Team captains may have different styles, temperaments and talents, but the great ones lead by example. Here's our all-time Top 10: Bob Gainey, the second-longest tenured captain in Montreal's storied history, was hailed by Soviet national team coach Viktor Tikhonov as the world's best all-round player. Gainey's hardworking style of play inspired the creation of the Selke Trophy for the NHL's top defensive forward, and he was the wiinner for the first four years that it was awarded (1981-89). Supremely poised, Gainey led the Habs into the postseason each year that he wore the C, and although they faltered in the first round the first three years, he was a key to their winning the Stanley Cup (his fifth with Montreal) in 1986 and reaching the final in 1989, after a second straight 100-point season.
2 of 10 Lou Capozzola(2), David E. Klutho/SI
Scott Stevens, defenseman
After arriving from St. Louis as compensation for the Blues signing Brendan Shanahan away from New Jersey, the bone-rattling backliner personified the Devils' defense for 12 years. While leading the team to its first two Stanley Cups (1995, and 2000 when he won the Conn Smythe Trophy as Playoff MVP; he also won a third in 2003), Stevens' hit on Detroit's Slava Kozlov in the 1995 final made him a villain, though one the Devils rallied around. "In some ways the Kozlov hit did reinvent Scott," Larry Robinson, then a Devils assistant, told SI's Michael Farber in 2001. "That was Scott's first Cup, and so much of our success in that series was based on that hit, how much confidence it gave us." <bold>SI Vault: </bold><bold>The Hits Keep Coming</bold><bold> by Michael Farber</bold>
3 of 10 David E. Klutho/SI
Nicklas Lidstrom, defenseman
The legendary Steve Yzerman's successor brought a quiet efficiency to the role. A fundamentally brilliant workhorse at his position (he won the Norris Trophy seven times) and blessed with scoring touch as well as the ability to make his defense partners better, the highly-respected Swede became the first European-born captain to lead his team to the Stanley Cup. That 2008 championship was the fourth of his career and his Red Wings nearly won a fifth in 2009. With Lidstrom producing 16 points in 21 postseason games, they fell to Sidney Crosby's Penguins in the Cup final, four games to three. <bold>SI Vault: </bold><bold>Neat Nick</bold><bold> by Michael Farber</bold>
4 of 10Robert Laberge, Brian Bahr/Getty Images; David E. Klutho/SI; Frank Gunn/AP
Joe Sakic, center
Known for his deadly wrist shot, faceoff skills and work ethic, Burnaby Joe's donning of the C in 1992 sparked Quebec's return to the playoffs after a five-year absence. After the franchise relocated to Colorado in 1995, he immediately led the newly-named Avalanche to their first of seven straight division titles and first Stanley Cup while winning the Conn Smythe. In the 2001 Cup final, his play and leadership helped the Avs' climb out out of a three-games-two hole against the Devils. Sakic was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2012.
5 of 10Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images
Denis Potvin, defenseman
The dawn of the Islander dynasty coincided with beginning of his captaincy before the 1979-80 season during which the team won the first of four successive Stanley Cups. Molded into a leader by coach Al Arbour's barbs and punishments (Potvin once had to skate for two hours after missing the team bus), the bruising and offensively gifted blueliner led the Isles to a record 19 consecutive playoff series wins, a run in which they reached the Cup final five times.
6 of 10David E. Klutho/SI
Wayne Gretzky, center
The Great One's electrifying rewriting of NHL scoring records and stature as hockey's biggest superstar overshadowed his quiet leadership. In his first season as the Oilers' captain, he led them to their first Stanley Cup, dethroning the Islanders' dynasty in the process. (He later said he'd learned how to win by seeing how much the Isles gave in sweeping his Oilers for the Cup the prior year.) Three more Cups followed during the next four years. After his 1988 trade to L.A., the nine-time NHL MVP donned the C, which he later shared with Luc Robitaille due to back problems while leading the Kings to the 1993 Cup final.
7 of 10David E. Klutho/SI
Mario Lemieux, center
Like The Great One, Le Magnifique was a dazzling offensive force and low-key captain. After leading the Penguins from the NHL cellar to their first two Stanley Cups (1991, 1992), Lemieux became a truly inspirational figure when he began battling Hodgkins disease and chronic back problems. After missing most of 1993-94 and all of 1994-95, he returned to win the scoring title (NHL-leading 67 goals and 156 points) and the Hart Trophy. His remaining seasons were marked by retirement in 1997, a return in 2000, and flashes of his old brilliance. During that time he helped save the franchise from bankruptcy and keep it in Pittsburgh by becoming leader of its ownership group.
8 of 10David E. Klutho/SI
Steve Yzerman, center
The longest-tenured captain in NHL history (19 seasons; 1,303 games) was awarded the C in 1986, when he was only 21, the youngest player ever to assume that role for an NHL team. (That distinction now belongs to Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog, 19 when he assumed the role in the summer of 2012). As team leader, Yzerman transformed himself at coach Scotty Bowman's urging from perennial 100-point scorer into a great two-way player. In 1997, Yzerman's Wings won Detroit's first Stanley Cup in 42 years before repeating in '98. His most inspirational performance came in 2002 when he led the Wings to a third Cup while playing with a knee injury. <bold>SI Vault: </bold><bold>From Kid to Captain</bold><bold> by Dave Lewis</bold>
9 of 10AP
Jean Beliveau, center
The longest-serving captain in Canadiens history, the clutch, graceful and supremely classy "Le Gros Bill" led his team to five Stanley Cups (then a record for an NHL captain; he won 10 in all as a player.) In 1965, he became the first winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. The 10-time All-Star retired as Montreal's all-time leading scorer as well as the top scorer in Stanley Cup play. "When I first came up," he told SI's Pete Axthelm in 1967, "Butch Bouchard was captain. Then it was the Rocket (Richard), then Doug Harvey and then myself. I'm following some great men and I want to be a service to the team. Being the oldest, I know that all the other players will keep going at top speed as long as they see me doing my best."
10 of 10 Linda Cataffo/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images
Mark Messier, forward
The NHL's second-ranked all-time scorer, his name is synonymous with leadership on and off the ice (see: Mark Messier Award). The steely-eyed forward made his reputation by leading the Oilers to the Stanley Cup two years after the 1989 trade of Wayne Gretzky to the Kings. Messier cemented his legend during the Rangers' run to the Cup in 1994 by guaranteeing a victory in Game 6 of the epic Eastern Conference Final against New Jersey and delivering a hat trick in a win that forced Game 7. The Rangers' championship, their first in 54 years, made him the only player to captain Cup-winners for two franchises. He won six in all, a Conn Smythe Trophy and two Harts. <bold>SI Vault: </bold><bold>The Look: Why Mark Messier is the best leader in sports</bold><bold> by Michael Farber</bold>
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