Hockey Day Poll: Hockey's Greatest Teams

To celebrate this year's theme of "team", will let you determine the greatest teams this country has ever known. The winning teams will be announced on Hockey Day in Canada on Saturday, Jan. 30 live on CBC starting at noon ET.
Maurice 'The Rocket' Richard, left, Jean Beliveau were key figures for the 1955-56 Montreal Canadiens, one of the best pre-expansion NHL teams. (Canadian Press )

When Bruce Springsteen inducted U2 into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 17, 2005, he referenced the opening words of the group's hit song "Vertigo".

"Uno, dos, tres, catorce," said The Boss. "That translates as one, two, three, fourteen. That is the correct math for a rock and roll band. For in art and love and rock and roll, the whole had better equal much more than the sum of its parts, or else you're just rubbing two sticks together searching for fire. "

That very same algebraic formula applies to hockey as well. For it is not always the most talented team that wins but the best "team" that prevails.  Where skill, desire and resolve blend together to overcome adversity and triumph in victory. 

And "team" is the theme of this, the tenth anniversary, of the Tim Hortons Hockey Day in Canada on CBC.

To celebrate this year's theme, will let you determine the greatest teams this country has ever known. The winning teams will be announced on Hockey Day in Canada on Saturday, Jan. 30 live on CBC starting at noon ET.

Best NHL Team: Pre-Expansion  || Best NHL Team: 1967-1989 || Best NHL Team: 1990-2010 || Best Team Canada || Best Junior Team


1955-56 Montreal Canadiens

The NHL's first dynasty began with one of the greatest assemblages of talent known to mankind. Rookie Coach Hector "Toe" Blake had an embarassment of riches, the likes the NHL had never witnessed before. It began with goaltender Jacques Plante, who revolutionized the position and gave the team its invincibility. The other star was a young Jean Beliveau, who supplied an edge to his game with 143 penalty minutes during the 70-game regular season. But the faucet of talent hardly stopped there.

Maurice "The Rocket" Richard was still productive at 35, and was joined upfront by his younger brother Henri, Bert Olmstead, Bernie "Boom-Boom" Geoffrion, Dickie Moore and the premier defensive forward of his era, Claude Provost. The defence was keyed by Hall of Famer Doug Harvey, and included stalwarts such as Jean-Guy Talbot, Tom Johnson and Emile "Butch" Bouchard, who retired after the season. 

"The key to this team was their consistency," said Hockey Night in Canada's Dick Irvin. "They had something like 12 players who were part of that great five-Cup run. Jacques Plante was in his prime. The Rocket was past his prime, but he was still an effective player. And Jean Beliveau was a dominating force."

1953-54 Detroit Red Wings

The Red Wings won the Stanley Cup four times in six seasons in a run that ended in 1956. The 1953-54 edition received the nod over the Red Wings team that won the next season because Maurice Richard was suspended for the 1955 playoffs after he punched a linesman, which sparked the famouos "Richard Riot".

The regular season represented the seventh of eight consecutive regular season titles, a record that still holds to this day. The leader of the team was "Mr. Hockey", Gordie Howe.  And the native of Floral, Sask., had a bevy of talented teammates, such as Ted Lindsay, Red Kelly, Dutch Reibel and Johnny Wilson. Joining them were a bevy of talented  youngsters such as Alex Delvecchio, Bill Dineen, Marcel Pronovost and Al Arbor. And with the incomporable Terry Sawchuk in net, the Red Wings were a force to be reckoned with.

1966-67 Toronto Maple Leafs

Their greatness began in net, where 41-year old Johnny Bower and 37-year old  Terry Sawchuk enjoyed a defence that included Tim Horton, Marcel Pronovost, Kent Douglas, Allan Stanley, Bob Baun and Larry Hillman. Up front, the Leafs were led by Dave Keon, who saved his best games for the ones with the highest stakes. Augmented by forwards such as Frank Mahovlich, Red Kelly, Bob Pulford, George Armstrong and Ron Ellis, the Maple Leafs were a veteran-laden team that could beat you in many ways.

"They had such great goaltending," said Hockey Night in Canada's Don Cherry. "And the one game they had to win in the semifinal, Chicago's Bobby Hull knocked down Sawchuk with a wicked shot and skated up to Sawchuk and told him 'stay down, there's more of that coming.' And Sawchuk said 'we'll see'. Well, we saw it alright."

The Leafs won that pivotal fifth game in the semifinals and finished off the Hawks before they upended the two-time defending champion Montreal Canadiens in six games.

"(Head Coach) Punch Imlach had a lot to do with that team's success," added Grapes. "It was their goaltending and tough, veteran defence that won it for them."

BEST NHL TEAM: 1967-1989

1976-77 Montreal Canadiens

Much like the great Montreal Canadiens of the 1950s, this edition of the Habs was hockey's version of "Murderer's Row". Coached by Scotty Bowman, the Canadiens won four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1976 to 1979. But the 1976 team was almost unbeatable, as they only lost eight of 80 regular season games. It all started in goal, as Ken Dryden keyed a stingy defence that included "The Big Three" of Serge Savard, Larry Robinson and Guy Lapointe. The offence was led by Guy Lafleur, Jacques Lemaire and Steve Shutt, a nightmare for any opposition goaltender. But it was the two-way play of forwards like Bob Gainey, Doug Risebrough, Rejean Houle and Mario Tremblay that made Montreal so difficult to defeat.

According to Dick Irvin, this was the greatest team of all-time. 

"Much like the great Canadiens' teams of the 1950s, they had about 14 guys who played together during those four Stanley Cups," said Dick Irvin. "Scotty Bowman was a terrific coach, and they could beat you any way you wanted to play. They also had a lot of size, led by Larry Robinson and Pete Mahovlich. I think they were the best team ever." 

1982-83 New York Islanders

Like many of the great dynasty teams in NHL history, the Islanders had everything, led by the trio of Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy and Clark Gillies. And when they defeated the young Oilers to hoist their fourth consecutive Cups, it was the Sutter brothers, Duane and Brent, that led the way. With superb role players such as John Tonelli, Bob Bourne, Butch Goring and Mr. Clutch, Bob Nystrom, New York was as difficult a team to play against as there ever was in the NHL. Their defence was keyed by Denis Potvin, one of the greatest defencemen in the history of the game. And with "Battling" Billy Smith in net, they were an extremely hard team to score against, as Wayne Gretzky and the Oilers discovered in the final. The Islanders swept the upstart Oilers, and held "The Great One" without a goal.

1987-88 Edmonton Oilers

As the old adage goes, offence sells tickets but defence wins championships. Edmonton always had the offence, but it was not until they saw first-hand the sacrifice and attention to detail of the Islanders that they started their championship run, winning four of five Stanley Cups in the late 1980's.  

But what an offence they possessed: Gretzky, Messier, Kurri, Anderson, Tikkanen, Simpson, Krushelnyski. Even without Paul Coffey, who had left by that time in a trade to Pittsburgh in a seven-player deal that saw Simpson become an Oiler. Edmonton also had one of the greatest money goaltenders of all-time in Grant Fuhr. The defence was big and tough, with thumpers like Steve Smith, Jeff Beukeboom Kevin Lowe, Craig Muni and Charlie Huddy.

BEST NHL TEAM: 1990-2010

1991-92 Pittsburgh Penguins

You want skill? How about Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and Larry Murphy? You want toughness? Try Rick Tocchet, Kevin Stevens and Ulf Samuelsson on for size. You want two-way players? Do the names Ron Francis, Mark Reechi, Joe Mullen and Bob Errey ring a bell? You want a goaltender? Not many netminders go straight from high school to the NHL like Tom Barasso. And their coach wasn't too shabby either — a fellow named Bowman who followed another legend in Bob Johnson. 

Yes, it was indeed a beautiful day for hockey if you were a Penguins fan in the early 1990s.

1993-94 New York Rangers

The Rangers team that ended a 54-year Cup drought offered the stuff that legends are made of. Mark Messier, one of five former-Oilers from their dynasty squad, cemented his reputation as one of the game's great money players. With the Rangers facing elimination to their cross-river rivals, the New Jersey Devils, "The Moose" guaranteed a victory and sealed it with three goals in the third period to force a deciding seventh game in the Conference Final. After a gut-wrenching seven-game victory over Vancouver in the final, the Cup resided in Manhattan for the first time since 1940.

General Manager Neil Smith commandeered Adam Graves, Glen Anderson, Esa Tikkanen and Craig MacTavish from the Oilers to go with Brian Leetch, Mike Richter and Steve Larmer to comprise an impressive array of talent. But it was key role players Smith acquired such as Stephane Matteau and Brian Noonan that helped Mike Keenan finally win a Game 7 for the Stanley Cup after his Flyers lost the penultimate game to Edmonton in 1987.

2000-01 Colorado Avalanche

How good were the Colorado Avalanche in 2001? So good  that they could withstand the loss of Peter Forsberg and still emerge victorious.

The drive to "16W", to signify the sixteen wins necessary to win the Cup, brought 40-year old Ray Bourque the Cup that was so elusive for his first 21 years in the league. It was a lot easier to compensate for the loss of Forsberg when your stable included Patrick Roy, Joe Sakic and emerging stars such as Chris Drury, Milan Hejduk and Alex Tanguay. And then consider that Colorado added All-Star defenceman Rob Blake at the trade deadline.

The Avalanche then prevailed over the tough New Jersey Devils in a seven-game series for their second Stanley Cup in six seasons.

2001-02 Detroit Red Wings

What more can you say about a team that boasted the likes of Steve Yzerman, Nicklas Lidstrom, Sergei Fedorov, Brendan Shanahan, Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille, Igor Larionov, Chris Chelios, Pavel Datsyuk and Dominik Hasek?

That's not a team — it's a wing of the Hockey Hall of Fame!

The Red Wings also had another secret weapon on skates, head Coach Scott Bowman, who famously donned his blades to skate with the Cup before he retired after an illustrious career.

And though the team began the 2002 playoffs with two losses, they quickly turned it around and defeated the extremely talented Colorado Avalanche in a memorable seven-game Western Conference Final before they bested the Carolina Hurricanes in five games to win the Cup.


1976 Canada Cup

"I'll give you the defence," said Hockey Night in Canada's Don Cherry, one of head coach Scotty Bowman's assistants for the series. "Start with Bobby Orr. How about Larry Robinson? Then you've got Serge Savard and then Guy Lapointe. The fifth guy was Denis Potvin."

In hockey parlance, that's about as good as it gets.

So were the forwards.

Phil Esposito, Marcel Dionne, Bobby Clarke, Guy Lafleur, Bob Gainey, Bobby Hull, Richard Martin, Steve Shutt and Lanny McDonald helped comprise one of the most star-studded teams ever assembled in hockey history.

"We were so strong up the middle that we had to play Darryl Sittler at left wing," Cherry continued. "Part of the French Connection could not make that team."

After the lesson that Team Canada learned in 1972, this team was conditioned and prepared. They went 5-1 and only allowed six goals in five games. Goaltender Rogie Vachon had a goals against average of 1.39.

1987 Canada Cup

"Lemieux ahead to Gretzky. Has Murphy with him on a two-on-one. To Lemieux — in on goal — he shoots, he scores! Mario Lemieux, with 1:26 remaining!"

Dan Kelly's famous words still resonate more than two decades later.

One looks at the team Canada iced for the 1987 Canada Cup and you wonder how they could lose with Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Ray Bourque, Paul Coffey, Doug Gilmour, Michel Goulet and Grant Fuhr. 

In fact the team was so powerful that it could not find room for Patrick Roy, Steve Yzerman, and Cam Neely. 

Yet it took two overtime games and 58 minutes and 34 seconds of a third game for Canada to beat a tremendous Soviet squad two-games-to-one in one of the most memorable series in hockey history.

2002 Olympic Team

The team that Canada dressed for the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics was under pressure before the event even began. Team Canada felt the weight of a nation after Canada's bitter semifinal shootout loss to  Dominik Hasek and the Czech Republic four years earlier.

After a slow start and a 5-2 loss to Sweden, Pat Quinn's charges slowly developed their game and momentum. By the time they faced the host Americans in the final, Canada was a well-oiled machine whose talent was only surpassed by their determination.

The names are legendary and Hall of Fame worthy:  Brodeur, Niedermayer, Pronger, MacInnis, Blake, Lemieux, Sakic, Shanahan, Iginila, Smyth and Nieuwendyk, to name a few.

And their 5-2 victory over the U.S. gave the country its first gold medal in men's hockey in fifty years.

2005 World Junior Team

It is one thing to win a World Junior Championship, a task Canada has performed many times.

But it is another to dominate, and that's exactly what their entry did at the 2005 World Championships in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

Even the word "dominate" fails to describe their mastery. 

Consider that this team won all six games it played and outscored the opposition 41-7. 

Consider a first line of Ryan Getzlaf, Jeff Carter and Andrew Ladd. That line did not allow one goal against and finished a combined plus-35. And consider a second line of Sidney Crosby, Patrice Bergeron  and Corey Perry. 

And when you also consider the defence featured Shea Weber, Brent Seabrook, Dion Phaneuf, Cam Barker, Danny Syvret and Shawn Belle, you'd have to rank this as one of the greatest teams of all-time.


1994-95 Kamloops Blazers

The Kamloops Blazers team that successfully defended its title in 1995 was a junior hockey powerhouse that could play any style of hockey.

And what an impressive array of talent it possessed. Shane Doan, Jarome Iginla, Hnat Domenichelli and Nolan Baumgartner joined veterans Darcy Tucker, Ryan Huska and Tyson Nash. After a 29-game home win streak in the regular season, the Blazers went undefeated at the Memorial Cup and won their third Memorial Cup title in four years.

1974-75 Toronto Marlboros

This edition of the Marlies, coached by former NHL great George Armstrong, tore up the Ontario Hockey Association losing only 9 of 70 regular season games and scored 469 goals in the process.

Current Washington Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau, who tallied 165 points that season, led the team. Joining Boudreau on offence were future NHL stalwarts John Tonelli, Mark Naper and Boudreaus's close friend and current Atlanta Thrashers coach, John Anderson.

The mercurial Mike McEwen spearheaded a defence that also included Mike Kitchen and Trevor Johansen.

They remain as one of the greatest junior hockey teams of all-time.

1969-70 Montreal Junior Canadiens

It is not often that the exploits of a junior team keep an entire province riveted.  But that's exactly what this team did, even though they played in the Ontario Hockey Association and not the Quebec League.

The talent was ridiculous for a junior squad, led by two-thirds of the fabled "French Connection " line in Gilbert Perreault and Rick Martin. Add such illustrious names as Rejean House, Ian Turnbull, Bobby Lalonde and Paulin Bordeleau and you have the makings of one of the greatest teams in junior history.

The team was so good, in fact, that it often outdrew the parent NHL squad and people flocked from all over the province of Quebec to see them.

And when they faced the Quebec Remparts for the Richardson Cup, where the winner advanced to the Memorial Cup, it created a buzz in Quebec that was not seen again until the Montreal Canadiens/Quebec Nordiques matchups in the 1980's.

The Remparts were a strong squad in their own right, led by Guy Lafleur, Andre Richard and Jacques Richard. The Canadiens swept the Remparts before standing room only crowds in Quebec City and Montreal.

The "Baby Habs" then swept the Weyburn Red Wings to claim junior hockey supremacy.

2004-05 London Knights

They decimated opponents and rewrote the record books with aplomb, while capturing the imagination of a hockey-starved country during the protracted and painful NHL lockout. With no Stanley Cup playoffs to contend with, the Ontario Hockey League's London Knights, led by Corey Perry and Robbie Schremp, took centre stage and capped one of the greatest seasons ever in Canadian junior hockey by winning their first Memorial Cup in the team's 40-year history.

London's amazing run to the title began with a 31-game unbeaten streak, a Canadian Hockey League record. That was followed by a 59-win regular season and a 16-2 record in the playoffs, as the Knights won their first-ever OHL title.

The Knights topped that feat by skating to a convincing 4-0 win over Sidney Crosby and the high-flying Rimouski Oceanic in the Memorial Cup final before a boisterous hometown crowd of 8,905 at the John Labatt Centre, where they only lost two games during the 2004-05 season.

Ranked No. 1 coming into the tournament, London cruised to a perfect 3-0 record in the round robin and then claimed the Memorial Cup by keeping Crosby and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champions off the scoreboard.

The gravity of what the Knights accomplished was not lost on David Branch, the CHL president.

"The London Knights are one of the greatest junior teams ever to play," said Branch.