Chris Chelios is among oldest players all-time to play in the NHL originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
It looks like Zdeno Chara, one of the NHL’s longest tenured members, has officially hung up his skates, as he announced his retirement after 24 NHL seasons.
There’s also some like Andy Greene, who at 39 years old, did not sign a new deal, but wants to return for another season.
And then there are some like Duncan Keith and Jason Spezza who formally announced their retirement.
With a new NHL season ahead, let’s take a look at some of the oldest players currently in the league and some of the oldest to ever play.
Who are the oldest active NHL players?
5. Mark Giordano, 38 years old
The Canadian professional hockey player is a defenseman for the Toronto Maple Leafs and has previously played with the Seattle Kraken and Calgary Flames. He began his career in 2004 with the Flames’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Lowell Lock Monsters, and Calgary brought him back for the 2006-07 season and 2008-09 season, where he remained for 13 seasons.
Giordano has 151 goals scored, 393 assists and 544 points over a total of 1,024 games played throughout his career in the NHL. He is in line to retire as a Maple Leaf most likely after this season.
4. Andy Greene, 39 years old
One of the more under-recognized captains in recent history, Andy Greene spent 14 seasons with the New Jersey Devils, five of them sporting the “C” for the Devils. He’s had a very under-the-radar career, playing a stay-at-home defense role on the Devils and most recently, on the New York Islanders. He signed a one-year deal last summer to return to Long Island after being traded to the team at the deadline in 2020, and is now an unrestricted free agent.
Greene has just 264 points in his career as he is set to begin his 17th season in the NHL. He finally hit 1,000 career games last season, currently sitting at 1,057 games played. Greene was the first player in the 2021-22 season to hit the milestone, one that only 357 other players in NHL history have achieved.
3. Mike Smith, 40 years old
Smith just failed his physical for the upcoming season, but that doesn’t seem to be stopping him. The veteran goaltender has bounced around a bit in what will be 17 years in the show, including this upcoming season. Smith has played with the Dallas Stars, Tampa Bay Lightning, Arizona Coyotes, Calgary Flames and currently is on the Edmonton Oilers. In his career, he has a record of 299-263-78 with a 2.70 goals-against average (GAA) and a .912 save percentage.
After playing on back-to-back one-year contracts with the Oilers, Smith signed a two-year extension last summer to stay in Edmonton. He’s coming off his best statistical season since 2011-12, and will be the backstop for an Oilers team that continues to try and figure out how to not waste away the prime years of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
2. Craig Anderson, 41 years old
Entering his 20th season in the league, Craig Anderson is most known for his 10 years spent with the Ottawa Senators from 2010-2020. The 41-year-old goalie also has had stints with the Chicago Blackhawks, Florida Panthers, Colorado Avalanche and the Washington Capitals. He sports a career record of 308-264-69 with a 2.85 GAA and a .912 save percentage.
Anderson signed a one-year deal with the Buffalo Sabres for this 2021-22 season. Anderson will return to the ice to battle Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen for the starting role in Buffalo but his injuries haven’t fared well for himself. In the 31 games Anderson played last season, it became clear his role on the Sabres will soon most likely diminish to a smaller one.
1. Joe Thornton, 43 years old
The beard is planning to be back for his 25th season. Jumbo Joe signed a one-year deal last summer with the Florida Panthers after playing on a one-year deal the season before with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He broke into the league in 1997-98 with the Boston Bruins, but spent most of his career in San Jose with the Sharks. He is now a free agent.
In his career, Thornton has 430 goals and 1,109 assists, totaling 1,539 points over 1,714 games played, as well as an Art Ross and Hart Trophy. He is regarded as one of the top fan favorites that does not have a Stanley Cup to his name.
Who are the oldest NHL players ever?
5. Johnny Bower, 45 years old
Considered to be one of the greatest goaltenders of all time, Johnny Bower got a late start to his NHL career. He made his debut with the New York Rangers at 29 years old. After seeing just seven games of action the next two seasons, he joined the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1958. He spent 12 seasons with the Maples Leafs, winning four Stanley Cups and two Vezina Trophies.
“The China Wall”, as he was called, played in just one game in 1970 due to injuries. But he was 45 years old, making him the oldest player to play in the NHL at the time. However, not many knew his actual age. Bower had previously lied about his date of birth to get into the Canadian Army. It wasn’t until after his retirement that Bower revealed his true birth date, confirming that he was 45 years old when he was in the crease for his final start.
4. Jaromir Jagr, 45 years old
Jaromir Jagr and his luscious mullet ripped up the NHL for years. The ageless Czech wonder played 24 seasons in the NHL with nine different teams, most notably 11 seasons spent with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The two-time Stanley Cup champion is the only player to ever play in the Stanley Cup Finals as a teenager and play in one at least 40 years old.
Not only did Jagr spend 24 seasons in the show, he took a three-year hiatus to play in the KHL before returning in 2014. His last season in the NHL was with the Calgary Flames, playing at 45 years old. But that wasn’t it for Jagr. He returned to the Czech Republic, where he’s still playing at 49 years old for his hometown team, HC Kladno of the Czech Extraliga, of which he’s also the owner of. Jagr holds numerous records, including most points, goals and assists by any European-born player, most career game-winning goals and oldest player to score a hat trick.
3. Maurice Roberts, 45 years old
NHL fans have likely never heard of Maurice “Moe” Roberts. But he had one of the most interesting hockey careers. Roberts played in just 10 NHL games. When Roberts made his debut for the Boston Bruins in 1925, he was actually the youngest NHL goaltender at 19 years old. That mark wouldn’t be broken for 20 years.
Roberts spent most of his career playing minor league hockey after just two starts with the Bruins. He wouldn’t make another NHL start until 1931, a single start with the New York Americans, then appeared in six games in 1933-34 for the Americans. Roberts took a four-year hockey hiatus to enlist in the U.S. Navy during WWII. After returning to the game, Roberts made one more NHL appearance, playing in a single period in relief for the Chicago Blackhawks at the age of 45.
2. Chris Chelios
One of the greatest defensemen of all time, Chris Chelios finished his NHL career with 26 seasons under his belt. He debuted with the Montreal Canadians in 1983 at 22 years old, spending seven seasons with the Habs. He then was with the Chicago Blackhawks for nine seasons before spending seven with the Detroit Red Wings. His last season came at the age of 49 with the Atlanta Thrashers, although he only saw action seven times that season in the NHL, spending most of that year in the AHL with the Chicago Wolves.
Chelios finished his career with three Stanley Cups and three Norris Trophies. He’s the all-time leader among defensmen in regular season games played, and is the NHL’s all-time leader in playoff games played with 266.
1. Gordie Howe, 52 years old
Could it be anyone other than Mr. Hockey himself? Howe debuted in the league at 18 years old in 1946. He went on to play 25 years with the Detroit Red WIngs before announcing his retirement at 42 years old. However, it was short-lived, returning to hockey three years later to play with his sons on the Houston Aeros and the New England Whalers of the World Hockey Association. When the WHA and the NHL merged in 1979, Howe played his final season with the Hartford Whalers at the prime age of 52.
At the time of his real retirement, Howe’s 801 goals, 1,049 assists, and 1,850 total points were all NHL career records, later to be broken by Wyane Gretzky. His total regular season games played record held strong until this past season, when Patrick Marlaeu passed Howe’s mark of 1,767. It’s very unlikely that we’ll see anyone play in the NHL at the age that Howe did to end his legendary career.