- E.J. Hradek, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
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When I compiled my list of hockey's all-time top lines about a month ago, I knew it would get mixed reviews. I knew some of you would agree with my choices. I also knew many of you would wonder whether I'd been hit in the head by an Al MacInnis slap shot.
Positive or negative, I do love hearing from you. If there weren't passionate hockey fans like you that were interested in such things, I'd have to get a real job. I don't think I'm quite ready for that.
I was impressed with the number of different line combinations you brought to my attention. My biggest oversight, according to many of you, was my failure to include the Mario Lemieux-Ron Francis-Jaromir Jagr line. Upon further review, it's hard to argue. That's a pretty impressive trio. I wasn't sure just how much time they worked together, but after consulting with longtime Penguins VP of communications Tom McMillan, I've been assured those three great players did play on the same line for a good portion of two seasons.
In this regard, my favorite e-mail came from Christopher Bigelow, who kept it simple:
• Great read and an interesting perspective ... but no Mario? Inexcusable.
I think that sums it up.
After reading my list, Chris in Pennsylvania seemed concerned about my health.
• Did you hit your head or something? How could you forget three of the best: Lemieux, Francis and Jagr? A very productive line if you ask me. Keep up the good work.
Thanks! I appreciate the vote of confidence. Well, the kind-of vote of confidence.
Another Chris (who didn't include his last name either) wanted to remind me of a different line that included Lemieux and Jagr.
• How can you forget the Lemieux-Stevens-Jagr line from the early '90s? In '92, they had a total of 365 points in the regular season. Unbelievable.
That's another point well taken. Let's face it, you or I probably could be successful on a line with Super Mario and Mario Jr. Clearly, I missed the Zamboni by not including a Lemieux line.
I also received several e-mails in praise of the "LCB" line. In case you don't know, that would be Reggie Leach, Bobby Clarke and Bill Barber. Those guys helped the Flyers to a pair of Stanley Cups in the mid-70s. I did give them a lot of consideration. They probably would have been No. 11 or 12 on my original list. I do remember them. They had great chemistry.
Reader Rich Durso didn't mince words when voicing his vote for the Leach-Clarke-Barber line.
• No L-C-B line?? You're nuts! Thank you.
No, thank you. It's nice to hear someone cut to the chase.
• They had a great name. The Legion of Doom. That's a great name for a line.
Joe from Philly. (Sounds like a sports radio thing, Joe from Philly. I like it.) They did have a good name, and for a couple of seasons in the mid-90s, they were a darn good line. I gave them some consideration, but in the end, they didn't make my list.
Several of you thought I'd overlooked the Canadiens' line of Steve Shutt, Jacques Lemaire and Guy Lafleur. They were key members of the Habs' dynasty team that won four straight Cups in the late '70s. They easily could have been there.
Keith MacDonald from Mabou, Nova Scotia, stated his case for the Montreal stars.
• They were a dominant line on Cup-winning teams. Such success puts them in the top five of all time in my opinion.
I absolutely respect that opinion, and I like Lemaire. He picked me to be on his team at a media day fantasy camp held by the Wild during the lockout. Clearly, he has an eye for talent.
Other lines that were nominated for selection:
Nice work, Scott. I really like the last part.
• OK, call me a homer, but it doesn't get much better than Shanahan-Yzerman-Hull, does it? Two of the best natural scorers to ever play the game, arguably the most respected captain in all of sports history, the physical presence of Shanahan, I could go on and on ... If not a top 10, it's got to be a close 11th place. -- Bob, Sault Ste. Marie.
I had to get in a Steve Yzerman letter after Tuesday night's retirement ceremony in Hockeytown. The Wings did a great job honoring their longtime captain. What a night. Gordie Howe. Alex Delvecchio. Ted Lindsay. Sid Abel. That's hockey, baby!
• How could you forget/miss the line from the Winnipeg Jets in the WHA consisting of Bobby Hull, Ulf Nilsson and Anders Hedberg? -- Brian Dafoe
That's an interesting choice, Brian. I didn't see too many WHA games, but I do have a New York Raiders button somewhere in my closet. Actually, I have two of them. I peeled the Raiders sticker off one of them only to find it was really a Detroit Pistons button. Different times, huh?
• Although I was a Canucks fan and never a Leafs fan, there was a line that played together (I don't for remember how long) that I always liked watching. That was Darryl Sittler, Lanny McDonald and Dave "Tiger" Williams. Don't know how good their numbers were, but they were fun to watch. -- Ed, Brazil
Hey, when I get a hockey e-mail from Brazil, I have to include it. I must say, as a 16-year-old in spring 1977, I didn't enjoy those guys beating my Islanders in the playoffs. McDonald scored an overtime goal in Game 7 to win it for the Leafs. Isles winger Billy Harris hit the post a few minutes earlier. Yeah, I'm still ticked!
Speaking of the Islanders dynasty teams, some of you did like my list.
• Well done on your list of top lines, especially the "Trio Grande Line" of the Islanders. I think they get overlooked too often. Thanks for mentioning them. -- Andrew Sobel, San Francisco
Well, there's a guy who really knows his hockey. Thanks, Andrew.
And thanks to all of you who took the time to drop me a note. You fans know your stuff.
E.J. Hradek is still hearing it from you on his top lines list. So, he answers some of your e-mails and calms your nerves.