When I was just a wee tyke, I was at the Pacific Coliseum the night that Bobby Orr set a record for defencemen for assists in one game. Orr was a childhood idol of mine, and my son now has a autographed photo of Orr that I got signed by him an an Ottawa car show. Like another poster earlier, I also saw Orr in one of his last games for the Blackhawks, and it was indeed a sad sight to see.
I saw Gordie Howe play a game for the Hartford Whalers, but of course he was a shadow of the player he once was by that stage.
I saw Gretzky play on numerous occasions, but there is one that sticks out in my mind. It wasn't one of his Oiler games, but rather a game that many consider to be his last truly dominant performance in the NHL. It was October 1997, and the Rangers were playing the Canucks at GM Place. Gretzky was on fire that night -- if memory serves, he bagged a hat trick, including a highlight reel goal where he walked around Murzyn, faked out McLean, and left him sprawling as he went around the net for an easy wrap around. At that stage, the crowd at GM Place gave him a standing ovation.
But I'm surprised that noone has mentioned my #4 - the greatest shooter and pure scorer to ever play the game - Mike Bossy.
9 straight seasons of 50+ goals - every full season he played.
Just imagine if he hadn't had a bad back - out of the game at 30 yo - Gretzky would still be looking up at him in the record books.
Imagine if Mario had not missed over 9 years total playing time with back injuries, hodgkins, etc. Mario was hands down the most amazing athlete that I have ever seen outside of Michael Jordan . . . and maybe better than him. Gretzky was amazing too but did not have Mario's size.