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NHL Players Who Played Over Age 40

by Photo of Antoinette Cammarano

NHL players over 40 are few and far between, so we took a look at how they stack up.

NHL Players Who Played Over Age 40

The New Jersey Devils just signed 41-year old Jaromir Jagr to a 1 year, $2 million deal. Following the surprise retirement of Ilya Kovalchuk, the Devils needed a player with size and strength to take his place. Jar, even at 41 years of age, was just the man they needed. With his impressive puck handling skills and his experience on the ice, Jagr's one year contract with the Devils doesn't seem so extreme.

With 17 years in the NHL behind him, Jagr has the experience necessary to be a great hockey player. The New Jersey Devils are the fourth team Jagr has played with in his NHL career, but there is no telling if they will be his last. Jagr is no spring chicken, and it is uncertain what his future will be in the following years.

There have been numerous players to contend in the NHL well into their 40s, but what have their success rates been? Here, I took a look at some of the oldest guys to ever put on an NHL uniform, and looked at their success in their old age. While most professional athletes nearing middle age expect to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, NHL players nearing middle age still retain hopes of getting called to play in the All-Star game.

1. Gordon Howe

Gordon "Gordie" Howe, born in 1928, retired from the game when he was a whopping 52 years old. Howe is the only player to compete through 5 decades, from the 1940s - 1980s. Nicknamed "Mr. Hockey," Howe won 4 Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings, 6 Hart Trophies as the NHL's most valuable player, and 6 Art Ross Trophies as the leading scorer in the league. In 2008, Howe won the first NHL Lifetime Achievement Award. Howe was also inducted into the Hall of Fame as a player in 1972. 

At the end of his career, Howe had racked up a total of 1,767 games, 801 goals, 1,049 assists, and 1,850 points. In his final season in the NHL, from 1979-80, at which point Howe was 52, he totaled in at 80 games played, 15 goals, 26 assists, and 41 points. Not bad for a man making his way through his middle-aged years. In 1998, Gordie Howe was, rightfully, ranked number 3 on The Hockey News'  List of the Top 100 NHL Players of All Time, falling only behind Wayne Gretsky and Bobby Orr. 

2. Chris  Chelios

Born Christos Kostas Tselios, but better known as Chris Chelios, was born in 1962. Chelios began his NHL career in 1983 with the Montreal Canadiens, and his career ended in 2010 with the Atlanta Thrashers, a short-lived team that eventually became the Winnipeg Jets. Chelios was 48 years old during his final NHL season. In the 1985-85 season, Chelios won the Stanley Cup with his team, the Canadiens. When Chelios was called up from the AHL team the Chicago Wolves to play for the Thrashers he was the oldest active NHL player. Chilies is currently tied with Gordie Howe on the most seasons played by an NHL player, both totaling in at 26 seasons apiece. This year, on July 9th, Chelios was elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Chelios' career statistics were pretty impressive when he retired. He played a total of 1,651 games, scored 185 goals, had 763 assists, and totaled 948 points. However, his final season with the Thrashers was not as notable. Chelios played only 7 games that season, scoring no goals, garnering no assists and ultimately gaining no points. When the Thrashers failed to make the 2010 playoffs, Chelios was sent back to the AHL. Late that summer, however, Chelios officially announced his retirement and announced he would be taking a front-office position with the Detroit Red Wings. 

3. Johnny Bower

Born John Kiszhan, but later known as John "Johnny" William Bower, was born in 1928 and starting his NHL career as a goaltender for the New York Rangers during the 1953-54 season and ended his NHL career with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1969-70 season. He was 45 when he finally retired from the NHL. The Golden Age of Bower's career came during the three consecutive Stanley Cup victories by the Maple Leafs in 1962, 1963, and 1964. He won the Stanley Cup again in 1967. Bower won other hardware during his NHL career, including the Vezina Trophy and the Calder Cup. In 1976 Bower was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a player. In 2006, it was announced that Bower would receive a star on Canada's Walk of Fame.

Bower's NHL career statistics weren't too shabby for his 16 year career. He played a total of 552 games, with 250 wins and 195 loses, 1,340 goals against (GA), and had a goals against average (GAA) of 2.51. Similar to Chelios, however, Bower's last year in the NHL was not impressive compared to his overall NHL statistics. In his final season, he played a total of 1 game, with 1 loss and 5 goals against. 

Jagr, signing a 1 year contract at 41 years of age, doesn't seem like such a far-fetched notion when compared with these guys who played until well into their 40s and early 50s. Although Bower and Chelios did not have successful final seasons in the NHL, they are not representative of all players in the NHL over 40. Howe played amazingly well, given his age at the time of retirement. So for Jagr, it is not a crazy notion to assume that he might play well for his age.

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