Top 10 Goalies of All Time

By: Brynn Smith

The job of any goaltender is to protect their net. Stop the other team from scoring points and get your team a win. And, while most netminders that have played on an international level can get the job done, this list details ten of the best goalies to ever play the game. Those that went above and beyond to keep the puck out of the net and ended up making history.

10. Grant Fuhr

Number 10 on this list, is none other than our very own, Grant Fuhr. Slotted to make his 3ICE coaching debut in the summer of 2022, Fuhr is definitely a goalie that left a legacy. Drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in 1981, he spent the next ten years backstopping the net for one of the most dominant dynasties in NHL history. While being on the ice with the likes of Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier could make any goaltender look good, Fuhr made major contributions to a team that won the Stanley Cup four times in five seasons. Fuhr holds the NHL records for the most career points by a goaltender (61), most assists in a single season by a goaltender (14), and most games played in a single season by a goaltender (79). While his numbers weren’t always the greatest—he ended his 19-year career with .887 save percentage and a 3.38 goals-against-average—Fuhr always came up clutch when his team needed him. He is a six- time NHL All-Star, a Vezina Trophy winner, and a Hall of Fame Inductee. He was dealt with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1991 and would mind the net for the Buffalo Sabres, the Los Angeles Kings, the St. Louis Blues, and the Calgary Flames, before announcing his retirement in 2000. Often called the greatest goaltender in NHL history by legendary teammate Wayne Gretzky, this list would be incomplete without him.

9. Vladislav Tretiak

This next netminder is the only player not to have started a single game in the National Hockey League on this list. Instead, goalkeeping for the famed Red Army Club, Vladislav Tretiak, made his history on Soviet Union ice. Beginning his international career in 1971, Tretiak would go on to help his team to three Olympic gold medals and one silver. Not to mention, the ten World Championship gold medals he received during his tenure in the USSR’s net. Or the dynamite performance in the 1981 Canada Cup tournament where he posted a 1.33 goals-against-average over six games against some of the world’s greatest hockey teams. While Tretiak’s international career was outstanding, his time with the Soviet Union resulted in many honors. As the Soviet league’s First Team All-Star goalie for 14 seasons, he won 13 league titles, received MVP honors five times, was awarded the Order of Lenin for his service, and won the Golden Hockey Stick in three consecutive years as the most outstanding player in Europe. Despite being drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in 1983, by the time he was allowed to leave the Soviet Union, he had decided to retire. So, although he never got to play in an NHL game, Tretiak takes the ninth spot on this list.

8. Glenn Hall

Glenn Hall holds the number eight spot. Hall, or “Mr. Goalie”, nicknamed for his steadiness between the pipes and development of the butterfly goaltending style, almost never missed a game. With a 502- ironman streak, Hall was a staple in the net of the Chicago Blackhawks in the 1950’s and 60’s. Hall was known for puking before every single game he played in, something he believed made him play better. And, apparently, it did, as Hall was not short on trophies or awards over his 18 seasons in the NHL. A
Calder Memorial Trophy winner, a Conn Smythe Trophy winner, a three-time Vezina winner, not to mention Hall was a seven-time All-Star. His 84 career shutouts led to an induction to the Hockey Hall of Fame and naming to the 100 Greatest NHL players of all time during the league's centennial season. Backstopping the Blackhawks to their third Stanley Cup Championship and first in 23 years, “Mr. Goalie” was a stellar netminder who made a huge mark on the NHL that lasts to this day.

7. Bernie Parent

The legendary Bernie Parent is next on this top 10 list. While Parent backstopped the net for the Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Philadelphia Blazers of the World Hockey Association, he was best known for his time with the Philadelphia Flyers. A brick wall in the net, Parent posted 30 shutouts between 1973-1975. During those two years of stellar play, he would also win back-to-back Stanley Cups, Vezina's, and Conn Smythe trophies. Parent played the finest consecutive seasons by a netminder in NHL history. After 13 seasons in the NHL, Parent suffered a career-ending injury to his eye in a matchup against the New York Rangers. This led to his early retirement at the age of 34. Parent was a stellar netminder, but, by the time of his retirement, the game of hockey and the goalie position was evolving away from the stand-up goaltender. Overall, his reliability in the net and insane statistics resulted in his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame, naming to 100 Greatest NHL players of all time, and the seventh spot on this list.

6. Ken Dryden

Despite having a relatively short playing career—just seven seasons--Ken Dryden made a huge impact on the game of hockey. Dryden guarded the net of the Montreal Canadians for all 397 of the games he played in. Winning the Conn Smythe trophy, Dryden received MVP of the postseason, before earning the award for rookie of the year, the Calder Memorial Trophy. Called up to the National Hockey League when veteran goaltender Rogie Vachon suffered an injury, Dryden played just six games of the 1971 season before leading Montreal to a Stanley Cup championship. He would go on to backstop the net for Montreal’s second dynasty of the 20th century, a team that would win six cups, four of them consecutively. Dryden earned five Vezina Trophies during that time. Posting some incredible statistics over his playing career including a 2.24 goals-against-average and a .922 save percentage, Dryden had the uncanny ability to win in any situation. His unique and effective goaltending style assured him a spot on this list.

5. Terry Sawchuk

Another player from the golden age of goaltending, Terry Sawchuk has been considered to be the greatest netminder of all time by many. He played 21 full seasons in the NHL, 971 games, where he held down the backend for the Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Los Angeles Kings, and New York Rangers. By the end of Sawchuk’s playing career, he held the record for most shutouts at 103 and had won more games than any other goaltender in league history. While those have since been broken, one record of his still stands. Sawchuk is the only netminder to post a goals-against-average less than 2.00 in each of his first five full seasons. A record that might not ever be broken, due to the heavily offensive nature of today's game. While extremely injury prone, Sawchuk still managed to lead the Detroit Red Wings to three Stanley Cup championships in four seasons. A four-time Vezina recipient, Hockey Hall of Fame inductee, and one of the 100 Greatest NHL players of all time, Sawchuk earned his place on this list.

4. Jaques Plante

A staple of the Montreal Canadians 1950’s dynasty, Jaques Plante, was a pioneer in the NHL. The first goaltender to wear a mask during regulation play on any regular basis, Plante, tested out several different combinations of mask and helmet to increase the safety of goalies everywhere. Plante was also one of the first netminders to start playing the puck outside of the crease to the benefit of the defensemen in front of him. Instead of just stopping the puck, Plante developed the practice of moving it. He expanded the position of the goaltender by coming out of his crease and cutting down on the angle of his opponent’s shot. He forever changed the way goalies play and their importance on the ice. Plante left a defining legacy, not just in the NHL, but on the game, itself. Throughout his career, Plante won the Stanley Cup six times, received seven Vezina trophies, and acquired the Hart Memorial Trophy in 1962. While all of his achievements are incredibly significant, the biggest reason Plante is so high on this list is his invaluable contributions to the position of the goaltender. For this, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1978, just three years after his retirement.

3. Martin Brodeur

Next, is a name every contemporary hockey fan should know, Martin Brodeur. A staple in the net of the New Jersey Devils, Brodeur has the most wins of any goalie to play in the NHL at 691. While Brodeur always had a consistent and skillful team in front of him, his pure talent is what places him on this list. A stand-up goaltender, his play was never about flopping, it was all about puck-handling, positioning, and reflexes. He just always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. This style won him the Calder, four Vezina’s, and three Stanley Cups. So effective in his game, that it led to the NHL changing the rule about where a goalie can handle the puck. “The Brodeur Rule” prevents netminders from playing the puck outside of the trapezoid painted behind the goal–an addition of new lines forever to be painted on the ice just to keep Brodeur in check. Playing all but seven games of his career in New Jersey, Brodeur undoubtedly made his mark on the Devil’s club, but he also had a significant impact on the game.

2. Dominik Hasek

Czech goaltender Dominik Hasek comes in at second. Although he would go on to play for the Chicago Blackhawks, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, and Ottawa Senators, Hasek didn't start his career in the NHL until age 25. And he didn’t get a shot at the starting position until 27. Despite this, he went on to play 16 full seasons in the league, and several more overseas, before announcing his retirement from professional hockey in 2012. Hasek brought a technique to the game that very few goaltenders could have used so effectively. Known for his floppy style of play, Hasek had incredible speed, flexibility, and always managed to make the unorthodox save. By the end of his NHL career, Hasek had a 2.20 goals- against-average, a .922 save percentage, six Vezina Trophies, two Hart Memorial Trophies, and two Stanley Cup championships. Hasek was one of the most successful netminders of the modern age, evidenced by the Buffalo Sabres 1999 playoff run. Taking them all the way to game six of the Stanley Cup Finals, he was the only reason they went that far. Hasek earned his spot as the second-best goalie to ever play in the NHL.

1. Patrick Roy

Patrick Roy rounds out this list and takes the number one spot. The best goaltender to ever play in the NHL, Roy was an innovator. Roy continued Glenn Hall’s work of popularizing the butterfly technique and is credited with its prevalence amongst new-age goaltenders. Splitting his career between the Montreal Canadians and Colorado Avalanche, Roy won two Stanley Cups with each franchise. Also, the only player in the NHL to be awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy three times, in two different decades with two different teams. His consistency throughout his career, with any team in front of him, was simply astounding. While Roy didn’t end his career with the highest numbers on this list, there is no doubting the importance of the impact he had on the game. Selected as the greatest netminder in history by NHL writers and fans in 2004, his prowess has gone unmarred since. Roy takes the top spot for the best goalie to ever play the game.