Debating the “Mount Rushmore” For Three Storied NHL Franchises

Tuesday night on the #MSGHockeyShow (yes, it must be written in hashtag every single time, it’s actually a law enforced by the NYPD), in honor of Presidents’ Day, we debated our “Mount Rushmore” for the tri-state NHL teams.

The one thing we couldn’t get to on the show because of time concerns was the Mount Rushmore lists we had prepared for other teams. We each picked one and compiled a list, and I actually never ended up seeing Will or Anson’s respective picks.

Someone, please ask for them on Twitter (@AnsonCarterLA and @ReeveWill, FYI). Anson had the Oilers and Will had the Avalanche (sans Nordiques).

I drew the Red Wings and here’s who I think belongs on Detroit’s Mount Rushmore:

1. Gordie Howe
Chances are if you’re reading this, an article about hockey, you don’t need an explanation. His nickname was Mr. Hockey, done deal.

2. Steve Yzerman
“The Captain,” in fact, was one of the best captains in NHL history. That’s not disputable. Yzerman won three Cups as a player and one as an executive with the team. Despite the Wings being an Original Six team, this is an easy choice, on par with No. 9.

3. Nicklas Lidstrom
Only Bobby Orr (who is on both my Bruins and NHL player Mount Rushmores) has more Norris Trophies than Lidstrom, who earned seven in his career. While we will always ask “what if?” regarding Orr’s shortened NHL career, we will never ask that about Lidstrom. Decades of league dominance, playing for one team, and winning several Stanley Cups made that clear. Even with the breadth of players in Wings history, Lidstrom belongs here.

Red Wings Mike Ilitch Penguins 2008 Stanely Cup Getty

4. Mike Ilitch
If this was players-only, this spot would be reserved for a debate between Terry Sawchuk and Sid Abel. Maybe there’s a little bit of recent bias going on here with Mr. I’s recent passing. Even still, Mike Ilitch is one of the best sports owners in history, and that goes for all sports. He was so focused on the city of Detroit and the success of their sports teams. His attitude created a snowball effect of a positive work ethic that snapped the Red Wings’ 42-year Cup drought.

To me, much like the Rangers Mount Rushmore, a monumental Stanley Cup win (in this case several) that creates a legendary circumstance and story earns you a place among the ‘Four in Rushmore.’ So, Mr. I goes on mine, even at the expense of two of the greatest Red Wings ever whose numbers are hanging in the rafters of the Joe (and soon Little Caesars Arena, which by the way is the company Mr. I started).

This is a very fun topic, so I picked a couple more teams to debate, starting with the Toronto Maple Leafs:

1. Dave Keon

The greatest Leaf ever. Easy choice.

2. Johnny Bower

The greatest Leaf goalie ever. Also an easy choice. Turk Broda could be argued here as well.

Edmonton Oilers v Toronto Maple Leafs

3. Bill Barilko

There have certainly been better players who have worn a Leafs jersey, more impactful builders as well, but from a folklore standpoint, Barilko is the subject of one of the most legendary stories in Leafs history. After winning four Cups in his five years with the Leafs, Barilko died in a plane crash in Northern Ontario over the summer of 1951.

The Leafs, then a dynasty, would suffer a decade-long drought, dubbed the “Barilko curse.” It would then take 11 years for the franchise to win another Cup, 1962 — the same year the wreckage from Barilko’s plane was finally found. This story is so famous among Leafs fans that even decades later, in 2011, a search team finally went to the spot of the crash to uncover and bring back every last piece of wreckage to preserve. That’s how much Barilko and his story meant to Leafs fans.

This is the kind of story generations of Leafs fans hear about, and for this reason he must grace the Blue-and-White Rushmore. This is also why Broda isn’t on this list.

4. Wendel Clark

Why him over Mats Sundin, Doug Gilmour, Darryl Sittler? Because, even though he wasn’t always the leader, he was the heart and soul. To me, that’s extremely important for this list.

Wendel played with grit, determination, scored goals, stuck up for his teammates and produced. Ask any Leaf fan from the ’90s and Wendel will be on top of their list. He was the fan favorite. He would leave the team for a season or two and come right back. No other jersey in the league looked quite right on him, but when he wore Blue-and-White, man, it just fit. The other gentlemen scored more, led the team, held records, and I totally get that. They can be debated and if I lost that debate, I’d understand. But on the Rushmore I’m picking for the Leafs, No. 17 belongs there.

Note: If the Leafs win a Stanley Cup under the new regime, ending a 50-plus year drought, then whoever emerges as the face, heart and soul of that win (Mike Babcock, Lou Lamoriello, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, etc.) will get on the Rushmore automatically. Then the debate will begin who they bump (that will be tough, but necessary).

This is by far the toughest one to compile. So many great names that would automatically be on another team’s Rushmore. This took me a while to hash out, but I feel confident about my picks. So here we go for the Montreal Canadiens:

1. Jean Beliveau

He is the captain’s captain, the man all leaders aspire to emulate. That puts him over the top for me.

Ken Dryden File Photos Getty

2. Ken Dryden

Tough call between Dryden and Patrick Roy, but had to go with the goalie that won six Stanley Cups in nine years, only with the Habs. He even went on to become the President of the Leafs. And under his watch, they didn’t win the Cup, which is probably the most Habs thing to do to your arch rival team 😏.

3. Maurice Richard

Easy pick, he’s the face of a generation for Habs fans, and he was so prolific he has a trophy named after him.

4. Jacques Plante

For many of the same reasons Dryden belongs, so does Plante. Not only that, but he forever innovated the goaltender position and equipment, which is worth mentioning.

The biggest glaring omission from this list is Guy LaFleur. Lastly, Dryden over LaFleur is a debate I’d love to have with Habs fans.

Agree? Disagree? Got a Mount Rushmore of your own for any team? Tweet me @ArdaOcalTV.