December 28, 2010
The Hockey Year of 2010 is nearly over. Oh, the memories that were made, the moments we shared, the Photoshops we created, the phallic mascots we giggled at, the videos that we played on an endless loop until we memorized them like experts.
These are not the 20 "top" stories of 2010. These are not the 20 "most important" stories of 2010, unless you consider a blogger throwing a plastic snake on the ice during a playoff game to be of great consequence.
No, these are our 20 favorite hockey stories of 2010.
And here ... we ... go.
20. The Legend of Tore Vikingstad
The Norwegian hockey star made his presence known in the Vancouver Olympics. From Fourth Place Medal: "Forgetting for a moment that we're dealing with perhaps the greatest name in hockey history, Vikingstad also scored four goals for the Norge, including a hat trick in a terrific game against the Swiss. But yeah, back on the name: The only way it could be better is if Tore spoke about himself in the third person ("VIKINGSTAD IS SAD NOW... WHERE IS VIKINGSTAD'S BEER?")."
19. The Shark With an Octopus in Its Mouth
In Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals between the San Jose Sharks and the Detroit Red Wings, a fan tossed a sizable shark with an octopus stitched into its mouth onto the HP Pavilion ice. Which was hilarious, given the Wings' traditions.
We got the inside story on who threw it, how they procured the props and how they smuggled it in: Via a 6-foot-3 lacrosse player, rubber-banding the shark to his leg, securing it with duct tape and then having him wear a large, baggy pair of sweatpants over it. It was quite a Shark ... tale.
18. Time Lapse Rink Building
Three minutes and 47 seconds of hockey awesome. Ross Bergen 50-feet-by-30-feet rink in Massachusetts nearly sprung Coldplay from "40-Year-Old Virgin"/"You know how I know you're gay?" prison. Speaking of which:
Someone, whether it was a locker-room reveler or a member of the team, paid tribute to Philadelphia Flyers defenseman/tormentor Chris Pronger during the Chicago Blackhawks' postgame Cup celebration in Philly, writing "Is Gay" next to his name on a whiteboard. Which is totally jumping to conclusions by the way, just because the guy is a cross-dresser.
Seriously, though: While this sort of mockery is offensive on several levels, it's also an indication that Pronger was so far in his opponents' heads that he set up a base camp in their cerebral cortexes.
16. History Will Be Meme
The commercials were everywhere on NHL broadcasts: A classic highlight plays, suddenly stops, begins to play in reverse over piano music before the thought-provoking stinger at the end ("What if Messier didn't lift an entire city?")
Fans quickly realized the structure and tone of the videos made them ripe for parody, and the History Will Be Made meme spread through the blogosphere and YouTube. Every famous and infamous moment in NHL history got lampooned ... and it even ventured into hockey pop culture, such as this classic Mighty Ducks parody:
15. Inglorious Backes
After being named to the U.S. Olympic team, David Backes(notes) of the St. Louis Blues began dismantling Team Canada with his fists: Fighting Jonathan Toews(notes), Corey Perry(notes) and Rick Nash(notes) in the five games following Team USA's roster announcement. His exploits earned him the moniker Inglorious Backes, which inspired a now-collector's item T-shirt.
The fabulous Philadelphia Flyers forward ... OK, let's stop right there. Do you realize how difficult that phrase is to say when you've been struck in the mouth with a puck, lost several teeth and then had your new teeth stolen? Ian Laperriere does, as was apparent in this classic "outtakes" commercial from the Flyers:
For a few weeks in February, it was a Jaromir Jagr nostalgia fest, as he turned back the clock for the Czechs and inspired mullets in the Vancouver stands. It was all going so well ... until that Ovechkin hit.
Yet that wasn't the only Jagr moment of the year. Please recall our summer Mount Puckmore project in which fans of all 30 teams placed the four faces that define their franchises on a mountaintop. Jim Schmiedeberg of Blueshirt Banter did the New York Rangers and decided that one of the four faces of this Original Six franchise was ... Jaromir Jagr?
We all laughed at him and "What, no Jagr?" was born.
12. Terrible Minor League Jerseys
Whew, there were so many of them. The River Rats' McDonald's themed jerseys and the yellow ice. The Las Vegas Wranglers dressing like Santa and like a girl scout. But nothing could compare to the twin titans of terrible minor league jerseys this year: The Florida Everblades neon green holiday sweaters and the Saskatoon Blades' denim nightmares.
The Reign of BizNasty began in July, when an ill-advised (but hilarious) Tweet about Ilya Kovalchuk's(notes) contract rejection ("Sory Communist ... back to the Soviet.") led to the unfortunate shuddering of his first Twitter account. But from the ashes BizNasty2point0 was born, as the Phoenix Coyotes pugilist Tweeted candid thoughts to a growing following of 30,000 readers and was embraced by mainstream media (CBC, TSN, The Hockey News) as a player who finally figured out how to use social media to grow his brand and connect with fans. Instead of doing, you know, this.
10. Jonathan Toews and the Pig Nose Mural
In honor of the Chicago Blackhawks' run to the Stanley Cup, a mural was painted near the Eisenhower Expressway in Chicago that featured captain Jonathan Toews ... with a pig nose. There was also outrage over his being shown "touching" the Stanley Cup before winning it, which is the jinx of all jinxes. The mural was whitewashed, the Blackhawks won the Cup and Toews no longer looked like an escapee from the Island of Dr. Moreau.
9. Throw the Snake!
Inspired lunacy from the online hockey community. Coyotes blogger Travis Hair became the focal point of a campaign urging him to throw a rubber snake on the ice during the Phoenix Coyotes' first home playoff game since 2002, against the Detroit Red Wings. "There's going to be some moron there with an octopus who's going to throw it on the ice. Why not have one little octopus look pathetic next to a thousand rubber snakes? Why not?" he said.
In the first period, cameras showed a linesman skating away holding a rubber snake after a Keith Yandle(notes) goal. A Twitter meme became a playoff reality in one of the weirdest stories of the year.
8. The Belfast Giants Do Mariah
We called it the Greatest Hockey Music Video of All-Time, and that is not hyperbole. The Belfast Giants' uninhibited ticket plea set to Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You" was an unforgettable holiday classic for so many, many reasons.
The year began with Patrick Kane bare-chested (and pants unbuckled) in the back of a limo in Vancouver, to the embarrassment of many. Then Kane scored the game-winning goal in the Stanley Cup Finals and became the guy who can freely joke about his past indiscretions and have us all laugh along ... like during his boozy parade appearance in which he said he loved "all the cab drivers out there." Awesome.
On a more straight-laced list, Crosby's overtime goal to give Team Canada the gold medal on their home Olympic ice would be the no-questions-asked No. 1. And it was the best hockey moment of the year, no question ... for Photoshop contests.
The Sidney Crosby Golden Roar was one of those rare moments in which the source material produced some instant classics, like the curling one above. The full gallery of 311 images is here.
5. The Columbus Blue Jackets Unzip To Reveal Their Mascot
Last week, the Columbus Blue Jackets debuted a new alternate mascot to go along with their new alternate sweaters: Boomer the Cannon, described as "a kid-friendly, cushy cannon character with a friendly face and fluffy moustache reminiscent of a Civil War-era general." Alas, it also resembled something else in the eyes of Brian Hickey and the readers at Deadspin. No, not a diner-quality salt shaker; male genitalia!
Sources told the Columbus Dispatch this month that Boomer was going to be phased out as a secondary mascot. What a tease.
4. Tyler Dellow Cracks the Case
Looking back on it, what Toronto-based Oilers blogger Tyler Dellow did was so simple: Connecting the dots on emails sent by NHL VP Colin Campbell that were submitted as evidence in a Labour Relations Board case but had been scrubbed of some details.
What he accomplished was extraordinary: Linking Campbell to disparaging comments made about Boston Bruins star Marc Savard(notes) and, most damningly, to comments regarding penalties called on his son Gregory Campbell(notes) in conversations with the NHL director of officiating.
It didn't lead to a massive investigation or a firing or anything that seismic. But it forever altered (or confirmed) fans' perceptions of Campbell and the NHL's supplemental discipline system ... and exposed Campbell as someone who hadn't completely grasped the nuances of electronic communication.
It was one of those moments that brings it all home that these men playing this game are some of the most outstanding individuals in professional sports. Washington Capitals center Brooks Laich, after having his team eliminated from the playoffs in a Game 7 loss to the No. 8 seeded Montreal Canadiens, stopped when he saw Mary Ann Wangemann and her daughter stranded alone on Washington D.C.'s Roosevelt Bridge, and then fixed a flat tire on their 2008 Acura while cars sped past him.
"Here's a player that wasn't having the best of days. He could have driven by like everyone else did, and he didn't," she said.
In April, then-Ottawa Senators defenseman Andy Sutton delivered a hit to then-Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Jordan Leopold(notes) that looked clean and legal to everyone but Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
What happened after the game when he questioned Sutton gave the NHL it's own version of "Who's On First?"
And finally ...
1. Ain't No Party Like a Canadian Women's Hockey Team Party
That the Canadians won double-hockey-gold on their home Olympic ice in Vancouver is a once-in-a-generation athletic achievement. So an on-ice celebration with cigars and magnum bottles of Molson was to be expected ... but from the women?
Having witnessed the scene, it was a surreal moment that celebrated the moment but also the game; smoking stogies on the Zamboni? Priceless.
But despite the ridiculous backlash and criticism ... was there a better moment of pure hockey bliss in 2010?
No, there wasn't.