Hockey's 100: A Personal Ranking of the Best Players in Hockey History
Dave Jenkinson is a professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba and the author of the “Portraits” section of Emergency Librarian.
A hockey fan since 1939, an author of some 55 hockey books, a columnist for both The Hockey News and the Toronto Sun, Fischler possesses the credentials for the task he undertook, but his product is virtually guaranteed to upset numerous ardent hockey buffs. Fischler has ranked his all-time best hockey players from #1 Gordie Howe to #100 Pierre Pilote. His choices, spanning the period from pre-NHL days to the present, will produce arguments among aficionados who, for instance, might grant Howe’s top spot while roaring over Rocket Richard’s relegation to fifth spot behind his third-ranked contemporary, Red Kelly. And how can Bryan Trottier be 34th while teammate Mike Bossy is 69th?
Though the list is Fischler’s own personal ranking, he did attempt to apply some objective criteria, including each player’s longevity, impact on the game, character, number of awards, the quality of hockey during the player’s period in the game, and quality of the team on which the man played. In two to four pages for each player, Fischler provides a succinct biography, including birth place and date, amateur career highlights, major NHL accomplishments, and brief game anecdotes, plus his rationale for the player’s ranking. While Fischler essentially repeats himself a hundred times, he does so with sufficient variety that reader interest should not lag. Each player’s write-up is accompanied by a full-page black-and-white photograph. Unfortunately, in a few cases, the picture selector chose a photo of the player wearing a uniform that fans would not immediately connect with the individual. Boom Boom Geoffrion’s name evokes the red, white, and blue of Les Canadiens, not the Rangers, and the blue Tim Horton should be wearing is that of the Leafs, rather than the Sabres.
Given the book’s length, not unsurprisingly a few errors appear. For example, Carl Brewer’s NHL career began in 1957 rather than 1967, and the photo accompanying Syd Howe’s entry puts Syd in a Maple Leafs uniform, but The Complete Encyclopedia of Ice Hockey (Prentice-Hall, 1974) does not list Howe as having ever played for Toronto.
At the book’s conclusion, Fischler has an alphabetical honor roll of 96 players, which contains two non-North Americans, Anatoli Tarasov and Vladislav Tretiak. Fischler also includes a series of his “Ten Best” all-time playoff performers, clutch scorers, defensive forwards, general managers, coaches, hockey arenas, and referees, among others.
Because Fischler’s 100 best players include only eight men who are currently active in the NHL, the book will likely appeal more to adults than to juveniles. And the Great Gretzky? He’s #10!