10 greatest NHL players born in Edmonton
Jarome Iginla returned to Calgary this week to formalize his retirement from the NHL. Although his Flames tenure ended five years ago, this was where he peaked as a player.
Iginla won all of his individual hardware in Alberta’s largest city. He was the team’s captain for a decade. He led all scorers in the 2004 playoffs while his Flames came within one win of what would have been his only Stanley Cup.
There was no other logical place for him to cap his career.
All of these reminders renew the surprise when one remembers that Iginla is an Edmonton native.
To date, only a handful of bona fide NHL legends have come out of Alberta’s capital. One generated the bulk of his greatest moments with the Oilers, but no one has ruffled the provincial rivalry quite like Iginla.
Even so, his accomplishments in Calgary and elsewhere do not diminish his roots. Iginla is a surefire Hall of Famer, and will have company among three other inductees born in Canada’s Festival City. Each side of the province is entitled to pride in his achievements.
On that note, here is how the 10 greatest natural-born Edmontonians in NHL history stack up. All statistics and award information are according to Quant Hockey, Hockey Reference and the Internet Hockey Database.
10. Bryan Little
An 11-year veteran of Atlanta/Winnipeg, Little has never turned in spectacular stats. He may have hit his ceiling with 41 assists and 64 points in 2013-14.
But more often than not, he has been a respectable two-way forward. Though far from award-winning, Little received a few Selke Trophy votes in 2013 and 2015.
9. Dave Babych
Save for injury-plagued campaigns in 1990-91 and 1992-93, Babych was a blue-line staple for 19 seasons. Early on he was a prolific point patroller for Winnipeg, and went to the 1983 and 1984 All-Star Game.
Dealt to Hartford early in 1985-86, Babych did not miss a beat en route to sixth place on the Norris Trophy ballot. While he achieved nothing special after that, he earned his keep with the Whalers and Canucks for 12 years.
He would wind down with stints in Philadelphia and Los Angeles in 1998 and 1999.
8. Dion Phaneuf
After their run to the 2004 final, the Flames gained another excellent Edmontonian to go with Iginla. Phaneuf made the NHL’s all-rookie team in 2006 and first all-star team in 2008. He also finished among the top 10 Norris candidates in each of his first three seasons.
Since leaving Calgary in 2010, he has tapered off on both sides of the puck. During this decade, he has been repeatedly cited as the sports’s most overrated player. With that said, Phaneuf is still a mainstay after 12 years, logging 488 points in 981 career games.
7. Pete Peeters
Between 1979-80 and 1990-91, Peeters finished among the league’s top five save-percentage leaders five times. His rookie season culminated in a third-place finish in the Calder Trophy race and Philadelphia’s tough 1980 championship loss to the Islanders.
In his peak season of 1982-83, Peeters led his peers in goals-against average and shutouts. That not only earned him the Vezina Trophy, but placed him second on the Hart ballot, behind Wayne Gretzky.
6. Darryl Sydor
Until his last of 17 full-length NHL seasons, Sydor never missed more than nine games on a given schedule. The durable defenseman was never the flashiest on his team, but did reach four Cup finals, winning with the 1999 Stars and 2004 Lightning.
Individually, Sydor was rewarded with a little recognition while contributing to Dallas’ late-’90s juggernaut. Beginning with a seventh-place finish in 1997, he appeared on three straight Norris ballots. He also represented North America at the 1998 and 1999 All-Star Game.
5. Kelly Hrudey
Drafted by the Islanders shortly after they won their first Cup, Hrudey arrived when the team’s dynasty was ending. Ironically, he debuted the year they lost their bid for a fifth title to his hometown Oilers.
For the next five years, he got the bulk of the crease time, competing with the great Billy Smith. New York eventually sent him cross-country to Los Angeles, where he backstopped the Kings for seven strong seasons. His made his first impression in Hollywood by upsetting Edmonton in the 1989 Smythe Division semifinals.
Appearing on seven Vezina ballots in 14 years, Hrudey finished third in 1987-88 and fourth in 1990-91.
4. Johnny Bucyk
Though overshadowed by Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito, Bucyk was an exemplary leader for Boston’s Big Bad Bruins. He finished among the league’s top 10 point-getters six times.
Two seasons after breaking out with Detroit, he transferred east and spent 21 durable years in New England. From Willie O’Ree’s barrier-breaking debut to Don Cherry’s penultimate year as head coach, Bucyk was part of it all.
In 1970-71, he broke triple digits and placed third among NHL scorers with 116 points. That earned him a spot on the first all-star team three years after he made the second. Upon retiring in 1978, he was selected as a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1981.
3. Jarome Iginla
An NHL fixture from the ages of 19 to 39, Iginla tallied at least 20 goals in 17 out of 20 seasons. He led the league in that category twice, and was also the Hart Trophy runner-up, in 2001-02 and 2003-04.
While Montreal goalie Jose Theodore took the 2002 MVP, the NHLPA chose Iginla as their most outstanding peer. He also made the first all-star team for the first of three times that year.
Iginla’s second career 50-goal season in 2007-08 was good for third in the league. With 43 tallies in 2010-11, he finished in the same position on the NHL leaderboard despite leading a non-playoff team.
2. Scott Niedermayer
For the better part of his career, Niedermayer was eclipsed by fellow New Jersey blueliner Scott Stevens. But while helping the Devils to glory with his all-round contributions, he cracked the second all-star team and placed fifth on the 1998 Norris ballot.
In his final year as a Devil, Niedermayer won the Norris and made the first all-star team. On the other side of the 2004-05 lockout, he built on that ornate foundation in Anaheim. Besides three more top-10 Norris candidacies, including back-to-back runner-up runs, he claimed the Conn Smythe while captaining the Ducks to the 2007 Stanley Cup.
Twice chosen among the league’s three stars of the month, Niedermayer retired after a 48-point season in 2009-10. He went out in peak shape, averaging 26-plus minutes of nightly ice time over his last two years. By 2013, he was enshrined in Toronto.
1. Mark Messier
In 1992, Messier finished his 14th major-league season, including one in the WHA. He had just secured his second Hart Trophy and fifth postseason all-star selection, including four first-team slots.
And he still had another dozen years ahead of him.
Messier would walk away at age 44, before the NHL returned from its year-long work stoppage. He had played 15 All-Star Games and finished among the top 10 point-getters nine times in 25 seasons. In all, he logged 1,887 points, which ranked second all-time until Jaromir Jagr surpassed him.
That’s not even counting his 295 points in 236 playoff games. While co-piloting his teams to seven finals, he tallied 20 points or more in seven postseason runs. Of his six championship-winning tournaments, three saw him break the 30-point plateau.
Sweetening his legacy for Edmontonians, Messier won five Cups and the 1984 Conn Smythe Trophy as an Oiler.