Hockey Hugs is a feature that celebrates the best in hugging from around the NHL, because who doesn't love a good hug now and then? Seen a particularly good hug photo lately? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hockey is a fast-paced, rugged game, full of fighting, checking, slashing, and many other manners of aggression and violence. Men lose teeth, they split lips, they get concussed, and they break bones.
However, somehow, hockey games also produce some of the tenderest photos in sports.
Photos like the one above, as Matt Cullen and his Minnesota Wild teammates whisper sweet-nothings into one another's ears upon scoring a power-play goal versus the Anaheim Ducks.
And if the Minnesota Wild's three-man cuddle session doesn't tune your heartstrings, check out the love Patrick Kane's got for Jonathan Toews.
Heck, I'm not even sure this photo was taken after a goal. Looks to me like these two just worked through some serious emotional issues.
"Now that you're a centre, I don't see as much of you as I used to, Pat." "I miss you too, buddy. Let's never take each other for granted again."
And these are just the honourable mentions. Let's look at the five best hugs from the past two weeks.
No. 5, Buffalo Sabres: My favourite thing about this Buffalo Sabres hug is the way Christian Ehrhoff seems set on getting his arms around everyone. Look at the focus and determination on his face. This man will not be deterred.
Meanwhile, Columbus Blue Jackets' defenseman Fedor Tyutin watches with jealousy and confusion. Wow, so that's what happens when you score a goal, huh? I want that.
No. 4, Anaheim Ducks: Judging from this photo, Ryan Getzlaf is some sort of religious figure. Lubomir Visnovsky and Corey Perry are just in awe of being touched by him.
Whoa... Ryan Getzlaf... I am so lucky right now.
No. 3, St. Louis Blues: Our second runner-up this week comes courtesy of Matt D'Agostini and Carlo Colaiacovo from the St. Louis Blues. They couldn't be happier. This hug comes immediately after D'Agostini scored the overtime winner versus the Carolina Hurricanes, a goal that was assisted by Alex Pietrangelo and Vladimir Sabotka.
I just really want to know who they're calling over. Red rover, red rover, we call Vladimir over!
No. 2, Hannover Scorpions: Our runner-up this week comes to us all the way from Germany. That's the Hannover Scorpions celebrating a goal against the Hamburg Freezers at the O2 World Arena in Hamburg. I just can't get enough of Willem Dafoe on the right there.
I'm also partial to the fact that there appear to be about 24 hockey sticks in this photo. I'm fairly certain the Scorpions are tangled. The guy on the left seems to be just realizing it.
No. 1, Toronto Maple Leafs: Was there ever any doubt that Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf's leaping superhug -- the leapingest, super-huggingest embrace the NHL season had yielded to date -- was going to earn top spot this week? It's like they staged this photo just to get into the feature.
Either that, or Ron Wilson finally agreed to let them trade roommates. Yay! Sleepover!