Everything changed when the dinosaurs went extinct. Nobody knows exactly what happened to them, but many experts theorize that they were victims of old age and injury. But what some people may not know is that the dinosaurs aren’t all gone; that some of them are still alive. They are the ancient relics of the NHL.
The 90’s were an interesting time for hockey. We saw scoring rates decline at rapid rate, seven new teams joined the league while three others relocated, and we saw some of the greatest to ever play hang up their skates. The league is almost unrecognizable from what it was at the beginning of the 90’s, and seventeen years after the decade’s end there are very few 90’s players left. These ancient relics are like the snakes and crocodiles that survived the extinction of the dinosaurs and continued to roam the earth, terrorizing today’s wildlife (NHL players). Let’s take a look at who’s still around.
Brian Campbell (1999-00)
Brian “Soupy” Campbell started out with the Buffalo Sabres and was a part of what could have been a dynasty. Unfortunately things unraveled in Buffalo and Campbell along with other stars such as Danny Briere, Chris Drury, Maxim Afinogenov, Teppo Numminen, and Martin Biron all left the team in quick succession. After moving to the Sharks in 2008 Campbell signed with the Blackhawks where he was a key piece in helping the team end their Stanley Cup drought in 2010. Campbell then moved to Florida where he made boatloads of money and mentored young stars such as Aaron Ekblad.
While Campbell has never won a Norris Trophy he has always been among the league’s premiere defensemen.
Zdeno Chara (1997-98)
Big Z has had himself a great career. He’s won a Norris Trophy, captained his team to a Stanley Cup, and has been one of the very best defensemen in the NHL for a very long time.
After being drafted in the second round by the New York Islanders he was traded by Islanders great Mike Milbury to the Ottawa Senators along with the pick that would be used to select Jason Spezza. Chara spent four seasons with the Senators, improving each year and eventually earning himself a Norris Trophy nomination in 2004. Unfortunately for the Senators they were forced due to finances to choose between Chara and their top defenseman at the time, Wade Redden. The Senators chose to keep Redden. Chara went on to sign with the Boston Bruins where he would win the Stanley Cup, and Redden found himself buried in the AHL only a few seasons later.
After ten seasons with the Bruins, Chara may be slowing down but he can still keep up with the best of them when he’s on his game.
Matt Cullen (1997-98)
Making his debut with the Mighty Ducks in the late 90’s, Matt Cullen has been around the block. Having played for a total of 9 NHL teams, Cullen is the definition of a journeyman. Although he’s never been a superstar, Cullen has amassed 243 goals and 675 points, and has won two Stanley Cups through 21 NHL seasons.
Shane Doan (1995-96)
Shane Doan is the most loyal player in the NHL, which makes it so much sadder that he has never been able to win the greatest prize that this sport has to offer. A 20 season NHL veteran, Doan has spent each and every one of those years with the Coyotes franchise. There has never been a Coyotes team without Shane Doan. He was with the team when they were in Winnipeg. He experienced all 11 of the team’s playoff misses, and all seven of their first round exits, and their first and only Conference Finals which surely must be a career highlight for him. Doan is the Coyotes, he’s been there for all of their highs and lows and he’ll hopefully be able to take the team to the Stanley Cup before he retires.
Mike Fisher (1999-00)
Mike Fisher, affectionately referred to by some as Mr. Carrie Underwood has seen some serious development since he first joined the league in 1999. As a rookie Fisher gained a reputation for being a reckless offensive player. Putting forth very solid numbers for the Senators, Fisher provided secondary scoring for the Senators allowing them to rely less on their enigmatic top line of Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, and Dany Heatley. Behind the trio, Fisher slowly transformed his game, transitioning from an reckless offense first player to a defensive stalwart. Fisher’s transformation was recognized as he was nominated for the Frank J. Selke Trophy in 2005-06. His play was further rewarded with a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals the following season.
In 2011 Fisher was traded to Nashville. Although Senators GM Bryan Murray had received many offers for Fisher he decided to trade him to Nashville so that he could be closer to his wife. Fisher has been a mainstay in Nashville since the trade and was recently named captain of the team after the departure of Shea Weber.
Marian Hossa (1997-98)
Hossa, like Fisher started his career in Ottawa. Although his NHL debut was delayed by injury it did not stop him from putting up a strong rookie season which resulted in a Calder Trophy Nomination. Hossa quickly rose to All-Star status in Ottawa, putting up nearly 400 points with the Senators. Hossa’s time with the Sens would come to an end after the the 2005 NHL Lockout. After his contract expired Hossa joined the Thrashers where he would continue his meteoric rise to stardom, putting up his only 100 point campaign and playing three seasons with the team.
In 2008 Hossa was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins where he would start off what may be the unluckiest stretch in NHL history. With Hossa the Penguins made a deep playoff run. Unfortunately for them they ran into the red hot Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Red Wings went on to beat the Penguins in six games. After the disappointment of losing in the Cup Finals, Hossa signed with Detroit with hopes of finally winning that elusive Stanley Cup. As fate would have it the Red Wings made it to the Stanley Cup Finals again where they would face none other than the Pittsburgh Penguins. Fate played a cruel joke on Hossa as he lost to his former team in the Stanley Cup Final.
After his two Cup Finals losses, Hossa signed with the Chicago Blackhawks. With the Blackhawks, Hossa returned to the Stanley Cup Finals once more. To his relief he wouldn’t lose in the Finals three years in a row as the Blackhawks beat the Philadelphia Flyers, helping Hossa capture his first Stanley Cup. Since then Hossa has won two more Cups with the Blackhawks and has solidified his legacy as not a loser but a champion.
Jarome Iginla (1996-97)
One of the greatest goal scorers of the modern era, Jarome Iginla like Doan is also in search of the elusive first Stanley Cup. In 2004 he came very close though, leading the Calgary Flames to their third ever Stanley Cup Final where they would lose to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Iginla was a dominant force in the 2004 playoffs, scoring 22 points and making all of the right plays. Although he’s collected other hardware along the way including an Art Ross Trophy, two Maurice Richard Trophies, and a Lester B. Pearson Award he’s never been able to win that Stanley Cup.
Jaromir Jagr (1990-91)
The oldest and longest tenured on this list, Jaromir Jagr has been around for a verrry long time. Selected fifth overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft, Jagr was the first Czechoslovakian player in history to be drafted to the NHL without having to defect from his country. It was with the Penguins that Jagr saw most of his success. With Pittsburgh Jagr won two Stanley Cups, five Art Ross Trophies, three Lester B. Pearson Awards, and a Hart Trophy.
After leaving the Penguins in 2001 Jagr had an unsuccessful three year stint with the Washington Capitals. Although he put up solid numbers with the Caps, the team was unable to find success with him on the team and he was traded to the New York Rangers. Jagr remained with the Rangers for four seasons, serving as captain for two. Jagr’s Rangers tenure was highlighted by a 54 goal, 123 point season where he lost out on the Art Ross and Maurice Richard Trophies to Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo respectively. In 2008 Jagr moved to the KHL to play for Avangard Omsk.
In 2011 Jagr made his triumphant return to the NHL with the Philadelphia Flyers, spurning his former team, the Penguins, to play for their division rivals. Since his return Jagr has played for five NHL teams and has broken numerous NHL records and has climbed the NHL scoring ranks, recently passing Gordie Howe to become the second highest scorer of all time.
Roberto Luongo (1999-00)
The only goaltender on this list, Roberto Luongo has had a career that has left him destined to be enshrined in the Hockey Hall Of Fame among the sport’s best.
Luongo started his career with the New York Islanders in 1999. He would play only one season with the Islanders where he would butt heads with then Isles GM Mike Milbury. Milbury then drafted goaltender Rick Dipietro first overall in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft to replace Luongo. He then traded Luongo alongside Olli Jokinen to the Florida Panthers in what very well may have been the worst trade of all time. Luongo spent six seasons with the Panthers where he would face a constant barrage of shots and would establish himself as one of the NHL’s premiere goaltenders. In the midst of contract discussions with the Panthers, Luongo was traded to the Vancouver Canucks in 2006. With Vancouver Luongo saw the most success of his career, making it to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, earning multiple Vezina Trophy nominations, and earning himself a Hart Trophy Nomination. In 2013 after neverending goalie controversy, Luongo was traded back to Florida, the place he calls his home.
Patrick Marleau (1997-98)
Another one of the league’s most loyal players, Patrick Marleau has been a member of the San Jose Sharks since he was drafted by the team in 1997. Marleau was awarded captaincy of the Sharks in 2003 and held it until 2009 when then coach Todd McLellan gave the captaincy to Rob Blake. Marleau has amassed nearly 500 goals and over 1000 points with the Sharks. He currently holds 18 franchise records and four NHL records.
Marleau was born on September 15th, the final day of the NHL’s draft cutoff. This makes him the youngest player to played in the NHL’s modern era.
Mike Ribeiro (1999-00)
One of the NHL’s best playmakers in recent history, Mike Ribeiro was underrated by many. Starting his career with the Montreal Canadiens in 1999, Ribeiro didn’t become an NHL regular until 2003 where he finally broke out, registering 45 assists and 65 points leading the team in both aspects. In 2006 Ribeiro was traded to the Dallas Stars where his career was elevated to new heights. Ribeiro led the Stars in points for three straight seasons and posted a career high of 83 points. In the final year of his contract Ribeiro was traded to the Washington Capitals. He has since played for the Arizona Coyotes and Nashville Predators.
Michal Rozsival (1999-00)
Michal Rozsival is one of the last players that many would have expected to last so long in the NHL. Always successful but never spectacular, Rozsival has carved himself a very solid 17 year NHL career with the Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers, Phoenix Coyotes, and most recently the Chicago Blackhawks. A solid shutdown defenseman, Rozsival was a key piece in the Chicago Blackhawks 2010 and 2013 Stanley Cup wins. Although he did not participate in their 2015 Cup run the Blackhawks chose to engrave his name on the Stanley Cup for a third time.
Joe Thornton (1997-98)
The first overall pick of the 1997 NHL Entry Draft, chosen one spot before current teammate Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton is one of the best players ever to play in the NHL. Getting his start with the Boston Bruins in 1997 Thornton didn’t see very much ice time in his first season and was a regular healthy scratch. In his sophomore season Thornton saw his usage and point totals increase significantly. Thornton continued to improve with the Bruins, making three All-Star appearances, hitting 100 points for the first time in his career, and gaining captaincy of the team. Unfortunately for Thornton the Bruins were eliminated from the playoffs in the first round three years in a row between 2002 and 2004. Because of this Thornton’s role as captain was scrutinized and he gained a reputation for being a poor playoff performer. This led to him being traded to the San Jose Sharks in 2005.
With the Sharks Thornton elevated his game to the next level. He won the Art Ross Trophy with 125 points, snatching it out of the hands of Jaromir Jagr in the final week of the NHL season, and became the first player to win the Hart Trophy in a season where he was traded. Thornton also carried linemate Jonathan Cheechoo to a Maurice Richard Trophy win with 56 goals that season. In 2010 Thornton was given captaincy of the Sharks, but after more early playoff exits his reputation as a poor playoff performer continued to haunt him. In 2014 Thornton was stipped of his captaincy, and in 2016 Thornton was finally able to lead the team to the Stanley Cup Finals where the Sharks lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Chris Carnovale is a “The Wraparound” columnist for Good Night, Good Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @Chris_Carnovale.