Oldest NHL Players Ever

10 Oldest NHL Players Ever (Updated 2024)

While hockey is not necessarily the most popular sport (especially in comparison to soccer, basketball, and football in the U.S.), it does have many enthusiastic and loyal fans, particularly in Canada and the United States. In recent years hockey has increased in popularity around the world as more countries have built facilities.

Hockey is also a fairly near sport and only dates back to around the late 19th century. However, the Stanley Cup is one of the world’s oldest sports trophies. As more people began to be interested in hockey, the first leagues and organizations began to pop up in the early 20th century. The NHL would not be established until 1917, but is now the leading hockey league.

On average, NHL players have relatively short careers and peak in their late 20s. All of the hockey players on this list defied those statistics and played well into their 40s. Many of them have NHL records that still stand today and nearly all of them were inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

As of July 2023, this list is as accurate as possible and will be updated as needed.

10. Tim Horton (January 12, 1930 – February 21, 1974)

Oldest Age While Playing: 44 years, 39 days in 1974
Years Active: 1949 – 1974 (24 seasons)
Team(s): Toronto Maple Leafs; New York Rangers; Pittsburgh Penguins; and Buffalo Sabres
Position: ; Defense

Tim Hortonphoto source: Wikimedia Commons via Arnie Lee

To non-hockey fans, Tim Horton‘s name probably rings a bell because he is the co-founder of the popular quick service restaurant chain Tim Hortons. Besides being a successful businessman, Horton was one of the greatest, if not the greatest defensemen in the NHL. Horton played in the league for 24 seasons on various teams – the Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Buffalo Sabres.

As a junior hockey player, Horton garnered a lot of attention and he was signed by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1949. Horton came to be known for his extreme strength and for being a durable defenseman. Horton stayed with the Maple Leafs until 1970 before playing just a few more seasons with different teams. Unfortunately, Horton died in a car crash in 1974, at the age of 44, on his way home after a game.

Did You Know?

Tim Horton was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1977 and was part of the first group of players to be named one of the “100 Greatest NHL Players” in history in 2017.

9. Jacques Plante (January 17, 1929 – February 27, 1986)

Oldest Age While Playing: 44 years, 78 days in 1975
Years Active:  1951 – 1975 (21 seasons)
Team(s):  Montreal Canadiens; New York Rangers; St. Louis Blues; Toronto Maple Leafs; and Boston Bruins
Position:  Goaltender

Jacques Plantephoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Jacques Plante may not have been the best goalie, but he is one the NHL’s most important. Plante was a pioneer in many ways and laid the foundation for modern goaltending. He was the first goalie to skate behind the net to stop the puck for his defenseman and introduced a stand-up style of goaltending that emphasized positional play and staying square to the shooter.

Plante was also the first goaltender to insist on wearing a face mask, which he first started wearing in 1956 during practices to protect his face after a sinusitis operation. At the time, face masks weren’t permitted during regular games, but Plante broke the rules in 1959 after he was hit in the face with the puck. After being stitched up, Plante returned to the game with his mask on and refused to play without it after that game. Plante not only designed his own masks, but made them for other goaltenders as well.

Did You Know?

In 1972, Jacques Plante published a book titled On Goaltending, which was the first book of its kind and outlined a program of goaltender development that included off-ice exercises, choice of equipment, styles of play, and game-day preparation.

8. Lester Patrick (December 31, 1883 – June 1, 1960)

Oldest Age While Playing: 44 years, 99 days in 1926
Years Active:  1903 – 1926 (18 seasons); played one game in 1928
Team(s):  New York Rangers
Position:  Defense

Lester Patrickphoto source: Wikimedia Commons via Hockey Hall of Fame by Frank Lennon

Lester “The Silver Fox” Patrick played during the early days of professional hockey and along with his brother Frank, invented several rules that remain in the NHL rule book today. The brothers also pioneered artificial rink construction and formed the Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA), one of the biggest hockey leagues before the NHL.

Technically, Patrick never actually played for the NHL and stuck with the PCHA even after the NHL started in 1917. However, Patrick joined the NHL’s New York Rangers as a coach following the demise of the Western Hockey League (formed when PCHA merged with the Western Canadian Hockey League). During Game 2 of the 1928 Stanley Cup Finals, Patrick stepped in for goalie Lorne Chabot after he suffered an eye injury, and became the oldest player in NHL history to play in the Stanley Cup Finals. Patrick was 44 years old at the time and still holds the record to this day.

Did You Know?

Some rules that Lester and Frank Patrick invented include, the blue line, the forward pass, the playoff system (which was adopted by other leagues and sports around the world), assigning players numbers on their uniforms, and the penalty shot.

7. Doug Harvey (December 19, 1924 – December 26, 1989)

Oldest Age While Playing: 44 years, 100 days in 1969
Years Active:  1947 – 1969 (20 seasons)
Team(s):  Montreal Canadiens; New York Rangers; St. Louis Blues; and Detroit Red Wings
Position:  Defense

Doug Harveyphoto source: Wikimedia Commons via TGC Tops Gum Cards

Doug Harvey is known for being the top defenseman of his era. After playing the minor leagues for a few years, Harvey started playing professionally for the Montreal Royals of the Quebec Senior Hockey League. Harvey then played one season with the Buffalo Bisons of the AHL before being signed by the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens for the 1947 – 1948 season. He stayed with the Montreal Canadiens until 1961.

In 1960, Harvey was set to take over as captain for the Montreal Canadiens, but the offer was rescinded after he was blacklisted by the NHL for trying to form a players’ association. Harvey left the Montreal Canadiens for the New York Rangers as a player-coach. Harvey technically retired from the NHL in 1963, but continued to play for minor league teams. However, Harvey did return to the NHL for one season to play with the St. Louis Blues. Harvey retired for the final time when he was 44 years old.

Did You Know?

Doug Harvey won the James Norris Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman seven times.

6. Gump Worsley (May 14, 1929 – January 26, 2007)

Oldest Age While Playing: 44 years, 323 days in 1974
Years Active:  1952 – 1974 (21 seasons)
Team(s):  New York Rangers; Montreal Canadiens; and Minnesota North Stars
Position:  Goaltender

photo source: Wikimedia Commons via Ralrton-Purina Company, maker of Chex cereals

Gump Worsley is the second oldest goalie ever in the NHL, behind only Moe Roberts. Worsley began his NHL career a little later than most players and was signed by the New York Rangers when he was already 24 years old. Before playing with the Rangers, Worsley played for various minor league teams, creating a name for himself as a leading goaltender.

Although Worsley won the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year, that first year he played with the Rangers, he was let go for the following season after he asked for a $500 pay raise. However, Worsley returned to the Rangers in 1954 and spent the rest of his professional career in the NHL. Worsley was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1980.

Did You Know?

Gump Worsley was so against wearing a face mask, that he only wore one in his final six games in the 1973 – 1974 season with the Minnesota North Stars. Worsley was one of the last two goaltenders (the other was Andy Brown) to play in the NHL without a mask.

5. Johnny Bower (November 8, 1924 – December 26, 2017))

Oldest Age While Playing: 45 years, 32 days in 1969
Years Active:  1945 – 1969
Team(s):  Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers
Position:  Goaltender

Johnny Bowerphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Johnny Bower, who was born as John William Kiszkan, was a Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender from Canada and is considered one of the greatest players in NHL history. Bower taught himself how to play hockey as a kid and when he was 15, he lied about his age and enlisted in the Canadian Army during World War II. When Bower returned home, he began playing junior hockey before turning pro in the American Hockey League (AHL).

After several seasons in the AHL, Bower made his NHL debut with the New York Rangers in 1953–54 season, at the age of 29. However, Bower ended up back in the minor leagues and did not get his big break until 1958, when he was claimed the Toronto Maple Leafs. Bower won four Stanley Cups as the goalie for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Did You Know?

Since Johnny Bower had lied about his age to join the Canadian Army, no one knew his true age while he was still playing hockey; Bower did not reveal his actual birth date until after he retired from the NHL when he was 45.

4. Jaromír Jágr (February 15, 1972 – Present)

Oldest Age While Playing: 45 years, 319 days in 2017
Years Active:  1990 – 2008; 2011 – 2017 (25 seasons)
Team(s):  Pittsburgh Penguins; Washington Capitals; New York Rangers; Philadelphia Flyers; Dallas Stars; Boston Bruins; New Jersey Devils; Florida Panthers; and Calgary Flames
Position:  Right Wing

Jaromír Jágrphoto source: Wikimedia Commons via s.yume

Jaromír Jágr retired not that long ago from the NHL at nearly 46 years old. Jágr was signed to play with the Calgary Flames for the 2017 – 2018 season, but was placed on injured reserved in early 2018, which meant that his last game on an NHL team in late 2017. While Jágr no longer plays with the NHL, he is still playing professional hockey with HC Kladno, his hometown team (which he owns), of the 1st Czech Republic Hockey League.

Jágr started his professional hockey career when he was drafted in 1990 by the Pittsburgh Penguins. He was the first Czechoslovak player to be drafted by the NHL without first having to defect to the West as he was drafted right as the Iron Curtain came down near the end of the Cold War. During his NHL career, Jágr also played for the Washington Capitals, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Dallas Stars, Boston Bruins, New Jersey Devils, and the Florida Panthers.

Did You Know?

In 2015 at the age of 42, Jaromír Jágr became the oldest player in NHL history to perform a hat trick.  Jágr is also one of only 28 players in the Triple Gold Club, individuals who have played for teams that have won the Stanley Cup, the Ice Hockey World Championships, and the Olympic gold medal in ice hockey.

3. Maurice “Moe” Roberts (December 13, 1905 – February 7, 1975)

Oldest Age While Playing: 45 years, 345 days in 1951
Years Active:  1925 – 1951 (only played in 10 NHL games total)
Team(s):  Boston Bruins; New York Americans; and Chicago Blackhawks
Position:  Goaltender

photo source: US Hockey Hall of Fame

Maurcie “Moe” Roberts may not be as famous as some of the other players on this list, but he was the oldest player in NHL history for several decades before his record was broken by Gordie Howe and later Chris Helios. Roberts spent most of his professional hockey career in the minor leagues with the Cleveland Falcons and Barons, and the New Haven Eagles.

Roberts played hockey in high school before becoming the back up goaltender with the major league amateur Boston Athletic Association Unicorns. During this time, Roberts was scouted by Boston Bruins’ General Mgr/Coach Art Ross, who signed Roberts as the teams’ practice goalie and stickboy. Roberts also played with the NHL’s New York Americans and the Chicago Blackhawks. In 1951 at nearly 46 years of age, Roberts played one game with the Blackhawks after their regular goalie was injured.

Did You Know?

Moe Roberts took a four-season break from playing hockey when he listed in the U.S. Navy to serve during World War II.

2. Chris Chelios (January 25, 1962 – Present)

Oldest Age While Playing: 48 years, 71 days in 2010
Years Active:  1984 – 2010 (26 seasons)
Team(s):  Montreal Canadiens; Chicago Blackhawks; Detroit Red Wings; and Atlanta Thrashers
Position:  Defense

Chris Cheliosphoto source: Wikimedia Commons via dan4th

Chris Chelios is tied with Gordie Howe for the most seasons played in the NHL (26) and is the second oldest player ever – Chelios retired when he was 48 years old. Chelios began playing hockey in his youth, but didn’t have opportunities to play when his family moved to California. However, Chelios did manage to get a scholarship to Alliant International University, but was cut because he wasn’t experienced enough to compete with the division’s players.

After momentarily thinking of giving up hockey, Chelios tried his luck out in Canada, but was cut once again. Instead of giving up, Chelios moved back to California, bulked up, and had a successful season with the Moose Jaw Canucks of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. Chelios’ hard work paid off and he was drafted in 1981 by the Montreal Candiens. In addition to the Montreal Candiens, Chelios played for the Chicago Blackhawks, the Detroit Red Wings, and the Atlanta Thrashers.

Did You Know?

Chris Chelios’ NHL records include, most games played in the NHL by a defenseman (1,651); most NHL playoff appearances (24) – he only missed the playoffs twice in his 26 year career; and most career postseason losses with 117 (also the most in any professional sport in North America).

1. Gordie Howe (March 31, 1928 – June 10, 2016)

Oldest Age While Playing: 52 years, 11 days in 1980
Years Active:  1946 – 1971; 1973 – 1980 (26 seasons)
Team(s):  Detroit Red Wings and Hartford Whalers
Position:  Right Wing

Gordie Howephoto source: Wikimedia Commons via Ralston-Purina Company, makers of Chex cereals

Gordie Howe is not only the oldest player ever in NHL history, retiring at the age of 52,  he is also one of the sport’s most prolific and greatest hockey player of all time. In fact, Howe’s nickname is “Mr. Hockey.” Howe played in the NHL for 26 seasons from 1946 – 1980 (with a few years off due to chronic wrist problems).

Howe spent most of his career with the Detroit Red Wings before he first retired in 1971. However, Howe’s retirement was short-lived and he joined the Houston Aeros of the World Hockey Association to play with his sons Matt and Marty. Howe and his sons moved on to the New England Whalers in 1977 following the Houston Aeros’ struggles. When the WHA merged with the NHL in 1979, Howe appeared in his final season and retired from the NHL at the age of 52.

Did You Know?

Gordie Howe still holds many NHL records, including most NHL regular season games played (1,767); most NHL regular season goals by a right winger (801); first player to score over 1,000 goals; and the most NHL All-Star Game appearances (23).


Spread the love

Related Post

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *