Monday, February 20, 2012

Who Was the Greater NHL Player, Gretzky or Howe?

In the past, there has been a debate about who was the greatest NHL player. The debate usually focuses on two players, Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe. Both players were the greatest players of their generation and the two players were in the prime of their career in completely different eras.

It's very hard to compare the two players but I do have a personal opinion about which player stands out in my mind. I'm sure many of you will have a different opinion but that's what makes sports commentary and opinion interesting and exciting. For the purpose of this article, I only looked at Howe's and Gretzky's NHL careers.

Gordie Howe played in five decades. Count them, five decades. That's an accomplishment that probably will never be seen again. Howe was competitive for the greater part of his career and what makes him a great player in my mind, isn't only the fact that he's third on the all time NHL total points list with 1,850 points (He's second in goals) but Howe was also a physical player. Howe wasn't afraid to take the body and is in the top 100 players of all time in penalty minutes. The fact that Howe was a complete player who not only had a gift of putting the puck in the net but also knew the importance of being a physical player and fighting for the puck, makes his contributions to the NHL, incredible.

Gretzky's career is in contrast to Howe's. Wayne Gretzky was all about the offense and rarely got physical in a game. Opposing players were also afraid to dish it out against "The Great One" for fear of retribution by the NHL. While Gretzky may have been protected by the NHL to some degree, it's not like players never hit him or pinned him up against the boards. Gretzky usually found a way to avoid being hit.

Gretzky holds NHL records for all time scoring, goals scored  and total assists in a career. Gretzky tallied over 1,000 more points than Howe. He did this by playing 280 fewer gamesthan Howe. This is why Greatzky is the greatest NHL player of all time. I give more weight to Gretzky's scoring records than the physical play of Howe.

There's no one who's come close to Gretzky's scoring records, even great players who've played in more games than "The Great One". Gretzky tallied 1.92 points per game. That's an incredible record, no matter what era he played in.

I do think that Howe's longevity was an amazing accomplishment and I do think he's a very close second to Gretzky when talking about the NHL's greatest players of all time. I just think that Gretzky's dominance in the 1980's and 1990's sets "The Great One" apart from any other player in NHL history.

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