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The Top Hockey Goaltenders of All Time

Updated November 5, 2019 73.6k votes 10.0k voters 342.4k views99 items

List RulesOnly goaltenders.

Going down as one of the best NHL goalies of all time isn't easy. Former Vancouver Canucks goaltender Kirk McLean once said, "It's pretty tough for a goalie when you look at it. You're always the last line of defense. If you let a goal in, you can't go to the bench and hide between the guys or anything." While goaltending alone does not win games or championships, it can be the difference between a win and an embarrassing loss. Certainly there has been some stellar goaltenders in the history of the NHL, but a select few stand above and beyond the rest.

Who are the greatest hockey goalies of all time? Which goalkeepers have the most impressive records? There are plenty of amazing goalkeepers on this list and without them, their teams would be in trouble. The old NHL adage is that you're only as good as your goalie. Without some of the guys on this list, their teams would be at the bottom of the league, or at minimum, just an average squad. Vote for the top NHL goalies ever. While you're at it, cast your votes for the best goalies in the NHL right now.

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  • Not only is Ken Dryden easily one of the best goaltenders to ever play the game, but off the ice, Dryden is immensely successful having served as a member of the Canadian Parliament from 2004 to 2011. On the ice, Dryden took the Montreal Canadiens to six Stanley Cup championships in the 1970s during his NHL career, which interestingly lasted just over seven seasons.

    He packed each of those years with outstanding play, winning the Vezina five times, the Conn Smythe in 1971 and the Calder Trophy in 1972. Make no mistake, that was not a typo, Dryden was so awesome that he won the playoff MVP award a full year before he was named rookie of the year and was the only to ever do so.

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  • Photo: Metaweb (FB) / Public domain
    Joseph Georges Gonzague Vézina (; French: [ʒɔʁʒ vezina]; January 21, 1887 – March 27, 1926) was a Canadian professional ice hockey goaltender who played seven seasons in the National Hockey Association (NHA) and nine in the National Hockey League (NHL), all with the Montreal Canadiens. After being signed by the Canadiens in 1910, Vézina played in 327 consecutive regular season games and a further 39 playoff games, before leaving early during a game in 1925 due to illness. Vézina was diagnosed with tuberculosis, and died on March 27, 1926. The only goaltender to play for the Canadiens between 1910 and 1925, Vézina helped the team win the Stanley Cup in 1916 and 1924, while reaching the...  more
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  • Photo: Chicago Blackhawks / NHL / Wiki Commons / Public Domain

    One half of the notable Esposito brothers, Tony Esposito played in goal for the Montreal Canadiens and the Chicago Black Hawks from 1967 to 1984. Though he only lays claim to a single championship, winning the Stanley Cup with the Habs in 1969, Esposito saw personal success as a three-time winner of the Vezina Trophy and six-time selection for the NHL All-Star Game.

    In addition to serving as the NHLPA President and Pittsburgh Penguins General Manager, Tony O also had a notable international career in which he represented both Canada and the United States.

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  • Photo: Metaweb (FB) / Fair use

    As one of only six players to have their jersey number retired by the Detroit Red Wings, Terry Sawchuck carried the Winged Wheel to three Stanley Cup championships in the 1950s and added a fourth with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1967. Though he played alongside the likes of Ted Lindsay, Gordie Howe and Sid Abel, Sawchuk held his own in net.

    His record of 103 shutouts stood in the NHL for nearly 40 years and he took home no less than four Vezina Trophies along the way. Many would go so far as to say "The Uke" is the best goaltender to ever play in the NHL, including The Hockey News, who ranked him as the top netminder in their 1998 list of the greatest hockey players.

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