We all know as fans that underneath the gruff exterior of hockey is a soft, warm spirit. On the ice hockey players are tough. Off the ice they're some of the nicest athletes you'll ever encounter. Which is why it's no surprise to see so many endearing moments in 2013, from players and fans alike.
There were inspirational moments borne out of tragedy; final goodbyes and wishes granted, all that made for memorable heartwarming scenes in hockey.
Here are our 10 heartwarming moments in hockey of 2013.
10. Jarome Iginla/Daniel Alfredsson/Saku Koivu/Teemu Selanne
They are living legends and were given the chance to say both hello and goodbye this season. Iginla and Alfredsson returned to Calgary and Ottawa, respectively, for the first time since they left their long-time places of residence. Both were given tribute videos during a stoppage in play and both received an outpouring of love for what they did during their time there.
We know Selanne is retiring after this season and it's a good possibility Koivu joins his fellow Finn in hanging up the skates. Teammates in Anaheim, the two were given the opportunity to say goodbye to fans who they made their biggest impact in front of: Montreal for Koivu and Winnipeg for Selanne.
9. Bruins honor Sam Berns
"Life According to Sam" documented Sam Berns and his family's battled against Progeria, the genetic condition that produces rapid aging in children. In November, the Bruins hosted "Progeria Night," and the 17-year old Berns did the honors during the ceremonial pre-game face-off:
Long overdue, legendary Philadelphia Flyers head coach Fred Shero was voted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2013. With Fred having died in 1990, his son, Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ray Shero, did the honors of speaking on his behalf during the induction ceremony in November. During the speech, the young Shero took a moment to recognize the number of former Flyers in the crowd who played under "The Fog":
“ALL I WANT FOR XMAS IS A HOCKEY PUCK," read the young Lightning fan's sign. Sitting near the glass increased his odds of snagging one, but sometimes you don't get the opportunity, even being so close to the action.
That happened here, but luckily the fan who caught the puck saw the kid's sign and granted his wish:
After citing concerns about an eye injury, the Vancouver Canucks shut Malhotra down for the 2013 season in February. He returned to the NHL after a brief stint in the AHL and signed with Carolina. In his third game back after almost a year away from the game, Malhotra netted the overtime winner, his first goal since March 26, 2012.
Out of the Boston Marathon bombings in April came the "Boston Strong" theme that brought pride to the area. When sports resumed days later, fans displayed their pride with chants and singing. One of the more memorable moments was on April 17 when the Bruins hosted the Buffalo Sabres. It was the first major sporting event in the city since the bombings and it was emotional. After TD Garden anthem singer Rene Rancourt starting to belt out the National Anthem, Bruins fans took over:
For every Toronto Maple Leafs home game at Air Canada Centre, a player will donate a luxury box to charity. On Oct. 22, Phil Kessel donated a box to 24 children and their families from Childhood Cancer Canada. Kessel, a cancer survivor himself, put on a show for those kids by tallying a hat trick during a 4-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks:
During Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final, Sgt. Dale Dick surprised his family at United Center after being away on deployment for nine months. As a surprise for Dick, he met his son, who was born was he was away.
2. Young player helps teammate score
Special Hockey International helps developmentally challenged kids play hockey. In March, this video went viral showing one teammate assisting another in scoring a goal. The celebration at the end is the best.
Coyle's moment with a young Wild fan really captured how much the game of hockey makes us feel on the inside and just how much impact professional athletes can have on someone. This little kid probably never expected Coyle to respond to him, but when he did it made his day.
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