With the NHL and just about every other league on pause I thought it would be fun to take a look back at some of the happier, fun, lighter and all around awesome moments so far this season.
David Ayers becomes the first EBUG to win an NHL game
This list is in no particular order but it felt wrong to start with anything other than one of the coolest/most unique moments in NHL and probably sports history. On February 22nd David Ayers, the 42 year old zamboni driver for the Toronto Maple Leafs’ minor league team,was the emergency goalie for a game between his hometown Leafs and the visiting Carolina Hurricanes. For anyone who doesn’t know, an emergency goalie is someone who is on hand at NHL games to play goalie for either team in the freak scenario that during a game a team’s starting goaltender and backup goaltender both become unable to play. Well that freak scenario happened.
Carolina lost both their goalies to injury mid-game and Ayers was tapped to come in with just under half the game left to play and Carolina holding onto a 3-1 lead. An emergency goalie even coming into a game is incredibly rare but for one to come this early into a game and with this much importance placed on his performance is unprecedented. After a shaky start allowing the first 2 shots he faced, Ayers found his composure and didn’t allow another goal the rest of the game, backstopping Carolina to a 6-3 victory.
This moment transcends sports. It’s something everyone can connect with because before our very eyes a regular guy got to basically walk off the street, go into a NHL game and be a hero for the night.
Bobby Ryan’s comeback hat trick
Bobby’s comeback ranks as probably the most emotional moment of the season. Without getting too deep into it because there’s already plenty of great content about it, Ryan has overcome a traumatic childhood and a lot of personal tragedy to make it in the NHL. He’s always been a feel good story and the guy that’s easy to root for. The guy who’s lost a lot in his life, but pushed hard to be happy. That’s why it came as an emotional blow to a lot of fans when earlier this season he took a temporary leave of absence from hockey to receive treatment for alcohol addiction.
With everyone rooting for him he got the help he needed and after over 3 months away from the game Bobby made his return. It was one of those games you can’t script. Long gone are the days of him being a dazzling offensive player but in his first home game back he brought the Senators crowd to a roar. He scored early in the first period and followed that up with a fight with Chris Tanev, showing he still had plenty of fire in the tank. He didn’t stop there though scoring in the third period and scoring again one final time to complete the hat trick. The crowd was on his side all night but boiled into roars of admiration and support.
It was something else watching as Bobby was overwhelmed with emotion on the bench as the crowd refused to stop pouring out the love for him. He nailed it in his post game interview, “You can’t write it any better.”
Andrei Svechnikov pulls off first “Michigan” in NHL history
In 1996 Mike Legg of the Michigan Wolverines stunned the hockey world with a lacrosse style goal the likes of which had never been seen before in an actual game. The move became known as a “Michigan”. Since then we’ve had decades of the question being asked, when are we going to see one pulled off in an NHL game? We’ve seen it at various other levels but it had never successfully been pulled off at the highest level until this season.
On October 29th, the Hurricanes’ teenage phenom Andrei Svechnikov picked the puck up on his blade behind the Flames net and successfully tucked it in top corner to pull off the first “Michigan” in NHL history. He didn’t stop there though doing it once again in a game against the Jets. Well he may have opened the flood gates because shortly after, Filip Forsberg decided to go with anything you can do I can do better routine scoring this mesmerizing version of the move against the Predators. It took 23 years to finally see the move arrive in the NHL, but I think it’s safe to stay that it’s here to stay.
Pekka Rinne becomes 12th goaltender in history to score a goal
On January 9th Pekka Rinne accomplished something that is pretty close to the top of every goaltender’s bucket list. With just seconds remaining in the third period he lofted a shot the length of the rink into an empty net becoming just the 12th goaltender in NHL history to score and just the 7th to actually shoot a puck to accomplish it.
It’s not a Stanley Cup and it’s not a Vezina Trophy (Rinne has one of those too by the way), but any goalie is lying if they say they haven’t dreamed about flicking the puck down the ice to watch it sail into the opposing team’s net for a goal. You can see that twinkle in every goalie’s eyes, the empty net looming 200 feet away, the puck on their stick, a chance to make history. For all but 6 this has remained just a fantasy, but Pekka had his special night in turning that into a reality.
Zibanejad’s 5 goal night
On March 5th Mika Zibanejad accomplished the ultimate single game mark of goal scoring. The rare five goal game. To put into perspective just how rare this is, in the last 24 years he is only the 4th player to pullit off. This is something a lot of the greatest goal scorers in history Ovechkin, Hull, Bossy, Bure, Jagr, Lafleur, have never done. Mika is truly in some rarified air.
Hat tricks are the mark of a great goal scoring game, four goals is special but there’s just something about five… it’s always had a certain mystique, so difficult to accomplish and something that has alluded so many of the greats. Zibanejad put his stamp on what has truly been a transcendent season and left no doubt that he’s a star player and he’s arrived.