Top 10 best pop culture hockey moments of 2016 (Puck Daddy Year in Hockey)


(Puck Daddy presents its annual look back at the year in hockey. Check back every day through the New Year for our many lists and hot takes.)

Hockey and popular culture go hand-in-hand in a lot of areas, from television shows to movies to music. The sport is a part of all walks every day life in all parts of the world.

The year 2016 showed us many areas where hockey was involved in many different types of pop culture.

Here are the Top 10 best pop culture hockey moments of 2016. Please list anyone we missed, or your own list, in the comments!

10. Hockey world mourns the death of Alan Thicke

Alan Thicke was one of hockey’s biggest celebrity fans. He had performed musical numbers with NHL players, provided entertainment at past NHL awards, helped launch the Tampa Bay Lightning and greased the wheels for Wayne Gretzky’s trade to the Los Angeles Kings.

When Thicke died at the age of 69 on Dec. 13 after suffering a heart attack while playing hockey with his son, the hockey community posted several tributes on social media, honoring Thicke and his life.

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“In addition to being a passionate fan, Alan was an energetic participant in many of our events, including All-Star, charity games and Awards shows. He frequently attended games, and was with us as recently as September’s World Cup,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement provided by the league. “Alan always displayed humor and grace and he will be greatly missed. We send condolences to Alan’s wife, Tanya, and the rest of his family as well as to his countless friends and the multitudes he entertained.”

9. Minnesota Wild choose Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” as new goal song

After the death of Prince last April, the Minnesota Wild temporarily changed their goal song to the local pop icon’s hit “Let’s Go Crazy” from Joe Satriani’s “Crowd Chant” for Game 6 in their first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series.

The team also held a moment of silence for Prince before the game and made other tributes to the fallen star.

Fans seemed to enjoy the song so much that the Wild offered season ticket holders a survey to see if they wanted to use it to replace “Crowd Chant.” They said yes and “Let’s Go Crazy” is now played after every Wild home goal.

8. Reading Royals’ KISS themed jerseys

The Reading Royals of the ECHL wanted to show their love of the band KISS and tie this appreciation into charity.

So on Nov. 12 they sold KISS themed jerseys during their game against the Manchester Monarchs. Then on Nov. 26, fans watched the Royals wearing the same KISS jerseys when they hosted the Cincinnati Cyclones.

The Nov. 26 game was the Royals’ “Night of Hope” which will raise funds for Hope Rescue Mission in Reading.

The team noted in an email announcing the event that “the Reading Royals and our fans are some of the biggest KISS fans in the world.”

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7. Manchester by the Sea

This Oscar frontrunner starring Casey Affleck has some hockey elements to it. Patrick, portrayed by Lucas Hedges, plays the sport in the film. Here is the trailer which shows some hockey scenes.

6. Leonardo DiCaprio hides at a New York Islanders game

In early April, superstar actor Leonardo DiCaprio went to a New York Islanders game at Barclays Center, but he didn’t want anyone to know he was there. So DiCaprio – who won an Academy Award for “The Revenant” the previous month – took his Cal Golden Bears hat and used it to cover his face when the television camera panned on him.

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“It’s tough to watch a hockey game when you got your hat down that far, isn’t it?” quipped New York analyst Butch Goring.

5. Metallica’s national anthem at the Stanley Cup Final

The San Jose Sharks did their best to blend pop culture and local celebrities with their playoff run. Over the course of the postseason, Olympic gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, former U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, former Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch and San Francisco 49ers great Ronnie Lott all opened up their locker room door before the team hit the ice.

But San Jose’s best moment came in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final when Metallica lead singer and guitarist James Hetfield and lead guitarist Kirk Hammett took to the ice to perform the U.S. national anthem. They did not sing. They just played guitars and wowed the crowd.

Metallica are Bay Area residents and have held a longstanding relationship with the Sharks. In 2015 the team held “Metallica Night” and San Jose also heads onto the ice from their locker room with the band’s cover of “Search and Destroy” playing in the background.

4. Justin Bieber’s drop-ins on tour

Pop star Justin Bieber is quite the puck head. The 22-year-old London, Ontario native has been seen at a lot of NHL games throughout his career and brings his gear on tour if he wants to get in a skate.

Bieber has been known to drop in at hockey practices while on tour, ranging from a 2014 club team practice in Atlanta to a Los Angeles rink last summer.

On his recent European tour, Bieber played hockey with EHC Red Bull München

He also laced up his skates in Denmark.

Bieber had a situation where he wanted to to practice in Manchester, England where the local team wasn’t ready for him and had to get prepared at a moment’s notice. After the ice session, Bieber took the players out for drinks and they all ended up spending a night on the town.

“The boys said they were feeling like royalty last night,” said Neil Russell, general manager of the Manchester Storm of the Elite Ice Hockey League in the U.K. “The security staff said this hasn’t happened before, where he’s taken a hockey team out with him and had some drinks and what have you. It’s pretty cool.”

3. Celebrity Rangers fans try to woo Jimmy Vesey to New York

Last summer as prized college prospect Jimmy Vesey tried to figure out where to sign as an unrestricted free agent, several of the New York Rangers’ celebrity fans did their best to sway the Hobey Baker winner to choose the the Big Apple.

Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard, actor Jerry Ferrara and local radio host and former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason had all sent their Rangers’ pitches into cyberspace.

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There was even a rumor that actor Liam Neeson shot a video, using a line from his movie “Taken” to get Vesey to come to New York.

Vesey ultimately chose the Rangers, but said the attempts from New York’s bigger-named Rangers supporters to get him to sign with the team didn’t play a role.

“They were pretty funny and pretty cool that those celebrities were reaching out to me,” Vesey said. “I don’t think it had a factor in the decision, so to speak, but one of the things I definitely liked about New York was the top-notch lifestyle that the city offers.”

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2. Kevin Spacey goes to a Panthers game

In December of 2015 people around the Florida Panthers noticed forward Aleksander Barkov wearing sweatshirt with Kevin Spacey’s head floating in space. From that point on, the association between the Oscar winning actor and the team went viral.

The team started selling ‘Spacey in Space’ sweatshirts, with proceeds going to charity, defenseman Aaron Ekblad took the sweatshirt to the All-Star Game, and when Barkov signed his contract extension in January, he thanked Spacey.

This partnership culminated on March 19 of 2016, when Spacey attended a Panthers home game against the Detroit Red Wings.

“He thought it would be fun (to visit) and he came down on his own volition,” Panthers owner Doug Cifu said. “It’s unbelievably random but I feel very blessed that he’s chosen us to be interested in.”

1. HBK line in Pittsburgh and Shawn Michaels

When the Pittsburgh Penguins put together the line of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel, the trio became dubbed the ‘HBK Line’ by fans and media. This was in honor of pro wrestler Shawn Michaels, who was known at the Heartbreak Kid or HBK.

Michaels was in the building for Game 5 of the Penguins’ Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning and wore a Pittsburgh jersey.

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There were also t-shirts made mashing up Michaels and the Penguins’ Stanley Cup run.

Famed Pittsburgh sandwich shop Primanti Brothers created an HBK sandwich.

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Because of the HBK Line, Michaels will forever be an intrinsic part of the memories from that team’s Cup championship.

Puck Daddy Year In Hockey 2016

Top 10 players of 2016

Top 10 most shocking transactions of 2016

Top 10 most heinous on-ice acts

Top 10 social media moments of 2016 (Puck Daddy Year in Hockey)

Top 10 images of 2016

Top 10 biggest busts of 2016

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!