Throughout the history of the National Hockey League, talent has been developed for the big league by the Ontario Hockey League (aka OHA, OMJHL). Many of the legends of the game humbly began their careers as teenagers in the Ontario, Canada league. What follows is a cross section of hockey legends that played in both the OHL and NHL.
Stan Mikita played three seasons in the OHA with the St. Catherines TeePees from 1956-57 to 1958-59. In his final season in the OHA, Mikita was honoured with the Red Tilson Trophy as the league’s most outstanding player.
What followed was a twenty-one season career in the NHL with the Chicago Blackhawks. Stan won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s top point getter four different times. He appeared in nine All-Star games and was selected to the First Team All-Star Team six times. During the 1966-67 and 1967-68 season, Mikita won the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s MVP, the Lady Byng Trophy as the NHL’s most gentlemanly player and the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s leading scorer. To this day, Stan is the only player to achieve this ‘triple crown’ once, let alone twice. Mikita was elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983.
Phil Esposito played with the same St. Catherines TeePees for one season, 1961-62. Phil played with Mikita on the Chicago Blackhawks for three seasons between 1964-65 and 1966-67, before moving on to the Boston Bruins and greater things. Esposito is a four time Art Ross Trophy winner and has won the Hart Trophy twice. He once held the NHL record for most goals (76) and most points (152) in a season until Wayne Gretzky came along. Phil reached the 100+ point plateau six times in his NHL career and finished up with 1585 points in 1255 regular season games with Chicago, Boston and the New York Rangers. Esposito was called to The Hall in 1984.
Darryl Sittler played three seasons in the OHA from 1967-68 to 1969-70, all with London. Sittler played eleven and a half seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs and was captain of the team for the final six and a half. In 1977-78, he finished third in league scoring with 117 points. Darryl ended up his NHL career with 1121 points in 1096 regular season games with Toronto, the Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings. Sittler was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1989.
Steve Yzerman played two seasons in the OHL with the Peterborough Petes, 1981-82 and 1982-83. Yzerman was the fourth overall pick in the 1983 NHL draft, going to the Detroit Red Wings. Steve spent his entire career in Detroit and was captain of the team for nineteen seasons. He played in ten All-Star games and totalled 1755 points in 1514 regular season games. Yzerman entered the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009.
Eric Lindros played parts of three seasons with the Oshawa Generals from 1989-90 to 1991-92. Eric was the first overall pick at the 1991 NHL draft, going to the Quebec Nordiques. Lindros refused to play for Quebec and was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers where he played for eight seasons, six as team captain. Despite a career marred by injury, Eric played in 760 games and contributed 865 points with the Flyers, the New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Dallas Stars.
Each season in the Ontario Hockey League, budding stars like the five mentioned here are developing their skills. For less than $20 for a ticket, a prime seat can be had to see the future of hockey, right now.