10 Best International Ice Hockey Players of All Time
The 10 best international hockey players of all time were not all NHL stars, although many of them were, either before, after, or during their international success; rather, the 10 best international hockey players distinguished themselves on the world stage, be it in the World Championships, the Canada Cup, the World Cup of Hockey, or that biggest of world stages for hockey, the Winter Olympics. Each of these players distinguished himself in international play and represented his country in bringing them hockey glory.
- Vladislav Tretiak of the USSR - Widely regarded as the greatest goaltender never to play in the National Hockey League, Vladislav Tretiak helped the Soviet Union to Olympic gold in 1972, 1976 and 1984, and was pulled from the Miracle on Ice game in 1980 in which the United States defeated his Russia team in an unheard-of performance. Many believe had Tretiak not been pulled from the game, the Miracle on Ice never would have happened. He also earned gold in the 1981 Canada Cup and in ten world championships.
- Teemu Selanne of Finland - After the 2010 Olympics, Selanne had become the highest point scorer in Olympic hockey history, helping to earn perennial underdog Finland one silver medal and two bronzes across his storied career.
- Mario Lemieux of Canada - Lemieux finally reached his potential, as one of the greatest players in the game and a rival to Wayne Gretzky, at the 1987 Canada Cup. Later, he came out of retirement to compete in the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics and captained the team to its first gold medal in 50 years.
- Sergel Makarov of the USSR - Though he had a respectable NHL career, Makarov's greatest successes came as part of the storied KLM line for the Russian Red Army team along with Igor Larionov and Vladimir Krutov. He was a member of thirteen gold medal-winning teams, including two Olympic golds and one Canada Cup.
- Igor Larionov of the USSR - The playmaker of the KLM line, Larionov was another great for the Red Army team, though his greatest battle may have been the battle to leave and play in the NHL, where his success there, winning a Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings, showed he was truly one of the 10 best international hockey players of all time.
- Vladimir Krutov of the USSR - The third part of the KLM line, Krutov's natural scoring ability was only matched in the world in 1987 by Gretzky and Lemieux.
- Brett Hull of the USA - Possibly the greatest pure scorer in the NHL, Hull helped revitalize international hockey in the United States by playing some of the best hockey of his career during the USA's upset over Canada in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey.
- Mike Eruzione of the USA - Surprisingly, one of the 10 best international hockey players of all time was not always a great player—instead, he was great when he needed to be, scoring the game winning goal in the Miracle on Ice game over Russia in 1980's Winter Olympics at Lake Placid.
- Saku Koivu of Finland - The perennial captain of Team Finland shares the record for most Olympic medals for a hockey player with four, two silver medals and two bronze medals.
- Mike Richter of the USA - Rounding out the list of 10 best international hockey players of all time, Goalie Mike Richter stood on his head to lead the USA to victory in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey and a silver medal in the 2002 Olympics, where Team USA fell just short to a Canada team often thought of as the best Olympic talent-base of all time.
The 10 best international players of all time shone bright on the world stage, and their play will never be forgotten.