NHL

Your Call: Who is the greatest NHL captain of all-time?

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TSN.ca Staff
1/18/2011 4:03:00 PM
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Mark Messier, one of the greatest players in NHL history, turned 50 on Tuesday.  He has long been considered the standard for competitiveness and leadership in the game of hockey, but is he the game's greatest captain?
 
Check out the credentials of some of the best players ever to have the C stitched onto their uniforms and post your thoughts below using our Your Call feature.
 
Mark Messier
 
On May 25, 1994, Mark Messier solidified his place as one of the greatest leaders the sport of hockey has ever seen. 
 
With his New York Rangers trailing the New Jersey Devils three games to two in the Eastern Conference Final, he guaranteed they would win Game 6 and push the series back to Madison Square Garden for a seventh game.
 
Messier would go on to score a third period hat trick to lead his team to a comeback victory and springboard them to a Stanley Cup championship.  It was the Rangers' first franchise title since the 1939-40 season.
 
With the victory, Messier became the first and only player in league history to captain two teams to championships (Edmonton, 1990).
 
There is also the matter of him being second all-time in points and seventh in goals scored.
 
The NHL even named its leadership award after Messier in 2006.
 
Steve Yzerman
 
In 1986, the Detroit Red Wings named a then 21-year-old Yzerman captain and he went on to become the backbone of a very successful stretch in the history of the franchise. 
 
He wore the 'C' for a league-record 20 seasons and led the Wings to three Stanley Cups.  He captured the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 1998.
 
He was considered such an important figure to the Detroit franchise that when they retired his number they put a 'C' right on his banner at Joe Louis Arena so it will always been known that even in retirement, Yzerman is the Red Wings' captain.
 
Jean Beliveau
 
To stand out in the storied history of the Montreal Canadiens, one must have been a special person and hockey player.  Jean Beliveau was both of those things and so much more - all of which he displayed over an incredible 18-year career.
 
He captained the Habs for 10 seasons, longer than any other player in team history.  Beliveau led them to five Stanley Cup titles and in 1965 was named the first-ever recipient of the Conn Smythe trophy.
 
So respected was Beliveau that the NHL waived the three-year waiting period and immediately placed him in the Hall of Fame.
 
George Armstrong
 
The last man to hoist the Stanley Cup wearing the Leafs uniform, George Armstrong was also the longest-serving captain in team history.
 
Armstrong was named captain in 1957 and he would go on to lead the Leafs to four titles in the 60's including three in a row, plus the 1967 title, the most recent one in franchise history.
 
He was considered a great leader amongst his peers and was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1975.
 
Scott Stevens
 
New Jersey was the third stop in Scott Stevens' career, but it was easily the most memorable.
 
He was named captain upon arrival and quickly took on an inspirational role.  His huge body checks galvanized the team and helped him lead the Devils to three titles.
 
He was named the Conn Smythe award winner for the 2000 playoffs, and also holds the record for playing in the most regular season wins with 879.
 
Maurice Richard
 
An inspirational figure to every Montreal Canadiens' player and fan, Richard was named captain for his final four seasons and continued his track record of incredible leadership. 
 
He led his team to a Stanley Cup Championship in each year that he wore the C before retiring following the 1960 season.
 
The only thing as impressive as his leadership are his career numbers: he retired as the league's all-time leader in goals, points and playoff goals. 
 
The NHL named its trophy for the league's leading goal-scorer after Richard to honour his legendary prowess. 
 
He finished with eight championships in all and not surprisingly the Hockey Hall of Fame did not make him wait before inducting him in 1961.

Wendel Clark
 
During a very tough time in the history of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Wendel Clark proudly wore the C in the toughest market in the NHL.
 
He was named captain in 1991 and playing much bigger and more physical than you would expect from a five-foot-eleven frame, Clark earned the respect of his teammates and fans.  
 
Under Clark's leadership the Leafs twice played in the Western Conference Final, losing to the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks in consecutive seasons. 
 
Mario Lemieux
 
What injuries and cancer attempted to steal from Mario Lemieux, heart and determination allowed him to achieve in an incredible career. 
 
Named captain for the Pens in 1987, Mario led the team to back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992.  He won the Conn Smythe trophy after each title.
 
Despite being in and out of the lineup with various injuries, Lemieux continued to lead by example and play at an elite level. 
 
Even though he played less than 1,000 games, he is currently seventh all-time in points.
 
Wayne Gretzky
 
The Great One wore the C during Edmonton's dominating dynasty of the 80's.
 
Gretzky led the Oilers to four championships in five seasons, before being traded to Los Angeles and leading the Kings to a finals appearance in 1993.  During the Oilers' runs he twice won the Conn Smythe Trophy.
 
His leadership and achievements with the Kings were instrumental in the growth of hockey in the United States. 
 
His number was retired across the league and the Hall of Fame waiting period was waved for the final time to induct him immediately after he retired.
 
There have been many captains throughout NHL history that deserve to be considered among the greatest leaders.
 
We invite you to agree with one of the above or to make a case for Trevor Linden, Doug Gilmour, Bobby Clarke, Joe Sakic, Sidney Crosby, Dave Keon, Denis Potvin or the former or current captain of your choice.  It's Your Call!

Mark Messier (Photo: Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)
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