While the bottom five players in our top 10 were impressive into their later years, these top five have defied all odds and played as though they were ageless during their careers, playing not only well into their 40s, but playing well during these senior years as well.
5. Chris Chelios
Chris Chelios was considered a senior player for the Red Wings when they won their Stanley Cups in 1997 and 1998. Little did they know that he would still be on their team 10 years later, winning another Cup. Chelios’ ability to remain relevant in the NHL for as long as he did is simply astonishing. After winning three Norris trophies earlier in his career, Chelios rose back up to 6th in Norris voting in the 1999-00 season and would then later rise up to become a finalist, finishing 2nd in the voting in the 2001-02 season, scoring 39 points and finishing on the First All-Star Team, all at the ripe young age of 40. From then on, Chelios became more of a role player, using his experience to help guide younger players, but he was always a capable enough defenseman to remain in the NHL and keep playing. He won his fourth Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings in 2008 at the age of 46, playing 14 playoff games along the way. In 2009, Chelios parted ways with Detroit and joined the Atlanta Thrashers for the 2009-10 season. Chelios played in just 7 games for them, but performed suprisingly well for the Chicago Wolves of the AHL, scoring 22 points in 46 games. Chelios retired in 2010 at the age of 48 and was the second oldest player to ever play in the NHL.
4. Teemu Selanne
When Teemu Selanne re-joined the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, it was thought that it was going to be a brief and memorable reunion of the last few years of Selanne’s career. Instead, it paved the way to a long and successful encore to the great Finn’s career. In 2006-07, Selanne scored 48 goals and had 94 points, finishing 9th in Hart voting at the age of 36. From then on, Selanne remained a consistent point-per-game player, even as he got older and older. In fact, in the 2010-11 season, as Selanne was 40 years old, he surpassed that mark, scoring 80 points in just 73 games, a testament to his astonishing longevity. Selanne remained a solid top six forward for two more seasons before finally seeing a drop off in his offense. Selanne retired at the age of 43 and as of the writing of this article, has just been announced as an inductee into the Hockey Hall of Fame for the class of 2017.
3. Dominik Hasek
Of all positions, it seems as though goaltenders are the most capable of playing into their later years, but Hasek likely did it the best. Hasek’s career started later than most with him getting his first games at 26 years old and being given the backup role at 27. He didn’t become a starter until the 1993-94 season with the Sabres at the age of 29. Despite his dominance earlier in his career, Hasek continued to be a very capable starting goaltender into his late 30s and early 40s. Hasek had 37 wins in the 2000-01 season at the age of 36 and had another big season in 2001-02 as Detroit’s new starter, leading the NHL in wins with 41 at the age of 37. To the surprise of some, Hasek desired to continue his career after the NHL lockout in 2004-05 and did so with the Ottawa Senators, helping them win 28 games and finishing 7th in Vezina voting despite playing in just 41 games. In 2006-07, the now 42-year old Hasek returned to the Detroit Red Wings and served as their starter, winning 38 games and finishing 5th in Vezina voting. The 2007-08 season would be Hasek’s last, but he still remained a very capable starting goaltender. He played in 41 games, winning 27 of them and winning the William M. Jennings in a season split with Chris Osgood. Hasek played in just four games during the 2008 playoffs, but his Red Wings took home the Cup, the second of Hasek’s career. He retired at the age of 43.
2. Jaromir Jagr
Jaromir Jagr seems as ageless as ever. After dominating the NHL in the mid to late 90s, took it down a notch in the early 00s. For Jagr, taking it down a notch meant taking it from an NHL superstar, to being a very good NHL 1st line player. Many players had resurgent seasons in the 2005-06 year after the lockout, but it was not expected that Jagr would be one of them. At 33 years old, he scored 123 points, finishing second to Joe Thornton. Jagr played with the Rangers until the 2007-08 season, after which he would leave the NHL to play in the Kontinental Hockey League. Most expected that Jagr would play in the KHL for a few years, then retire. Not so. Jagr made a surprising return to the NHL in the 2011-12 season with the Philadelphia Flyers and at 39, was still surprisingly capable. After his 54-point season, he somehow took it up to another level in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season by scoring 35 points in 45 games. Amazingly, Jagr would continue to improve in the 2013-14 season, which he spent with the New Jersey Devils. Jagr scored 24 goals and 67 points at the amazing age of 41. Jagr’s next season would see a dip, but in the 2015-16 season, at the remarkable age of 43, Jagr had his best season since returning to the NHL. Playing for the Florida Panthers, Jagr scored an astounding 27 goals and added 39 assists for 66 points in 79 games. Even in the 2016-17 season, Jagr remained a capable top six forward, scoring 46 points. Jagr has lasted so long in the NHL that even with his three year leave from the NHL, he’s pushed his point totals to 1914 points, good for second all-time in NHL history. His 765 goals rank third all-time. As of the writing of this article, Jagr is 45 years old and still plans to return for more.
1. Gordie Howe
No man has ever challenged Gordie Howe’s longevity, though Chelios was approaching it and Jagr may take a stab at it. If ever there was a perfect picture of consistency combined with longevity, Gordie Howe was it. Age didn’t seem to be much of a factor for Howe, who continued to be one of the NHL’s best forwards well into his late 30s and early 40s. At 37, Howe finished 5th in scoring, at 38, he finished 4th in scoring, at 39, he finished third in scoring, at 40, he finished third in scoring with his first 100+ point season. Think about that–at 40 years old, Howe scored his first 100+ point season with 103 points. Following that, Howe played for two more years in the NHL before retiring…briefly. Howe returned to professional hockey in the WHA and was a star forward for years in his 40s before the WHA closed it’s door and Howe, still on Hartford’s roster, joined the Whalers in the NHL for the 1979-80 season. Despite being an astonishing 51 years old and also a grandfather, Howe scored 41 points, playing all 80 games in the season. Howe would finally retire in 1980, but his records would remain.
Honourable Mention: Jean Beliveau
Beliveau “only” played til he was 39, but he had 82 points in 69 games at 37 years old while finishing second in Hart voting. In the 1970-71 season, he had 51 assists and 76 points in 70 games at 39 years of age, finishing 14th in Hart voting. He certainly retired on top of his game.
Honourable Mention: Martin St. Louis
Like Beliveau, St. Louis didn’t play into his 40s, but also like Beliveau, St. Louis was a good player up until the day he retired. St. Louis led the entire NHL in assists and in points in the shortened 2012-13 season at the age of 37. The three-time Lady Byng winner would have two more successful seasons before retiring at 39 years old.