As we enter 2012, it is time to reflect on the year it was in 2011. For the hockey world it was a bitter sweet year with high points and low moments. For different hockey fans, the top hockey stories may differ, but these are our top 11 hockey moments from 2011.
Top 11 Hockey Stories of 2011
Good or bad these are the top 11 hockey stories of 2011.
#10. Collective Bargaining Discussion is minimal – the NHL and the NHLPA have been pretty quiet as the season has progressed. The current collective bargaining agreement expires in September and we would have expected to hear a little more on the negotiating side of things. The fact that it has been pretty quiet thus far may prove interesting as talks heat up later in the season and as the season completes in June. The current CBA is six years in duration (through the current 2010-11 season) with the NHLPA having the option to re-open the agreement after Year Four (after the 2008-09 season). The NHLPA also has the option of extending the CBA for an additional year at the end of the term. More on the current CBA can be found at NHL.com.
#9. The play of the Oilers’ Young Guns – after two consecutive years where the Oilers had the first overall pick in the NHL draft, we are seeing glimpses of what the future may hold for the Oilers. Lead by Jordan Eberle and 2011 first overall pick Ryan Nugent Hopkins, the two young Oilers were both top 15 in scoring as the turn of the calendar approaches. Factor in the Glenn Anderson-like play of Taylor Hall and the Oilers Young Guns have performed well. Ryan Nugent Hopkins is currently tied with the Sedins for most powerplay points. A re-energized Ryan Smyth has not hurt either. Look for the Oilers to become a contender in the next couple of years.
#8. The Winter Classic 2011 – what is most memorable about the 2011 Winter Classic game between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins may not be the fact that the Capitals won the game, but it is the fact that Penguin superstar Sidney Crosby suffered a major concussion in the game after being hit by Washington’s David Steckel. Little did anyone know just how severe the hit would be and what the impact on Crosby it would have.
#7. 2011 World Junior Hockey Championships Collapse by Team Canada – Team Canada poised to win yet another Gold medal had one of the largest collapses in hockey history. Just goes to show how mental and cerebral the game of hockey can be. Russia won the gold medal with a 5–3 victory over Canada in the championship game, after completing the biggest comeback in the WJHC history. Being down 3–0 after two periods, the Russians scored five goals in the third period to capture their first WJHC gold medal since 2003.
The game delivered one of the largest television audiences in Canadian history, with an average of 6.88 million viewers watching on TSN. After all was said and done it was estimated that nearly half of all Canadians watched a portion of the game. A year later and it still stings.
#6. Boston Bruins defeat the Vancouver Canucks in game seven of the Stanley Cup finals – I have to say that I was one who really thought that it was the Canucks year and that they should have won the Cup last June. However with the outstanding play of Tim Thomas the Bruins won their first Stanley Cup in nearly 40 years. The loss did not go over well with Vancouver fans as riots broke out and damage to the city’s ego was again bruised.
#5. NHL Disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan’s use of YouTube Video clips – lots of discussion about how Brendan Shanahan has been use of video to explain the use of discipline in the forms of fines and suspensions in an effort to clean up the amount of violence in the game. An interesting approach. I personally like the explanations. With the amount of suspensions being dished out, it is hard top determine if the video explanations are having any effect on the players.
#4. The number of head injuries and concussions in the NHL – never before have we seen this amount of concussions in the league. While oldtimers are trying to downplay it, head injuries and the high number of head injuries being incurred is a serious matter. From Ryan Miller to Sidney Crosby and now more recently Shea Weber, concussions don’t play favorites. The players are bigger and faster. The equipment is larger and harder. The speed of the game has never been faster. Factor a lack of respect for players and the formula for concussions is pretty evident. Something needs to be done about the number of head injuries being sustained. For starters, the league should consider making the playing surface larger. Perhaps consider playing 4 on 4 so that players can see the ice better and be more aware of their surroundings. Regardless the amount of head injuries happening needs to be addressed and players need to be protected.
#3. The Return of the Jets to Winnipeg – Winnipeg hockey fans lost their NHL franchise in 1996 as the Jets moved south to Arizona. In the spring of 2011, the league announced that the NHL would be returning as the Atlanta Thrashers would be moving north to the Manitoba capital. In late June on draft day, the Winnipeg Jets were reborn. With a new logo and uniform, the Jets began play in October 2011, a decade and a half after they left. It’s too bad that they own the Thrashers historical records and not those of the original Jets franchise.
#2. The deaths of three players — Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak – all three were known as great guys and oddly enough were dubbed “enforcers” in their respective careers. Boogaard was 28, Rypien was 27 and Belak was 35. At the time of his death, Wade Belak was participating in CBC’s Battle of the Blades in which he seemed like a happy father, husband and recently retired NHL hockey player. He left a beautiful family behind. Various reports were linking the deaths to the role each of the players were known for. Hockey fans were saddened to learn of the loss of each. The death of Wade Belak really touched me as he seemed to be such a happy go lucky, all around fun guys. When I played NHL on PlayStation I also made sure to trade for Belak, he always seemed like a good addition to my fantasy team. Gentlemen rest in peace. To the families of these great men, remember that time heals all wounds.
#1. KHL’s Lokomotiv Yaroslavl plane crash – in one of the darkest days in hockey history, September 7th, 2011 saw an entire KHL team perish in a plane crash. Pilot error led to KHL’s Lokomotiv Yaroslavl plane crash. The Russian pilot inadvertently put the wheel brakes on during takeoff, causing a crash that killed 44 people. Coach Brad McCrimmon, forward Pavol Demitra, defenseman Ruslan Salei, forward Josef Vasicek, defenseman Karel Rachunek, forward Jan Marek, forward Alexander Vasyunov, defenseman Karlis Skrastins and goalie Stefan Liv were among the fatalities. NHLers and hockey fans around the world were devastated. Some of the league’s players shared their thoughts via Twitter:
Ochen tiajelo teriat blizkix i dryzey!pyst czemlia bydet im pyxom!vi na vsegda v nashey pamiati!
(approximate translation: “Very hard to lose close people and friends! Let them rest in peace! You will remain forever in our memory!”)
Ilya Bryzgalov (@bryzgoalie30), Philadelphia Flyers:
R.I.P.#Lokomotiv #Ярославль (con’t) My deepest condolences go to families and friends of Lokomotiv. My thoughts and prayers are with wives, childrens and parents of victims… Я не могу поверить,шок,хочется проснуться
2011 was a difficult year for the hockey world. A lot of tragedy, which really overtook a lot of the greatness that happened on ice.