When we look back at the year that was in the National Hockey League, what stands out? It probably depends on who you support, but a few events transcended team affiliation to grab our collective attention this year. Let’s take a look back at a few of them. In no particular order, and probably with some stuff missing, here are 10 memorable moments from the in 2014.
Deaths in the family
We’ll get the sad stuff out of the way first. In December, Montreal Montreal Canadiens legend Jean Beliveau died at the age of 83, following a few years of illness. There’s no way to truly do the man justice in a summary like this, but suffice to say his status as a serious hockey great is completely justified. The man they called ‘Le Gros Bill’ – who Montreal wanted so badly in the 1950s that they purchased the league in which he was already a star, just to make sure he ended up on their roster – eventually had his name engraved on the Stanley Cup 17 times as a member of the Habs organization. Oh, and he was widely renowned for his personal charity and being, overall, a very classy guy. Keith Olbermann gave a great tribute:
Beliveau’s death somewhat overshadowed another that occurred just two weeks prior. Pat Quinn, the hall of fame player and coach, died at 71 in late November after a long (undisclosed) illness. Quinn spent nine seasons in the NHL in Vancouver, Toronto, and Atlanta. He then turned to coaching. Quinn stood behind the bench for the Philadelphia Flyers, the Canucks (including their run to the Final against the New York Rangers), the Leafs and – notably for those of us north of the border – Team Canada during the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, where finally took home a gold medal after a 50-year drought.
Here he is, in a classic clip, delivering a devastating elbow to Bobby Orr:
Roberto Luongo finally leaves Vancouver
The drama between the pipes in Vancouver finally came to an end in March, when Roberto Luongo was dealt back to the Florida Panthers. The move, when it finally arrived, was actually something of a surprise to Luongo, despite it being over a year since he publicly denounced his contract – $60m over 12 years – with Vancouver (). The day of the trade, Luongo said he “was not expecting it.” Which is not to say it wasn’t exactly what he wanted all along. In any case, Luongo’s departure from Vancouver in the midst of what would become a very mediocre season (the Canucks missed the playoffs) finally closed the book on what was, at the time, the NHL’s most interesting/annoying goaltender controversy. For years, Canucks fans had been made to suffer through endless questions about whether Luongo, or upstart backup Cory Schneider, was truly the proper man to start the majority of games. That distraction is now Toronto’s alone. Schneider moved on to New Jersey, and with Luongo down in Florida, the Canucks have put their faith in Ryan Miller – . All’s well that ends well, right?
John Tortorella has a meltdown
Oh, the other thing about Vancouver in 2014 – at least the early part of it – was John Tortorella. When he arrived in Vancouver (after former Canucks coach, Alain Vigneault, went the other way to coach the New York Rangers, Tortorella’s previous team), – all of which we can now answer:
“Will John Tortorella work out in Vancouver?” No.
“Is he precisely the sort of hard driving, bombastic motivator the Canucks need to get them over the hump?” No.
“Or will he alienate a veteran team?” Bingo.
Still, few would have expected it to go quite as far off the rails as it did during a game against the Calgary Flames in January. The Flames decided to ice their fourth line for the opening faceoff against Vancouver on 18 January and a brawl ensued. Tortorella gave Flames coach Bob Hartley an earful from his spot behind the Canucks’ bench, but figured it wasn’t enough. In between the first and second periods, Tortorella, , tried to get into the Flames dressing room to deliver quite a few of them. A brief, sort of insane, scuffle ensued:
Tortorella was fired in the off-season.
Teemu and Alfie say goodbye
It’s likely we’ll be seeing two 2014 retirees again soon in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Teemu Selanne (aka “The Finnish Flash”) and Daniel Alfredsson both called it a career this year.
Selanne’s departure came first, in May, after the Ducks dropped out of the post-season with a second-round loss to the LA Kings. Selanne left the league after 21 seasons, just shy of his 44th birthday, with 684 goals and 1,457 points in 1,451 games, and a Stanley Cup ring. He didn’t go silently, though. Over the summer, a quote from Selanne’s (Finnish) biography made its way over to North America. In the book, Selanne is critical of the playing time . In fact, Selanne said, he might have considered staying another season were it not for Boudreau. Oh well, what could have been. In lieu of that full-season victory lap, this one will have to suffice:
In December, it was Alfredsson’s turn to bid the NHL goodbye after 18 seasons, 444 goals and 1,157 points in 1,246 games. To do the farewell properly, Alfredsson returned to Ottawa, the city where he played 17 of those years. He signed a one-day contract so he could return to the ice in Ottawa and leave the league as a Senator. It was especially poignant, given the acrimonious way Alfredsson had left for Detroit just a year prior, when some haggling between his agent and the team apparently came to nothing. , however, when the Sens gave him this send-off:
The longest shootout ever
Speaking of things that went on for some time, I give you the longest shootout in NHL history. 14 December, the Washington Capitals and Florida Panthers went into the 20th round to decide things. Don’t think you can spare 18 minutes to watch the whole thing? Wrong. You can. You should. You must.
The LA Kings win another Cup
Nothing quite that dramatic settled the winner of the 2014 Stanley Cup – although perhaps the series between the LA Kings and New York Rangers would have been better for it. A powerhouse Kings team made its way through three seven-game series in the West (including a riveting conference final series versus the Chicago Blackhawks), only to effectively steamroll past the Rangers in five games. The Rangers put up a fight in the last two games, even taking Game 5 into the second overtime, but they were simply no match for what, by that point, was essentially a marauding Kings team – they were out to steal everything (hits, shots, energy, motivation, will to live) from whatever opponent was unlucky enough to stand in their way. Here’s how it all ended:
The best Team Canada ever?
Or just best defensive Team Canada ever? The squad Canada sent to Russia for the Sochi Winter Olympics this year seemed geared toward one thing: scoring. The team was stacked with offensive leaders in the NHL – everyone from Sidney Crosby to Matt Duschene to Jonathan Toews. . But that wasn’t the plan. The plan was to play defense. after another Canadian gold medal, Team Canada brass knew immediately the big international ice would be a problem (as it was in 2006 in Italy). So the plan was to defend, even if it meant their big guns wouldn’t be getting the points Canadians anticipated. The term used most to describe the tactic was “suffocating”.
The gold still came with the usual hand-wringing, particularly following a bafflingly difficult win against Latvia (a notable moment itself, thanks to goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis, who stopped 55 of 57 Canadian shots), but in the end, the plan worked. Was it the best team Canada’s ever put on the ice? .
Columbus gets its first playoff win
It wasn’t a gold medal, but it was certainly worth something.
The Columbus Blue Jackets made it into the post-season in 2014 for only the second time in the club’s history. The first time they managed it, back in 2009, they dropped four straight to the Detroit Red Wings. It wasn’t a much easier assignment this year, either. Their wild card spot put Columbus up against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round. They dropped the first game 4-3 against the Pens, but held on to a tie in Game 2, forcing things into a second overtime period, where this happened:
Columbus won another (Game 4), again in overtime, but ultimately dropped the series to Pittsburgh, 4-2.
A team in Las Vegas?
2014 saw a reignited round of speculation about expansion teams, and it looks like if a new team is going to appear anywhere, it will be in Las Vegas (sorry, Quebec). The name you’ll need to remember in this is Bill Foley () – he’s the prospective owner, and the man now in charge of gauging interest in Las Vegas for a new team. In the near term, that means a ticket drive, which the NHL granted him permission to hold to get some idea of how popular a new franchise might be. As of last week, according to Foley () that number .
Will this gamble pay off? It’s a tough call. The NHL’s had good luck in California, but has almost been forced to fold in Arizona. And things aren’t looking much better in Sunrise, Florida, either . Can the league really afford another empty stadium? The $4 billion in franchise fees might make the deal too sweet to turn down.
As the year draws to a close, everyone in the NHL seems to be contracting the mumps. And, , someone adapted a Taylor Swift track into a song about it.
- Did we miss something? Set me straight in the comments below.