Wayne Gretzky has always been the face of hockey, being recognized as the best player of all time, but the game has evolved bringing in a new candidate for the best player of all time, Sidney Crosby.
In 2005, a new hockey phenomenon was drafted to the Pittsburgh Penguins. His name is Sidney Crosby. But there is a big difference between both Crosby and Gretzky.
They both lived in completely different hockey eras and sports athleticism as a whole has developed intensively over the last 30 years.
For initial comparisons, Gretzky recorded an unreal 894 goals and 1,963 assists in just under 1,500 games. Crosby, on the other hand, has earned 302 goals and 853 points in 627 games.
At first glance, it appears Gretzky blows the 28-year-old out of the water. However, comparing players from different eras is not that simple.
The Gretzky era, from 1979-1999 was a revolution in hockey. The Vezina trophy was an award dedicated to the best goalie in his position at the time in the entire league. In 1979, Vezina winner Don Edwards had 2.57 GAA (Goal against average), and a .893 save percentage.
Back 30 years ago, more goals were being scored because the quality of goalies was not as great as they are today.
In the modern hockey era, the 2014- 2015 season Vezina winner, Carey Price, goalie of the Montreal Canadiens, posted a 1.96 GAA and a .933 save percentage. In the 26 year gap from 1979- 2005, goaltenders in the NHL had a massive style change and therefore improvement in the position.
Almost all goalies in the NHL during the 1980’s and early 1990’s were standing goalies. This meant that they don’t go into the butterfly form, in which they would kneel on the ice with legs sprawled enabling the goalie to cover far more of the lower portion of the net.
Instead, the goalies stood to make a save or threw their body anywhere in order to make the save. Colin Amy said, “Goalies in the Gretzky era didn’t have any consistent form, but instead they kinda only took up a decent portion of the net.”
In the 1990’s, goalies began to master the hybrid form of both a standing goalie and butterfly goalie allowing the goalies to have better positioning and, therefore, increasing the amount of saves made per game.
Gretzky scored many goals and recorded many assists compared to the NHL stars now because of the lack of skill between the pipes.
Gretzky has had a profound impact on hockey, helping to boost his reputation as the best hockey player of all time. Gretzky is a good looking guy with a great wife and lots of money. He was also very kind and did as much as he could to give back to the NHL league and its fans.
Overall, Gretzky is that perfect athlete both on and off the ice giving him this sense of perfection.
Crosby is possibly the most dominant player currently in the NHL, taking advantage of every second he has on the ice. There is no doubt that the game of hockey today is played quicker and more aggressively.
Also, the players are bigger and stronger, yet Crosby still displays incredible skill. “When you look at the highlight of both players, Crosby plays quicker and stronger than any player of the Gretzky era,” Cody Carlson said.
Crosby has not had the same impact on hockey in America that Gretzky had in his time. Gretzky helped make the sport popular in California and changed the way the game was played.
Gretzky would single-handedly fill arenas because of all the hype he created. Sid is just really, really good.
Crosby is the most skilled hockey player of all time because although he doesn’t have the best statistics. He plays in the most difficult era where all the players are far bigger stronger and faster and he continuously puts up incredible stats compared to Gretzky during his era.
Gretzky had a far more profound impact on the hockey community of his era compared to Crosby of his era, helping Gretzky seem like a better athlete.