Chris Chelios is among the oldest players to play in the NHL premiere on NBC Sports Chicago
Zdeno Chara, one of the NHL’s longest tenured members, appears to have officially hung up his skates, as he announced his retirement after 24 NHL seasons .
He’s not the only veteran who came back for another year. There were several older players who opened new deals this summer to continue playing at the highest level of hockey.
There are also some like Andy Greene, who at 39 years old, has not signed a new deal, but wants to return for another season. However, he did not formally announce his retirement like Duncan Keith and Jason Spezza did.
With the new NHL season upon us, let’s take a look at some of the oldest players in the league right now and some of the oldest players 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 previously played for the Seattle Kraken and Calgary Flames. He began his career in 2004 with the Flames’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Lowell Lock Monsters, and was brought back by Calgary for the 2008-09 season, where he remained for 13 seasons.
Giordano has scored 151 goals, 393 assists and 544 points over a total of 1,024 games played during his NHL career. He will likely retire as a Maple Leaf after this season.
4. Andy Greene, 39 years old
One of the most under-recognized captains of recent times, Andy Greene spent 14 seasons with the New Jersey Devils, five of them sporting the “C” for the Devils. He’s had a very low-on-the-radar career, playing a stay-at-home defense role on the Devils and most recently, the New York Islanders. He signed a one-year contract last summer to return to Long Island after being traded to the team at the 2020 deadline, and is now an unrestricted free agent.
Greene has just 264 career points as he enters his 18th season in the NHL. He hit 1,000 career hits last season, currently sitting at 1,057 games played. Greene became the first player in the 2021-22 season to reach the milestone, one that only 357 players in NHL history have accomplished.
3. Mike Smith, 40 years old
Age is just a number for Mike Smith. The veteran goalie has bounced around a bit in 17 years on the show, including this upcoming season. Smith has played with the Dallas Stars, Tampa Bay Lightning, Arizona Coyotes, Calgary Flames and is currently 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 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 a backup for an Oilers team that continues to try to figure out how to not waste 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 best known for his 10 years with the Ottawa Senators from 2010-2020. The 41-year-old goalie also had stints with the Chicago Blackhawks, Florida Panthers, Colorado Avalanche and the Washington Capitals. He had a career record of 308-264-69 with a 2.85 GAA and a .912 save %.
Anderson signed a one-year contract with the Buffalo Sabers for this 2021-22 season. Anderson will return to the ice to battle Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen for the starting role in Buffalo but his own injuries have not played out well. In the 31 games that Anderson played last season, it was clear that his role on the Sabers will soon decrease to a smaller one.
1. Joe Thornton, 43 years old
The beard is back for its 25th season. Jumbo Joe signed a one-year deal last summer with the Florida Panthers after playing on a one-year deal the previous season 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 goals, 1,539 total points over 1,714 games played, as well as an Art Ross and Hart Trophy. He is considered one of the fan favorites without a Stanley Cup to his name.
Who are the oldest NHL players of all time?
5. Johnny Bower, 45 years old
Considered one of the greatest goaltenders of all time, Johnny Bower had a late start to his NHL career. He made his debut with the New York Rangers at the age of 29. After seeing seven games of action the next two seasons, he joined the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1958. He spent 12 seasons with the Maple Leafs, winning four Stanley Cups and two Vezina Cups.
“The China Wall”, as he was called, played in 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, many did not know his actual age. Bower had previously lied about his date of birth to join the Canadian Army. It wasn’t until after his retirement that Bower revealed his true date of birth, confirming that he was 45 years old when he was in the ring for his final start.
4. Jaromir Jagr, 45 years old
Jaromir Jagr and his lush mullet rocked the NHL for years. The ageless Czech 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 a Stanley Cup Final as a teenager and play in at least one at age 40.
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 the age of 45. But it wasn’t like that for Jagr. He returned to the Czech Republic, where he is still playing at the age of 49 for his hometown team, HC Kladno of the Czech Extraliga, which he also owns. Jagr holds numerous records, including most points, goals and assists of any player born in Europe, most career game-winning goals and oldest player to score a hat trick .
3. Maurice Roberts, 45 years old
NHL fans have probably never heard of Maurice “Moe” Roberts. But he had one of the most interesting hockey careers. Roberts played in 10 NHL games. When Roberts made his debut for the Boston Bruins in 1925, he was the youngest NHL goaltender at 19 years old. That mark would not be broken for another 20 years.
Roberts spent most of his career playing minor league hockey after two starts with the Bruins. He would not make another NHL debut until 1931, one with the New York Americans, then he appeared in six games in 1933-34 for the Americans. Roberts took a four-year hiatus from hockey to enlist in the US Navy during World War II. After returning to the game, Roberts made one more NHL appearance, playing one stint in relief for the Chicago Blackhawks at age 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 Canadian Montreal in 1983 at the age of 22, spending seven seasons with the Habs. He was there 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 is the all-time leader among defensemen in regular season games played, and 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 entered the league at age 18 in 1946. He went on to play 25 years with the Detroit Red Wings before announcing his retirement at age 42. However, it was short-lived, returning to hockey three years later to play with his son on the Houston Eros 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 age of 52.
At the time of his retirement, Howe’s 801 goals, 1,049 assists, and 1,850 total points were NHL career records, later to be broken by Wyane Gretzky. His regular season game total was strong until last season, when Patrick Marlaeu surpassed Howe’s mark of 1,767. It is very unlikely that we will see anyone playing in the NHL at the age that Howe did to end his legendary career.