…And we’re back! Happy New Year!
With 2018 now fully in the rearview mirror, let’s continue our countdown of the top ten hockey stories of the year, shall we?
5.) Alex Ovechkin Swimming in a Fountain (and the Washington Capitals Winning the Cup)
Has a Stanley Cup-winning team ever celebrated as hard as the 2017-2018 Washington Capitals did? Well, maybe, but if any team did outparty Ovechkin and his gang of hooligans, then it certainly didn’t happen in as public of a fashion as how the Caps did it.
What was awesome about Washington’s approach to celebrating its first Stanley Cup in franchise history was the way that the fans were involved in the celebration. For example, Ovechkin probably could have rented out a private fountain in which to practice his front crawl, but he opted for a regular old fountain in the middle of DC and gave the fans the opportunity to swim right along with him. And what about TJ Oshie’s Hollow Man stunt? Sure, he could have saved that for the late-night shenanigans with the boys, but he opted to do that right out in the world for everybody to marvel at it and imitate it.
Joking aside, it really was an awesome run by the Capitals, and after years of playoff disappointments, this was a city, a franchise, and a Russian superstar that absolutely deserved a long moment in the sun.
4.) Vegas Golden Knights Reaching the Stanley Cup Final
Vegas checks in above the Capitals because even though Washington ultimately beat the Golden Knights in the Final, the story of the first VGK’s team will live on in our minds for a very long time. I don’t know that the same can be said of the Capitals’ Stanley Cup win, because… let’s be honest… somebody hoists that thing and gets drunk every year.
If ever there were an NHL team that practically the entire hockey world seemed to simultaneously rally around, it would be the inaugural Golden Knights. An expansion team is supposed to absolutely stink, as has been the case with every other expansion team in the history of the league. But the VGK’s spent the entire year proving every member of the media, every smug fan, and every naysayer wrong, all the way through the playoffs until the magic finally ran out in the Cup Final. Heck, I even remember hearing the team’s owner, Bill Foley, doing an in-game interview early in the season, and saying something along the lines of not expecting much from his team and cautioning the fans that it would take time to build.
Aside from just the fact it was an expansion team that had incredible success in its first season, when recalling the circumstances surrounding the franchise—the horrific shooting that happened in Las Vegas just before the home opener, and the team engraining itself in the community to help residents heal—it can still be chill-inducing to think about the magical run of the Vegas Golden Knights.
I mean… how cool was that?
Nothing makes me feel more pride as a fan of hockey than those rare moments that it goes beyond just being a niche sport. This was definitely one of the those moments, as the entire nation was so captivated by these women and what they had accomplished, finally treating them like the superstars that they are upon their return to the States from Pyeongchang.
The gold medal game, in and of itself, was an awe-inspiring event to witness, especially when you think back to how badly Team Canada had had USA’s proverbial number in Olympic competition. It had been 20 years since women’s hockey debuted in the Olympics with USA winning the first gold in Nagano, only to have Canada take it home the next four times.
And in the most recent Olympics prior to the 2018 Games, USA had lost in devastating fashion in Sochi, blowing a 2-0 lead to Canada with under four minutes left, and ultimately losing in overtime. So seeing Monique Lamoureux tie the game with six minutes left, then Jocelyne Lamoureux seal the victory with one of the nastiest shootout goals ever… it was just awesome.
For a segment of the sport that almost always gets unfairly overlooked, this was an incredible moment.
2.) The Humboldt Broncos Bus Tragedy and the Rallying of the Hockey Community
As much as I wanted to keep the list light and fun, this is a story that simply could not be excluded. On April 6th, 2018, the unthinkable happened when the bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos, en route to their SJHL playoff game against the Nipawin Hawks, collided head-on with a semi-truck. The crash killed sixteen people and injured thirteen, most of them members of the team and its staff.
It was a horrific event, no doubt, but seeing the way that the hockey community rallied around Humboldt in the aftermath was an undeniably uplifting experience. From the #PutYourSticksOut movement, in which people all across Canada and the US left hockey sticks outside their doors, just in case the boys might need them, to tributes from just about every hockey team on the planet, to a GoFundMe campaign that quickly raised more than $15 million for the victims’ families, the Broncos became a symbol of just how closely-knit the hockey community is. We will battle on the ice, but at the end of the day, we all share a love for the sport and the people that play it, and when needed, we will step up and help one another.
1.) The NHL Awarding Its 32nd Franchise to Seattle
The biggest story of 2018—and perhaps I’m a bit biased here, based on my place of residence and the fact that I write for a blog that has focused exclusively on bringing an NHL team to Seattle—is that Seattle is GETTING AN NHL TEAM!
It was an incredible year for hockey fans in Seattle, which saw an arena deal finally get approved in September and on December 4th finally heard NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman say the words that we had been longing for… that our great city is getting a franchise. The announcement was a credit to those in the community that have helped build momentum and awareness from a grassroots perspective, and a huge win for people all across the Pacific Northwest.
Sure, 2019 will be great, but 2021 can’t come soon enough!