The IIHF has approved a letter of intent for the World Legends Hockey League. Pavel Bure will be the chairman of the new 45-plus competition which will include national teams from Finland, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, Czech Republic and Germany. Were there a North American entry, these are five players who could realistically take part.
It was announced late last week that the IIHF has approved a letter of intent for a new league, the World Legends Hockey League, which will pit the best 45-plus players against each other in a brand new international competition.
The league, headed up by chairman Pavel Bure, won’t have representatives from Canada or the U.S., instead featuring clubs from Finland, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, Czech Republic and Germany. However, there will be a one-game event in which some of the greatest North American stars will suit up again: an all-star game that is set to take place in the first week of October and will kick off the brand new league.
Because there will be no North American representation once the league gets in full swing, we won’t quite know how a full squad of veteran Canadian and American talent will stack up against their international opponents. It doesn’t mean we can’t consider five players who might be interesting additions to the roster, however.
And while it would be great to see Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux lineup one more time, we’re being a bit more realistic with our choices. So if the chances are next to nothing that the veterans would lace them up for international competition one last time, you won’t find them on this list. Here are five players who could realistically skate for Canada or the U.S. in the WLHL:
5) Dwayne Roloson, G, 45
Roloson may not be a Hall of Fame calibre goaltender, but it’s often forgotten how effective he remained late into his career. At 41, Roloson played 54 games split between the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lighting. He came back for a final season at 42, playing in 31 games for Tampa Bay and recording a 13-16-3 record, 3.66 goals-against average and .886 save percentage. Just this past season, Roloson made a surprise return to serve as the backup netminder for the Anaheim Ducks.
Twice in his career Roloson finished in the top 10 for Vezina Trophy voting. While some would prefer Martin Brodeur get the call between the pipes, the 43-year-old is still two years away from being eligible. By that time, if the WLHL is still around, maybe Brodeur actually will return to play for Canada one more time.
4) Gary Roberts, LW, 49
Like Roloson, Roberts’ final season came in Tampa Bay, but at that point in his career the veteran was well past his prime. During that 2008-09 season, Roberts scored four goals and seven points in 30 games while averaging little more than 11:30 per outing. At that point in his career, Roberts was 42, but he was only two years removed from a 20-goal, 42-point campaign which was split between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Florida Panthers.
If Roberts were to play, it would be difficult to find a WLHL player in better shape. Since retiring, Roberts has been heralded as one of the best high performance trainers in the sport. Recently, he was named as the coordinator of the sports performance center as the Penguins’ new sports complex in Pennsylvania.
3) Rod Brind’Amour, C, 45
Maybe the only player who could compete with Roberts in term of physical fitness is Brind’Amour, Roberts’ former teammate for half a season in Carolina. Brind’Amour’s workouts became a thing of legend during his college years. During his time at Michigan State, it was said that the coaching staff had no other choice but to lock Brind’Amour out of the team’s gym because he was spending too much time working out.
During the final season of his career in 2009-10, Brind’Amour struggled mightily scoring just nine goals and 19 points in 80 games, but the 45-year-old is definitely still fit enough to keep up. If he could get away from his duties as the Hurricanes’ assistant coach, he would probably be good for a couple tallies against the veteran competition.
2) Chris Chelios, D, 53
Few things seem as obvious as Chelios getting back on the ice for competitive play even if he is far and away the oldest player on the list. Seeing as Chelios’ final games in the NHL came when he was 48, it’s really not hard to imagine him suiting up for a few games against competition his own age.
At 46, Chelios was still an effective blueliner, suiting up for 69 games with the Red Wings. He scored three goals and 12 points that season and averaged close to 17 minutes per night. That’s not to mention that at 40 he finished second in Norris Trophy voting and scored six goals and 39 points. When it comes to longevity, Chelios is second only to Gordie Howe.
Like Brind’Amour, participating would have to mean getting out of duty with the Red Wings, but it’d be hard to imagine Chelios wouldn’t give the WLHL a shot.
1) Mark Recchi, RW, 47
Though he’s not often thought of as one of the greatest scorers in league history, Recchi’s combination of skill and longevity made him the 12th highest all-time scorer with 577 goals and 1,533 points. And considering Recchi scored 14 goals and 48 points in 81 games as a 42-year-old, he probably still had at least one or two good years left in him when he hung up his skates.
A three-time Stanley Cup champion and one of the most underrated players of his generation, Recchi suiting up in WLHL action could help him pad an already incredible resume. He has a World Championship gold medal and played for Canada at the World Junior Championships and Olympics.
Recchi is now a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins organization where he acts as a player development coach.