It’s quite uncommon for NHL players to spend their entire careers with just one club these days if their careers manage to last up to 10 years. In fact, it was also a tough accomplishment to achieve even back in the old six-team NHL for most players. With trades and free agency running wild and 30 teams making up today’s league, you basically need to be a superstar to play out your career from start to end with just one team. And when you throw the salary cap into the mix along with injuries, it’s almost impossible to do.
Most of these players enjoyed long NHL careers, however, a few of them played fewer than 10 years for a variety of reasons. But each player made his mark on the game and most of these players deservingly ended up being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. The list consists of 16 forwards, three defencemen and one goalie. They won Stanley Cups, individual trophies and all-star nominations between them and were all loyal to just one club during their careers.
There are five former Montreal Canadiens on the list along with three former Detroit Red Wings, a pair of players from the Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Islanders along with one each from the Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers, Buffalo Sabres, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, New Jersey Devils, Colorado Avalanche, and Los Angeles Kings. One player, Joe Sakic, started his career with the Quebec Nordiques and retired as a member of the Avalanche as the club relocated there in 1995. Technically speaking, Sakic may have skated for two different teams but it was the same franchise. These are the top-20 one-team players in NHL history.
20. George Armstrong – Toronto Maple Leafs
George Armstrong, who was also known as ‘Chief’, played with the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1949 to 1971. He never put up big numbers as his career high for a season was 23 goals, but he’s a former captain who played consistently good hockey year after year. Armstrong played in a franchise-record 1,188 games and captained the squad for 13 seasons. He played in seven All-Star Games and on four Stanley Cup-winning teams and was inducted into the Hall of Fame back in 1975. Armstrong retired with 296 goals and 417 assists to his name for 713 points and added another 60 points in 110 postseason matches.
19. Ken Daneyko – New Jersey Devils
Stay-at-home defenceman Kan Daneyko patrolled the blue line for the New Jersey Devils for 20 years between 1983 and 2003. He wasn’t much of an offensive threat as his career stats of 36 goals and 142 assists in 1,283 regular-season games will attest to. He took good care of his own end of the ice though and retired with a plus-80 rating. He holds the Devils’ franchise record for games played and also helped the club win three Stanley Cups. He was rewarded by having his sweater retired by the team.
18. Bob Gainey-Montreal Canadiens
Bob Gainey played 1,160 games with the Montreal Canadiens between 1973 and 1989 and was considered one of the game’s best defensive forwards. However, he wasn’t a complete stiff around the net as he chipped in with 239 goals and 263 assists in regular season play along with another 73 points in 182 playoff contests. Gainey finished his career as the recipient of four Selke Trophies, five Stanley Cups and four All-Star nominations. He’s also a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
17. Henri Richard – Montreal Canadiens
Known as the ‘Pocket Rocket’ for being the little brother of Rocket Richard, Henri enjoyed a 20-year career with the Montreal Canadiens from 1955 to 1975. His other claim to fame is the fact that he won 11 Stanley Cups, the most in NHL history by one player. The centre played a total of 1,256 regular season games with the Habs and scored 358 goals and 688 assists to go along with another 129 points in 180 playoff games. Richard is a four-time All-Star who also won the Bill Masterton Trophy in 1974. He holds the Canadiens’ franchise record for games played and captained the team from 1971 to 1975. Richard’s sweater was retired by the franchise and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1979.
16. Dave Taylor – Los Angeles Kings
Right winger Dave Taylor skated with the Los Angeles Kings for 17 seasons from 1977 to 1994 and was an extremely underrated player. His best years came as a member of the Triple Crown Line along with centre Marcel Dionne and left-winger Charlie Simmer. He captained the team from 1985 to 1989 and holds the Kings’ record for regular season games played at 1,111. Taylor was drafted in the 15th round back in 1975 with the 210th overall pick and became the lowest drafted player in NHL history to hit 1,000 points. He had his sweater retired by the Kings and also won the Bill Masterton and King Clancy Memorial Trophy in 1991 and was named a second-team All-Star that year. Taylor retired with 1,069 career points and added 59 more in 92 playoff outings.
15. Rod Gilbert – New York Rangers
Right winger Rod Gilbert had the reputation of being a bit of a playboy when he played for the New York Rangers from 1960 to 1978, but his off-ice activities sure didn’t affect his on-ice performances. Gilbert was named to eight All-Star teams during his career and became the first Rangers player to have his sweater retired. Gilbert also took home the Bill Masterton and Lester Patrick trophies home once each and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1982. He also holds club records for most games played by a forward at 1,065, most career points with 1,021 and most career goals at 406. Gilbert also produced just as well in playoff games with 67 points in 70 games.
14. Ted Kennedy – Toronto Maple Leafs
Centre Ted Kennedy played 14 seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs between 1942 and 1947 and helped them win five Stanley Cups. He played 626 regular-season games with the club and registered 231 goals and 329 assists for 560 points. Kennedy also added 60 points in 78 postseason outings. The native of Port Colborne, Ontario captained the side for eight seasons and was the last Leafs player to win the Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP. Kennedy was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1966 for his efforts on the ice. Most experts agree that Kennedy was one of the Leafs’ greatest ever players.
13. Gilbert Perreault – Buffalo Sabres
Centre Gilbert Perrault played with the Buffalo Sabres between 1970 and 1987 and holds most career franchise records for the club. He centered the famous French Connection Line between right-winger Rene Robert and left-winger Richard Martin and posted 1,326 points in 1,191 regular season-games on 512 goals and 814 assists. The original Sabre chipped in with another 30 goals and 73 assists in just 90 playoff encounters. Perreault holds the franchise records for most games, goals, assists and points and took home the Calder and Lady Byng Memorial Trophies once each during his career. The two-time All-Star was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1990 and his sweater has been retired by the Sabres.
12. Stan Mikita – Chicago Blackhawks
Czechoslovakian-born Stan Mikita of the Chicago Blackhawks was one of the league’s top two-way centres between 1958 and 1980. He led the league in scoring four times in a period of five years and also won a pair of Hart and Lady Byng Trophies. He helped the Blackhawks capture the Stanley Cup in the 1960/1961 season when he was just 21 years old by leading the playoffs in goal scoring. They wouldn’t win it again for another 49 years. When he retired, Mikita was the first-ever player to have won the Lady Byng, Art Ross, and Hart Trophies in the same season. The Hall of Famer finished his career with 1,467 points in 1,394 games with another 150 points in 155 playoff matches.
11. Bobby Clarke – Philadelphia Flyers
Hall of Fame centre Bobby Clarke played with the Philadelphia Flyers from 1969 to 1984 and was one of the club’s legendary captains. He led the NHL scoring parade for three straight seasons even though he suffered with diabetes. He came up with three 100-point campaigns, three Hart Trophies, a Selke and Masterton Trophy and captained the team to two straight Stanley Cups. The four-time All-Star finished his career with 358 goals and 852 assists for 1,210 points in 1,144 regular-season games and scored another 119 points in 138 playoff games.
10. Maurice Richard-Montreal Canadiens
Left-winger Maurice ‘Rocket’ Richard starred for the Montreal Canadiens from 1942 to 1960 and became the NHL’s first 50-goal scorer. He was also the first player to hit the back of the net 50 times in 50 games, a record which stood for 36 years and was the first NHL’er to score 500 goals. Richard was named a first or second-team all star for 14 straight seasons, won a Hart Trophy and helped the Canadiens to eight Stanley Cup championships. Richard played in 978 regular-season games and scored 544 goals and 421 assists. He also added 126 more points in 133 playoff outings.
9. Ken Dryden-Montreal Canadiens
Ken Dryden of the Montreal Canadiens is the only goaltender on the list as he had a short, but excellent career with the Montreal Canadiens in which Dryden managed to backstop the Canadiens to six Stanley Cups during his eight seasons and also took home five Vezina Trophies as the league’s top goaltender. He also won the Conn Smythe Trophy for being the playoff MVP a season before he was named rookie of the year. Dryden retired at the age of 32 with a record 0f 258 wins, 57 losses and 74 ties in 397 regular-season games with 46 shutouts and a goals-against average of 2.24. The six-time All-Star and Hall of Famer went 80-32 in the playoffs with 10 shutouts and 2.40 goals-against average.
8. Denis Potvin – New York Islanders
Seven -time All-Star defenceman Denis Potvin was a mainstay with the New York Islanders from 1973 to 1988. He racked up three Norris Trophies and the Calder along the way and helped the team capture four Stanley Cups during its heyday. He captained the club in the early 1980s when the Islanders won 19 straight playoff series and their four consecutive championships. Potvin scored 310 goals and 742 assists for 1,052 points in 1,060 regular season games and added another 164 in 185 playoff outings. When he retired, he was the NHL’s all-time leading scorer for defencemen at the time and was named to the Hall of Fame soon after.
7. Mike Bossy-New York Islanders
High scoring right winger Mike Bossy lit up the lamp on a regular basis for the New York Islanders from 1977 to 1987. Bossy still leads the NHL in goals per game during his career and also owns the record for most 50-goal seasons. Bossy’s career was cut short due to back problems as he hung up his skates just after turning 30 years old. Bossy managed nine straight seasons of at least 50 goals with five season’s worth of at least 60 goals. He scored 50 goals in 50 games back in 1981 and owed a 21.2 per cent shooting average for his career. Bossy retired with 1,126 points in 752 regular-season games on 573 goals and 553 assists and added another 160 points in 129 postseason encounters. He was elected to the Hall of Fame, named to eight All-Star Teams and picked up a Smythe Trophy to go along with three Lady Byng’s and a Calder.
6. Joe Sakic – Quebec Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche
Center Joe Sakic didn’t technically play for just one team during his NHL career since the Quebec Nordiques franchise ended up moving to Denver and becoming the Colorado Avalanche in 1995. The centre was a five-time All-Star who posted three 100-point seasons. Sakic won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the postseason MVP in his first year in Denver when he led the team to the Stanley Cup. He won another championship in 2000-01 and also captured the Hart Trophy that season. Sakic retired after scoring 1,641 points in 1,378 regular-season contests and chipped in with another 188 points in 172 playoff games.
Sakic almost blew his chances at making this list as the New York Rangers offered him a three-year deal in 1997 and he accepted. However, being that he was a restricted free agent, Colorado had the right to match it and they did. Sakic was named to the Hall of Fame as soon as he was eligible. Even in retirement, Sakic remains a one-team man, as he’s now the Avs Executive VP of Hockey Operations.
5. Alex Delvecchio – Detroit Red Wings
Alex Delvecchio played centre for the Detroit Red Wings for 24 seasons from 1950 to 1973. He held the NHL record for most regular-season games played with one franchise at 1,549 until it was broken in 2012 by defenceman Niklas Lidstrom of the Red Wings. Delvecchio scored 456 goals and 825 assists for 1,281 points. When he retired, he was second in NHL history in games played, points and assists. Delvecchio was honored for his gentlemanly play by receiving three Lady Byng Trophies and also played on three Stanley Cup winners. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame back in 1977, but always appeared to take a back seat to his more colorful teammates such as Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay. The centre also suited up for 121 playoff games and scored 35 goals and 69 assists for 104 points.
4. Jean Beliveau – Montreal Canadiens
Classy centre Jean Beliveau graced the ice with the Montreal Canadiens for over two decades from 1950 to 1971. Beliveau won two Hart Trophies along with a Conn Smythe and Art Ross during his career and led the league twice in goalscoring. On top of that, the 10-time all star helped the Habs win 10 Stanley Cups and captained five of the winning sides. Beliveau retired after playing 1,125 regular-season games and scored 507 goals and 712 assists for 1,219 points. The Hall of Famer also notched 176 points in 162 playoff encounters. He was the epitome of what a professional athlete should be and he was the most revered player of the NHL’s most storied franchise.
3. Steve Yzerman – Detroit Red Wings
Centre Steve Yzerman was named captain of the Detroit Red Wings when he was just 21 years old and starred with the club from 1983 to 2006. He skated with the C on his sweater for a league-record 20 years. While Yzerman was a scoring machine he also managed to win a Selke Trophy as the league’s best defensive forward. He also won three Stanley Cups, during his career and was inducted into the Hall of Fame on his first ballot. Yzerman was chosen for the annual All-Star game as an 18-year-old rookie and followed that record-setting achievement up with six straight 100-point seasons. He retired with 1,514 regular-season games under his belt along with 1,755 points and another 185 points in 196 playoff games.
2. Nicklas Lidstrom – Detroit Red Wings
Swedish sensation Nicklas Lidstrom played on the Detroit Red Wings blue line from 1991 to 2012 and posted a plus-450 mark for his career. Fans knew Lidstrom was a special player after being named to the All-Rookie Team after his first NHL season. The 10-time All-Star won the Norris Trophy seven times, which was just one shy of the record set by Bobby Orr. Lidstrom played 1,564 career regular season games and scored 264 goals and 878 assists for 1,142 points. He added 183 points in 263 playoff contests and was named to the Hall of Fame in 2015. Lidstrom also played on four Stanley Cup-winning teams with the Wings and hold numerous club records.
1. Mario Lemieux – Pittsburgh Penguins
Scoring phenomenon Mario Lemieux played centre for the Pittsburgh Penguins from 1984 to 1997 and again from 2000 to 2006 after triumphantly coming out of retirement. Lemieux was named rookie of the year for the 1984-85 season and ended up winning numerous awards including two Stanley Cups, three Harts, six scoring titles, two Conn Smythe Trophies as well as the Calder and Masterton. Even though he struggled with health issues, Lemieux racked up 690 goals and 1,033 assists in 915 career regular season games and scored 172 more in 107 playoff contests.
Lemieux was inducted into the Hall of Fame as soon as he became eligible. Lemieux is a Penguin through and through, as he eventually became a part-owner as a player and is a big reason why the team is still in Pittsburgh. He has remained an owner for a decade.
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