Gretzky, Lemieux, Orr: Gordie Howe was the best to ever play

“The Great One” Wayne Gretzky joins Scott Oake to talk about his criteria for being one of the NHL’s Top 100.

There’s no question that Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, and Bobby Orr are three of the best players the hockey world has ever seen.

But who was the best?

During a press conference on Friday, the trio of Hall of Famers all agreed on one thing: Gordie Howe was the greatest hockey player to ever put on a pair of skates.

Howe sits second in all-time goals (801), behind just Gretzky (894) and remains fourth in career points (1,850). He also earned six Hart trophies and won four Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings in an illustrious career that spanned five decades. Howe passed away in June 2016 at age 88.

Gretzky, Lemieux and Orr spoke about the late legend during a press conference on Friday prior to the league’s unveiling of the top 100 NHL players of all time, in honour of the league’s Centennial Celebration.

Here’s what they each had to say about Mr. Hockey:

Wayne Gretzky: Listen, we talk about this all the time. That’s what makes sports great, and that’s what makes hockey wonderful. I think we’re all in pretty much agreement that Gordie was pretty special. These two guys here [Orr and Lemieux] were pretty special, also.

We all had so much respect for what Gordie did and what he accomplished that it’s not a bad thing to be named in the top 100 behind a guy like Gordie Howe. I think we all feel the same way.

Bobby Orr: Absolutely. Gordie is in my mind the best that ever played the game. I’m not sure if we’ll ever see another one. I sometimes sit and look at his numbers. As I sit sometimes and look at the numbers that these two guys [Gretzky and Lemieux] put up, I think, how in the world did they do it.

But no, Gordie was a special player and a special man in my mind, and I think the three of us agree that he was the best player ever.

Mario Lemieux: Absolutely. I agree with these guys that he was a special player. He could play any way that you wanted out there, and great goal scorer; tough, as we all know, and always taking care of business.

But he was truly a great ambassador for the game. He loved the game. He played until he was 51 years old, and that’s pretty rare these days except for [Jaromir] Jagr, my buddy. Yeah, he was certainly a very special player, but Wayne with all the numbers and Bobby really changed the game as far as the way the game is played by a defenceman. So these two were very, very special, as well.