The Hockey World: A year of reflection

Deviating from the norm here at Pucks & Pixels, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on the moments and events that shaped, shocked and shifted the hockey world this year. So here it is, a summary of the past hockey year, some happy and some sad.

  • The fourth edition of the NHL Winter Classic was held on New Year’s Day at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at 8:00 p.m. ET. Pitting two number-one draft picks against each other, Sidney Crosby (2005, PIT) and Alexander Ovechkin (2004, WSH), the game was attended by more than 68,000 spectators and garnered the highest TV ratings in Classic history. Washington came out on top, defeating Pittsburgh 3-1, with goals from Mike Knuble (1) and Eric Fehr (2). Pittsburgh’s lone goal was scored by Evgeni Malkin.
  • One of the NHL’s most prominent players, Sidney Crosby, suffered not one, but two devastating blows to the head within the space of five days. The first was delivered during the Winter Classic by Washington’s Dave Steckel, the second blow on January 5th by Victor Hedman. Due to severe concussion symptoms, Crosby did not return for the remainder of the 2010-2011 season, and also missed the first twenty games of the 2011-2012 season. He made his return on November 21st against the New York Islanders, notching two goals and two assists in the 5-0 win. Despite that promising game, Crosby has since returned to the injured list, stating that his concussion symptoms have returned. There is no timetable for his return to hockey, but his injury has sparked a major call for change in the way players deliver hits and how the league handles concussions.
  • Former San Jose Shark Tom Cavanagh was found dead on January 6th, in the parking lot of Providence Place Mall in Rhode Island. His death was attributed to multiple traumatic injuries due to blunt force trauma, and was classified as a suicide since Cavanagh suffered from schizophrenia and had been institutionalized several times before his death. Cavanagh was described as “a very unselfish, hard-working team guy who played his best in big games,” by his former Harvard hockey coach, Ted Donato. He scored his lone NHL goal on March 28, 2009, against the Phoenix Coyotes.
  • The 58th NHL All-Star Game was held on January 30th, at the RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina, where the Carolina Hurricanes played host. Detroit Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom and Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal were chosen by their peers as captains of the two respective All-Star teams. Team Lidstrom skated away with a 11-10 win, while Patrick Sharp of Team Staal was voted MVP of the game after being a write-in.
  • Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens suffered easily one of the scariest injuries of the 2010-2011 season, if not the scariest. After taking a hit from Boston’s Zdeno Chara on March 8th, Patches collided with the nearby stanchion between the team benches…and then laid motionless on the ice for several long minutes. He was taken away on a stretcher, and good news soon spread that he was alert and able to move his arms. It was released the next day that Pacioretty had suffered a severe concussion and a fracture to the fourth cervical vertebra. Essentially, if Patches had attempted to move on his own after the hit, he could have easily severed his cervical spinal nerve and died on the ice. He went through major rehab, recovering fully and just in time for the 2011-2012 season. The stanchions between the benches are now better padded, set farther back from the ice, and rounded at the corners to prevent any future injuries such as Pacioretty’s.
  • On May 28th, Derek Boogaard of the New York Rangers died of an accidental drug overdose while recovering from a concussion. Boogaard, an enforcer, was well-loved by New York fans and those of the Minnesota Wild, his former team. His rough on-ice personality had gained him the nicknames “The Boogeyman” and “The Mountie,” and he was even voted the second most intimidating player in 2007 behind Georges Laraque. Upon further examination of Boogaard’s brain, it was found that he had suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy more advanced than that seen in some former enforcers who had died in middle age. It is thought that multiple concussions sustained throughout his career were the cause of this condition. Boogaard’s death has raised several issues within the league about fighting, head injuries and the psychological effect that fighting has on players since Boogaard did suffer from depression. His brain was donated to the Sports Legacy Institute, the same place that former NHL player Bob Probert’s brain was donated to. Probert also suffered from the degenerative brain disease Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.
  • May 31st saw the official end of hockey in Atlanta, Georgia. Due to plaguing financial struggles, the Atlanta Spirit Group sold the Atlanta Thrashers, who had played in the Peach State since 1999, to True North Sports & Entertainment, which then in turn relocated the team to Winnipeg and renamed it the Jets. Both the sale and relocation were approved on June 21st by the NHL’s Board of Governors. Many Atlanta fans were left upset and disheartened by the loss of their team, and several franchises, including the Nashville Predators and Carolina Hurricanes, have since tried to sway former Thrasher fans to their own teams.
  • Soon after his son Gregory and his team, the Boston Bruins, made it to the Stanley Cup Finals on June 1st, Colin Campbell stepped down as the NHL’s head disciplinarian, a role he had held since 1998. He was often the center of much controversy regarding player disciplinary and his supposed bias for certain teams. Campbell was replaced by Brendan Shanahan, who has since handed out several suspensions and fines, earning both respect and dissatisfaction from NHL fans.
  • Following a brutal series that included the sidelining of Boston’s Nathan Horton and Vancouver’s Mason Raymond due to injury, the Boston Bruins were crowned the 2011 Stanley Cup Champions on June 15th after defeating the Vancouver Canucks 4-0 in Game 7. This was the 118th year of the Cup’s presentation, Boston’s sixth championship title and the first Cup they had won since 1972.
  • After the defeat of the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup Finals on June 15th, fans and spectators took to the streets of Vancouver. Cars were flipped, windows were smashed and much of downtown Vancouver felt the wrath of upset Canucks fans. It was concluded that at least 140 people were injured during the riot, one critically. At least four people were stabbed, nine police officers were injured, and 101 people were arrested that night, with 16 further arrests following the event. Despite the grim night, the next morning was a brighter one for the city of Vancouver as thousands of volunteers organized clean-up efforts via Facebook, Myspace and Twitter, many of them showing up wearing Canucks jerseys. There was even a Bruins fan spotted helping with the clean-up.
  • Harley Hotchkiss, one of the original owners who brought the Atlanta Flames to Calgary in 1980, died at the age of 83 on June 22nd from prostate cancer. Hotchkiss is best known for his contributions to health and sports development in Canada.
  • On June 22nd, the 2011 NHL Awards Show was broadcast live from fabulous Las Vegas. I noted the awards and highlights in my personal blog:
    • James Norris Memorial Trophy recipient:  Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings
    • Art Ross Trophy recipient:  Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
    • Mark Messier Leadership Award recipient:  Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins
    • Frank J. Selke recipient:  Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks
    • Jack Adams Award recipient:  Dan Bylsma, Pittsburgh Penguins
    • Calder Memorial Trophy recipient:  Jeff Skinner, Carolina Hurricanes
    • Bobby Ryan loses again…
    • NHL12 Cover Athlete:  Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
    • William M. Jennings Trophy recipient:  Roberto Luongo & Cory Schneider, Vancouver Canucks
    • General Manager of the Year:  Mike Gillis, Vancouver Canucks
    • Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy recipient:  Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks
    • Ted Lindsay Award recipient:  Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
    • Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy recipient:  Ian Laperriere, Philadelphia Flyers
    • A moment to remember Harley Hotchkiss. Fans on Twitter also remember Derek Boogaard. May they both rest in piece.
    • Kind Clancy Memorial Trophy recipient:  Doug Weight, New York Islanders
    • Goal of the Year:  Jordan Eberle, Edmonton Oilers
    • Lady Byng Memorial Trophy recipient:  Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning
    • Phil Pritchard, Keeper of the Cup, got robbed. No like really.
    • The Stanley Cup is brought onto the stage. We all genuflect and pray to the Hockey Gods, thanking them for this beautiful gift.
    • Foundation Player Award recipient:  Dustin Brown, LA Kings
    • Vezina Trophy recipient:  Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins
    • Hart Memorial Trophy recipient:  Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks
  • The 49th annual NHL Entry Draft was held on June 24-25th, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.  This was the first time that the Draft was held in Minnesota since the former Minnesota North Stars (now the Dallas Stars) hosted the 1989 NHL Entry Draft. The top ten picks were as followed:
    1. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Edmonton Oilers)
    2. Gabriel Landeskog (Colorado Avalanche)
    3. Jonathan Huberdeau (Florida Panthers)
    4. Adam Larsson (New Jersey Devils)
    5. Ryan Strome (New York Islanders)
    6. Mika Zibanejad (Ottawa Senators)
    7. Mark Scheifele (Winnipeg Jets)
    8. Sean Couturier (Philadelphia Flyers)
    9. Dougie Hamilton (Boston Bruins)
    10. Jonas Brodin (Minnesota Wild)
  • Shortly before the start of the 2011-2012, on August 15th, Rick Rypien of the Vancouver Canucks was found dead in his Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, home. His death was confirmed as a suicide. Rypien, another NHL enforcer, had suffered from depression for more than a decade, a matter that was addressed and attended to by the Canucks in 2008. His teammate Kevin Bieksa took a personal interest in young Rypien, making sure that he was well looked after and even going as far as allowing him to live with him and his family in Vancouver for a short while. Rypien’s death, along with the death of fellow enforcer Derek Boogaard, spurred even more talk about the psychological needs of hockey players.
  • On August 31st, Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli announced that Marc Savard would not play during the 2011-2012 season. Chiarelli also added, “Based on what I see, what I hear, what I read, and what I’m told, it’s very unlikely Marc will play again”. This was just one more sad chapter in the Savard saga that had been going on since he suffered his concussion on March 7th, 2010 after being delivered a hit to the head by Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke. Savard, well loved by Bruins fans, came back to play in the postseason, but was shut down again on February 8th, after experiencing another concussion. Despite this, his name is engraved on the Stanley Cup alongside his teammate. Believed to be permanently sidelined from the NHL, Savard now coaches his son Zach’s hockey team.
  • Less than three weeks after the death of Rick Rypien, former NHL player and enforcer Wade Belak was found dead at approximately 1:33 p.m. on August 31st, in a condo at the One King Street West hotel in Toronto. His death was the third of NHL players in a four-month span. Initially it was treated as a suicide, as Belak was suffering from depression according to his mother. However, it was later suggested that Belak’s death was accidental and has since gone down as such, but that makes it no less tragic.
  • Adding to what fans were quickly dubbing the summer of sadness, a plane carrying the entire KHL Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team to Minsk went down on September 7th. Everyone aboard was killed during the crash with the exception of one crew member and Lokomotiv player Alexander Galimov, who later died from the injuries he sustained during the wreck. Forward Maxim Zyuzyakin and goaltending coach Jorma Valtonen were the only team members to survive as they were not aboard the plane. The crash devastated the hockey community, as many of the players that died were former NHL players and coaches. Memorial services and moments of silence were held in rinks around the world, and Love for Lokomotiv was launched by hockey wives that spanned several different leagues in an effort to help family members left heart broken and bereft by the crash. The loss of the KHL team was by far the most devastating event that the hockey community experienced this season. It shook it to the core and then reverberated ten fold. The sadness we all felt was sharp and painful. Pictures of the crash remain burned in our memories. Images of Marian Hossa and Zdeno Chara, men who are usually strong, sobbing at the funeral of Pavol Demitra left many crying as well. It was truly the saddest moment for the game of hockey this year, one that fans, players and coaches won’t be quick to forget.
  • On September 22nd, during a preseason game in London, Ontario between the Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings, a banana was thrown on the ice by a fan while Wayne Simmonds (PHI) was taking his shootout shot. This action was seen as grossly racist, as Simmonds is the only player of African-Canadian descent between the two teams. The reaction from fans was almost immediate, and many cried for justice. Eventually the culprit was found, a mister Christopher Moorhouse, and charged with engaging in a prohibited activity under the Trespass Act. For the most part, this event brought out the universal compassion of hockey fans, showing that a majority do not care what race their hockey players are.
  • Not even a week after he was the victim of a potential racial slur, Wayne Simmonds was accused of an anti-gay slur by New York Rangers player Sean Avery on September 27th. Again, this sparked the general outrage of hockey fans and even prompted GLAAD to call for an apology from Simmonds. However, due to a lack of concrete evidence and the on-ice officials and players denying the slur, the league chose to not discipline Simmonds.
  • Due to the relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg, the NHL Board of Governors approved a conference realignment plan on December 5th that will eliminate the current six-division structure and move into a four-conference setup.
  • On December 17th, Jacques Martin was fired as the head coach of the Montreal Canadiens, making him the sixth coach to be fired thus far this season. The five other coaches to get the boot were Davis Payne (STL), Randy Carlyle (ANA), Paul Maurice (CAR), Bruce Boudreau (WSH), and Terry Murray (LAK). Boudreau has subsequently been hired as the head coach for Anaheim, replacing Carlyle.

Well, that’s about it. Hopefully I have covered most of the important moments and events from 2011. Here’s to hoping that 2012 is a happier year for the hockey community and that we learn some important lessons from 2011.

-Alex

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One response to “The Hockey World: A year of reflection”

  1. Acer 7110 Battery says :

    Was gonna play a drinking game to celebrate Mike Knuble’s 1000th game but decided against it because I’d be hammered by the 1st intermission

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