But when it comes to hockey, it’s hard to dispute what the editors of Sports Illustrated have done.
The book draws from the expertise of Sports Illustrated’s writers, editors, reporters and photographers. Seven writers and editors voted on 16 categories, with 10 points awarded for first place, nine points for second, and so forth down the line.
Players were ranked by position (center, left wing, right wing, defenseman, goalies), toughness (enforcers), ability (skaters, “snipers,” clutch performers, shootout specialists) and color (most entertaining). Coaches also were ranked, along with best games, rivalries, single-season games and franchises.
An additional seven topics also were included, under the category of “Best of the Rest.”
This book follows the pattern of other SI “greatest” books in baseball, football and basketball, but with one exception. Hockey is “unabashedly international.” SI’s list includes two men who never played in the NHL — Russian goalie Vladislav Tretiak, who starred during the 1970s; and Russian left winger Valeri Kharlamov, a 1970s star whose life was cut short by an automobile accident. Also included in the lists is Anatoli Tarasov, who coached the Soviet Team from 1958 to 1974.
Both men belong there.
I’m not going to play spoiler here and reveal the final rankings, but devoted hockey fans — and even the casual ones — should be able to figure out the top 10 players in each category. Who’s the best? In some categories it’s a no-brainer, while other subjects are open to debate.
You know that Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull, Mario Lemieux, Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito are there. Who else made the grade?
That's what makes this book fun.