TORONTO – The first 33 men to be honoured as part of the NHL’s greatest 100 players could fill a warehouse with their hardware.
Collectively, they won 140 Stanley Cups, 25 Hart Trophies, 24 Vezina Trophies, 13 Art Ross Trophies, eight Norris Trophies and six Calder Trophies.
And yes, each has also been enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
"We are honoured to be honouring them," said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
The league is doing that as part of its centennial celebrations. A panel of executives, journalists and former players voted on the NHL’s 100 greatest players and those that played prior to 1967 were unveiled before Detroit faced Toronto in the Centennial Classic at BMO Field.
The remaining 67 will be announced at the all-star game in Los Angeles later this month.
Among the first 33 honourees, 10 are still living and five were part of Sunday’s on-field celebration: Johnny Bucyk, Red Kelly, Johnny Bower, Dave Keon and Glenn Hall. Everyone else was represented by a family member.
It’s an impressive group – one that includes several players Wayne Gretzky grew up watching and hearing about.
"My grandmother’s favourite player was Frank Mahovlich and she used to go on for hours about how great a player Frank Mahovlich was," he said. "I had friends who idolized Red Kelly because he could play forward and he played defence. Of course, Jean Beliveau and the class that he brought to life and to the game.
"And Rocket Richard. Everybody talked about his eyes and once he got to the blue line you couldn’t stop him."
Then there was Gretzky’s boyhood idol Gordie Howe.
"Each and every guy I learned about and followed and studied, but I still seemed to key right back to that one guy that wore No. 9," said Gretzky.
Bettman recently reached out to the family of all 100 players to let them know about their inclusion on the NHL’s list and said the experience rivalled the honour of giving out the Stanley Cup at the end of each season.
Here is a complete list of the first 33 players to be honoured: