The NHL has officially started celebrations for its 100th anniversary, starting with the Outdoor Classic in Toronto on New Year’s Day.
The Toronto Maple Leafs won a wild affair against Detroit, 5-4 in overtime.
We’ve already gotten into the spirit and published our 100 greatest players of all time. Purely subjective, but we think most would agree the picks were solid.
Since it’s a global game now, we got to thinking, who were the best NHLers to come from each country? Again, a subjective list that excludes greats like Vladislav Tretiak, who would have been a star in the NHL.
Looking at historical representation, Canada leads the list with over 5,000 (5,071 to be exact), naturally. The U.S. has put just over a fifth of that total in the league with 1,145. It’s a sliding scale from there, with talent born in far flung places like Japan and Lebanon.
So, we’ve come up with a pretty fair list that will include a team (two goalies, six defencemen, 12 forwards) each from Russia, Sweden, Finland, the old Czechoslovakia (combined), Europe (all other nations), the U.S. (two teams) and Canada (five teams: Maritimes, Quebec, Ontario, Prairies, B.C.).
Now that we have chronicled the best from Russia, Finland and Sweden, Czechoslovakia and the rest of Europe, here are the greats from the USA and we’re calling it the Second Team (from goalies to defencemen and then forwards). The First Team will be coming soon.
A goalie doesn’t get the nickname “Mr. Zero” for being a sieve, that’s for sure. Frank Brimsek, who hailed from Eveleth, Minnesota, started his trek to the NHL through St. Cloud State of the NCAA and then the Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets of the old Eastern League and the Providence Reds. In 1938, Boston Bruins’ starting goalie Tiny Thompson injured himself in an exhibition game, pressing Brimsek into the starting role. He started with a bang, recording six shutouts in his first seven games as well as a record two goals or less in his first 13 games, hence the nickname. Brimsek would record a league leading 10 shutouts in just 43 games during the 1938-39 season and would finish his career with 40 (which is second all time among American born netminders). In his Hall of Fame career, Brimsek would finish with a 252-182-80 record and win two Stanley Cups, two Vezina Trophies, the Calder Trophy and two First Team All-Star selections.