Top 10 Mennonite Players in NHL History


Over 500 years in the past, a bunch led by Menno Simons in Northern Germany created the Christian denomination of the Mennonites. They have been persecuted for his or her pacifism and Protestant connections, which pressured them to flee a number of European nations. Today, Mennonites stay all around the world, although many are nonetheless in areas the place their ancestors settled, and have developed a tradition of their very own.

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Many have comparable surnames and may trace their lineages again a number of generations, and have a keenness for fried and preserved meals. Most of all, they’ve turn out to be often known as hard-working, trustworthy individuals who have a robust sense of neighborhood.

Jonathan Toews, Gary Unger and James Reimer

These traits (other than the fried dough) have made Mennonites top-notch athletes. They usually aren’t the largest stars, however they’re extremely revered by their teammates and are invaluable to their groups. In the NHL, a number of Mennonites have made their mark all through historical past, from setting information to having their names engraved on the Stanley Cup. As hockey continues to develop internationally annually, let’s take a second and take a look at the celebrities who appear to keep away from the highlight. These are the 10 greatest Mennonites in NHL historical past.

10. Ray Neufeld

A comparatively unknown participant right now, Neufeld was a promising star in the Eighties. Born in the Mennonite neighborhood of Winkler, Manitoba, he performed for the close by Flin Flon Bombers in the Western Canadian Hockey League (WCHL – the precursor to the WHL) in 1976. His greatest season in the WCHL got here in 1978-79 as a member of the Edmonton Oil Kings, when he scored an unbelievable 102 factors regardless of lacking a part of the season with damaged ribs. The Hockey News ranked him as 1979’s ninth best draft prospect, however he wasn’t drafted till the fourth spherical (81st general) by the Hartford Whalers.

Neufeld joined the Whalers full-time in 1982-83 after bouncing between the AHL and NHL for 3 seasons. In his rookie season, he broke out with 28 targets and 59 factors, discovering chemistry with Ron Francis. The younger ahead was quickly a fan favorite in Hartford, and he at all times gave again, repeatedly tossing pucks into the stands after pre-game skates and he was concerned in a number of charities in the world. After he scored the Whalers’ a thousandth objective, it regarded like he could be with the franchise for good.

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However, in 1985, after getting off to the most popular begin of his profession (15 factors in 16 video games), the Whalers traded him to the Winnipeg Jets for Dave Babych. The veteran defenseman was immensely well-liked in the Jets’ dressing room, making it a troublesome adjustment for Neufeld. Along with the strain to carry out, a gradual begin, and not wanting to leave Hartford, Neufeld struggled in his residence province and by no means once more obtained near his career-high 69 factors posted in 1983-84. He was traded to the Boston Bruins in 1988-89 and retired in 1990.

9. Eric Fehr

Also hailing from Winkler, Manitoba, Fehr starred with the Western Hockey League’s (WHL) Brandon Wheat Kings from 2000 to 2005, placing up 277 factors in 279 video games. His offensive acumen made him a first-round choice in 2003 by the Washington Capitals. In his final season of junior, he gained the Bobby Clarke Trophy for many factors (111) and the Four Broncos Trophy because the WHL’s participant of the yr. He joined the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Hersey Bears the next season, serving to them win the Calder Cup, with eight targets and eleven factors in the playoffs.

Eric Fehr and Brian Dumoulin (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In the NHL, nonetheless, Fehr was relied on for his defensive sport, turning into a prime penalty killer with the Capitals. His greatest offensive season was in 2010, when he scored 21 targets and 39 factors. In 2015, he signed a three-year deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins and was a part of their 2016 Stanley Cup championship group, however accidents started to gradual him down. He made temporary appearances with the Toronto Maple Leafs, San Jose Sharks and Minnesota Wild earlier than becoming a member of the National League in Switzerland for the 2019-20 season.

8. James Reimer

The Arborg, Manitoba native started his skilled profession with the Toronto Marlies in 2008-09 after 4 seasons with the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels. A fourth-round decide by the Maple Leafs in 2006, James Reimer shortly grew to become one of many brightest goaltending prospects in the system, successful the ECHL’s Kelly Cup with the South Carolina Sting Rays in 2008-09, in addition to taking residence the league’s playoff MVP award.

James Reimer San Jose Sharks
James Reimer, San Jose Sharks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

With the Maple Leafs, Reimer continued to shine, incomes NHL Rookie of the Month in March, 2011. Although the Leafs missed the playoffs, Reimer was chosen to the IIHF World Championship roster that season, the place he had a 0.920 save share over 4 video games. His crowning achievement with the franchise was in 2012-13, when he helped Toronto attain the playoffs for the primary time since 2004. However, it ended in heartbreak, after he allowed 4 unanswered targets to blow a 4-1 lead in Game 7 towards the Boston Bruins after the Leafs had been up three video games to 1.

After the fateful loss, he struggled to regain his kind with the Leafs and in 2015-16, he was traded to the Sharks. The change of surroundings did him properly, and he posted a powerful 1.62 goals-against common over eight video games, which helped him earn a brand new contract with the Florida Panthers, splitting duties with Roberto Luongo. Now seen as a strong backup with the power to start out for lengthy stretches, he joined the Carolina Hurricanes for the 2019-20 season to assist out Petr Mrazek.

Author’s notice: No, we aren’t associated, so far as I do know.

7. Dustin Penner

Public opinion is cut up on Penner. On one hand, he was a dominant energy ahead who gained two Stanley Cups. On the opposite, he was tough to teach and is remembered because the final participant to be efficiently signed to a proposal sheet. Still, there isn’t any denying his expertise and impression. Penner grew up in Winkler with Eric Fehr, however whereas the latter was flying in the WHL, the previous was struggling to stay with any group. Eventually, he made a small faculty group in North Dakota, which helped him get a scholarship to attend the University of Maine.

Dustin Penner with the Los Angeles Kings (Rich Kane/Icon SMI)

It was there that Penner’s fortunes modified. With Maine, he gained the Hockey East championship over Boston College in 2004, which earned him a spot on the NCAA All-Star Team. It was sufficient to be a focus for the Anaheim Ducks, they usually supplied the undrafted free agent a three-year deal in May, 2004, at 22 years previous. In his first full season in 2006-07, he scored 45 factors, incomes him a handful of Calder Trophy votes as one of many league’s greatest rookies, and helped the Ducks win their first Stanley Cup that spring. That’s when the Edmonton Oilers got here calling.

Related: Brian Burke Almost Fought Kevin Lowe

In some of the controversial strikes of the final 15 years, Oilers normal supervisor Kevin Lowe signed Penner to a $21.25 million offer sheet, which Ducks GM Brian Burke was unable to match. Penner initially confirmed promise in Edmonton, however quickly was clashing repeatedly with coach Craig MacTavish, who publicly criticized Penner’s fitness, and by 2011, he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings. He gained one other Cup with the Kings in 2012, however was hardly an element, scoring 37 factors over three seasons. Anaheim signed him once more in 2013, however he joined the Capitals earlier than season’s finish and was reunited with Fehr earlier than retiring in 2014.

6. Robyn Regehr

Regehr has the distinctive distinction of being the one Brazilian to play in the NHL. Born to Mennonite missionaries working in Recife, he spent his early childhood in Indonesia earlier than coming to Canada at concerning the age of seven. His household settled in the small Mennonite city of Rosthern, Saskatchewan. Circumstance made him comparatively late to affix organized hockey, however he was a fast learner and by 15 years previous, he was a first-round choice by the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers. Three years later, he was a first-round choice by the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche.

Buffalo Sabres’ Robin Regehr – Photo by Andy Martin Jr

However, Regehr by no means performed for the Avalanche, as he was traded to the Calgary Flames for Theoren Fleury and Chris Dingman in 1998-99, not lengthy after successful a silver medal with Team Canada on the World Junior Championships. That summer season, Regehr suffered two broken legs in a automobile accident outdoors Saskatoon, which threatened to finish his NHL profession earlier than it started. Yet 4 months later, he made his debut with the Flames, taking part in 57 video games and scoring 12 factors. That unbelievable accomplishment earned him a nomination for the Bill Masterton Trophy for his dedication to hockey, the youngest nominee in NHL historical past.

During his 15-year skilled profession, Regehr was one of many NHL’s greatest defensive defensemen, serving to the Flames attain the Stanley Cup Final in 2004, the primary time since 1989, and serving as an assistant captain for a number of years. He gained a gold medal with Canada on the World Cup in 2004, then a silver medal on the World Championships in 2005. In 2011, he was traded to the Buffalo Sabres in a cap dump, then to the Los Angeles Kings in 2013, the place he lastly gained a Stanley Cup in 2014. He retired the next season, taking part in 827 of his 1090 video games with the Flames, ranked third in franchise historical past.

5. Dave Schultz

Mennonites are strict pacifists, so to see some turn out to be hockey enforcers appears ironic. Yet in the Seventies, there have been few meaner gamers than Dave ‘The Hammer’ Schultz, who got here from the Mennonite neighborhood of Waldheim, Saskatchewan. With the WCHL’s Swift Current Broncos, he scored 101 factors in 92 video games over two seasons, prompting the Philadelphia Flyers to draft him with a fifth-round decide in 1969. However, the ‘Broad Street Bullies’ had a rough-and-tumble model, so Schultz tailored, registering 356 penalty minutes (PIM) in simply 67 video games with the Salem Rebels in 1969-70, his first 300+ PIM season.

Dave Schultz, Philadelphia Flyers
Dave Schultz (Photo by Melchior DiGiacomo/Getty Images)

After two seasons in the AHL the place he almost hit 400 PIM every marketing campaign, the Flyers introduced Schultz aboard in 1972-73. As a rookie, he was the NHL’s most penalized participant with 259 PIMs, and scored 21 factors. The subsequent season, he added almost 100 extra minutes, maintaining his penalty minute title, together with scoring 20 targets because the Flyers crashed their strategy to their first Stanley Cup. Then, in 1974-75, he set an NHL document for many penalty minutes in a season with 472, and the Flyers repeated as Cup champions.

Related: Broad Street Bullies: More Than Goons, Fists & Enforcers

However, the profession of an enforcer is usually a brief one, and Schultz was no totally different. After being traded from the Flyers to the Kings, he struggled to determine himself as greater than a declining fighter, retiring in 1980 after showing briefly with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres. Two years later, he penned an open letter to his son about his regrets at his model of play, recalling, “My (childhood) idol was Dave Keon, who won the Lady Byng Trophy for good conduct, and I believed I could turn the other cheek,” (from ‘Dave Schultz: A Letter to My Son About Violence’, The New York Times – Feb 7 1982). Despite his conscience, he was the most effective at his job and made the Flyers one of many hardest groups in hockey historical past.

4. Willi Plett

Plett was born in Asuncion, Paraguay, after his mother and father fled from Germany throughout World War II and the place they joined a thriving Mennonite neighborhood. A yr after Plett was born, nonetheless, his household moved to Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, the place he began to play hockey on the age of 12. He was a pure athlete, who additionally performed lacrosse in highschool, and developed a method corresponding to the fashionable energy ahead. After 14 factors and 63 PIMs in 22 video games with the St. Catherines Black Hawks, the Atlanta Flames drafted him eightieth general in 1975.

In 1975-76, Plett’s scoring punch and physicality helped the Central Hockey League’s Tulsa Oilers win the Adams Cup. Then, in 1976-77, he gained the NHL’s Calder Trophy, scoring 56 factors in 64 video games whereas racking up 123 penalty minutes. He shortly grew to become one of many franchise’s early stars, setting information for many penalty minutes (288 – 1981-82), longest level streak (9 video games – 1976-77 and 1977-78), and most targets by a proper winger (38 – 1981-82) in a single season. He was additionally instrumental in the Flames reaching the 1981 Stanley Cup semi-finals, their highest end on the time.

However, Plett started to feud with Flames coach Al MacNeil, which led to MacNeil’s firing and Plett being traded to the Minnesota North Stars. He fought with North Stars coach Bill Mahoney as properly, demanding extra ice time, however the outcome was extra optimistic; he set a career-high in PIMs in 1983-84 with 316. His model was not straightforward on his physique, and after a number of knee and shoulder accidents, he was traded to the New York Rangers in 1987, hen was positioned on waivers and claimed by the Boston Bruins. He retired in 1988 with the NHL document (since damaged) of 488 profession playoff penalty minutes, and is sixteenth in profession PIMs.

3. Jeff Friesen

Although Friesen was by no means the largest star, he was a confirmed winner. Growing up in Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, he excelled with the WHL’s Regina Pats, incomes Rookie of the Year honors in 1992-93 after scoring 45 targets and 83 factors. The following season, he earned a spot on the Canadian World Junior U20 group as an 18-year-old, after scoring 118 factors with the Pats, the place he gained a gold medal. His resume was sufficient for the San Jose Sharks to make use of their eleventh general choice on the gifted sniper in 1994. He made his NHL debut in 1994-95, scoring 25 factors in 48 video games and was chosen to the All-Rookie group.

Friesen gained another World Junior gold medal in 1995, then win a silver medal on the World Championship in 1996 and a gold medal in 1997, all earlier than turning 21. Soon, he was one of many Shark’s prime scorers, main the group in factors in 1997-98 and 1998-99. In the 2001 offseason, regardless of sitting third in all-time scoring with 350 factors (though that has since dropped to seventh), he was traded with Steve Shields to the Anaheim Ducks for Teemu Selanne. His time on the West Coast was temporary, although, as he was traded to the New Jersey Devils in 2002-03, the place he gained a Stanley Cup that season, contributing three game-winning targets in the semi-finals.

In 2004, Friesen gained one other silver medal on the World Championships, however when the NHL resumed in 2005-06, he struggled with accidents and was shuffled from the Capitals, again to Anaheim, then to the Flames. After spending 2007-08 in the AHL, he tried out for the Sharks however didn’t make the group. He determined to go to Germany the place he joined the Eisbaeren Berlin, with whom he gained the German League’s championship in 2011 earlier than retiring.

2. Garry Unger

Mennonites have lengthy been outlined by their work ethic, and Unger is without doubt one of the hardest working gamers in NHL historical past. Born in Calgary, Alberta, Unger made a reputation for himself taking part in for the London Nationals of the Ontario Hockey Association, scoring 73 factors in 48 video games in 1966-67. The Toronto Maple Leafs gave him his first shot on the NHL, taking part in him in 15 video games in 1967-68, however they determined to commerce him mid-season to the Detroit Red Wings in an enormous eight-player blockbuster that included Frank Mahovlich, Norm Ullman and Paul Henderson.

Gary Unger #7 of the St. Louis Blues
Gary Unger, one of many best St. Louis Blues of all time. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI by way of Getty Images)

In Toronto, Unger had managed simply two factors however with the Red Wings, he emerged as a star, scoring 15 factors in 13 video games. Accompanied by his care-free model and attractiveness, he shortly grew to become a fan favorite and one of many group’s most dependable and gifted gamers. However, he and the group clashed with their extremely strict coach, Ned Harkness. When Harkness was inexplicably promoted to normal supervisor in 1970-71, he traded away almost half the group as a result of previous grudges. Among the trades was Unger, who was despatched to the growth St. Louis Blues for veteran Red Berenson.

On a group with no bona fide star, Unger rose to the event, turning into the heart and soul of the Blues. From 1971 to 1979, he by no means scored lower than 30 targets in a season and led the group in scoring in all however three of these campaigns. Despite solely taking part in eight seasons, he nonetheless sits fourth in all-time factors (575) and targets (292). Unger additionally never missed a game whereas in St. Louis. From February 24, 1968, with the Red Wings till December 23, 1979 with the Atlanta Flames, Unger performed 914 consecutive games, almost 300 video games greater than the earlier document holder.

Unger completed his profession in 1988 after showing with the Los Angeles Kings, Edmonton Oilers and even a quick stint in Britain. Although his document was ultimately damaged by Doug Jarvis’ 964 consecutive video games, he’ll at all times be remembered as the unique Iron Man.

1. Jonathan Toews

It’s no shock that Jonathan Toews tops our listing; not solely is he probably the most gifted Mennonite to play in the NHL, however he’s arguably some of the profitable Canadian hockey gamers in the fashionable period. Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Toews shortly demonstrated he had a expertise not many others had, and on the 2003 WHL Bantam Draft, the Tri-City Americans drafted him first general. However, he had different plans for his future, as an alternative leaving for the esteemed hockey faculty Shattuck-Saint Mary’s in Minnesota, and later the University of North Dakota.

Jonathan Toews Chicago Blackhawks
Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Although he took a much less conventional Canadian path to succeed in the NHL, it by no means hindered Toews. He was chosen to the Canadian U20 World Junior Team in 2005-06 and 2006-07 successful gold each years, and was chosen third general by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2006. In his second look on the World Juniors, he was the most effective in the match, scoring three shootout targets towards the Americans to advance to the finals. He joined the Blackhawks the next yr, scoring 54 factors in his rookie season and was third in the Calder Trophy voting behind teammate Patrick Kane and Capitals middle Nicklas Backstrom.

Related: Jonathan Toews Bio: Beyond the Glory

In 2008-09, his second season in the NHL, Toews was named the Blackhawks’ captain and chosen to his first of six All-Star groups. In 2009-10, he gained an Olympic gold medal and was named the match’s greatest ahead, in addition to successful his first Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. The 2012-13 season noticed him win his second Stanley Cup, in addition to the Frank J. Selke Trophy because the NHL’s greatest defensive ahead, regardless of scoring over some extent per sport (48 factors in 47 video games) over the lockout-shortened season. A yr later, he’d assist Team Canada win one other gold medal as an alternate captain, then the season after that, he gained one other Stanley Cup in addition to the Mark Messier Leadership award.

Toews’ most up-to-date acquisition to his trophy shelf was in 2016 when he gained a gold medal with Canada on the World Cup, however at solely 31 years previous, he’s removed from slowing down. In truth, in 2018-19, he posted the best level whole of his profession with 81. There’s no telling what else Toews will accomplish in his hockey profession, however it’s clear that he’s the best Mennonite in NHL historical past.

Did I miss any gifted Mennonites? Who are a few of your favorite gamers with whom you share a heritage? Post your ideas in the feedback beneath!


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