During their playing days, NHL stars are on TV, in the news and all over advertisements on an almost daily basis, so we don’t really notice the subtle changes in their appearance as they get older through the years.
But time marches on, and so does the aging process. Once they’re out of the league and not quite as relevant, we tend to forget about the veterans of our younger years who we grew up watching season after season. They’re still out there doing their post-retirement thing, but when we don’t see them for years or even decades at a time, it can be a shock to the system when we realize they’re no longer the spry, young stars who used to battle in the corners on a nightly basis all those years ago.
For some of you, it’s been 20 years or more since you’ve lain eyes on these guys, so you’ll probably be doing a lot of, “Whoa, he got old,” but I promise you, it’s really them. So here are 20 NHL 90s stars and what they look like today.
20 DOUG GILMOUR
Time hasn’t been as good to Doug Gilmour as it has to some of the other ‘90s players on this list. Now entering his mid-50s, Gilmour was a 20-year NHL veteran when he retired following the 2002-03 season, wrapping up a nearly point-per-game career despite his reputation as a defensive forward.
He earned the nickname “Killer” for his aggressive, physical style of play despite his relatively smallish 5-foot-10, 175-pound frame. He spent time with Toronto, St. Louis, Calgary, Buffalo, Chicago, Montreal and New Jersey over his playing career and then tried his hand in coaching in the NHL and AHL with the Maple Leafs organization and the Kingston Frontenacs in the OHL, and now serves as the Frontenacs’ GM.
He’s also been married three times, so I’m sure three wives and two divorces can take a toll.
19 CHRIS PRONGER
It’s somewhat ironic that 42-year-old Chris Pronger is now employed by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety. He’s really come full circle, if you think about it. For a long time, he was considered one of the league’s dirtiest players. Then, he suffered multiple serious injuries including major concussions and a stick to the eye that still affects his vision. Now, he’s a decision-maker when it comes to keeping the league’s players safe on the ice.
Originally, Pronger was selected second overall by the Hartford Whalers in 1993, and he went on to become one of the biggest, most-feared rearguards in the league during his 18 seasons. He won MVP honors for the 1999-2000 season and ended his career with 698 points in 1,167 games.
Never one to win a beauty contest, Pronger seems to be embracing the shaggy look, which I suppose could be worse.
18 JOE NIEUWENDYK
By all accounts, Joe Nieuwendyk looks pretty good for a 50-year-old guy who spent two decades in the NHL from 1986 to the mid-2000s. One of the nicest, classiest guys ever to play the game, Nieuwendyk won three Stanley Cups with three different teams, Rookie of the Year honors in 1988, the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 1999 and was selected to four All-Star Games.
In his post-playing days, Nieuwendyk has worked in the front offices of the Florida Panthers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Dallas Stars and the men’s Canadian national hockey team and today works for the Carolina Hurricanes as a pro scout and team advisor. He’s married with three kids and stays plenty active in his community
17 THEO FLEURY
You’re not imagining things. That’s really Theo Fleury, and he really is pursuing a singing career in country music. And honestly, if you listen to some of his tracks, he’s actually got a fairly decent voice.
He doesn’t necessarily look like your typical country music star, but with his long history of substance abuse, sexual abuse and general life challenges, you can imagine he’s got plenty of emotion to channel into some twangy country tunes.
Though he was one of the smallest players ever to make it in the NHL, Fleury held his own as a physical force not afraid to throw punches at someone twice his size. He finished with 1,088 points in 1,084 career games between 1988 and 2003 with a Stanley Cup and seven All-Star appearances to his name.
16 OWEN NOLAN
If you asked me in 1997, when Owen Nolan was playing for the San Jose Sharks, to describe what he would look like in 20 years later, I’m pretty sure this is exactly how I would have imagined him. He’s still got the square face and still rocks the facial hair, but you can tell he’s aged a little over the past couple of decades without letting himself go.
Nolan was a solid power forward who spent 18 seasons in the league with seven different teams starting in 1990, but spent his best years with the Sharks from 1995 to 2003.
Nowadays, Nolan is married with two kids, owns a couple of restaurants and has dabbled as a host on a reality fishing TV show in Canada.
15 ADAM OATES
One of the better playmakers of his time, Adam Oates left a lasting mark on the league as a key setup man who divided his time between seven different teams from 1985 to 2004. He led the league in assists three times, and with 1,079 assists over the course of his career, Oates currently sits seventh all-time as one of just 13 players to reach the elusive 1,000 assist mark.
After hanging up his skates in 2004 following his final game as a member of the Edmonton Oilers, Oates went on to assume coaching roles with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and New Jersey Devils. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2012, and today lives with his wife, Donna, in California.
14 KEITH TKACHUK
Keith Tkachuk was always a bigger dude, but it looks like he’s packed on the pounds a little bit since he last played in the league in 2010.
One of only five American-born players to eclipse the 500-goal mark, Tkachuk also became just the sixth American player to reach 1,000 points when he did it with the St. Louis Blues during the 2008-09 season. He was an elite power forward whose aggression and physicality struck fear in the heart of his opponents, but he also displayed a goal-scoring finesse even the most skilled forwards would envy.
Currently, Tkachuk still resides in St. Louis and stays involved in the St. Louis AAA Blues youth hockey program, while serving as a part-time amateur scout for the NHL Blues.
13 DALE HUNTER
Speaking of big, bad physical forwards, Dale Hunter sure is showing his age, isn’t he? Now approaching his 60s, Hunter’s silvery hair and extra few pounds around his face almost make him look like that fun-loving favorite uncle who’s always up for an extra Irish coffee at the annual family Christmas get-together.
Though teammates always said he was a standup guy in the locker room and behind closed doors, Dale Hunter was a mean dude when he stepped on the ice and was oftentimes referred to as a nuisance by opposing players. Between 1980 and 1999, Hunter played 19 seasons, racking up 200 penalty minutes 11 separate times.
Today, he has the second-most all-time penalty minutes with a whopping 3,565, second only to Dave “Tiger” Williams. Since leaving the league, Hunter has held coaching positions with the Washington Capitals and London Knights of the OHL.
12 VINCENT DAMPHOUSSE
I never did figure out how to properly pronounce Vincent Damphousse’s last name, but that’s neither here nor there. Damphousse, always a solid, two-way player who skated for Toronto, Edmonton, Montreal and San Jose, averaged nearly a point per game over his 18 seasons from 1986 to 2004, but the dude had a very distinctive look that might not be quite as recognizable today.
After calling it quits following the 2004-05 season, which ended up being locked out, Damphousse joined the French-language television network RDS, serving as a hockey analyst for the channel. He’s still got the low brow and inset eyes, but his rounder face and thinning hair changes his appearance enough that you probably wouldn’t recognize him if you were to meet him on the street.
11 DAVE ANDREYCHUK
If I didn’t know better, I’d never peg Dave Andreychuk as a hockey player based solely on his outward appearance. That long, clean-shaven face and seemingly always-changing hairstyle seems better placed as a front-office team executive, especially when he’s wearing a suit. But sure enough, Andreychuk was one of the greatest left wingers of his era.
He finally did take on a front-office role with the Tampa Bay Lightning, the same team he played for in his final four seasons, in 2011 and now serves as the team’s vice president of corporate and community affairs.
He’s still got a similar look, but the gray in his hair adds a few extra years, so you’d never know it’s only been just over a decade since he was still lacing ‘em up every other night.
10 PAVEL BURE
Pavel Bure’s youthful baby face has given way to a few wrinkles around the eyes, but you’d never know “The Russian Rocket” was well into his mid-40s and 15 years removed from his playing days.
After playing for the Soviet Central Red Army, the Vancouver Canucks selected Bure in the sixth round of the 1989 draft. He used his lightning-fast speed to win the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league’s best rookie for the 1991-92 season and would go on to lead the league in goals three separate times while being selected to six All-Star Games.
Though injuries cut his career short just 12 seasons into his career, he was one of the most impactful players of his era and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2012.
9 IGOR LARIONOV
Apparently, he took on the nickname “The Professor” seriously after he left the league in 2004, because famous Hockey Hall of Famer Igor Larionov looks WAY different now compared to his playing days.
Maybe it’s the close-cut hairstyle and the glasses, but I wouldn’t think twice if I walked into a college survey course and saw Larionov behind the podium. He looks like a seasoned lecturer with generations of knowledge stored inside that pin-like noggin.
In all seriousness, though, Larionov spent 14 seasons with the Canucks, Sharks, Panthers, Red Wings and Devils, scoring 644 points in 921 games and winning three Stanley Cups between 1989 and 2004 to become one of the most celebrated Soviet players ever.
He is now a player agent specializing in helping Russian players forge their path in North America.
8 SERGEI FEDOROV
While we’re on the subject of former elite Russian players whose appearances have changed over the years, let’s talk about longtime great Sergei Fedorov.
You can still tell it’s Fedorov, but it’s almost as if his facial features have become a lot more pronounced. The coiffed hair is the same, and he doesn’t look bad per se, but I guess eight years out of the league and the approaching age of 50 has made its presence known.
Fedorov is a six-time All-Star, a two-time MVP and a three-time Stanley Cup champion with the Red Wings. He had 1,179 points in 1,248 games between 1990 and 2009, and now he serves as the GM for KHL team CSKA Moscow, also known as the “Red Army Team.”
7 MIKE VERNON
Does Mike Vernon sort of bear a vague resemblance to crazy former New Mexico governor and failed U.S. presidential candidate Gary Johnson to anyone else, or is it just me? Even in photos from his playing days, Vernon could easily pass as a relative.
Anyways, Vernon was a standout netminder for the Flames, Red Wings, Sharks and Panthers for 19 seasons between 1982 and 2002. He won two Stanley Cups, one each with the Flames and Red Wings and made five appearances in All-Star Games. With 385 NHL wins, Vernon is 14th all-time in the NHL and one of just 31 goaltenders to eclipse the 300-win mark.
Fifteen years on, and Vernon is starting to show his age a little bit. He’s no longer a spry NHL goalie, but with a full head of hair in his mid-50s, he’s definitely aging more gracefully than others.
6 PETER BONDRA
If there was a hole between the goaltender and the net – no matter how small it was – Peter Bondra would find it and put the puck through it. Bondra was a high-scoring sharpshooter, especially during his long stint with the Washington Capitals in the ‘90s and twice led the league in goals – in 1994-95 with 34 and in 1997-98 with 52.
He was a no-nonsense forward who wasn’t afraid to mix it up. He played 16 seasons and appeared in 1,081 regular season games, so that far-and-away look you see here definitely has some history behind it. He did, after all, lose his father at just 14 before emigrating to the U.S. from the Soviet Union at 22.
Now 49, Bondra lives with his wife in Maryland and works for Collosseo USA, a Slovak company that makes custom video scoreboards for sports venues.
5 SCOTT STEVENS
The glasses and lack of facial hair sure do soften up the menacing mug Scott Stevens had when he was still playing in the league. Once a bruising defenseman known for his punishing hits and fiery fists of fury, Stevens made opposing forwards think twice before doing battle in the corners whenever he was on the ice. He never wore a face mask, and you knew his piercing, blue-eyed stare meant business on the ice.
Now an assistant coach with the Minnesota Wild after a stint behind the bench with the New Jersey Devils and also as an analyst for the NHL network, Stevens seems to have dropped some of his playing weight and isn’t quite as intimidating at 53 years old as he was during his lengthy, 22-season career.
4 BRETT HULL
I don’t know about anybody else, but to me, Brett Hull always looked about 10 years older than he actually was while he was still in the league. So now that he’s 52 and 12 years removed from his retirement, Brett Hull could be pushing 60, and no one would second-guess it.
Though he’s got plenty of hair still, it’s as silver as Anderson Cooper’s, and you can tell the years are starting to creep up. Plus, his wild facial expressions don’t help his cause much.
During his career, which spanned from 1987 to 2005, Hull became one of the greatest players ever and is currently fourth all-time with 741 goals. These days, the 2009 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee lives in St. Louis and serves as an executive vice president with the St. Louis Blues, where he played for parts of 11 seasons.
3 DOMINIK HASEK
Even though he was starting to show his age visually by the time he hit 40 during his 14th season in the league, Dominik “The Dominator” Hasek played in the NHL until he was 43 and then played two more seasons in Europe before finally calling it quits at age 47.
Now 52 and out of the game for almost six years, Hasek looks like anything but a former elite professional hockey player who’s 13th on the all-time NHL wins list with 389.
According to him, Hasek looks like Cosmo Kramer from the popular ‘90s show Seinfeld, and according to Sports Illustrated’s Michael Farber, Hasek “tends goal the way Kramer enters Seinfeld’s apartment, a package of flailing arms and wild gesticulations that somehow has perfect logic,” so I suppose the comparisons are sound.
2 ED BELFOUR
Not unlike Doug Gilmour, prolific goaltender Ed Belfour hasn’t aged all that gracefully. His body of work during his playing days, though, seemed timeless. Belfour went undrafted in 1987 after leading the University of North Dakota to the 1986-87 NCAA national championship and ended up signing as a free agent with the Chicago Blackhawks.
In his second pro season in 1990-91, he played in a goalie-high 74 games and led the league with 43 wins, a .910 save percentage and a 2.47 GAA. From there, Belfour went on to become one of the best netminders the league has ever seen over his 17 successful seasons in the league.
Currently, Belfour is third all-time with 484 wins and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2011, but since his 2007 retirement at age 41, he’s unfortunately made gains in the creepy-appearance department.
1 MARK MESSIER
Man, Mark Messier sure is getting up there in age – or at least he looks it. Almost always rocking the bald, clean-shaven look, he’s never been one for radical styles, but throughout the years, he has fallen prey to the hands of time. Although, it’s not like he looks like he’s about to croak or anything.
But let’s give him a pass. Messier is easily one of the all-time greatest players in the league and is third on the all-time points list, so he’s definitely earned it.
In his quarter-of-a-century skating in the world’s best league, Messier honed his skill as an unmatched playmaker for three different clubs and had 40 assists or more in 15 seasons. He won six Stanley Cup titles, made 15 appearances in the All-Star Game and twice won MVP honors. At 56 years old, Messier is also one of the oldest guys on this list.