Hockey’s Top 10 Moments From 2016

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Surreal. It’s Merriam-Webster’s’ word of 2016, and it couldn’t be more appropriate. This year has been an exploit into the ethereal; an orchestral journey with an overwhelming crescendo. Lead by a powerful, heartfelt story, it grew: Doc Emerik, Bobby Ryan, and Pascal Dupuis and Trevor Daley the strings that lead the procession, Gordie Howe the delicate piano overlay, P.K. Subban and Taylor Hall the pounding percussion it as reaches its height and John Scott the booming climax.

They are the highs and lows that dominated the hockey world. They brought us together, they made us cry, they made us laugh, they made us feel. Above all they made us remember why we love the game. These are the top 10 moments of 2016.

Hockey’s Top 10 Moments From 2016

10. Auston Matthews Astonishes In His Debut

It’s only fitting the future of the National Hockey League should open this list with the same aplomb he opened his NHL career. Auston Matthews the consensus number one pick astounded, and amazed in his professional debut. Picked to star in the 2016-17 season debut, Matthews did not disappoint, delivering four fantastic goals in thrilling 5-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators.

His team may not have come out on top, but the message was clear: “Remember the name: Auston Matthews. He’s not going away.” The rookie sensation became the first player in the modern era – 1943-44 onwards -and is just the fourth player ever to record a hat-trick in their debut. In total all four goals took him just over a period and a half. Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to your 2016-17 season.

9. Joe Paw-velski

There are some moments that are hard to explain to someone who wasn’t there. Why did that happen? Why did it become popular? Why did people care? This is not one of them. This is a reflection on the Internet-age at its finest. When there’s an adorable black cat, in front of millions of people, in an area it doesn’t belong, it’s impossible not to love. With wolves it is called imprinting. We’ve yet to come up with a word for love at first-sight between species. The little minx that stole the hearts of viewers across the globe as it ran across the ice of the SAP Center also captured that of someone in the building: Patrick Marleau. The veteran Sharks forward adopted the fortuitous feline, and gave Joe Paw-velski a home. In the midst of a hard-fought, draining playoff series, she was the comic relief, the respite we all needed.

8. Doc Emerick’s Speech

In an impassioned speech to welcome viewers into the Hockey Fights Cancer Night game between the Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings, Doc Emerick opened the NBCSN broadcast with a personal message: each day is a blessing. He recounted the time, 25 years ago, that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer.

At the time an employee within the Flyers organization, he expressed his gratitude to them, and continued to remind viewers to be thankful for the gift of life. The monologue was clearly emotional, and as his microphone quivered, his hands unable to steady themselves, it was impossible not to feel the sincerity in his plea.

7. Dear Mom, by Bobby Ryan

In a move of nearly unprecedented honesty, Ryan laid himself bare for all to see in an open letter entitled Dear Mom. The piece, posted through The Players Tribune, is a tear-jerking reminder of the sacrifices one woman made to see that her son had the best life that she could provide. It was a moment where the hockey world came together. Where we connected over the bond between mother and child; where a hero, an idol, a favorite player was humanized. It was a moment where we sympathized. It was a moment where we remembered those who are near to us. It reminded us of the people behind the players.

6. Pittsburgh, Pascal Dupuis and Trevor Daley

The Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup run is in itself a moment worth remembering. A fantastic journey, bolstered by the acquisition of players that were either deemed impossible to win with, or had not succeeded in other situations. It was exciting and entertaining, but behind the curtains there was something bigger at play. There was a dying wish, between a mother and a son, to win the Stanley Cup. Trevor Daley, unable to play in the Stanley Cup final due to a broken ankle, spent days away from the team, visiting his mother Trudy.

She was diagnosed with cancer, and the outlook wasn’t positive. But she had asked him to win her a Stanley Cup, something he had been unable to do in his 12-year career. When the Penguins ultimately won the Cup it wasn’t Evgeni Malkin, or Conor Sheary, or Matt Murray to whom Sidney Crosby passed off Lord Stanley’s Cup. It was Daley. For the first time, he hoisted hockey’s prize, and his mother watching on the television from her hockey bed witnessed it. She passed away over a week later.

Daley wasn’t the only Penguin who was hoisting the Cup without having played in the Final. Pascal Dupuis was also given a chance to put on the Penguins jersey one last time. With his career cut short by dangerous and repeated blood clots, Dupuis spent much of the 2015-16 season travelling with the team, but was only able to take part in 18 games. His forced retirement from professional hockey took its toll. To see the game give him one last parting gift was a moment to treasure.

5. Goodbye Mr. Hockey

The year took its fair share of noteworthy celebrities, some of them hockey fans, like Alan Thicke, but none as dear to the game as Gordie Howe. The man known as Mr. Hockey dedicated his life to the game, playing professionally through six decades. His 1600-plus games in a Red Wings uniform earned him four Stanley Cups, and placed him fourth on the all-time scorers list; the number 9 forever tied to the four-letter name on the back. At the age of 88, after being diagnosed with dementia in 2012, and suffering from multiple strokes in 2014, Mr. Hockey passed away, but not before one final moment at the Joe.

Just months before his death, a packed arena sang a joyous happy birthday to the legend. It was the last tribute Motor City would give to Howe before his death. When he passed, thousands attended a public funeral at the Joe Louis Arena. Wayne Gretzky, Scotty Bowman, and Al Kaline were among the pallbearers that carried his casket down a red carpet through the middle of the arena. His famous #9 lit in spotlights on each side. In a final goodbye the vigil was open for twelve hours, and the people of Detroit came in droves to pay their respects.

4. The Flyers Honour Ed Snider

Every person who has contacted Ed Snider, every player who has donned the orange and black will always think Snider still owns the Flyers. Always have. Always will. Those were the impactful words of Sportsnet’s John Shannon in his tribute to the man who changed the face of Philadelphia sports. Snider wasn’t just another owner. He was your favorite owners’ favorite owner. He was the man people wished would take over their franchise. He wore his heart on his sleeve, and his heart bled orange. For 50 years he supported his team like no other, backing their fights, leading their battles with the league, and creating the Broad Street Bullies. He was the embodiment of Philadelphia hockey.

Perhaps it was the abruptness of it all that made the pregame ceremony on April 11th so touching. Perhaps it was the ability to step back from the intensity of the postseason to honor a legend. Whatever it was – seeing his name in orange on the ice at the Wells Fargo Center, a video tribute to him playing on the jumbotron, even hearing NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman pay tribute – it was a powerful enough moment to bring the NHL together.

3. Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson

For a brief moment in time people wondered if this was the biggest trade of the decade. In a shocking one-for-one swap Peter Chiarelli sent star left-winger Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for Adam Larsson. The move was heavily criticized from both fan bases. But from matter which side of the deal, it was clearly one of the biggest trades in recent memory, brokered by the only man who could have possibly topped it.

2. P.K. Subban Leaves Montreal

The aforementioned big trade lasted a matter of minutes. On June 29th at around 3:00 pm EST Taylor Hall became a Devil. By 3:58 pm that news was irrelevant. It had been passed by the astonishing news that P.K. Subban was no longer a Montreal Canadien. He had been traded to the Nashville Predators. Coming back the other way was Shea Weber; number-one defenseman for number-one defenseman.

It dominated the hockey news cycle, and was the talk of the summer. Once the season began attention shifted to Weber’s dominant start. As it progressed some focused on the success Subban was having in Nashville. People landed on both sides of the trade, with many in the analytics community calling it one of the most lopsided deals in recent memory. Former Canadiens statistical analyst Matt Pfeffer even went as far as to publicly say he advised against the move. When it comes to divisive moments in 2016, this tops the chart.

1. John Scott: NHL All-Star

You would be hard-pressed to find a more deserving moment in hockey this year than John Scott’s journey to the All-Star Game. What started as a joke, a hashtag on Twitter, a prod at the NHL’s all-star voting system quickly morphed into a movement. It was the crescendo of 2016, an unstoppable force that swept throughout the NHL. At the voting deadline Scott was far and away the fan-favourite. The 6’8”, 260-pound behemoth, who had tallied just 11 career points, was going to be an NHL All-Star captain. Media cried out against it. The Coyotes trade Scott to the Canadiens, who immediately sent him down to the AHL, with many speculating at the request of the league. Scott himself wasn’t even sure if he would play in the All-Star Game. After a tumultuous time, Scott decided to go, and in doing so gifted the NHL its most entertaining All-Star Game in recent memory.

He lead the tournament with wo goals, laid out, and even dropped the gloves with, Blackhawks superstar Patrick Kane. Then in front of a sold out crowd at Nationwide Arena, to thunderous applause, and chants of “MVP” he accepted the honor of being named the game’s best player. Minutes later he was back on the red carpet, this time besides Bettman, with a check worth $1 million in his hands for each of the players of Team Pacific Division — of Team John Scott.

Before the game he wrote an article, entitled A Guy Like Me for The Players Tribune. In that moment the man behind the knuckles was revealed. He wasn’t just a fighter, or a depth-player. He was a teammate, a father, a comedian, a guy who had worked his entire life for a goal, and now — now he was an All-Star. John Scott: All-Star. Has there ever been a more fitting climax to a better crescendo?

These are the top 10 moments of 2016. The year has been filled with moments, and memories, that will live on in our imagination. And while 2016 may also be remembered as the year Phil Kessel became a Stanley Cup Champion, there was so much more. From John Scott, to Gordie Howe, from Trevor Daley to Auston Matthews, 2016 has been a year in hockey unlike any other. It’s only fitting we remember it as such.

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