Lost in the shuffle of Nicklas Lidstrom’s four Stanley Cups, seven Norris Trophies, one Conn Smythe and a dozen all-star team berths is an achievement once thought unattainable. Late in 2011-12, Lidstrom passed fellow Red Wings great Alex Delvecchio for most games played with one franchise.
It’s a feat that took 20 years to reach during an era when it would have been so easy to forego. The lowering age of free agency, the growing number of teams and the temptation to hit the jackpot as an unrestricted free agent once made Delvecchio’s standard unreachable – presumably.
Delvecchio spent his entire career with one organization, from 1951 to 1974 and held the record until Lidstrom passed him. Like Delvecchio – and the No. 3 on our list – things just worked out well in Detroit. There was never any reason to leave. These are the leaders in games played with one organization.
10. Gilbert Perreault, Buffalo, 1,191
Perreault and the ‘French Connection’ line made Buffalo a bilingual city for 17 seasons. Besides making the grade on this roll, he finds himself among elite company on some other lists, too: he’s top 40 all-time in goals, game-winners and points.
9. Martin Brodeur, New Jersey, 1,191
Brodeur is the only goaltender among the top 10 and is at nearly twice the games of the next most loyal goalie of all-time (Toronto’s Turk Broda, 629 games). We’ll give him the nod over Perreault as Brodeur, despite losing to Los Angeles in the 2012 Cup final, wasn’t don’t stopping pucks for the Devils just yet.
8. Shane Doan, Phoenix/Winnipeg, 1,198
The seventh overall draft pick by the Jets in 1995 played one season as a teenager in Winnipeg before the franchise moved to Phoenix in 1996. The Alberta native is well known for his love of the western lifestyle and has established a horse ranch in Arizona.
7. Henri Richard, Montreal, 1,256
Rocket Richard’s little brother had a quick trigger himself and a fabulous sense of timing: he has an NHL-high 11 Stanley Cup rings. ‘The Pocket Rocket’ retired in 1975 at age 39. Had he been fit and willing enough to play another four seasons, he would have 15 Cup rings as Montreal won four straight after he retired.
6. Ken Daneyko, New Jersey, 1,283
New Jersey’s great Scotts – Stevens and Niedermayer – got a lot more points and headlines than Daneyko, but the stay-at-home rearguard was a crucial cog in three Stanley Cup victories. He retired a Cup champion at 39 in 2003 having played 175 career playoff games with the Devils.
5. Joe Sakic, Colorado/Quebec, 1,378
Sakic spent his first seven seasons playing with a young and struggling franchise in Quebec before the team moved to Colorado and immediately won a Stanley Cup. He played another 13 seasons with the Avalanche and was regarded as the most respected player in the game during the twilight of his career.
4. Stan Mikita, Chicago, 1,394
Mikita was a feisty playmaking center during the Hawks’ glory years in the early 1960s, averaging more than 100 PIM in his first six seasons before transforming his temper and going on to win a pair of Lady Byng Trophies with 12 and 14 PIM seasons.
3. Steve Yzerman, Detroit, 1,514
The quintessential leader of the Red Wings was a high-flying offensive kingpin during the early part of his career and a two-way leader later on, guiding Detroit to three Stanley Cup titles in a six-year window.
2. Alex Delvecchio, Detroit, 1,549
Delvecchio played in the shadow of Gordie Howe for most of his 23 full seasons with the Red Wings, but in his own right was a crafty, productive producer, topping out at 83 points as a 36-year-old in 1968-69. He won Cups three of his first four seasons in the league, but none after that.
1. Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit, 1,564
Yzerman and Lidstrom were teammates for 1,096 games and there were few more durable in the game than the Swedish defenseman. He missed just 44 games in 21 NHL seasons, 12 of them coming in 2011-12, his last campaign.
This list is one of the many that can be found in THN’s Top 10: Counting down the game’s wonderful, wild, weird and wacky!
The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on TheHockeyNews.com.