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The Good, Bad and Ugly of Hockey in 2014

As 2014 draws to a close and people around the hockey world look ahead optimistically to 2015 (and the NHL’s own New Year celebration, the Winter Classic), it seems only fitting to pause for a moment of reflection. That’s exactly what the Last Word On Sports hockey department has done, as we present our own personal memorable moments from the world of hockey in our year-end celebration feature, The Good, Bad and Ugly of Hockey in 2014. Enjoy and happy New Year!

The Good, Bad and Ugly of Hockey in 2014

Shawn Wilken, Hockey Department Head – @CrimsonSkorpion

Good: The AHL’s decision to enforce the rule against goaltenders pushing the net off its moorings.

When David Leggio intentionally knocked his net off its moorings to prevent a 2-0 breakaway, it sparked league-wide debate on whether this was right to do. In game, it was ruled illegal and the opposing team was awarded a penalty shot but the AHL deemed this was not good enough. Acting swiftly and promptly, the league tweaked the rulebook by making it a game misconduct if a goaltender intentionally knocks the net loose.

The Bad: Jack Edwards’ meltdown

During a game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Boston Bruins, the puck was shot over the boards and hit the netting behind the Columbus goal, bouncing back onto the ice. As play resumed, Jack Edwards proceeded to complain about how the play should have been whistled down. Things got worse when the Blue Jackets scored, forcing Edwards to lose it on air. “THIS IS UNBELIEVABLE!” he shouted. Unfortunately for him, the call on the ice followed the NHL rulebook and Edwards once again looks foolish on air.

The Ugly: Outlash over Evander Kane posing with stacks of cash.

When Evander Kane decided to have some fun by posing in photos with stacks of cash used as a prop, it caused a public backlash, both from hockey fans and the media. Apparently it was unprofessional and made Kane look like a spoiled, cocky brat. Some even chose to mix in his race into the picture as to why he was behaving the way he did, igniting the whole racial issue in the NHL once again. For all the comments he received, Kane should look into starting a web series called “Me and mah Money”, where Kane walks around various cities with a stack of cash in hand, talking to it wherever he goes. Because in the end, it IS his money, he made it, and he can do whatever he wants with it.

Ken Hill, Hockey Department News Director – @LWOSPuckHead

The Good: 2014 NHL Winter Classic

On the eve of the 2015 NHL Winter Classic, it seems only fitting to honor the Red Wings versus the Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium to kick off 2014. Everything about this game was great, from the awesome setting, to the beautiful jerseys worn by both sides – not to mention that the game itself was pretty enjoyable, a 3-2 victory for Toronto, with Tyler Bozak scoring the winner in a shootout. To top it off, the 2014 Winter Classic shattered records, being the most-watched NHL regular season game in history, and setting a new NHL attendance record with 105,491 people in The Big House.

The Bad: 2014 NHL Stadium Series Games

Part of the appeal of the Winter Classic was always the novelty of it all, something the NHL completely ignored when it decided to add a five-game “Stadium Series” to the schedule last year. As soon as it was announced, everyone already knew it was too much of a good thing. Four games in eight days? The Rangers playing two of those games, as the (technical) away team, in just three days – not to mention the Kings also playing two games, and while we’re on the subject, do we really need to see Pittsburgh and Chicago in outdoor games again? The Stadium Series was nothing more than a cashgrab for the NHL it’s owners who wanted to recoup some of the money they lost from the 2012-13 lockout.

The Ugly: 2014 NHL Heritage Classic

Sticking with the theme here, it’s only appropriate to rate the 2014 Heritage Classic as “ugly.” Even the concept, an “outdoor” game in Vancouver, in March, was flawed from the beginning. BC Place is a beautiful facility for football, but with the roof closed on a rainy Vancouver day, the aesthetic for hockey was underwhelming to say the least. As for the game itself, I’m sure Ottawa fans can’t complain too much, but it was a disaster for the host Canucks. Aside from blowing a 2-0 lead and allowing four unanswered goals, the team also gave the ultimate insult to franchise goalie Roberto Luongo when coach John Tortorella decided to start backup Eddie Lack instead. Two days later, Luongo was traded.

Aaron Wrotkowski @AaronWrotkowski

The Good: Bruins Fist Bump Kid

Nobody handles kids better than the NHL. I’ll stake my reputation on that. When Jean Beliveau passed away, Anthony Duclair talked about meeting Beliveau in his first visit to the Bell Centre and how great Gros Bill was to him. Every team visits children at hospitals and brings them out to games. Whether it be the Trevor Linden Kids Foundation or the Montreal Ronald McDonald House, there’s countless examples all over the league that show that hockey players go above and beyond to show kids they care. While the recent video of P.K. Subban surprising kids in makeup warmed the cockles of my heart, I actually have to go back to the Tiny Fist Bump Kid in Boston who took a hard fist bump from Gregory Campbell, shook it off and kept it going. But of course he did. His name is Liam Fitzgeraldand he beat Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, which he had been fighting since he was four years old. Adam McQuaid of the Bruins was a big part to bringing him behind the bench for the game against the Panthers. This is the stuff that keeps me a fan of hockey through the bad and ugly.

The Bad: Slava Voynov and the LA Kings

“No matter what one does the team has to be there.”

This was said by a colleague about the Voynov/Kings situation, where the L.A. Kings tried to sneak Slava Voynov into a practice despite awaiting his trial for allegedly beating his wife. The NHL had just given the Kings cap relief by allowing Voynov to be moved to the LTIR and the Kings repaid the NHL doing them a favour by trying to keep Voynov close to his teammates. Close just after he kept his wife close to an inch of her life by shoving her, kicking her, punching her and choking her. The NHL didn’t want a Ray Rice type situation and the Kings made it clear, like my colleague, that it doesn’t matter if you allegedly smashed a woman’s face into a television set, the team has to be there. For the domestic abuser. If this upsets you? Donate to Hockey Fights Domestic Violence.

The Ugly: Adrian Dater and Ugly Social Media

Twitter is a fantastic service. It gives you up-to-the-second updates in hockey. Sometimes that information isn’t correct but it’s always engaging. Nothing lets you get closer to athletes, to celebrities, to journalists and to the fans of all three. But this “closeness” also leads to things like Adrian Dater and other terrible hockey journalists using Twitter to hit on women or just be a creepy human being to women. It also helps you discover that despite the fact we’re walking into 2015, the world is still full of misogynists, racists, and people proving they just can’t properly interact in a community. This ugliness is not special for Hockey and it’s really all over social media. But it is ugly and it’s impossible to ignore. There’s more to Twitter than just fake Bob McKenzie accounts at trade deadline and it’s probably time we all start calling it out and clean it up. Hockey is not Canada’s Game or a Man’s Game or a White Game. Hockey is everyone’s game. Never forget that.

Griffin Schroeder – @gSchroedes16

The Good: Gordie Howe cheered on in his fight against the various strokes he had suffered with “Get Well Gordie” standing ovation.

Mr. Hockey fought many battles on the ice when he played throughout his illustrious career, but none however have been more difficult than the current battle he faces in the latter stages of his life. Suffering from a stroke in October that had lingering effects throughout the following months, Gordie’s health was painfully inconsistent. On Halloween, against the Los Angeles Kings, the Red Wings took a commercial break to have the fans in unison wave their pieces of support given to them as they took their seats, a “Get Well Gordie” banner. The Howe family was watching and appreciated the support given from Hockeytown’s faithful, and the moment ranks as one of the more memorable of 2014 in hockey.

The Bad: Nathan Horton’s back disease

A consistent 20-goal scorer as a power forward, Nathan Horton was one of the key cogs of the Boston Bruins’ top-six for many years. Brought into Columbus from free agency with a 7-year, $37.1 million contract, he was expected to contribute in the same way, as he was entering the prime of his career at age 28. Now at age 29, Horton can barely function as a normal human being, not being able to run, play with his kids, stand up straight, or even sleep at night. It’s been a nightmarish scenario for the Columbus Blue Jackets in terms of the contract and for Nathan Horton in terms of his playing career, as he may have to retire due to his condition at the ripe age of 29.

The Ugly: The Edmonton Oilers against Western Conference Teams

Where does it end with the Edmonton Oilers? Having the first overall pick in three of the last five NHL Entry Drafts, Edmonton has failed to build around their highly-touted players. With trade rumors circling around Taylor Hall, Nail Yakupov quickly sliding into the bust category, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins getting little help or depth support at the center position, the management of the team has been atrocious. The team has recently fired former head coach Dallas Eakins and has a record of 1-18-6 against the West, which is a real problem considering Edmonton plays in the West.


Tyler Shea – @TylerLWOS

The Good: Team Canada’s Back-to-Back Olympic Gold

Team Canada won its first back-to-back Gold medals at the Olympics since 1920-1924. Crosby and Co. were nothing short of spectacular to bring the Gold home, and Carey Price was the best goalie in the tourney, standing on his head to bolster a dominating defensive performance that saw Canada surrender only three goals in six games.

The Bad: Losing Legends

This year we lost of a lot of hockey greats, but no loss hurt more than Jean Beliveau did. The Habs legend was widely known as one of the best hockey players of his era and a caring man willing to do anything for his fans off the ice. R.I.P.

The Ugly: Rogers Take-over

When Rogers bought all of the NHL viewing rights, they claimed it would be easier for fans to catch NHL games. They also claimed it would be a better experience. Wrong and wrong. Not only do you need to shell out a big amount just to watch “all” the games, but it counts on your internet usage. Way to be, money munchers. Way to frigging be.

Aivis Kalnins – @LWOSShakcc

The Good: Latvia’s Olympic performance

The beginning of the Olympics was not really what Latvians were hoping for, as Team Latvia lost all their games in the group stage, but then came out big by defeating Switzerland in the qualification playoffs. That was not enough for them, as the game of the year was Latvia – Canada in the quarter-finals. Latvia lost 2-1, but Kristers Gudlevskis made an impressive 55 saves. It’s important to mention that Latvia was the last team to score against against the gold-medal winning Canadian team, who shutout the U.S.A. and Sweden in the semi-finals and final, respectively. The Latvia team had the character, and came out with a best-ever 8th place finish in their short Olympic history.

The Bad: Retirement of Sandis Ozolins

Latvian All-Star Sandis Ozolins announced his retirement from professional hockey, stating that he would become an active politician. The only Latvian to ever raise the Stanley Cup above his head was drafted 30th overall in 1991 NHL Entry draft by San Jose Sharks. He was a Norris Trophy finalist in the 1996-97 season and a seven-time all-star, in addition to his Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche. He played his last few years in the KHL and was the long-time captain of Team Latvia internationally. He is considered by many to be the greatest Latvian hockey player of all time.

The Ugly: The KHL’s financial problems

Due to Russia’s action in Ukraine, Russia and the KHL have faced huge financial problems, which majorly came out during the end of 2014. After loads of reports that players haven’t received salaries, a number of ”player for free” trades went around, while players complained about their salaries being ”cut” due to the ruble’s value dropping. As we head into 2015, I can assure that this is not the end of the story.

Charlie Clarke – @LWOScharlieocc

The Good: 2014 Olympics Women’s Gold Medal Game

Perhaps the highlight of the entire Olympics, this spectacle between the U.S. and Canada was one of the most exciting hockey games in recent memory. It had everything an entertaining game needs – a dramatic comeback, controversial calls, massive stakes, you name it. Marie-Philip Poulin brought an entire country to its feet like no one else could with her overtime winner. Not only was this a moment of national pride in Canada, but it was a monumental event for the growth of women’s hockey in general in both countries.

The Bad: The Leafs Collapse Fantastically (Again)

No, this is not a recording. With just a few weeks remaining in the season, the Maple Leafs had won just two of three on a California road trip, and were eyeing up potential first-round playoff match-ups. One immediate eight-game losing streak later, and the Leafs once again found themselves out of the postseason. In less than a month, they went from competing for second in their division to picking eighth overall in the draft. It was just sad to watch all the star players hit a wall, after a season in which coach Randy Carlyle refused to play four lines.

The Ugly: The Penguins’ Medical Staff and the Mumps

With an infectious disease such as the mumps breaking out around the NHL, one would think that teams would be taking precautions against it, especially one like Pittsburgh, who had already lost a lot of players to injury this season. However, when Sidney Crosby was interviewed with a visibly swollen face, the team adamantly denied that he had the disease. A few days later, and Crosby was out of the lineup, with (you guessed it) the mumps. By refusing to sit their franchise player earlier, the Penguins’ medical staff exposed the rest of the team to the disease.


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