Commentary

Veterans Day

No league for old men? These NHL elders are dominanting.

Updated: December 15, 2011, 12:10 PM ET
By Lindsay Berra, Craig Custance and Doug McIntyre | ESPN The Magazine

Every NHL draft pumps out a crop of fresh-faced teens intent on speeding up the game. But in 2011, the old guard did more than just hang on. These elder statesmen -- all over 40, with a combined 75 seasons of NHL experience -- powered their teams to success. No league for old men? These guys prove otherwise.

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Dwayne Roloson, Lightning goalie
Age: 42
NHL seasons: 14
2011 Highlight: Led Tampa Bay to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals

"My body still feels really good. If it didn't, I probably wouldn't still be playing. One day I was talking to our head coach, Guy Boucher, and he said, 'You know I'm a lot younger than you, right?' I didn't, but it doesn't change anything. He's the coach; you still have to listen to him. In Edmonton, I got to play with Sam Gagner; I actually played with his dad in Calgary. I'm thinking, Oh my god, I'm playing with the son of a guy I was teammates with. But at the same time, that's the kind of thing you cherish when you look back later in life."


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Nicklas Lidstrom, Red Wings defenseman
Age: 41
NHL seasons: 20
2011 Highlight: Won his seventh Norris Trophy

"The NHL is a lot faster now. All the guys are faster. Whether it's the top line or the fourth line, the NHL has faster skaters. You were once taught to hook or to put a stick in someone's waist, but with the new rules, you can't do that anymore. That's where the skating part comes in even more. You have to be mobile. You have to anticipate plays. You have to be ready to do quick turns or quick stops. You have to skate a lot more than you used to. When you're waking up, it's not like when you were 25. It's the wear and tear of your whole body. Whether it's the groin or the back or the shoulders -- they're aching in the morning."


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Mark Recchi, Bruins forward (retired)
Age: 43
NHL seasons: 22
2011 Highlight: Won his third Stanley Cup and became the oldest player to score in the Finals

"I'm a bad example for anybody. I didn't do anything to get ready before games. I went and took a s-- and had a coffee. But I wasn't hurt much. Physically, I felt great all year. The biggest thing when I got older was that, offensively, I wasn't as productive as before. Once you learn that you can do lots of different things, you just adapt your game. It just helps you mentally. It helped me stay in the league for four or five more years. I was willing to accept that I'm not what I was, but I can still help the team. You evolve, no question."


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Teemu Selanne, Ducks forward
Age: 41
NHL seasons: 19
2011 Highlight: Anaheim's second-leading scorer

"The traveling doesn't get any easier when you get older, but you get smarter. You don't spend extra energy on the wrong things. The age and experience help. These young boys, they party here and there, and I say, 'Guys, enjoy it, because there will be a day when you can't do that anymore.' I absolutely did not expect to play so long. I thought for sure that 30 was the latest I would play. But I've kept playing for a simple reason: passion. I really enjoy the game. I always say to myself, This is my last year. But who knows."

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Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine. He has covered American and international soccer since 2002.