of Luke Skywalker himself and the son of Han Solo and Princess Leia, Kylo Ren had the makings of a true Jedi before being seduced by the dark side of the force. Connor McDavid also has that same potential, yet the oppositional forces of the Edmonton Oilers, with their proven track record of ruining first overall picks, could send this would-be savior of the franchise to the dark side. All of the great Jedi hockey players were team players that made everyone around them better and they were winners. The fear with McDavid is that too many losing seasons could create self-interest, which could spell disaster for Edmonton – this Jedi needs to be nurtured properly. If so, he’ll unquestionably be one of the best.
8 The Zamboni as R2-D2
Princess Leia’s encrypted message in Star Wars was delivered to Obi Wan via R2-D2. In short, without R2-D2 the Rebel Alliance doesn’t make contact with Obi Wan and “A New Hope” becomes “No Hope.” Similarly, without the Zamboni, which wheels onto the ice before each game and between periods, we have no game at all. Truly R2-D2 is the unsung hero of the film franchise, and most of us are out grabbing some grub while the Zamboni is doing its thing. Although an inanimate object, the Zamboni produces that glistening sheet of ice where the ice wars are played.
7 Eric Lindros as Darth Vader
Right from his professional get-go, The Big “E” seemed poised to turn to the dark side. After being drafted 1st overall in 1991 by the Quebec Nordiques, Lindros refused to play and was eventually dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers. Like Vader, Lindros had it all: size, skill, finesse, and intelligence when it came to his on-ice career. However, his off-ice feuds with Bobby Clarke, who kept accusing the too-often concussed Legion of Doom center of being soft, resulted in a career that was undoubtedly too short and without the heroism of Jedis like Gretzky, Orr, and Lemieux.
6 Alex Ovechkin as Boba Fett
Boba Fett wore a mask, so his facial attributes were a mystery for quite some time. Ovechkin isn’t ascetically blessed, but nonetheless doesn’t wear a mask. However, when comparing the Star Wars bounty hunter and the five-time Rocket Richard Trophy winner, both of these guys can “snipe.” Ovi is yet again on pace to challenge for the NHL’s goal scoring crown and his Washington Capitals are Cup contenders – currently at the top of the league in total points. Boba Fett met his demise in Return of the Jedi, yet continues to be one of the most popular of all the Star Wars characters.
5 Bob Mackenzie as C-3PO
Although not an NHL Star, the “Insider” is an authority on everything hockey. According to TSN, Bob Mackenzie “is the most followed media personality in Canada with more than 1 million followers and consistently ranks as one of Sports Illustrated’s Twitter Top 100.” Like C-3PO, who has appeared in all seven Star Wars films, Big Mac has been doing his thing in the hockey world for over 35 years and his inside knowledge and ability to read trends in the game is unparalleled.
4 Gordie Howe as Yoda
In making all of these leaps in logic in the first place, “Mr. Hockey” must necessarily be linked with Yoda, the “Grand Master of the Jedi Order.” In 26 seasons in the NHL, Gordie Howe did it all: Art Ross Trophies, Cups, Harts, and Gordie Howe Hat Tricks. Yoda trained Jedis, while Howe demonstrated to the Orrs, the Gretzkys, and the hockey world, the way the game ought to be played both on and off the ice. To this day, the reverence associated with Howe’s name is unchanged – he is the master.
3 Bobby Orr as Obi-Wan Kenobi
Was Obi-Wan a more powerful Jedi than Luke? Although it can be argued that he was, most would agree that Obi-Wan comes in at number two. Bobby Orr, while being the best defenseman of all-time, and one of the few who actually lead the NHL in scoring in 1969-70 with 120 points, falls just short of Gretzky as the greatest on-ice Jedi. Like Obi-Wan, Orr commands a ton of respect in the hockey world and, if it had not been for an injury shortened career, #4 may have come out ahead of #99.
2 Wayne Gretzky as Luke Skywalker
Blonde Hair? Check. Moderate Attractiveness? Check. The Greatest? Check. Both #99 and Luke Skywalker were born to be the best. And let’s face it, Mark Hammel has only gotten better with age, evidenced by his climactic cameo in The Force Awakens. With Gretzky, especially now that he’s stepped away from the game, the same aura of the greatness he displayed on the ice surrounds him to this day. It’s his more timely appearances that remind us of his greatness (not the role of bench boss on a failing team). Undoubtedly the force is strongest with these two Jedis.
1 Gary Bettman as The Emperor
After 14 huge leaps in logic, pushing the envelope, stretching the mind to compare hockey players to science fiction characters, it comes down to this – the obvious. Viewing Gary Bettman as the evil Emperor from the Star Wars franchise is, thankfully, easy. You can almost hear the Imperial March every time his name is announced over a loud speaker, met with boos and hisses from oppressed hockey fans. “As the Emperor wills it, so shall it be.”