Entry into the Triple Gold Club is reserved for a lucky few

Getting into the Triple Gold Club in hockey is a coveted achievement, marking the occasion when a hockey player earns all three of an Olympic gold medal, World Championship gold medal, and of course, the Stanley Cup.

Earlier this week, Nathan Yau of FlowingData released a data visualisation of EGOT winners, marking the year that an entertainer earns all four of an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony award.

The list of EGOT winners is as prestigious a list as any in show business. In one chart, it’s immediately clear how each individual’s career transpired. From Helen Hayes’ long wait for the EGOT to John Legend’s rapid succession of awards, it’s all there.

Inspired by such a fascinating visual, I set out to recreate Nathan’s chart using hockey’s Triple Gold Club as the data instead.

To break down the Triple Gold, I remade the EGOT visualisation into two separate charts, one showing year of entry and the other showing age of entry. The former chart shows the history of the Triple Gold Club, the latter is better suited to look at each player’s individual career.

Year of entry

The chart shows individual Triple Gold Club timelines for players (and Mike Babcock as a coach). All Olympic gold, World Championship gold, and Stanley Cup victories for every player are highlighted, with their entry into the club shown with an outlined marker.

Officially, the Triple Gold Club was formed in 1994, when the trio of Tomas Jonsson, Mats Naslund, and Hakan Loob won Olympic gold medals on Team Sweden in Lillehammer during the 1994 Winter Olympics. While they each won Stanley Cups on different teams (the New York Islanders, Montreal Canadiens, and Calgary Flames, respectively), there’s a beauty in being founders of the club with fellow countrymen.

The trio set the mark a quarter century ago, and the prestigious club has expanded to 28 total players and one single coach as of today.

There are teammates that marked their entry into the club by winning everything together. Valeri Kamensky and Alexei Gusarov both represented the USSR and the Colorado Avalanche when they earned their championships, getting into the club by raising the Stanley Cup in 1996 with Colorado’s victory over the Florida Panthers.

More recently, yet another Swedish trio made their way into the club, sharing all of their victories. Niklas Kronwall, Henrik Zetterberg, and Mikael Samuelsson entered the club when they won the Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings. Remarkably, they won Olympic Gold and the World Championship just two years prior, making it the smallest window of time ever required to enter the club.

Conversely, one player spent nearly two decades earning his ticket into the club. Viacheslav Fetisov first won the World Championship with the USSR in 1978. Six years later, he won the gold medal at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo. Over his career, he earned a total of nine gold medals between the Olympics and World Champions, all before his first Stanley Cup. In 1997, Fetisov finally gained entry, lifting the Cup as a Red Wing.

The latest player to enter the club was Pavel Datsyuk, winning Olympic Gold at the 2018 Winter Olympics at the as a member of the Olympic Athletes from Russia.

Age of entry

Sorting the data by age of entry, it unveils a lot about how individual hockey careers unfold. It’s rare to win at a young age, where instead a majority of players get into the Triple Gold Club at age 30 or later.

The youngest player ever to enter the club was Jonathan Toews, doing so at 22 years old (8,076 days), when he won the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks. Fourteen years before Toews joined the club, Peter Forsberg held the title as the youngest player when he won the Cup with the Avalanche. However, Forsberg was on the older end of being 22 (8,361 days), thus conceding to Toews after holding the title for well over a decade.

Scott Niedermayer won the World Championship on Team Canada when he was 30. Referring to the Year of Entry chart, you can see that one of his teammates on that team was 18-year-old Patrice Bergeron. Later in his career as a 25-year-old, Bergeron joined the club when he won the Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins.

Over half of all Triple Gold Club players (16 of 28) made it into the club between 30 and 33 years old. Maybe there’s a strong truth in being an elite veteran who knows how to win after all.

Only four players made it into the club while also being members of the 35+ year-old club. Nicklas Lidstrom, Igor Larionov, Fetisov and Datsyuk were all rewarded for their patience.

Worth the weight

There are hundreds of stories that have already been lived and told by the Triple Gold Club members. As the club expands in the future, there will be many more stories left to tell.

Will there be any player that can win it all in less than three years, or will Kronwall, Zetterberg, and Samuelsson own that forever? Maybe an up and coming star will usurp Toews as the youngest player in the club someday. Maybe a 40-year-old will join the club too. Who knows what piece of hockey history the next entrant into the club will bring with them.

Being a member of the Triple Gold Club is one of the top achievements in hockey. Thousands of players go their entire careers without winning any of the three championships. Yet, here in this club, these 28 players share a common bond that’s worth more than its weight in gold.

Charts created in Adobe Illustrator. Data from Wikipedia.

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