"Who Are the Oldest Active Players in the NHL?" originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
Just a couple weeks ago, Zdeno Chara, one of the NHL’s longest tenured members, signed a new deal to come back for yet another season.
He’s not the only veteran to come back for another year. There were a few elder players that inked new deals this summer to continue playing at the top level of hockey.
There’s also some like Patrick Marleau, who at 43 years old, did not sign a new deal, but wants to return for another season. However, he also has not formally announced his retirement like Pekka Rinne and Ryan Miller did.
In partnership with NBC Sports Philadelphia
With a new NHL season ahead, let’s take a look at some of the oldest players currently in the league and some of the oldest to ever play.
Who are the oldest active NHL players?
5. Andy Greene, 38 years old
One of the more under-recognized captains in recent history, Andy Greene spent 14 seasons with the New Jersey Devils, five of them sporting the “C” for the Devils. He’s had a very under-the-radar career, playing a stay-at-home defense role on the Devils and most recently, on the New York Islanders. He signed a one-year deal this summer to return to Long Island after being traded to the team at the deadline in 2020.
Greene has just 254 points in his career as he is set to begin his 17th season in the NHL. However, sitting at 988 games played, he needs just 12 more to hit 1,000 career games played. Greene is in line to be the first player this upcoming season to hit the milestone, one that only 357 players in NHL history have achieved.
4. Mike Smith, 39 years old
Age is just a number to Mike Smith. The veteran goaltender has bounced around a bit in what will be 16 years in the show, including this upcoming season. Smith has played with the Dallas Stars, Tampa Bay Lightning, Arizona Coyotes, Calgary Flames and currently is on the Edmonton Oilers. In his career, he has a record of 283-254-76 with a 2.69 goals-against average (GAA) and a .912 save percentage.
After playing on back-to-back one-year contracts with the Oilers, Smith signed a two-year extension this summer to stay in Edmonton. He’s coming off his best statistical season since 2011-12, and will be the backstop for an Oilers team that continues to try and figure out how to not waste away the prime years of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
3. Craig Anderson, 40 years old
Entering his 19th season in the league, Craig Anderson is most known for his 10 years spent with the Ottawa Senators from 2010-2020. The 40-year-old goalie also has had stints with the Chicago Blackhawks, Florida Panthers, Colorado Avalanche and the Washington Capitals. He sports a career record of 291-252-69 with a 2.84 GAA and a .913 save %.
Coming off a season as the third-string goalie for the Capitals, Anderson signed a one-year deal with the Buffalo Sabres for this upcoming season. Despite making just four appearances last season, he’ll battle with Aaron Dell for the starting role in Buffalo to start the season before likely turning it over to prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen.
2. Joe Thornton, 42 years old
The beard is back for his 24th season. Jumbo Joe signed a one-year deal this summer with the Florida Panthers after playing on a one-year deal last season with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He broke into the league in 1997-98 with the Boston Bruins, but spent most of his career in San Jose with the Sharks.
In his career, Thornton has 425 goals and 1,104 assists, totaling 1,529 points over 1,680 games played, as well as an Art Ross and Hart Trophy. He is regarded as one of the top fan favorites that does not have a Stanley Cup to his name. Expect more fans to be pulling for the Panthers than normal this season, just to see Jumbo lift Lord Stanley.
1. Zdeno Chara, 44 years old
Big Z doesn’t have the word “retire” in his vocabulary. The towering defenseman recently signed a one-year deal with the New York Islanders, the same team that drafted him in 1996. Entering his 24th season in the league, Chara has 207 goals, 459 assists, good for 66 points in 1,608 games played. He also has a Stanley Cup and a Norris Trophy.
The oldest active player in the league is best known for his 14 seasons as captain for the Boston Bruins. Coming off a season with the Washington Capitals where he was resourceful in a third-line role, Chara could see a similar role in Barry Trotz’s defense-first system.
Who are the oldest NHL players ever?
5. Johnny Bower, 45 years old
Considered to be one of the greatest goaltenders of all time, Johnny Bower got a late start to his NHL career. He made his debut with the New York Rangers at 29 years old. After seeing just seven games of action the next two seasons, he joined the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1958. He spent 12 seasons with the Maples Leafs, winning four Stanley Cups and two Vezina Trophies.
“The China Wall”, as he was called, played in just one game in 1970 due to injuries. But he was 45 years old, making him the oldest player to play in the NHL at the time. However, not many knew his actual age. Bower had previously lied about his date of birth to get into the Canadian Army. It wasn’t until after his retirement that Bower revealed his true birth date, confirming that he was 45 years old when he was in the crease for his final start.
4. Jaromir Jagr, 45 years old
Jaromir Jagr and his luscious mullet ripped up the NHL for years. The ageless Czech wonder played 24 seasons in the NHL with nine different teams, most notably 11 seasons spent with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The two-time Stanley Cup champion is the only player to ever play in the Stanley Cup Finals as a teenager and play in one at least 40 years old.
Not only did Jagr spend 24 seasons in the show, he took a three-year hiatus to play in the KHL before returning in 2014. His last season in the NHL was with the Calgary Flames, playing at 45 years old. But that wasn’t it for Jagr. He returned to the Czech Republic, where he’s still playing at 49 years old for his hometown team, HC Kladno of the Czech Extraliga, of which he’s also the owner. Jagr holds numerous records, including most points, goals and assists by any European-born player, most career game-winning goals and oldest player to score a hat trick.
3. Maurice Roberts, 45 years old
NHL fans have likely never heard of Maurice “Moe” Roberts. But he had one of the most interesting hockey careers. Roberts played in just 10 NHL games. When Roberts made his debut for the Boston Bruins in 1925, he was actually the youngest NHL goaltender at 19 years old. That mark wouldn’t be broken for 20 years.
Roberts spent most of his career playing minor league hockey after just two starts with the Bruins. He wouldn’t make another NHL start until 1931, a single start with the New York Americans, then appeared in six games in 1933-34 for the Americans. Roberts took a four-year hockey hiatus to enlist in the U.S. Navy during WWII. After returning to the game, Roberts made one more NHL appearance, playing in a single period in relief for the Chicago Blackhawks at the age of 45.
2. Chris Chelios
One of the greatest defensemen of all time, Chris Chelios finished his NHL career with 26 seasons under his belt. He debuted with the Montreal Canadians in 1983 at 22 years old, spending seven seasons with the Habs. He then was with the Chicago Blackhawks for nine seasons before spending seven with the Detroit Red Wings. His last season came at the age of 49 with the Atlanta Thrashers, although he only saw action seven times that season in the NHL, spending most of that year in the AHL with the Chicago Wolves.
Chelios finished his career with three Stanley Cups and three Norris Trophies. He’s the all-time leader among defensemen in regular season games played, and is the NHL’s all-time leader in playoff games played with 266.
1. Gordie Howe, 52 years old
Could it be anyone other than Mr. Hockey himself? Howe debuted in the league at 18 years old in 1946. He went on to play 25 years with the Detroit Red Wings before announcing his retirement at 42 years old. However, it was short-lived, returning to hockey three years later to play with his sons on the Houston Aeros and the New England Whalers of the World Hockey Association. When the WHA and the NHL merged in 1979, Howe played his final season with the Hartford Whalers at the prime age of 52.
At the time of his real retirement, Howe’s 801 goals, 1,049 assists, and 1,850 total points were all NHL career records, later to be broken by Wyane Gretzky. His total regular season games played record held strong until this past season, when Patrick Marlaeu passed Howe’s mark of 1,767. It’s very unlikely that we’ll see anyone play in the NHL at the age that Howe did to end his legendary career.