It doesn’t take much time to track back to the beginning of the game. The NHL’s first official season was 1917-18 and I can get you there in 6 steps.
Ryan Smyth is a key item in this chain-link to 1917-18 and is more important for the future. Since he’ll be a teammate to all of Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov and Justin Schultz it’ll be the 2030′s before we need another link in the chain.
Here we go:
- Frank Nighbor was an original member of the NHL with the Ottawa Senators. His HOF career in the big league lasted from 1917-1930, all but his final 22 games with the Sens. He won 3 Stanley’s with the Senators.
- In 29-30, Syd Howe was a rookie on the Senators, he was a teammate of Nighbor. The heart of his HOF career was played in Detroit (where he would earn 3 Stanley’s) and he played through world war Two, 1946.
- Ted Lindsay was a rookie on the Red Wings during the war–it was Syd Howe’s team before it was Gordie’s–and Lindsay was possibly the finest LW in the history of the game (the old timers will tell you that). He was on 4 Stanley Cup teams, played some with Chicago but started and ended with the Red Wings.
- Bobby Hull was a Chicago rookie on the 1957 team that included Lindsay, and Hull was the best LW of all-time if it isn’t Lindsay. Hull was a monster, an absolute giant–I don’t think his reputation has aged well but the guy was the stuff of legend. Anyway, Hull played in Chicago and then put the WHA on the map from Winnipeg (that’s maybe a good way of showing just what a calling card he was) and in his two final WHA seasons (77-79) he played with some terrific kids.
- Kent Nilsson was one of those kids, and he was a magician. Oiler fans might remember him best as a Flame or for his brief time as an Oiler, but his first two WHA seasons with the Jets were incredible. Nilsson was on the 1987 Oilers Stanley winner, and he was also on the 94-95 Oilers.
- Ryan Smyth got a cup of coffee on that team, and he’d have a Stanley if the crazy sonofabitch didn’t get himself traded here. How any Oiler fan can criticize that guy is beyond me–Jesus, he could have a Stanley!
Anyway, 6 players take us right to the beginning of the league. You can do it with fewer–hell put Gordie Howe in and you can do it in three–but I thought this was a fun route. I do this every once in awhile for fun, might be a cool lockout game.
It kind of serves as a reminder about the game’s labor history too–Detroit traded Lindsay’s ass after he and a few others stood up to the owners right before they were demolished.
Bill James taught me this game in one of his abstracts. I think he designed it for rain delays–which is kind of like a lockout.
This is Ted Lindsay. Guy got screwed over by NHL owners before any of us were born. If the current players are looking for someone to revere, they could do a lot worse than this guy and that’s for sure.