The average pro sports athlete’s career is over by age 33. NHL players aren’t much different; they usually retire before the age of 30. In fact, 28.18 is the average age. And since rookies are only about 20 years old when they hit the big leagues, that doesn’t leave a whole lot of playing time.
In many other professional sectors, older employees are considered wiser, smarter, more reliable, and – to put it simply – better. However, there is a huge difference between how the mind slows down and how the body slows down. As we all well know, keeping our bodies in prime physical condition isn’t a piece of cake, especially past, say, age 30. Most of us would rather eat cake than put in the work it takes to stay in shape. For many hockey players, though, staying in peak condition is essential in order to continue playing the sport they love.
There are more than a few NHL-ers, however, who scoff at retirement statistics and prove that age really is just a number. Maurice Roberts goaltended until he was 45. Chris Chelios played until 48. Mr. Hockey himself, Gordie Howe, played until age 52. And nobody’s gonna say that Gordie Howe wasn’t a force to be reckoned with until the day he left the ice for good.
The well-known names listed below might not all be the oldest players still in the league, but they are most definitely the hardest playing, especially of those over 30. Each man included here has been able to beat father time well into their 30s. Can you say that about your career?
15 Marian Hossa
In 2010, at age 31, Hossa became the first NHL player to play in three consecutive Stanley Cup playoffs with three different teams. There haven’t been any young players who’ve done this, not before or since. He scored his 50th NHL playoff goal in 2016. His point count went from 56 in the 1999-00 season, to 80 points in 2002-03, to 100 points in 2006-07!
14 Patrick Marleau
He might not be the oldest hockey player, but Marleau is definitely over the usual age of retirement for NHLers; he’s 37 and the average hockey player retires in his late 20s. Neither his speed, his strength, nor his determination have diminished since his first days as a rookie. He’s like the Energizer Bunny and just keeps going!
13 Andrei Markov
In his third NHL season, Markov averaged 23:17 minutes on ice during each game. Fast forward 13 seasons and he’s still averaging 21:44 minutes. In fact, the only time he has dipped below 20 minutes was during the 2011-12 season, when he only played 13 games and was recovering from knee surgery. He may have been dubbed “fragile” after his knee injuries in 2010, but has earned the more appropriate term “iron man” since then. This season he’s earned 32 points so far, which is pretty darn good for an injured defenseman!
12 Joe Thornton
This San Jose centerman is 36 but plays just as well, if not better, than his first days on NHL ice in 1997. Some say he’s getting even better with age, actually. He might not have the facial hair of a young (man, that might be the bushiest beard ever seen on a hockey player!), but he sure has the stamina.
11 Zdeno Chara
Happy birthday! “The Big Z” blew out 40 candles just the other day, on March 18, and hockey fans everywhere are sad to see his 30s go. In 2012 he was the All-Star team captain, a team on which he has played a total of six times. It was also in 2012 that he won the All-Star Hardest Shot competition with his record-breaking 108.8 mph shot – a competition he actually won a total of five times. HIs incredible skills as a defenseman have been recognized with five nominations for the Norris trophy, including one win at age 32 and once as runner up in 2014 at the age of 37. Three years ago he was also awarded the John Ferguson Award for being the toughest player in the league. He was 37 at the time. His 30s have been a crazy decade!
10 Henrik Zetterberg
The 36 year old Swede is a member of the Triple Gold Club; he’s won the Stanley Cup, the Ice Hockey World Championships, and the Winter Olympics. With 988 games played, 895 points, and an attitude that won’t quit, chances are that Zee will see the 1,000 points milestone long before his NHL days are over.
9 Henrik Sedin
We all know that Henrik is one half of the Sedin Twin Phenomenon. He was a third place draft pick in 1999, placing behind his speedy brother, Daniel. The older twin is 36 years old now, has played with the Canucks since the beginning, and is showing no signs of taking it easy any time soon. During his first season he played 82 games and had an ATOI of 13:31. These days he plays every game, for an average of 19:08. His TOI has pretty much done nothing but climb since his rookie days.
8 Daniel Sedin
This Sedin brother was drafted 2nd overall, ahead of his big brother, and has just about the same intense work ethic. His first NHL goal was scored during his third ever game with the Canucks in 2000, a shot that was assisted by his brother and a tie game – when they won 5-4 in overtime. For his first four seasons, he averaged only 12:45 minutes of ice time per game. Not a bad start for a rookie, but not spectacular either.
7 Mike Fisher
It’s been said that athletes who date or marry celebrities find that their game performance suffers. Not so with Fisher and his country music star wife, Carrie Underwood. He may have originally accepted Nashville’s offer so he could be closer to his wife, but his skills and stats have remained strong. And when the Nashville Predators star played his milestone 1,000th game, the wife and infant son were there to offer affection and support. Go Team Fisher!
6 Radim Vrbata
The Arizona Coyotes’ right winger may only be a few months shy of his 36th year, but you’d never know it by watching him play alongside the 21 year old Christian Dvorak and 22 year old Max Domi. Prior to his professional days, he played for the winning Czechs in the World Junior Championships in 2001. He’s since won the 2005 IIHF World Championships with the Czech Republic, has 46 game-winning NHL goals, and has participated in 42 NHL playoff games. This may be his first year playing with the Arizona Coyotes, but he’s already earned his place on the front line. He averages 17:08 minutes of play time per game, recently played his 1,000th career game, and at 2.90 shots per game and 52 points this season, is only 12 shy of his career best.
5 Roberto Luongo
Oh man. This goalie. After playing for Team Canada at the 1999 World Junior Championships and being named the tournament’s best goalie, he signed with the New York Islanders. He was only 20 years old. Since he started late in that first season, he only played 24 games and made 660 saves. But! He basically doubled both games and saves in his second season: 47 games and 1,226 saves.
4 Henrik Lundqvist
Speaking of the active wins list for goalies… Luongo may be first on the active wins list, but 35 year old “King Henrik” Lungvist is a close second. He has 404 career wins, and has the best winning percentage of goalies who have won 300 games: 54.89%. Looking for more impressive stats? He has a 0.913 save percentage, a 2.65 goals against average, and 30 wins (8th best in the league, by the way) out of his 51 starts this season for the Rangers. A team that is, in no small part thanks to their starting goalie, headed to the playoffs.
3 Jarome Iginla
Edmontonian Ignila is currently 39 years old and has been playing in the NHL since 1996 – that’s 21 years. He started with the Calgary Flames during the 1996 Stanley Cup playoffs, and by 1998 he was skating with the Flames’ first line. During that 1998-99 season, Ignila’s handiwork accounted for a whopping 13% of the team’s total 211 goals!
2 Craig Anderson
The 35-year-old Anderson has been, basically, the heart of the Ottawa Senators since he was traded from the Colorado Avalanche in 2011. He has won 21 of the 31 games he has played this year, which is an fantastic 65.63%, and an astonishing accomplishment when we consider that his wife Nicholle was diagnosed with cancer last fall. Despite having this personal tragedy on his mind, he’s managed to achieve 4 shutouts, a .928 save percentage, and a 2.30 goals against average. This may just be his best year yet, statistically, which is outstanding for a 35 year old athlete of any sport, really.
1 Jaromir Jagr
The Florida Panther from Czechoslovakia his worth is salt, no question. I mean, just a few days ago he scored his 269th point, which means he is one point over Gordie Howe’s record for the most points by a hockey player over age 40. At 45 years old, he’s currently the NHL’s oldest player, and he says he plans to play into his 60s. Right now he’s the fourth leading scorer on the Panthers team, with 39 points this season and 1,907 total in his career so far.
He’s been playing in the NHL for 27 years, and even though this is a sport that sees exciting rookies each year, veterans like Jagr are where the true inspiration lies. So along with his famous hair and the famous kicking of the sugar habit, Jagr has nowhere to go but up. Not just in years, but in the record books.
Leave A Comment
Looking for an AD FREE EXPERIENCE on TheSportster?Get Your Free Access Now!