The Greatest 100 Players of All Time
(NHL players that is.)
The NHL decided to create a list of the 100 greatest players of all time, and it was presented at an event at the All-Star game on Friday night. The league decided not to rank this list, perhaps taking a lesson from the epic amount of social media and straight-up media carrying on over the Leafs 100 list that was ranked.
It’s not going to work. I mean, sure, it’s hard to compare players across eras, but this is hockey; shaky logical foundations never stopped anyone from voicing an opinion at the top of their Twitter lungs. But without a ranking, the only thing to complain about is who was snubbed, how North America-centric, Canada-centric and Anglo-centric it is and how some teams are over-represented. Somehow we’ll manage.
The list is at the bottom of this post, but the presentation of the list and honouring of some of the players on it was only part of the event. There was another aspect to the night.
The Celebrity Shootout
The NHL has figured out how to make shootouts worse than they are. They’ve added celebrities. Which is a trendy thing. You’ll find TV-familiar faces all over the place these days. Surprisingly, sometimes that works out really well. More on that in a bit.
But what does a celebrity shootout have to do with these 100 guys?
No one knows. No one at all can answer that, not even whoever thought it up. But when the 100 names were released, also on hand were some big name hockey players including Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Bobby Orr and Mark Messier.
The first two are the team captains of this shootout thing, which may actually be a game, not just the theatrical substitution for a coinflip that is used to decide tie games these days. Why in my day, a game could end up tied, and we liked it! Loved it, in fact.
Okay, so the thing is called the All-Star Celebrity Shootout.
Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux get to coach the two teams, and they have some assistants in Robin Thicke, Alyssa Milano, Retta and Pat LaFontaine. One of these things is not like the other...
The event will benefit a nonprofit founded by Luc and Stacia Robitaille, Echoes of Hope. It strives to inspire hope in the lives of at-risk and emancipated foster youth. The organization assists youth in their pursuit of independence, empowerment and a post-secondary education.
The full rosters for Team Gretzky and Team Lemieux will be announced later but the event is described as:
... a friendly hockey game featuring 100 Greatest NHL Players honorees and celebrities from the worlds of movies, television and music.
Okay, see? This is how it all ties in together so neatly, so sensibly. Some of those players are plucked off of the 100 greatest players list. They’ll join in with the sort of fringe Hollywood type who plays hockey for fun, or can fake it well enough, and they’ll have a game. Or a shootout. Whatever it will be. It will be Saturday afternoon before the skills competition.
Justin Bieber provides the rosters for us.
I'm playing today in the @NHL celebrity all star game. pic.twitter.com/VJgB17ysJw— Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) January 28, 2017
Celebrities, am I right?
Yeah, I thought that too. But then Alyssa Milano, one of those shootout assistant coaches, changed my mind. She put together a panel that was held on Friday morning called the NHL Women in Sports Business panel. The discussion was introduced by Gary Bettman and Luc Robitaille, but the panel itself was all women.
Milano talked about why she started a sports apparel line—she couldn’t find fan apparel that wasn’t pink. She knows people, and she used her connections to get that business going, but she confessed how intimidating it was to step out of her wheelhouse and go to meetings that aren’t auditions.
Next up was Helene Elliott who writes for the LA Times. She talked about the early days of women in sports writing. The killer quote here is “Dream it and do it. If people say no to you, say why not? Don't be held back by somebody elses limitations they put on you.” But she also noted that the bad old days faded into the past when women became part of the management and administration of sports teams.
She was followed by one of the women who has her name on the Stanley Cup, Susan Samueli, who is a co-owner of the Ducks. The Ducks are their family business, and her daughter has a senior position with the San Diego Gulls. She talked about the philanthropic work the Ducks organization is involved in and also the pushback her daughter received as she moved up in the business.
My favourite member of the panel was Angela Ruggiero, who is without question one of the greatest hockey players of all time. Ruggiero is in the Hockey Hall of Fame, yet it came close to never happening.
Ruggiero is from California, and she grew up there at a time when the Kings and eventually the Sharks and the Ducks had not yet helped to grow the game to the scale it is now. She told a story about how she ended up in hockey. Her father went to register her brother for hockey, and the team begged him for more of his kids, they were so short of players. He was bemused, because his other kids were girls. But he talked about it with the family and Angela went to play too. Angela Ruggiero has four Olympic medals.
The whole panel was amazing. They talked about having passion for sports but also about the real barriers in media and in life to women’s success. They all had stories about how they had to be better than the men around them just to get in the door. It was interesting to hear how both the legislated fairness of Title IX in the USA and the movement of the Olympics to equity in inclusion has changed sports for women.
As Ruggiero said, “If you can see it, you can be it.”
You can watch it here on Alyssa Milano’s Periscope. The whole panel is a must watch for women who do or want to work in sports and the men who will be working with them.
The NHL 100 Greatest Players
(There’s a lot of Leafs, including one who never played for the team.)
The First 33 Named at the Centennial Classic