The decade is coming to a close and what a 10 years it has been in the hockey world. Memories were made that will stand the test of time and teams that will never be forgotten captured our attention. There were stories around every corner and trophies placed in cabinets across the globe.
With all of the events over the course of the last 10 years, it’s hard to settle on just 10 to look back on — but we did it anyway.
Here’s Sporting News’ top 10 hockey stories of the 201s.
- John Carlson nets overtime winner as USA stuns Canada for gold at 2010 World Junior Championship.
- On home soil, Canada captures its first gold since 2012 at the 2015 World Juniors.
- Vancouver erupts in riots following Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.
- New Jersey Devils center Brian Boyle plays on “Hockey Fights Cancer” night — and scores.
- Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres play the first sporting event following the tragic events at the Boston marathon.
- NHL and hockey fans around the globe pay tribute following the Humbolt Broncos’ tragedy.
- Former NHLer Craig Cunningham makes a return to the ice following a heart attack and leg amputation.
10. Gritty is born
Every once in a while, a superstar bursts onto the scene putting the hockey world on notice. After all, Auston Matthews scored four in his NHL debut. Arguably, though, nothing comes close to the entrance made by the NHL’s newest team mascot — Gritty.
Born in September 2018, the orange fluffball creature quickly caught the eyes of fans and critics alike; however, once the character started to develop, their number of fans went through the roof. Now a cultural icon, Gritty brings laughter and cheers to not only Philadelphia Flyers fans but hockey fans alike.
Unless, of course, you are associated with the Pittsburgh Penguins:
Streaking at the Stadium Series game, mastering the social media platform TikTok, dressing as Wonder Woman and one-upping Kim Kardashian’s champaign fountain photo are just a few examples of the glory that is Gritty.
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9. Over 105 thousand attend 2014 Winter Classic
The Winter Classic has been an NHL tradition since 2008, played in 11 different outdoor stadiums and featuring 11 of the league’s most storied franchises. On New Year’s Day 2014, “The Big House” at the University of Michigan set an NHL record with an attendance of 105,491.
Named “Sports Event of the Year” by SportsBusiness Journal, the 2014 Winter Classic featured the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs — the first time a Canadian team participated. The two teams were set to face-off in 2013 but the event was canceled due to the league’s lockout. Regardless, fans poured into Ann Arbor, Mich. for the big game that saw the Leafs win 3-2 in a shootout.
8. Jets move back to Winnipeg
The Winnipeg Jets are currently one of the top powerhouses in the NHL but from 1996-2010, they — technically — did not exist.
History lesson: the Jets were established in 1972 and played in Winnipeg through the 1995-96 season before relocating to Phoenix and becoming today’s Arizona Coyotes. Then, in 2011, the Atlanta Thrashers, who were a mightily-struggling franchise at the time, moved to Winnipeg and reignited the hockey fanbase that already existed just north of the border.
The reception was fantastic. In fact, the team sold out every game in the regular season and playoffs, before failing to do so for the first time on Oct. 15 this year. Not only were the fans back influx, but the traditional “whiteout” for home playoffs games made its return as well.
Since heading north, the team has made the playoffs three times in eight seasons including bids in each of the last two.
MORE: Winnipeg Jets top 5 moments of the decade
7. T.J. ‘Sochie’ dominates Olympic shootout
The last time the Winter Olympics included NHL players was in Sochi in 2014. It was then that American T.J. Oshie put on a show against the host nation, Russia, in an eight-round shootout that still resonates to this day.
In round one, Oshie went five-hole on Russian goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, giving the U.S the upper-hand. After the first three rounds, Oshie and Russia’s Ilya Kovalchuk were the only ones to score, thus sending the shootout to extras. In Olympic competition, at the start of extra rounds, the team that shot first now shoots second. Also, teams are allowed to send out repeat shooters — a strategy both teams took full advantage of.
In the fourth round, Oshie had Bobrovsky sprawled out but sailed the puck high.
Then, Jonathan Quick gave up a trickler of a shot to Pavel Datsyuk before Oshie, using a little luck to regather the puck after losing control, slid it between the Russian’s legs once again.
Kovalchuk netted his second of the shootout with an off-speed shot in front of the hometown fans; but of course, Oshie scored yet again in the sixth when the puck ricocheted off the crossbar and the back of Bobrovsky before making its way across the line. Round seven featured misses from Datsyuk and Oshie before the American finished it off in the eighth when he blasted one straight to the back of the net. Victory for the USA.
6. Vegas’ inaugural season
On June 22, 2016, the NHL announced Las Vegas would be home to the league’s 31st franchise.
Vegas put together the strongest opening season for an expansion team in the history of North American professional sports. The squad of “misfits” made it to the Stanley Cup Final and fell just short, losing to the Washington Capitals in a five-game series.
At one point, the Golden Knights had 500-1 odds of winning the Cup before going on to win the Western Conference.
Part of the Vegas Golden Knights story that season took place just days prior to opening night. A mass shooting in Las Vegas took the lives of 58 individuals and injured hundreds more. The hashtag, #VegasStrong, quickly became the battle cry of the NHL’s newest franchise. They retired No. 58 to the rafters to honor the victims before puck drop in the home opener and no player has, or ever will, wear No. 58 for the Golden Knights.
5. Caps get their first Cup
Alex Ovechkin has consistently been one of the top players in the NHL over his 10-plus years in the league — and in 2018, Ovi got his Cup.
Joining the league in 1974, the Capitals had just one previous Stanley Cup Final appearance in 1998 when they were swept by the Detroit Red Wings. Then, they were in it again in 2018 and weren’t going to let the opportunity pass them by.
Washington, D.C., has had quite a decade but it was the Capitals who opened the run of championships as the Nationals (MLB) and the Mystics (WNBA) both won titles in 2019.
After the Caps took the series against the Vegas Golden Knights, the summer of Ovechkin officially began. From drinking to sleeping, the Russian star did everything with his new pal: Stanley.
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4. USA Women defeat Canada to win gold
The 2018 Winter Olympics did not see NHL players participate, but there was still plenty of high-intensity hockey.
A rivalry etched in history once again found itself at the biggest stage, as the United States and Canada went head-to-head in the gold-medal game at the Pyeongchang Olympics. It marked the fifth time in the last six Olympics that these two nations met in the championship; in 2006, Canada defeated Sweden.
However, the rivalry had been dominated by Canada for much of the previous two decades. Since the U.S. won gold at the inaugural event in 1998, Canada had won four straight (2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014) — but 2018’s match went in America’s favor in the most improbable of fashions.
The U.S. scored first on a power-play goal with less than 30 seconds left in the first period. Two minutes into the second, Canada tied the game on a batted puck and about five minutes later Canada took its first lead on a shot from the point. The United States tied the game on a breakaway with just over six minutes left in regulation that kept the dream alive.
Then, the dream came to fruition.
In the sixth round of the shootout, Team USA’s Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson deked Canada’s goalie out of her skates, putting the puck softly into the back of the net. Maddie Rooney then sealed the deal with a save at the other end, and in the early hours, the USA was finally golden again.
3. Kane’s OT winner in 2010 Stanley Cup Final
The puck officially went missing — twice.
On the first occasion, only one player knew where the puck was — and his name was Patrick Kane.
When the Blackhawks winger took the short-angle shot against Michael Leighton, only Kane reacted. In fact, the referee and the clock operator had lost sight of the rubber disk as Kane began celebrating in traditional Stanley Cup-winning fashion: with gloves and sticks thrown into the air.
Chicago’s Stanley Cup drought officially ended at 49 years and they would go on to win two more over the course of the decade; the first was definitely the most memorable.
So how did the puck go missing a second time?
Following the triumphant celebration, one question remained: where is the puck?
It was officially seen in the back of the net but from then on, it’s been a mystery that has been investigated but has no end in sight. Where is the puck? Who has the puck? Why can no one find the puck? These are valid questions but ones with no answer, adding to the history that is the NHL.
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2. No longer Blue in St. Louis
Arguably the most impressive Cinderella story in the history of the NHL came less than a year ago.
On Jan. 3, 2019, the St Louis Blues stood last in the NHL standings. On June 12, they were first — and Stanley Cup champions.
A miracle run led by then-interim head coach Craig Berube and rookie goalie Jordan Binnington, St. Louis finished the season on a 30-10-5 run and made the playoffs as the third seed in the Central Division.
Six games against the Winnipeg Jets, double-overtime in Game 7 against the Dallas Stars and another six-game series win over the San Jose Sharks put the Blues in the Stanley Cup Final. They then went ahead and gave St. Louis its first-ever Stanley Cup championship.
A major part of the beautiful story was the motivation the team received from a courageous girl by the name of Laila Anderson. Laila suffers from hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) and in December, received word that she has received a match for a bone marrow donor. She built a special relationship with the team and she partook in all the celebrations with them, including getting her own ring.
1. “The Next One” nets the “Golden Goal”
Feb. 28, 2010.
It seems almost unfair that the top event of the decade took place only 59 days into it — but there’s no doubt that Sidney Crosby’s overtime-game winner in the gold-medal game of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics against the United States deserves the top spot on this list.
Crosby took a pass from Jarome Iginla and put it in the back of the net, providing Canada and the hockey world with a moment no one will forget. With his golden moment, Crosby — who had already tasted success in 2009 with the Pittsburgh Penguins — further cemented his status as a superstar.