The final instalment of our five-year NHL® series is unveiled as the League celebrates its centennial and acknowledges 125 years of the Stanley Cup®
The usual galaxy of superlatives – stars, all-stars, superstars – don’t come close. These men are light-years above the rest.
They are the ultimate players. Of all time.
On September 27, 2017, before a standing-room only crowd at the Hockey Hall of Fame, hockey luminaries wait to see Canada Post lift the veil on the 2017 Canadian Hockey Legends stamps.
The five-year NHL® series has already featured 18 great defenceman, goalies and forwards. Some are in the room. Red Kelly of the Red Wings and Maple Leafs is here; he was in the Original Six™ Defenceman issue of 2014. Johnny Bower of the Leafs, and Bernie Parent of the Flyers are here; they were in the Great Canadian Goalies issue of 2015. Darryl Sittler, who was in last year’s Great Canadian Forwards issue, the only player to score 10 points in a single game, is here too.
So are other Hall of Famers, such as former Islander centre Bryan Trottier.
The players and other guests are guessing who the Ultimate Six will be.
TSN broadcaster and emcee James Duthie teases them. He lists the Legends’ accomplishments without naming them.
“With their heads, hands and hearts, they accomplished the impossible,” says Duthie. “More than 3,700 goals and more than 5,800 assists… Six men, nearly 10,000 points.”
Finally, the anticipation ends. The answers come. The unveilings occur. With friends and family members here representing these ultimate players, the memories in the room run deep and warm. They could melt a rink.
The stamps celebrate Maurice Richard (Montreal Canadiens); Gordie Howe (Detroit Red Wings); Jean Béliveau (Montreal Canadiens); Bobby Orr (Boston Bruins); Mario Lemieux (Pittsburgh Penguins); and Wayne Gretzky (Edmonton Oilers).
All inspired generations with their on-ice play and by compiling numbers that astound:
Maurice Richard was the first NHL player in history to score 50 goals in 50 games. He played with a fierce intensity, proving again and again over an 18-year career that he was the most dangerous player in the NHL from the blueline in.
Jean Béliveau showed us how to score on the ice and how to behave off of it. He is widely considered one of the game’s greatest ambassadors, if not the greatest. Béliveau was the first centre to net 500 goals and he missed the playoffs only once in 18 full NHL seasons.
Gordie Howe married finesse and physicality to become the most complete player the game has known. He finished in the top five in NHL scoring for 20 consecutive seasons between 1950 and 1969. Yet he spent the equivalent of 28 full games – 1,685 minutes – in NHL penalty boxes over his 26-year NHL career.
Bobby Orr showed us it is possible to score 100 points a season while also preventing goals. In 10 seasons with the Bruins, he had six consecutive 100-point seasons. In 1970-71, he set single-season records for assists (102), points by a defenceman (139) and rating (plus-124).
Mario Lemieux seemed to score at will. The Pittsburgh Penguins star’s greatest night illustrates the dominance he could achieve. On December 31, 1988, he logged a five-goal night by scoring in five different ways (at even strength, on the power play, short-handed, on a penalty shot and into an empty net).
Wayne Gretzky controlled the game like no other – often from behind his opponent’s net. His visionary play earned him more than 60 NHL records, including scoring 50 goals in 39 games.
As a group, this lineup won 40 Stanley Cup® Championships – 30 as players and another 10 as management – and more than 80 individual awards.
“The players we immortalized on this year’s stamps redefined hockey over careers that spanned more than 60 years. They inspired us – and each other – with feats that boggle the mind. They are the Ultimate Six,” says Canada Post President and CEO Deepak Chopra.
“On January 1, we began our year-long centennial celebrations. With 100 years of history, tradition and memorable moments behind us – and a thrilling future ahead – we have a lot to celebrate,” said Brian Jennings, NHL Chief Branding Officer. “We’re fortunate to partner with great brands like Canada Post, which shares our passion for this beautiful game.”
Designed by Avi Dunkelman and Joe Gault of Mix Design Group of Toronto, each stamp features a head-and-shoulders image of the player in uniform, with the Stanley Cup image ghosted in the background. Hockey-card souvenir sheets show each player holding the Cup; they are only available in packs of six, like hockey cards.
The Legends issue builds on the NHL Team Jersey stamps released in 2013, the Original Six™ Defenceman stamps released in 2014, the NHL Great Canadian Goalie stamps in 2015 and the NHL Great Canadian Forwards issue last year.
Canadian Hockey Legends stamps and related products are available at retail outlets and online at canadapost.ca/NHL.