Who’s No. 1? No. 4, No. 9, No. 66 or No. 99?


I don’t normally pump a TV show or a book signing, but since Bobby Orr is really making the rounds with his book, and since the Rangers have a few days between games here, I thought this would be a good topic of conversation.

In my mind, the best players of all-time are 1) Wayne Gretzky, 2) Bobby Orr and then you can argue Gordie Howe or Mario Lemieux. I didn’t see much of Howe, at least not in his prime.

But here’s a press release from NBC for Bob Costas’ show, which will air after Rangers-Bruins Tuesday. In it, Orr says Howe is No. 1.

From NBC Sports:


Costas’ In-Depth Sit-Down with Orr Debuts Tuesday, Nov. 19 at 11 p.m. ET on NBCSN Following Rangers-Bruins at 7:30 p.m. ET

“Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux go down with Gordie Howe as our greatest players. But in my mind, they’re not knocking Gordie out of that number one spot.” – Orr on Greatest All-Time NHL Player Debate

Widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of hockey, two-time Stanley Cup Champion and legendary NHL defenseman Bobby Orr sits down with 25-time Emmy Award-winner Bob Costas for the newest edition of Costas Tonight, to debut on Tuesday, November 19, at 11 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Orr made his debut with the Boston Bruins in 1966, where he played 10 of his 12 NHL seasons. Orr is recognized for revolutionizing the game of hockey, specifically the position of defenseman, where he used his speed and skill to shatter offensive records. He remains the only defenseman to have won the Art Ross Trophy for leading the NHL in points, a feat he accomplished twice (1969-70, 1974-75), and won eight consecutive Norris Trophies as the league’s best defenseman (1967-1975).

Orr’s most decorated season came during the 1969-70 campaign, when he won the Art Ross (most points), Norris (best defenseman), Hart (MVP), and Conn Smythe (playoff MVP) trophies. His historic season was punctuated by one of the most famous goals in NHL history in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, when Orr scored 40 seconds into overtime to complete Boston’s sweep of the St. Louis Blues. Orr was tripped as he scored the goal, sending him flying across the ice to create one of the most iconic images in hockey history, simply known as “The Goal,” which is also pictured on the cover of his new book entitled Orr: My Story.

Following are excerpts from Costas’ interview with Orr:

Orr on retiring at age 30 due to injuries: “There was an emptiness. I wasn’t going crazy or anything, but I certainly missed it…it bothered (me) when they took my skates.”

Orr on his first NHL game against Gordie Howe: “I might have kind of bumped Gordie the way I shouldn’t have, but a little later in the game, I’m watching my pretty pass over my shoulder, and next thing I know I’m on the ice, and it’s Mr. Howe that hit me. I think he wanted to let me know, ‘Don’t do that. I’m still around, the big guy is still around.’”

Orr on Gordie Howe as best all-time NHL player: “I say Gretzky was a great player, was a wonderful player. And Wayne and Mario Lemieux, they’ll go down with Gordie as two of our greatest players. But in my mind, they’re not knocking Gordie out of that number one spot.”

Orr on golfing legend Arnold Palmer: “Arnold Palmer was probably the best pro I’ve ever seen. Don’t tell me you can’t be a great player in a sport and still be a nice guy. Check with Arnold, he’s the best.”

Photo by Getty Images.


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  1. Although Dan Fritsche, Eric Christensen and Marcel Hossa should be up there in the discussion too

  2. There was no one like Bobby Orr. He was in a class by himself. He not only played the game, he revolutionized the game.

    Gretsky and Lemieux have big production numbers. You can’t judge Gordie Howe against those numbers. He played in a six-team league. Everyone was an all-star by today’s standards with only slight exaggeration. He didn’t just meet top checkers every third or fourth game and on some shifts. He met them every shift and since the teams played each other 14 times a year, they knew each other better than they knew their wives.

    Having said that Gordie Howe was the complete player and possibly the toughest guy in the league, with a mean streak. I’d put him second all-time. Lemieux if he had stayed healthy could have surpassed Gretksy. With Gretsky after he left his powerhouse Oilers, he never won another cup, yet they won without him.

    The most exciting player who ever lived, perhaps the most exciting athlete who ever lived: Maurice (The Rocket) Richard. His performances in the big games looked like they were scripted in Hollywood.

  3. Hey Carp,
    How about re-phrasing this question:

    If you were having an All-Time hockey draft, and all these players were the same age, all eligible to be selected to build your franchise, who would you pick first?


  4. 1) Gretxky because he made all those around him that much better
    2) Orr because you usually win from the net out
    3) Howe because of his all around game & toughness. Not to mention durability.
    4) Lemieux. Definitely last of this bunch because of his health issues. And general dickiness.

  5. Good morning, boneheads!

    Very nice post, idov. Thank you. I want to say Gretzky, but I wouldn’t be a good judge. I grew up watching Kharlamov, Firsov, Maltsev, Polupanov, Tretjak etc.

  6. ZzZz NYR ZzZz©" Don't Stepan the logo!!!"...says Greg L. on

    #1 Gretzky , His number is retired LEAGUE WIDE ..need we say more?

    #2 Howe , cuz Gretzky says so….need we say more?

    #3 Mario Lemieux , if healthy he could of shattered some of Gretz numbers. Pure domination.

    #4 Orr , awsome skating and scoring touch.

    #5 Messier , 2nd only to Gretzky in the all time list.

    #6 Tretiak , Icon , idolized by many . Best Russian of all time.

  7. Good morning, Sally!

    How you doin, Miami?

    cw, I still go 1. TGO, 2. Orr, 3 either Mario or Gordie.

    and, as Greg pointed out, where’s Messier in this? Is he clearly top five or six?

  8. iDoodie Machetto on

    Are we talking peak or career? Because I think peak and motivated Mario could dominate in a way no one else ever could.

  9. Doing well, CARP.

    Still livin’ the dream in what the Huffington Post called “America’s greatest city”

  10. Guys, don’t forget to buy Bobby Orr’s new book, “My Story” or something like that. Francesa read parts of it and was really impressed!

  11. All time hockey draft?

    1.) The Prust
    2.) Mark Messier
    3.) Brian Leetch

    From here down it just doesn’t matter. Your team is already the best ever.

  12. I saw all but Gordie during their prime years, and my choice would be:

    1) Gretzky – his numbers are so awe inspiring that it’s hard to ignore. The best vision I’ve ever seen on a hockey player, and underrated defensively.

    2) Orr – Changed the game. Best skater I’ve ever seen, and had a surprising mean streak. His battles with the Rangers’ Park were legendary (and as a Ranger fan, I hated Orr, because we were Park fans. Park gets 3 or 4 Norris’ if it wasn’t for Orr). I thought he was a bit overrated defensively, but he skated well enough to make up for it.

    3) Howe – I saw him toward the end of his career, so I’m just taking the word of others. I get that the league was only 6 teams, but the population was smaller too. It was a different era and a different style. If he did now what he did then, he’d be in the penalty box way too much.

    4) Lemieux – The strongest player I have ever seen. I just think he’s just slightly below the other three, although if you put a gun to my head, I couldn’t tell you why. Maybe it was just injuries, not sure.

    5) Messier – Great player and best leader who turned it up a notch during the post season.

  13. On the Brooks article. I’m inclined to put Nash on the line with Brassard and maybe Boyle? Pouliot? Pyatt even? At least to start, until he gets his legs under him. I really don’t want to break up two lines that have worked so well, and Zuc has been great since his benching. Eventually I think I’d move Nash in with Step and Kreider, Put Zuc with Richards and Hags, and move Cally to the third line with Brassard and Boyle, which would be a really nice checking line with some scoring touch.

  14. Well Pimp now you have an extra follower. I will try to get you more! Even though I have very few myself.

  15. Francesca reads, only because he had a hockey guest on. I didn’t hear the interview, but I wonder how many 1994 references he threw in there (not even realizing Orr was retired) Mike’s hockey knowledge begins and ends with…”I was interested in hockey in 1994″ and that’s it.

  16. Bobby Orr saw Palmer but didn’t see Jack Nicklaus? That’s like seeing Gordie Howe but not seeing Terry Sawchuk. Hard to do.

  17. Stranger Nation on

    Yes, we don’t want to move Zucc off that #1 line for Nash that wold be a huge mistake.

    Pass it on the left hand side…

  18. You definitely should. Pimp is a layered and intricate human being that isn’t just always screaming for THE KREIDER

  19. Stranger Nation on

    CW – agree, who is your all-time starting line-up?

    RW – Gordie Howe
    C – Wayne Gretzky
    LW – Mario Lemieux
    RD – Larry Robinson
    LD – Bobby Orr
    G – Terry Sawchuck

    interesting tidbit on Howe: _when he was 15 he made a bid to play with the New York Rangers, attending the team’s training camp in Winnipeg. He was homesick, however, and before the end of the camp he returned to Saskatchewan._

  20. IDOV – I will meet you half-way re “everyone was an all-star in the old days,” etc. In fact, just about everyone in Montreal, Toronto, and Detriot was of all-star caliber. New York, Boston, and Chicago, however, got the left-overs with few exceptions. The Chicago Black Hawks of 1961 were the only team not from Montreal, Toronto, or Detroit to win the Cup beween 1941, when Boston won it, and 1970, when Boston again won it.

    Got to say New York, Boston, and Chicago were saps for letting the “Big Three” NHL franchises get away with having territorial draft rights to the best amateur prospects in the world. Had I owned the Rangers when they put that “fix” into the league bylaws, I would have invited Boston and Chicago to join my team in starting a new major professional hockey league. No way is my franchise going to be a “step child” to the Big Three talent monopolists for nearly three decades.

  21. Stranger Nation on

    Love Howe as the most compete player in NHL history but the league was basically a Canadian barnstorming league and he never played against the Eastern Europeans just like Babe played baseball prior to desegregation.

    Six teams composed of players from a nation of less than 20 million people in the 60’s. For comparison sake, there are ~ 19 million people in the NY Metro area.

  22. Messier – Gretzky – Lemieux would be my top line.

    Orr – Leetch Dream Defense

    Eddie “The Eagle” Belfour – My Favorite Goalie of all time.

  23. Howe almost a Ranger. Crazy to imagine a 15 year old as a Ranger, that’s a lot to ask of a kid to live in the Big City that far away from family.

    Just think how many Banners would be hanging at MSG if he was.

  24. ThisYearsModel on

    I vote for #4. Best player I ever saw. Respect to the others, but this guy made Phil Esposito a hall of famer.

  25. I will abstain because I never saw Orr or Howe play. I just think it’s *ridiculous* that the -Rangers- Oilers had, potentially, two of the top five players *all time* on the same team.

  26. All-time starting line-up?

    RW – Gordie Howe
    C – Wayne Gretzky
    LW – Mario Lemieux
    RD – Anton Stralman
    LD – Bobby Orr
    G – Terry Sawchuck

  27. No doubt the fix was in with the territorial rights–but we got Gilbert..and while my friends all idolized The Mick and YA…I had Rod…and even after all these years later…I wouldn’t have it any other way!

  28. Rob in Beantown on

    I’m following you on twitter too Miami Pimp! But it better not be at all amateur hour or bush league, or I will unfollow

  29. Manny no Versteeg for the Rangers. Blackhawks trade him away to Florida. Florida picks up 1/2 the contract and half the cap hit, 2.2M. Now that’s a win for the Hawks.

  30. Florida is in SELL, SELL, SELL, wheeler dealer mood …. who would you trade for today if you had a deal that would make sense?

    Do you trade Kristo/Miller/McBust or maybe PullOUT.

  31. Doodie Machetto on

    Only non-young guys (whom Florida would not move) that I’m interested in are Matthias and Goc. And seeing as how we have more than our share of bottom 6 forwards, I’m not particularly interested in either of those guys.

    Other than that, I’d be all about acquiring Stanley C. Panther.

  32. @AGrossRecord From #NYR practice. More progress: *Rick Nash wearing a contact jersey.* Assistants running drills, AV already Montreal for personal matter.

  33. 1. Orr-single-handedly beat us in 1972 for the Cup. As This Year’s Model noted, made Espo a HOF and everyone around him had great stats that they would not have amassed without him. Boston was never the same without him.
    2. Howe-complete player, did it all. My brother met Bobby Hull years ago and asked him who the greatest ever was and he said “Gordon Howe.”
    3.Gretzky-no question a great one. But remember that Edmonton did win a Cup without him.
    4. Messier-second most complete player ever after Howe.Meaness, grit and ability.
    5.Lemieux-great one also but the Graves incident in the playoffs soured me on him a little bit.

  34. Rob in Beantown on

    Manny Fried @MrManager5
    @gopaulo @NYP_Brooksie Hey Brooksie. Stop acting like Tort (your sworn enemy) and answer the question!

    You guys are awesome

  35. @AGrossRecord 21s

    PP work right now, Del Zotto working with penalty killers, Staal taking his spot on the point. *So signs point to DZ being a scratch tomorrow*

  36. Doodie Machetto on

    Orr got to play in the league right when it got watered down by an exponential amount. Everyone seems to forget that.

  37. Perfect Storm for the Rangers. Montreal is playing in Columbus tonight, then have to fly home to play Rangers on Sat. Getting them tired, and flying home, could help us in the 3rd period, if PullOUT isn’t in the Frequent Flyer Box :)

  38. Francesa’s “interview” with Bobby Orr was drek. All F. could say for 20 minutes was how humble Orr is and was, over and over and over because he knew little else. Orr, himself, was interesting when he could get a word in.

  39. Monster Mash out because D. Moore is in, so we need Falk for some much needed Grit.

    That makes perfect sense!

  40. Oh! I will have to let Mrs. Manny know. She’s not really in touch with Andy Warhol anymore but I’m sure she remembers posing for that one.

  41. Parros & Prust are both active. Falk in, Monster Mash out.

    DZ drew the short straw over Stralman.

  42. #NYR lines at practice:
    Pouliot-D. Moore-Miller

    So when Nash comes back how does it look?

    Pouliot/Miller – Brassard – Nash
    Boyle – D. Moore – Dorsett


  43. Doodie Machetto on

    All time greatest lineup:

    RW: THE Kreider
    LW: THE Kreider
    C: THE Kreider
    D: THE Kreider
    D: THE Kreider

    Current Rangers lineup:

    RW: Cookie Monster
    LW: THE Kreider
    C: Mickey Mouse
    D: Dog’s Breakfast
    D: Bush League

    1 for 5 isn’t bad.

  44. Wonder why Nash has to go to Cleveland to get medical head advice. Doesn’t he trust the Rangers’?

  45. I don’t understand the concept of taking someone with a head injury and putting them on a plane to get medical advice. Isn’t that whole pressure thing a bad idea?

  46. Ranger JHW – We agree re Hot Rod Gilbert being an outstanding player and a fan favorite. However, when Hot Rod was at his peak he could have been trade bait for a couple really talented young players. I wish Emile could have pulled the trigger on a Gilbert to Montreal for Mickey Redmond and Serge Savard trade, immediately following Rod’s four-goal game in the Forum, in early 1968. The Rangers were so close to being the best in the late 60’s.

    And what a shame we went for Doug Robinson instead of Espo, when we sent Camille Henry to the Black Hawks in early 1964. One sensational trade made by the Bruins,getting Espo and Hodge, etc. reallly aced-out the Rangers best chances for winning it all, back then. Espo and Orr were just to much to overcome.

  47. Liked IDOV’s comments a lot. Gretzky has to be #1, but Orr is a good #2 from everything I have heard/know. They changed the Power Play rules because of him!

  48. Stranger Nation on

    El Zotto out – what took so long.

    Nash doesn’t play with top 6 because Zucc has been playing well, really?

    Leave Mash in for toughness; Moore out. Moore and Pullout on same line with a rookie? What the Falk!

  49. Stranger, with a full compliment, AV will roll out four lines. You can’t think of Nash being on the 3rd line, just on one of the scoring lines.

  50. I found it funny to look at these legends in a draft and to see who would draft who first.

    Gretky (Star icon) – Islanders, Carolina, Tampa, Florida, Montreal, Toronto,
    Howe – (All around talent, grit and toughness) – Philly, Buffalo, Detroit,
    Orr – (Defensemen to build team around) – Rangers, Boston, Phoenix, Ottawa.
    Lemieux (Speed, only offense) – Pittsburgh, Washington, Columbus.

  51. For some reason I forgot the devils and added phoenix to the list of the east teams…I’d say the devils would have picked orr as well

  52. So Carp, is there any sentiment that MDZ is being Prucha’d because MDZ is being Gaborik’d? Or is he just being Prucha’d because he needs to be Prucha’d?

  53. Oh…Like Chewing Gum! I thought they meant gum as in gums as in the things that hold your teeth in place.

  54. LMGO @ that video! And not because of “gum malfunction” but because of what said by the commentator in Russian. He said:” Brilliant goal! Excellent play excecuted by the *4th. line*! He’s playing in the fourth line in KHL for the team I never heard about.

  55. Of interest to the Cap Nerds:

    @capgeek 1m Questions about #RedWings calling Gustav Nyquist up. If current roster maintained, they’d have enough cap space to do so in mid-January.

  56. Continuing:

    @capgeek 16s With current roster, #RedWings will bank cap space as season progresses. Could add ~$2M on deadline day or Nyquist’s $950K in mid-January.

  57. Stranger Nation on

    Someone remind of why the player with the weakest shot on the team is playing pt on the PP?

  58. Manny I have an “outside” shot of Siouxper-MAMA winning a trip to Banff. Looks like a fun pond to swim in.

  59. Is Thomas even playing this year?

    As of today the Rangers got the better player in Kristo, don’t you think?

  60. Doodie Machetto on

    Thomas hasn’t played a game yet due to injury, so even though this has obviously been skewed in a way we did not intend, I will honor it and find a good Sioux logo.

  61. Cool, a fun Dubinsky video and my boy MDZ getting press boxed in the same day. Anyone want to come over and punch my dog?

  62. Doodie Machetto on

    I miss that team. I really, really do.

    Honestly, the only guys I didn’t care about who were on that team by the end of the season were Richards, Stralman, Rupp, Eminger, and Mitchell.

  63. Mitchell doing good in Colorado.

    Dubi’s having a great year in Columbus. Gaborik is playing in his shadow.

  64. Also, I heard this awesome writer, Rick Carpiniello, 26, wrote some really great books about the Rangers and specifically Mark Messier!

  65. lol Dorsett’s old teacher asks him if he is able to read his contract. :) He laughed it off. If Crosby asked him that, he’d have the boom lowered on him. :)

  66. MDZ, *not happy* with healthy scratch. Says it’s hard to find *confidence* with reduced minutes.

  67. Just a few months ago, vacationing on the Costa del Sol, DZ (3 mil per year) was telling MZA (1 million) if he played really hard and hustled every shift, he had a chance to play in NY. Irony prevails.

  68. Manny, this is the type of stuff Richie is trying to keep out of the locker room1 with MDZ sitting, Saturday he gets his wish.

  69. hey guys, haven’t been around much but just catching up on twitter about eric’s guy the del zaster…

    av didn’t waste much time running him out of town huh? if we throw in pouliot do you think edm will give us hall AND eberle?

  70. MDZ being scratched is a long time coming. outside of trading him, they really need him to get going. I have a feeling he is gone. I just hope when they trade him they bring back some value. can’t just give him away.

  71. Doodie I LOVE this video. God I miss Tort.

    “Brian! It’s his guy! It’s Stepan’s guy. Let the D [Byfuglien] have him! That’s a no BRAINER!”

  72. Moore is a better player than MDZ right now. MDZ is there 6th best Dman. he needs to be there 4th.

  73. And that is why Sauer would never, ever step foot on NHL ice again. Still think it’s a pretty darn clean hit. Really wish Sauer had his helmet on.

  74. *Groin*?

    Oh well, that’s probably the last leg getting kicked out of the Gaborik trade argument.

  75. Good evening all! TGO, hands down, and fug the Crybaby ..

    Sorry I’ve been out loop lately, but the news about Sweet 16 just sent me undercover for a bit….

    Getting lots of grief from the Boston cousins about upcoming games….hartnell you!!!

  76. btw, did anyone happen to catch the top 10 “enemies” of MSG…from Rangers and Knicks….I only caught number 9, Crybaby…and all they showed was him scoring, but being a baby….Prust saying…missed the rest….

  77. Is it cheaper with E-ZPass? Hartnell that….I miss the old MSG…olden days, you could scoot around and score better seats if empty…Now, impossible…

    I once went from the Blues to behind stage at a concert…

  78. Live a little be a gypsy, get around ( get around)
    Get your feet up off the ground
    Live a little, get around

  79. Jeff in South Dakota on

    A Long distance directory assistance, area code 212
    Say hey, A and R this is mister rhythm and blues
    He said hello, and put me on hold
    To say the least the cat was cold
    He said, don’t call us child we’ll call you

  80. Jackie is just speeding away
    Thought she was James Dean for a day
    Then I guess she had to crash
    Valium would have helped that bash
    She said, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side


  81. I love when you guys & gals post lyrics.

    What a great, provocative, funny, thoughtful, and wonderfully devoid of trolls community. Thanks, Carp!

  82. eddie eddie eddie on

    you cannot have a serious conversation about the greatest player ever unless Sean Avery in on the list.

    How about that 40 goal scorer gabby missing 4-6 weeks with a knee? Maybe he will hit 10 this year to match his number. Horrible trade for the rangers? Maybe if you are a lunatic.

  83. eddie eddie eddie on

    ice ice baby, indeed….didnt someone say that yesterday? All my troubles seemed so far away…..

  84. Our Boys are ND STATE Football Champs!!!

    Nothing like watching 15 boys that live/pass through my house just win a STATE Championship :)

  85. Matty"NashWillBeBack"Boy on

    I’m sorry. No serious best hockey player discussion ever can be had without Enver Lisin. Bobby Orr? No. Enver, baby.

  86. Matty"NashWillBeBack"Boy on

    But of the 4 provided:


    Mess was the best leader I have ever seen anywhere, but he was not the player of those 4.

  87. eddie eddie eddie on

    Magnus Carlsen now up 3-2 after an amazing Rook endgame grind against the world champion in game 5. Game 6 starts at 4:30 am on the east coast.

  88. I think the NHL like other major sports leagues had different eras and stats sometimes need to be taken in context of the era…

    I’m not sure Howe could have played in his 40s at the same level in today’s faster NHL game. His career best season was in 1968-69 with 44 goals and 103 points at age 40!!


  89. iWicky "Frag Out!!!" on

    I can’t believe no one else but the rocket in their top 5?!

    Bunch of Francophiles!!!

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