Most players are retired by 40, lounging on the beach or working in the broadcast booth. But a few rare talents throughout the years have thrived on the ice into their 40’s. Here’s the 10 most productive seasons from 40+ NHLers.
On March 1, Jaromir Jagr became the seventh player to reach the 700-goal plateau. Just three weeks after hitting 700, the 42-year-old became the oldest player in history to record 60 points in a season. Are you serious, Jaromir? Aren’t you tired? Really, you can stop anytime. (Kidding. Please play until you’re 50.)
The grizzled Czech right winger is one of a handful of ageless greats who have produced long after their “Best Before” dates. Here’s the 10 most productive seasons from players 40 and older.
10. Jaromir Jagr (2013-14) — 60 points at age 42
By the time you read this, Jagr might be on the top half of this list. He has been far-and-away the best forward on the New Jersey Devils, keeping them in a playoff race in what was supposed to be a disastrous year after the sudden departure of franchise cornerstone Ilya Kovalchuk. If Jagr plays one more season and scores 50 points, he’ll pass Steve Yzerman, Marcel Dionne and Ron Francis, moving to fourth in all-time points. If he plays two more 50-point seasons? He’ll ecslipe Mr. Hockey for third.
9. Mark Recchi (2008-09) — 61 points at age 40
Recchi, who announced his retirement in the coolest way possible (see video below), scored 45 of his 61 points with Tampa Bay, and finished the remarkable season as a Boston Bruin after being dealt at the deadline. Recchi enjoyed a career of astounding longevity, beginning in 1988 and retiring 2011. The result? He’s 12th in all-time league scoring and won three Cups, each in a different decade (Pittsburgh in ’91, Carolina in ’06, Boston in ’11).
8. Nicklas Lidstrom (2010-11) — 62 points at age 40
For Lidstrom, the ultimate professional, success on the ice was about intelligence and economy of movement. He was never explosive, but managed to produce at an elite level until he retired at age 42. Lidstrom’s 62-point season in 2010-11 won him the Norris Trophy. It was his seventh and final Norris, the second most all-time, trailing Bobby Orr’s eight.
7. Teemu Selanne (2011-12) — 66 points at age 41
When Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne joined the Avalanche for the 2003-04 season and proceeded to flop, it would have been a believable outcome if Selanne’s career only slid further from there; he scored 32 points in 78 games at 33 years old, heading into a lockout year in which he didn’t play anywhere. But Teemu’s career enjoyed a second wind as he burst into the “New NHL” with back-to-back 90-point seasons. With his 66 points in 2011-12, the 41-year-old led the Ducks in scoring, ahead of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan.
6. Mark Messier (2000-01) — 67 points at age 40
When the face of Lays potato chips returned to the Big Apple for his second stint with the Blueshirts, things started out well statistically. ‘Moose’ poured in 67 points at age 40, before playing three more seasons of dwindling production. His 67 points were more than he scored in any of his three seasons as a Vancouver Canuck.
5. Gordie Howe (1969-70) — 71 points at age 41
You’re not surprised to see Howe on this list, nor will you be surprised when he appears again. Here’s something to consider: Howe is third all-time in NHL scoring with 1850 points, despite playing six remarkably productive seasons in the WHA toward the end of his career. Even if he spent those years in the NHL and scored at a significantly lower rate, he’d have easily broken the 2000-point mark. And it’s reasonable to conclude he’d have produced in the NHL during those WHA years when you consider his final pro season in 1979-80 was spent in the NHL with Hartford and saw Howe collect 40 points at the age of 51.
4. Alex Delvecchio (1972-73) — 71 points at age 40
Alongside a 21-year-old Marcel Dionne and a 24-year-old Mickey Redmond, Delvecchio hit the 70-point plateau for the third time while his linemates each hit 90. It was his 23rd season in a 25-year career, all of which he spent with the Detroit Red Wings.
3. Teemu Selanne (2010-11) — 80 points at age 40
Ducks fans will remember 2010-11 as the year Corey Perry caught fire down the stretch, becoming the league’s only 50-goal scorer and capturing the Hart Trophy. The attention on Perry resulted in the quietest 80-point season of Selanne’s career, as the 40-year-old showed he was unfazed by his transition out of his 30’s by scoring two points for every year of his life. Selanne’s season is even more impressive when you consider he played just 73 games.
2. Johnny Bucyk (1975-76) — 83 points at age 40
After debuting in the NHL with the Detroit Red Wings and playing two years in Motown, Bucyk migrated to Boston where he played 21 seasons. In the 19th of those 21 campaigns, Bucyk turned 40 and bettered his point total of a year earlier. He retired as the highest scoring left winger of all-time, later to be surpassed by Luc Robitaille. He retired with two Stanley Cups (1970 and ’72) and over 1300 points to his name.
1. Gordie Howe (1968-69) — 103 points at age 40
In a career defined by defying the limits of age, it’s appropriate that Howe’s only 100-point NHL season came the year he turned 40. Alongside Delvecchio and Frank Mahovlich, No. 9 scored 44 goals, the third-highest total of his five-decade career.