5th Greatest all time

Discussion in 'The History of Hockey' started by crobro, Aug 4, 2020.

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  1. Midnight Judges HFBoards Sponsor Sponsor

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    Nearly 100% of the players were from 1 country with a population of 9-11 million people. It absolutely was NOT a deep league relative to today's NHL, or even the 1980s. This is foundational to many of the arguments here.
     
  2. overpass Registered User

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    We're only talking about 100 players in a 6 team league. There's no reason a country with a population of 9-11 million people with a strong winter sports and hockey culture and more affordable opportunities to play hockey couldn't produce 100 quality hockey players.

    You can look at the quality of play in other ways. For example, the 1950s NHL wasn't dominated by a few stars who single-handedly led their team to success. It took depth to win. As opposed to the 1970s, where individual stars stood out more and had more impact on team success, suggesting the average level of play was lower. There were a healthy number of high level junior teams from across Canada and high level minor league teams in Canada and the US that developed and fed players into the early 50s NHL.
     
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    We're talking about great depression era children.

    This affordability talk is pure nonsense.
     
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    There is no such thing as a hockey star who single-handedly led their team to success. In the entire modern history of the sport, it has never happened.

    Maybe some of us simply desire for those older eras to be legendary, for whatever reason? There is no rational explanation, but there is a helluva lot of rationalizing.
     
  5. Voight #winning

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    I will say hockey was much more affordable back then. Between local church teams and junior teams that were able to sign players/bring them into their organization at a very young age, you didnt need a ton of money to play. There was also less training back then as there is now, a lot of young players had jobs during the summer and even during the season, now a lot of them train all year long even in the off season.
     
  6. overpass Registered User

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    The structure of hockey and society as a whole in Canada was different at the time. There were community organizations, including schools and churches, that provided opportunities for players to play for free as long as they could get the equipment -- and there were often ways to get affordable used equipment. Very different from today where the cost is all placed on the parents and the family.
     
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    I do agree with your point about how huge outliers can be an indication of weak league depth.

    I don't think there has ever been fewer massive outliers than in today's NHL.
     
  8. overpass Registered User

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    Here’s a selection from Andy Bathgate, born in 1932, quoted from Ty Dilello’s book Manitoba Hockey: An Oral History.

    I think it describes the hockey culture of the community and shows the opportunity that there was to play. Andy Bathgate as a boy was skating every day for hours before and after school, played on up to 8 different organized teams in a season, and said his opportunity to play hockey games was only limited by the number of hours in the day.

    Perhaps it was desire – it certainly wasn’t reward that made me hike through sub-zero temperatures as a youngster so I could take advantage of an uncrowded indoor rink available only in the predawn hours. But when you're eight or nine years old the weather and the hours aren't important – playing hockey is what counts.

    I'd set the alarm clock for 4:30 in the morning, put on a couple of pairs of trousers and some extra sweaters over my long underwear, get my boots and overcoat, sling my hockey equipment over my shoulder, and off I'd go along the dark, snowy road that connected West Kildonan with the Olympic Rink. The anticipation of scrimmaging with my pals would make the three-mile hike a quick one. A few hours later I'd be home for breakfast and off to school or church. After hours I'd skate some more on the outdoor rink near home.

    That was my routine as a boy.

    My home always seemed like club headquarter
    s for all the youngsters in the neighborhood. Dad was happiest when there were kids around skating and shouting and alive with the zest of competition. If there wasn't a game going, it didn't take him long to organize one. He was the unofficial coach and athletic director for blocks around, and he never seemed to tire of refereeing our practice games or stopping us on occasion to offer advice.

    Lack of facilities was never a problem. If there wasn't any ice, Dad would flood the vacant lot near home. Soon our white frame house at 261 Belmont Avenue was teeming with kids. It was West Kildonan's impromptu community center. With the wide range of ages in our family and the number of youngsters always playing, it was easy for me to hook up with many teams in many leagues. One winter I played on eight different teams, and, when I was 13, I coached the 12-year-olds. The only limit to the number of games I could play per day was the number of hours left after school. My two older brothers and two sisters were getting in just as much ice time as I was—if not more. If we were in show business they'd have probably billed us as the “The Skating Bathgates.”
     
  9. BadgerBruce Registered User

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    Thank you for transcribing such a wonderful section of the book.

    Until relatively recently, many Saskatchewan communities also simply allowed the boys to use the arena ice if something formal wasn’t scheduled.

    Also, like Bathgate in Manitoba, Saskatchewan’s Gordie Howe recounts how the happiest days of his life were spent as a kid at the local rink, pulling off one sweat-soaked sweater and replacing it with another until late in the evening day after day.

    A few years ago, a sub-10 year-old boy was banned from Hockey Canada for a year because he loved hockey so much that his dad signed him up for two separate house leagues in neighbouring towns (they each had discrete house leagues and never played each other). The father couldn’t believe that what he’d done was somehow “wrong.” Heavy sigh.
     
  10. vadim sharifijanov ugh

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    without thinking too hard about how the primes of the great O6 players line up with the great depression years in canada, i think the operative variable here is access to icetime. the depression didn't make it warmer, or make the winters shorter. and unless you believe that all kids in the 1930s had to work all day in dickensian coal mines, what do you think they spent all day doing?

    there are certain places, vancouver would be an example, where the building of indoor rinks probably helped grow the talent base, because it's never cold enough here to skate outside. but in the vast majority of the country, i'm guessing modern life has taken away more opportunities to play than it's provided, at least if you calculate it by the hour.

    even in toronto, where they have free outdoor rinks in public parks, realistically how many contact hours does a kid have with a sheet of ice in any given week? how many those hours is he allowed to have a stick and a puck too? compare that to andy bathgate, as noted above.
     
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  11. BenchBrawl joueur de hockey

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    So in a nutshell, society was better. More tightly knitted, organized and with a stronger community spirit.
     
  12. tinyzombies Registered User

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    Couldn't you quantify a value for points finishes, award merit, etc.? Dickie Moore's first Art Ross could have maybe a 7 out of 10 value whereas Crosby's would be 8/10? And then just do a WAR thingy?
     
  13. Black Gold Extractor Registered User

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    pnep did something like this with his HHOF Monitor.
     
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  14. ted2019 Know your History

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    If you have to make excuses to make your favorite player look better, then he doesn't deserve to be ranked that high.
     
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  15. GuineaPig Registered User

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    Gretzky and Howe are the only guys without excuses. Everybody else has some issue that needs explaining when it comes to ranking them vs their peers.
     
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  16. tinyzombies Registered User

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    Shouldn't we have a VsXA (against) and an EVsX (expected VsX)? Gretzky got scored on a LOT, then again they played that way on purpose and still won so...

    You also need a VsWOWY
     
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2020
  17. danincanada Registered User

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    These types of statements just confirm your bias favoring those eras. Society was better back then? There were plenty of issues then and many of them were just hidden more. A lot of people in the first half of the 20th century in Canada couldn't even afford skates. It wasn't all sunshine and rainbows like some wish to portray. The Great Depression, two World Wars as book ends - do you think it was really that easy and better?

    My father was from a family of 11 and they weren't all getting skates and equipment every winter becuase there wasn't enough money to go around. It all depended on where people lived and their situation, just like now.
     
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  18. danincanada Registered User

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    It wasn't just his generation though. I'm a Red Wings fan and I've heard similar stories from 3 European players of another generation. Fedorov talked about moving to a northern part of Russia in his childhood and basically spending all his time on the ice because he loved it and there was nothing else to do in his little town. Lidstrom actually went to a school where the main focus was hockey so he would get tons of ice-time each day. Datsyuk was interviewed once and showed the rink at his apartment building where he said he spent whole days on the ice.

    Of course Gretzky famously had a backyard rink, Orr had all the ice in Parry Sound to skate on, and I recall Mario's mother talking about him being out on the rink all day in Montreal as a child. Most players today get scouted really early and get serious about training and honing their craft in their early teens, if not earlier, so I really don't see an issue with todays players in this regard. We know they spend a lot more time doing off ice training now so it's just different, not worse.

    It's always been about drive, natural talent, and opportunity to get on the ice and/or train. Those things have always existed and hopefully they always will. It's not unique to one era or nation.

    The thing is, I can see some here pointing to this as a reason why Bathgate's generation was "better". But isn't this section into evening things out for different eras based on what was available? So todays players have all the benefits of todays training and equipment so they need to be judged against their own peers? Makes sense. So if they weren't able to get on the ice as much as someone like Bathgate isn't that okay, because it simply wasn't available to them but that would be the case for the whole generation of players? Where do we go with this? Seems like the current era often gets punished for these types of differences but the older eras don't.
     
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  19. danincanada Registered User

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    The question is what quality are we actually talking about here. Not to harp on it again but I will harp on it again... The RSL in the 80's had lots of quality hockey players too but would anyone say they could all play in todays NHL? I see a similar answer for the O6 era of the NHL. Both leagues had great players at the top but lacked the quality of depth an international league has access to for very obvious reasons.
     
  20. danincanada Registered User

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    Sorry, let me clarify. I meant Fetisov's peers who could challenge him as the top defender in his league. There was his own partner Kasatonov and I'm sure several other NHL level guys but it's not anything to write home about overall. Not compared with a strong and deep era of the NHL era anyways. It was similar for Harvey and his era. He had Kelly early and Pilote late, but in reality this wasn't the 90's NHL and it was very shallow for truly elite defenseman. We have to keep their dominance in context due to the leagues they played in. Same applies overall to the talent pool of the RSL in the 80's but I was specifically thinking about defenseman and what their competition was.

    No, but Harvey is in the sections top 10 so based on that he should be considered along with the other three O6 guys after Howe. So the O6 has 4 candidates and only Crosby qualifies for this era and the baby boomers like Bourque and Roy round it out. You must realize how unrealistic this all is. It's based on peer to peer comparisons with a fairly heavy bias towards "the golden era of hockey" or whatever some call it here. In reality it just appears to be a domestic league that has been overrated due to the NHL name that it had and for having the best players in the world at the time. It actually just displays the fact that hockey grew and spread and so did the league.

    If it got bigger and more diverse then how did it not also get deeper, too? They go hand and hand here so just admit it already.

    I don't know how old you are but I remember the Russians coming over and that alone made the NHL better, more diverse, and deeper - if you don't think Bure, Fedorov, and Mogilny joining the league alone didn't make it better for us fans than I don't know what to tell you. Expansion came again around that time too to make it bigger. That's just one obvious example. We see slower integrations from other nations so it's less obvious but those happened as well.

    Yeah, vastly different but the 2020 NHL is a large international league with elite players from multiple countries. The 50's NHL and 80's RSL weren't this, they both looked like domestic leagues in terms of where the talent came. They were actually a lot closer to each other in these regards than the 2020 NHL, or even the 1992 NHL. That's my point. If an old Soviet fan came in and told everyone there's the big 4, then the Green unit in his all-time top 9 players he wouldn't be taken seriously. That's kind of how I feel about having 5 players from the O6 in this sections top 10. It's not to be taken seriously and there's a clear bias.
     
  21. overpass Registered User

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    I certainly agree that players of other generations could tell stories like Bathgate where they spent all their time on the ice. No doubt these experiences allowed Fedorov, Lidstrom, and Datsyuk became the great players they were. But I would say that different times and places have allowed different experiences.

    Looking specifically at the Canadian experience, and at the simplified origin stories of the great players, we can see differences over time. Take Bathgate's story and then compare to Orr, Gretzky, Lemieux, and finally Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid over time. You see a steady decline in the use of community resources, including unorganized hockey in public space, and using community facilities, and a steady rise in the use of private space (Gretzky's backyard, Crosby's basement, etc). By the time you get to Connor McDavid, he spent hours at a time rollerblading in his parents' driveway as a kid. Not out in the community playing with the neighbourhood kids. So the story for modern players is very different.

    There has always been opportunity for driven and passionate young hockey players to spend several hours each day working on their hockey skills, but the last generation has probably spent most of that time practicing on their own rather than playing with other children in the community, and the opportunities that they have for organized hockey have depended in part on their parents. Today's NHL players, at least from Canada, often speak about the sacrifices that their parents had to make to allow them to reach the NHL. Huge investments of money (for equipment, team fees, tournament fees, sometimes skills coaches) and time (driving to practices, games, and tournaments). In the past a player could develop into an NHL player through use of the available community resources with relatively low investment and cost from their parents, as long as they had the talent, the passion, and the drive. Those community resources are long gone as our society has become more atomized and lost social cohesion and trust. Everything has been separated and had a dollar value placed on it. The experience that could be provided through a community at low cost can now cost upwards of ten thousand dollars a year in parental investment in time and money, and the young players still get less ice time than they would have had growing up 80 years ago, although they can get more focused and high-quality instruction.

    This is my take on the Canadian experience. If you want to talk about the experience in other countries, I don't know as much but I find it interesting as well. Why have Sweden and Finland punched above their weight in terms of producing great hockey players from a small population, often from specific regions? I don't know but I suspect there is still more social cohesion there, in their athletic clubs and otherwise, than we have in Canada. I like what I've heard of their club model for sports, where there is more continuity growing up and young hockey players can be developed by top organizations, and I think it shares some of the advantages of Canada's junior hockey from the Original Six era. Why did Russian hockey development take such a hit after the Soviet Union collapsed? I'm no fan of the Soviet system and communism, but the transition away from communism in the 1990s was not handled well at all, and social institutions and social cohesion took a hit.

    All of which is to say that I don't think holding Canadian talent constant as a percentage of population over time is the way to go. There's a reason the Original Six NHL was considered a golden age for hockey in the decades that followed. The league and the players grew out of a socially cohesive society with a very strong hockey culture, opportunity for children to play all the hockey they wanted, and a well-organized junior hockey development system that was integrated with NHL clubs and staffed by many NHL alumni. It's not surprising that this era produced a lot of great players and a very high average level of play.

    Getting back to the topic of the thread, I'm open to arguments for more recent players like Hasek and Crosby at #5, but I would be opposed to slotting them in there because some quota system for Original Six era players says that Hull or Richard or Harvey or Beliveau can't be #5.
     
  22. plusandminus Registered User

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    I think you must be referring to secondary school ("gymnasieskola"). Lidström was born in 1970 and likely had three secondary school years from autumn 1986 to spring 1989, at age 16-19. So it happened relatively late.
    ...Exactly. Swedish wikipedia says "16 year old Lidström moved from Avesta to Västerås to attend the hockeygynasium and start playing for Västerås IK".

    It's true that Sweden have "hockeygymnasium" ("hockey secondary school"). It seems we currently have 33 across the country, of which 6 are for girls only.
    I'm no expert on the subject but would say it's like an ordinary secondary school, with the same courses (math, economy, languages, etc), but with a little more time allocated for - in this case - ice hockey.
    We also have secondary schools for football (soccer), skiing and other sports.

    (This is again a bit off-topic to me. I would rather have seen a separate thread for the very interesting topic of talent pools.)
     
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  23. TheDevilMadeMe Registered User

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    While I disagree that "society" as a whole was better back then, it pretty clearly was easier and more common for low and middle income native Canadians to grow up playing hockey.
     
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  24. danincanada Registered User

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    Of course, and costs keep getting worse and worse. I think you may be underestimating how many families either make due or simply have the money here in Canada though. And when the family has lots of money, or it appears to be worth the investment, the kid gets high level training and lots of ice-time.

    I think you are also overselling how many kids could play in the first half of the century. It was very much regional, at least far more than today, and we’ve always had immigrant families who didn’t learn how to skate or get into hockey. And of course you would hear these stories from and about guys who made the NHL because they were the fortunate ones.

    That’s just Canada though...
     
  25. The Panther Registered User

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    Actually, they don't. If the same-size League suddenly got more diverse, then it got deeper, yes. But that's not what you're saying:
    If you think about this, you'll see it doesn't make sense. Of course adding players from Russia improved the high-end talent of the League (just as adding players from Sweden / Finland added to the high-end talent in the 70s/80s), but as the League simultaneously expanded, the League didn't get any deeper.

    I'm always baffled as to why people don't understand this. Simply adding more good players doesn't make the League deeper if the League is way bigger.

    How many teams are there next year -- 32? Let's just compare that with, say, 26 teams. Six more teams means 130 or 140 more full-time players have to be employed at the NHL level. How many of those 140 players are noticeably above-average players? Very few. Most of the new NHL jobs after large-scale expansion go to scrubs, discarded players, and third/fourth-liners.

    Generally speaking, the "deepest" and richest periods of high-end talent concentration in the NHL are just before periods of expansion, when the League had been stable in size for years, and while the talent-pool -- but not the number of teams -- was expanding. So, probably the period around the early 1960s to 1967 was a very deep period. Probably the late-80s and early-90s was a very deep period.

    But I personally don't think the recent period of, say, 2012 to 2017 was a particularly 'deep' period of talent. The talent pool is basically the same as in, say, 2000, but there are too many teams now. Today's NHL talent-pool is more like the early-70s when there were too many teams.

    It's not the high-end players at the top who tell us how rich and deep the talent level is. (There are always great players at the top... well, except in 2001-02.) It's the players right in the middle who tell the story. If you ranked all 110 players from top to bottom in 1966-67, or ranked all 620-or-whatever players from top to bottom today, and then drew a line right in the center of that ranking, then compare the players in different eras who fall right into the center of the list. That tells us how deep a particular era was.
     

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