Iconic Players: A Look at the Impact of NHL Western Conference’s Central Division Franchise Legends
The NHL Western Conference’s Central Division is home to some of the most passionate and dedicated hockey teams in North America. Spanning six states across the United States, from Colorado to Minnesota, the Central Division is a powerhouse of talent and fierce rivalry.
But behind every great division is a group of iconic players that have left a lasting impact on not only their respective teams, but also the entire division. These players have become franchise legends, beloved by fans and admired by their peers.
In this article, we will take a journey through the history of the NHL Western Conference’s Central Division and explore the impact of some of its most iconic players. From the early days of the division to the modern era, these players have left their mark and solidified their place in hockey history.
The Beginnings of the Central Division
The Central Division was officially formed in 1998 as a result of the NHL’s expansion. It was originally composed of five teams: the Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, and the original Winnipeg Jets.
The division quickly became known for its intense rivalries and fierce competition. The original six teams brought a rich history and strong fan bases, while the new expansion teams brought a fresh dynamic to the division.
As the years went by, the Central Division continued to evolve and expand. The original Winnipeg Jets moved to Arizona in 1996, and a new Winnipeg Jets team was established in 2011. The Minnesota Wild also joined the division in 2013, cementing its place as a true powerhouse in the NHL.
The Impact of Franchise Legends
Throughout the division’s history, there have been many players who have left a lasting impact on their teams and the division as a whole. These franchise legends have not only achieved great success on the ice, but also captured the hearts of fans and become synonymous with their respective teams.
Chicago Blackhawks – Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull
In the early years of the Central Division, the Chicago Blackhawks were led by two legendary players, Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull. Mikita, known as “Stosh” to his teammates, played his entire 22-year career with the Blackhawks and was a dominant force on the ice, winning four Art Ross Trophies as the NHL’s leading scorer. He also helped lead the team to their last Stanley Cup victory in 1961.
Bobby Hull, nicknamed “The Golden Jet,” was one of the most prolific goal scorers in NHL history and played eleven seasons with the Blackhawks. He won the Hart Trophy three times, the Art Ross Trophy twice, and helped the team win three Stanley Cups. He was also the first player in the NHL to score more than 50 goals in a season, a feat that was considered nearly impossible at the time.
Today, both Mikita and Hull are immortalized in the hearts of Blackhawks fans and have their numbers retired by the team.
Detroit Red Wings – Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom
The Detroit Red Wings have always been known for their talented players, but two names stand out among the rest when it comes to franchise legends – Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom.
Yzerman played his entire 22-year NHL career with the Red Wings and is still considered one of the greatest captains in NHL history. Under his leadership, the team won three Stanley Cups and he was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoffs MVP in 1998. He also holds the record for most games played and ranks second in all-time points for the Red Wings.
Nicklas Lidstrom, known as “The Perfect Human,” is widely regarded as one of the best defensemen in NHL history. He played his entire 20-year career with the Red Wings and won seven Norris Trophies as the NHL’s top defenseman. He also captained the team to four Stanley Cup wins and was known for his calm and steady presence on the ice.
Nashville Predators – Shea Weber
The Nashville Predators may be a relatively new team compared to their division rivals, but they have certainly made a name for themselves thanks to players like Shea Weber. Weber was drafted by the Predators in 2003 and spent 11 seasons with the team, becoming a fan favorite and eventually captain of the team.
Known for his booming shot and physical presence on the ice, Weber helped lead the Predators to their first Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2017. Despite eventually being traded to the Montreal Canadiens, his impact on the Predators and the Central Division cannot be denied.
St. Louis Blues – Brett Hull
When it comes to franchise legends, few have had a greater impact on the St. Louis Blues than Brett Hull. The son of Chicago Blackhawks legend Bobby Hull, Brett was known for his incredible goal-scoring abilities and helped lead the Blues to their first ever Stanley Cup Final appearance in 1986.
Hull played 11 seasons with the Blues and won two Hart Trophies, three Lester B. Pearson Awards, and the Lady Byng Trophy. He also holds the record for most goals scored in a season for the Blues with 86.
Winnipeg Jets – Dale Hawerchuk
The original Winnipeg Jets may have relocated to Phoenix in 1996, but that doesn’t discount the impact of players like Dale Hawerchuk. Drafted first overall by the Jets in 1981, Hawerchuk quickly became a fan favorite and established himself as one of the top players in the NHL.
He helped lead the Jets to playoff success, winning the first ever playoff series in franchise history in 1985. Hawerchuk played 24 seasons in the NHL and was known for his incredible passing abilities, earning him the nickname “Ducky.”
Minnesota Wild – Marian Gaborik
The newest team in the Central Division, the Minnesota Wild, may not have as long a history as the other teams, but they still have a franchise legend in Marian Gaborik. Drafted third overall by the Wild in 2000, Gaborik quickly became the team’s star forward and helped lead them to their first playoff appearance in 2003.
He was known for his incredible speed and sharpshooting abilities, and holds the record for most goals scored in a season for the Wild with 42. Gaborik eventually left the Wild in 2009, but his impact on the team and the division is still felt today.
The NHL Western Conference’s Central Division is rich in history and talent, and it wouldn’t be the same without the impact of its iconic players. From the early days of the division to the modern era, these franchise legends have left a lasting impression on their teams and the entire division.
As we eagerly await the start of the new NHL season, we can’t help but wonder which player will become the next franchise legend in the Central Division. With fierce competition and passionate fans, the stage is set for another chapter in the division’s rich history to be written.