Who are the best six of all time?
QUEBEC CITY – At a gala evening at the Quebec City Convention Centre on Saturday, the IIHF announced its Centennial All-Star Team, featuring the six most successful players in the history of international ice hockey as voted by an expert panel.
The six members of the All-Star Team are:
Goaltender: Vladislav Tretiak (Russia)
First Defenceman: Vyacheslav Fetisov (Russia)
Second Defenceman: Borje Salming (Sweden)
First Winger: Valeri Kharlamov (Russia)
Second Winger: Sergei Makarov (Russia)
Centre: Wayne Gretzky (Canada)
The panel comprised 56 ice hockey experts from 16 countries representing a balance between North American and European countries, and included people who have worked in the game for an extended period and whose opinions are universally respected. One of the 56 votes represented the collective opinion of the staff of The Hockey News.
Tretiak received 30 votes, Fetisov 54, Salming 17, Kharlamov 21, Makarov 18, and Gretzky 38.
Voting was completed in April 2008. No distinction was made between right or left defenders and right or left wingers.
None of the 56 voters individually matched the final voting results.
Tretiak backstopped the Soviet national team to 10 World Championship gold medals and three Olympic gold medals. The legendary Russian goaltender also made his mark as the starting goalie for the USSR in all eight games of the history-making 1972 Summit Series versus Canada. He helped the USSR earn an 8-1 victory in the final of the 1981 Canada Cup. He became the first Soviet-trained player inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1989.
A longtime teammate of Tretiak’s, Fetisov led his national team to two Olympic gold medals and one silver medal, seven World Championship gold medals, and one Canada Cup title. His two Stanley Cups with Detroit round out his resume and make him a member of the IIHF’s Triple Gold Club. Long viewed as international hockey’s top blueliner, this extraordinary leader was named World Championship Best Defenseman on five occasions, and he was selected an unprecedented nine times to the World Championship All Star Team.
“I love the game, and I gave it everything I had every shift I played out there,” said Fetisov. “There are so many players who play this great game. I had support from my teammates, and from my family. I just celebrated my 50th birthday, and I have over 70 titles as a team player. It’s tough to separate one from another. My first World Championship in Prague in 1978 was very special, as was my first Olympic gold in Sarajevo in 1984, and of course my first Stanley Cup with Detroit.”
Salming pioneered the way for Europeans to play - and star - in the NHL, with a 17-season career that was mostly spent with Toronto and ended in Detroit in 1990. The brilliant, tough defenceman also represented Sweden in international competition over a period of 21 years, starting with the 1972 World Championship. The 1992 Olympics in Albertville was his last appearance. In 1996, he became the first Swede inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
“Like Scotty Bowman said [in his introductory speech], he had everything,” said Salming of fellow Centennial Team Member Fetisov. “His strength, his presence in front of the net. He could shoot, he could make a nice play. He was amazing. It was great to see him, and stand by him. It would have been great to play with him too.”
Kharlamov starred on the great Soviet line of the 1970’s with Boris Mikhailov and Vladimir Petrov, and this winger was just as renowned for his artistry as his victories. At eleven World Championships he won as many medals, eight of them gold. He added two Olympic gold medals and one silver to his impressive collection. He dominated the 1972 Olympics with 15 points in just 5 games. He is still second in All-Time World Championship scoring with 159 points in 105 games. Kharlamov passed away in a car accident in 1981 and was posthumously inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2005.
Makarov teamed up with Igor Larionov and Vladimir Krutov on the Soviet “KLM Line” of the 1980’s, and he won 8 World Championship gold medals in 11 trips to the event. An amazingly gifted skater and stickhandler, the winger also captured two Olympic gold medals and one silver. He dressed for the national team on 315 occasions, and in 101 World Championship games he scored an amazing 118 points. He won the scoring crown in three consecutive World Championships (1983, 1985, 1986), averaging nearly 1.6 points per game in the process.
Gretzky is widely regarded as the greatest player ever to play the game. In his international debut at the 1978 World Juniors, despite being the youngest player, the ultra-intelligent centre won the scoring title, recording 17 points in just six games. Three years later he played in his first major international event, the 1981 Canada Cup. He won the scoring crown again. The next year he debuted on European ice, taking part in his first and only IIHF World Championship, and led the tournament in scoring again. Gretzky went on to lead Canada to wins in the 1984 and 1987 Canada Cups, winning the scoring crown in both events. In Rendez-Vous ’87 versus the Soviets in Quebec City, he was named MVP, and also led this event in scoring. Four years later, in 1991, he led his country to a third consecutive Canada Cup victory. Once again he led the tournament in scoring. And of course, to go with his amazing international resume, he also owns 61 NHL records, 31 individual NHL trophies, and four Stanley Cup rings.