Oldest Hockey Players – Who Is the Oldest Player In NHL?

oldest nhl hockey players

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Last Updated: May 25, 2024


The most successful ice hockey league, the NHL or the National Hockey League, was founded over one hundred years ago. More specifically, the inaugural season of the National Hockey League kicked off in 1917 in Montreal, Canada.

The National Hockey League was founded in the footsteps of the National Hockey Association, which was formed in 1909.

The inaugural season of the NHL featured only four teams: the Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Hockey Club, and Montreal Wanderers.

The very first National Hockey League match in the USA was played on the 1st of December, 1924. Over the years, the number of teams competing in the NHL increased.

Today, regular NHL seasons feature thirty-two teams. Twenty-five of these are teams from the United States, and seventeen are Canadian teams.

With twenty-five titles, the Montreal Canadiens is the most successful team in the history of the league. The Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, and Edmonton Oilers also fall into the category of the most successful NHL teams of all time.

However, here we discuss the oldest NHL players, so if you are wondering who is the oldest player in the NHL in the history of the league, you definitely want to stick around.

Before we get there, it is important to note that the average age of a player competing in the National Hockey League is 27.3 years old, and youngest hockey player was just under 17 when he played his first game.

The draft eligibility age for NHL players is eighteen years and has been since 1979. It is also worth noting that most NHL players reach their peak performance sometime in their mid to late twenties.

Nonetheless, there are some NHL players who defied all the odds and remained actively playing in the NHL many years after reaching their peak performances.

So, the main question is, who is the oldest player in the NHL of all time? That would be legendary Gordie Howe, who competed in the league between 1947 and 1980, and it only makes sense to start our list of the oldest NHL players with him.

Gordie Howe (52 Years Old)

If you always wondered who is the oldest hockey player in NHL, now you know it is Gordie Howe. The legendary Canadian hockey player was fifty-two years old when he retired in 1980.

The oldest hockey player ever to compete in the league was born in March of 1928 in Saskatchewan. He spent twenty-six seasons in the NHL playing for the Detroit Red Wings, New England Whalers, and Hartford Whalers.

Needless to say, Gordie Howe holds the record for the oldest player in NHL, and we really doubt that this record will ever be taken by somebody else.

Howe had eight siblings, and things were tough in his household. At a very young age, he worked as a constructor alongside his father.

At the age of sixteen, he decided to work harder on pursuing his hockey career, and this was a good call considering his later success.

During his teen years, he competed with the King George Athletic Club located in Saskatoon. He led his team to victory at the Saskatchewan Provincial Bantam Hockey tournament held in 1942.

He also spent a couple of months training at the New York Rangers training camp. The Rangers management was so impressed by his talent that they offered him a position on the Notre Dame team. Gordie Howe turned down this offer.

However, his amazing talent did not go unnoticed. The Detroit Red Wings invited Gordie to the team’s training camp in Ontario.

Shortly after, he signed a C form with the team and soon joined its junior team. Before his debut for the Detroit Red Wings, Gordie competed in the USHL for the Omaha Knights. In fifty-one games, he scored forty-eight points.

He finally debuted for the Detroit Red Wings on the 16th of October, 1946. At the time, he was eighteen years old, and it was not long before he established a name for himself on the team.

During his rookie seasons, things were not always great, but the team’s head coach Jack Adams was a major support.

Gordie Howe was able to use his amazing physical strength to his advantage. Even in his fifties, he was able to dominate on the field.

Gordie Howe is not only the oldest hockey player of all time, but he is also one of the most successful. In twenty straight seasons, Gordie Howe finished among the top scorers.

It is also important to note that he scored twenty or more goals in twenty-to consecutive seasons, and this is yet another NHL record that he holds.

During his time on the team, the Detroit Red Wings won the Stanley Cup four times. On the 9th of April 1980, he scored his last goal in the NHL.

Gordie Howe passed away in June 2016 at the age of eighty-eight. He will always be remembered not only as the oldest hockey player ever but as one of the best players in the league, as well.

Chris Chelios (48 Years Old)

Next on our list of the oldest hockey players of all time we have Chris Chelios. At the time of his retirement, Chris Chelios was forty-eight years old, almost four years younger than the oldest hockey player ever, Gordie Howe.

Chris Chelios was born in January 1962 in Chicago, Illinois. At a very young age, he moved with his parents from Evergreen Park to Poway in the state of California. In California, he was not able to pursue his dream of playing hockey.

Consequently, he was not offered any hockey scholarships. Fortunately, he was able to join the hockey team at the United States International University.

However, this environment was not the best fit for him. He was on the team with older and bigger players. Despite his talent, he was on the verge of giving up.

This was when he decided to move to Canada in hopes of having better chances to progress there.

Unfortunately, he continued to struggle. Nobody denied his talent and ambition, but there were many other equally talented guys around him.

This was when he decided to move back to the USA, and finally, his luck turned around when he joined the Montreal Canadiens during the NHL Entry Draft in 1981.

Before joining the most successful team in the league of all time, he competed in the Junior Hockey League in Saskatchewan for the Moose Jaw Canucks.

He also spent two years playing for the Wisconsin Badgers. During his easy days and months playing for the Montreal Canadiens, he truly shined, thanks to his impressive offensive abilities.

Chris Chelios was also a member of the United States ice hockey team for the Winter Olympics 1984, held in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia. In 1985, he was selected for the All-Rookie team.

After two seasons playing for the Montreal Canadiens, Chris Chelios joined the NHL All-Star First Team. In eight games, he scored seventy-three points, which is an impressive record. That same year, he won Stanley Cup with his team for the first time.

He remained on the team for six years until 1990, when he joined the Chicago Blackhawks. With the team, he competed in the finals, which the Pittsburg Penguins won.

Chelios was in his peak performance during the entire 1992/1993 season. At the end of this season, he received his second James Norris Memorial Trophy.

Between 1999 and 2009, he played for the Detroit Red Wings. At the time of his retirement in 2010, he was playing for the Atlanta Thrashers. He officially retired on the 31st of August, at the age of forty-eight.

Johnny Bower (45 Years Old)

Johnny Bower was forty-five years old, seven years older than the oldest hockey player Gordie Howe, at the time of his retirement from the NHL in 1979.

Johnny Bower, or The China Wall, as fans call him, was born in November of 1924 in Saskatchewan, Canada. He completed in the NHL during the Golden Age, between 1954 and 1970.

Like many other players, Johnny Bower taught himself how to play the sport. When he was a child, he spent countless hours a day with a homemade stick and branch. He also used old mattresses as his goalie pads.

He joined the Canadian Army at the age of fifteen. He lied on his application in hopes of being accepted. He spent three years stationed in England and was discharged in 1943.

After returning home, he started playing hockey for a local team. One year later, he was drafted by the Cleveland Barons, which at the time competed in the AHL (American Hockey League). He spent seven seasons playing for the team.

Johnny Bower debuted in the National Hockey League in 1953 after being drafted by the New York Rangers. At the time, he was twenty-nine years old.

In his first season in the NHL, he played seventy games and finished with twenty-nine wins.

Over the course of the next four years, he played for the Vancouver Canucks, Providence Reds, and Cleveland Barons. He also briefly returned to the New York Rangers in 1955 and 1956.

However, he reached the greatest highest of his career with the Maple Leafs. During his time on the team, the Maple Leafs won three Stanley Cup titles consecutively.

At the age of forty-four, Johnny Bower became the oldest player in NHL to compete in a Stanley Cup game. The match was held on the 6th of April, 1969.

Johnny Bower announced his retirement on the 19th of March, 1970 after spending sixteen years playing in the NHL. He passed away on the 26th of December, 2017, at the age of ninety-three.

Jaromír Jágr (45 Years Old)

Next on our list of the oldest hockey players of all time we have Jaromir Jagr. In his final NHL game, the Czech player was forty-five years old.

Jaromír Jágr was born in February 1972 in Kladno, Czechoslovakia. When he was just three years old, he started skating, and it was not long before everyone, including family members, noticed his exceptional skating skills.

When he was just fifteen years old, Czechoslovakia was already playing at the most successful domestic ice hockey tournaments and events in his home country.

At the age of fifteen, he was a member of the Poldi SONP Kladno ice hockey team, and only two years later, he made it to the Czechoslovakia ice hockey national team.

Jaromír Jágr is not only one of the oldest NHL players of all time; he was also the first player from Czechoslovakia to join a NHL team.

Due to the shaky situation in his home country, he was not able to leave Czechoslovakia at the time. He moved to North America in 1990 after being drafted by the Pittsburg Penguins.

During his first season playing for the Pittsburg Penguins, he was mainly a supporting player. His team competed and won two Stanley Cups.

The first one was won in 1991 and the second one in 1992. At the age of twenty, Jaromir Jagr was one of the youngest players to score in the Stanley Cup Finals.

For his incredible performance during the NHL 1994/1995 season, he was awarded his first Art Ross Trophy. Just one year later, Jaromir Jagr set a record for most points in a regular season by a player born in Europe.

His career highs are still eighty-seven assists and sixty-two goals from this season.

Between 1997 and 2001, Jaromir Jagr won four NHL scoring titles. He was also named the most valuable player in 1999.

He was a member of the Czech Republic national ice hockey team at the Winter Olympics held in 1998, when the team won a gold medal.

Between 2001 and 2004, Jaromir Jagr competed for the Washington Capitals. He also played for the New York Rangers between 2004 and 2008. He left the NHL in 2008 and returned in 2011 when he signed a contract with the Philadelphia Flyers.

Before moving back to his home country, he also competed for the Dallas Stars, Boston Bruins, New Jersey Devils, Florida Panthers, and Calgary Flames.

At the time of leaving the NHL, Jaromir Jagr was forty-five years old. Today, at the age of fifty, he is a member of the Kladno ice hockey team. Relatively recently, his team reached the top-tier ice hockey league in the Czech Republic, the Czech Extraliga.

Zdeno Chara (44 Years Old)

Zdeno Chara is another non-American and non-Canadian ice hockey player on our list of the oldest NHL players.

Zdeno Chara is a free agent at the moment, while up to this point in his career, he played for the New York Islanders, Washington Capitals, Ottawa Senators, and Boston Bruins.

Zdeno Chara was born in March 1977 in Trenčín, Czechoslovakia.

Not much is known about his early childhood years. What we know is that Zdeno Chara was interested in playing basketball due to his height.

In fact, Zdeno Chara is not only one of the hockey NHL players currently active but also the tallest, standing at 6’9 (2.06 m), hence his nickname “Big Z”.

When it comes to his career in the NHL, he was drafted by the New York Islanders during the NHL Entry Draft in 1996. Before joining the team, he spent one season playing in the Western Hockey League.

Zdeno Chara played for the New York Islanders between 1997 and 2001. He was usually playing in the defensive position due to his physical strength and height.

At this peak, he was definitely a tough opponent. After spending four seasons with the New York Islanders, Zdeno Chara became a member of the Ottawa Senators in 2001.

Once again, he assumed a role of a defender, and he was doing the job. By the NHL 2001/2002 season, he had twenty-three points and scored ten goals, which at the time was his career high.

The following season, he finished with thirty-nine points and thirty assists which earned him a reputation as one of the best defenders in the league.

He performed even better the next season when he finished with forty-one points and sixteen goals. Between 2006 and 2020, Zdeno Chara played for the Boston Bruins.

Immediately after joining the team, he replaced Joe Thornton in the position of the team’s captain. Zdeno Chara spent fourteen seasons with the Boston Bruins, and it is almost impossible to mention all of his career highs during this time.

What is important to note is that Zdeno Chara competed in the NHL All-Star Game in 2007. He also played in the NHL All-Star match held the following year, while he played his fourth NHL All-Star Game at the end of the 2008/2009 season.

Zdeno Chara set his career highs, nineteen goals, following the completion of the 1992/1993 season.

Shortly after, he was named the best defenseman in the NHL. Needless to say, he was at his peak during his time playing for the Boston Bruins.

After leaving the team in 2020, he briefly joined the Washington Capitals. Since the 18th of September 2021, he has been a member of the New York Islanders team.

At the age of forty-five, Zdeno Chara is the oldest hockey player in NHL at the moment. Joe Thornton, Craig Anderson, Mike Smith, and Andy Greene, who are in their late 30s and early 40s, are also among the oldest NHL players who still compete.

Teemu Selanne (43 Years Old)

Teemu Selanne was forty-three years old in his final match played in the NHL in 2014. At the time of his retirement, he was nine years younger than Gordie Howe, the oldest hockey player ever, who retired at the age of fifty-two.

Teemu Selanne was born in July 1970 in Helsinki, Finland. He was born and raised in Helsinki. At the age of ten, he moved with his family to Espoo.

During his early childhood years, Teemu Selanne played association football, bandy, and hockey.

Clearly, he favored hockey and decided to focus on bettering his hockey skills. This definitely paid off since he managed to find his place at many local and international hockey teams.

He was also a member of the junior team of the Helsingin Jokerit. During his time on the team, he worked as a kindergarten teacher.

After three years of playing for the Helsingin Jokerit, he moved to Canada to attend the Winnipeg Jets training camp.

After completing training, he returned to his home country to serve in the Finnish Defense Forces. In 1988, he joined the Helsingin Jokerit senior team.

When it comes to his career in the NHL kicked off in 1992 when he was drafted by the Winnipeg Jets as a free agent. Teemu Selanne had his debut in the NHL in a match against the Detroit Red Winds in October 1992.

He finished his first season in the NHL with sixteen multi-goal matches with four hat-tricks. Teemu Selanne remained on the team until 1996, when he joined the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, an ice hockey team from California.

In twenty-eight games playing for the team, he scored thirty-six points. He finished the NHL 1995/1996 season with a total of 108 points.

The following season was equally successful for Teemu Selanne, who finished with 109 points.

Between 2001 and 2003, Teemu Selanne was a member of the San Jose Sharks. He also spent one season playing for the Colorado Avalanche bore, returning to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.

On the 30th of January 2006, his career point tally went over one thousand. In his first season after returning to the Mighty Ducks, Teemu Selanne finished with ninety points and forty goals. He retired in 2014.

Today, Teemu Selanne is mostly spending time with his family. He also runs a restaurant located in Laguna Beach, working alongside his son. Back in 2019, he published his biography “Teemu Selänne: My Life.

The list of the oldest hockey players of all time also includes Dominik Hasek, who played in the NHL from 1991 until 2008; Joe Thornton, who is still actively playing at the age of forty-two; Nicklas Lidström, who retired in 2012 at the age of forty-one, and Mario Lemieux who played his final match in the NHL in 2006 at the age of forty.

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