To celebrate Pinnacle’s 20th anniversary this series will look back over the biggest moments from our most popular sports. These are the top 10 moments from the last 20 years of the National Hockey League.
The San Jose Sharks shock the St. Louis Blues
From a bookmaker’s perspective, it only seems right to start this list with an upset. In the 1999/2000 season the San Jose Sharks caused one of the biggest upsets in NHL playoff history when they defeated the St Louis Blues 4-3 in the Western Conference quarterfinals seven-game series.
The Sharks secured the eighth and final playoff spot in an eventful regular season and came up against the much-fancied top-seeded Blues in the first round of the playoffs. As expected the Blues took the lead in the series with a 5-3 win, but the Sharks then shocked the NHL world by winning the next three games.
The hopes of an upset looked to have evaporated when the Blues won the next two games in the series and tied the score at 3-3. However, the Sharks had seemingly saved their best until last and defeated the Blues 3-1 on their own ice to take the series 4-3. Unfortunately, the fairytale didn’t continue much longer for the Sharks as they were swept aside by the Dallas Stars in the next round.
Patrick Kane’s ghost goal
Scoring a Stanley Cup winning goal in OT is always going to be an exhilarating experience, but what Patrick Kane experienced back in 2010 was quite unique.
The Chicago Blackhawks led the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 heading into game six of the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals and with the score tied at 3-3, the game went into OT. Less than five minutes into the first period of overtime, Kane took a shot and wheeled away in celebration. Because the puck had got lodged under the goal padding after crossing the line, Kane had managed to reach his own goal before his teammates realised and started celebrating with him.
Jason Arnott’s double OT winner
Jason Arnott’s Stanley Cup-winning goal in the 1999/00 season might not mean a lot to the majority of NHL fans but it probably means everything to the New Jersey Devils fans.
The Devils entered the playoffs as the fourth-seeded team having finished second to the Philadelphia Flyers in the Atlantic Division. After a comprehensive 4-0 series win against the Florida Panthers in the quarterfinals, the Devils beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2 in the semifinals before a showdown with the Divisional rivals - the Philadelphia Flyers in the Conference Finals.
The two sides were only separated by two points during the regular season and the seven-game series was just as close - the Devils took it 4-3 after a hard fought 2-1 win in the series decider. Although they dominated the opening game of the Finals against the Dallas Stars and won 7-2, ultimately taking the series 4-2, it was a lot closer than it looks on paper.
After an injury to winger Petr Sykora during the game, it looked as though the series would be going to game seven. It was only in double OT when Patrik Elias made a blind backhand pass to Arnott who beat Ed Belfour in the Stars’ goal with a one-timer that it was confirmed that the Devils were taking home the Stanley Cup for the second time in franchise history.
Patrik Stefan’s memorable miss
While this list celebrates great achievements and players that possess elite levels of skill, there is one particular miss that is so memorable that it’s impossible to ignore.
Many people will argue how talented Patrik Stefan was a hockey player (especially as he was the first-overall pick in the 1999 NHL Entry draft). However, on January 4, 2007, Stefan did himself no favours in proving his ability when he missed an empty net from only a few yards out.
In addition to the embarrassment caused, Stefan’s miss was made even worse by the fact that his team (the Dallas Stars) immediately conceded an equaliser with just two seconds left on the clock after he slipped and lost the puck following his mistake. Thankfully for Stefan, the Stars didn’t lose the game (they won 6-5 in a shootout) but he will always be remembered for the worst miss in the history of the NHL.
The 2004/05 lockout season
The 2004/05 NHL lockout was the first time a major professional sports league in North America had to cancel an entire season due to a labour dispute. It was also the first time since 1919 that no one won the Stanley Cup (the trophy has the words “Season Not Played” engraved on it).
The main issues that surrounded the lockout season were what the NHL referred to a “cost certainty” - the league wanted to address franchise spending and financial losses (teams spent around 76% of gross revenue on player salaries and posted collective losses of around $273m in the season prior to the lockout).
The National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) put up resistance to proposed salary caps (presented in various forms) and only after a total of 310 days was the lockout ended.
The 2004/05 season lockout was a defining moment in NHL and although there have been four lockouts in total, this was longest and had the biggest impact.
Alex Ovechkin’s wondergoal vs. Phoenix Coyotes
Alexander Ovechkin is one of the most exciting players to ever play in the NHL and while he won’t challenge Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky or Gordie Howe for the greatest player of all time, he may well have scored the greatest ever goal.
On January 16, 2006, a 20-year-old Ovechkin was playing in his first season for the Washington Capitals as they came up against the Phoenix Coyotes. The Capitals were leading 5-1 in the final period when Ovechkin produced a piece of skill that defied logic. Absurd stickhandling ability, balance, poise and innovation, Ovechkin’s goal was truly spectacular.
The Edmonton Oilers defeat the Detroit Red Wings
There have been numerous upsets in the NHL over the years, particularly in the last decade but the Edmonton Oilers victory against the Detroit Red Wings in the 2005/06 season playoffs is perhaps the most dramatic of them all.
The Oilers entered the playoffs as the eighth seed in the Western Conference and came up against the Presidents’ Trophy winners, the Detroit Red Wings, in the quarterfinals. Although they lost the first game 3-2 in double OT, the signs were there that the Oilers would put up much more of a fight than many were expecting.
The series continued to shift direction with the Oilers pulling ahead only for the Red Wings to level things up and look as though they had worked out how to break down the Oilers solid defence. However, the Oilers surprised everyone once again by winning game five (taking a 3-2 lead into game six).
As if the series wasn’t dramatic enough, it was nothing compared to game six. The Red Wings were 2-0 in the third period and it looked like the series was heading to a game seven decider, only for Fernando Pisani to score two and level the game. The Red Wings then re-took the lead before Ales Hemsky tied things up at 3-3 and then scored in the final minute to take the game 4-3 and the series 4-2.
The Edmonton Oilers made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in the 2005/06 season but lost out 4-3 to the Carolina Hurricanes. Although it could be argued there have been bigger upsets in the NHL, there are few that were as dramatic as the Oilers famous win over the Red Wings.
Brett Hull’s 1999 Stanley Cup winning goal
Game six of the 1999 Stanley Cup Final will be remembered for the wrong reasons (especially if you’re a Buffalo Sabres fan). Some NHL fans might be able to tell you the score, but almost all of them will be able to tell you who scored the winning “goal”.
The Dallas Stars were leading the series 3-2 when they travelled to the KeyBank Center on June 19. The game was tied at 1-1 when it went to the third period of overtime and looked like either side could come away with the win.
With just over five minutes left on the clock, the puck dropped to the Stars’ Brett Hull on the edge of the crease. Hull then kicked the puck, opening up a shooting position, before slamming it into the net. The NHL have always stuck by the decision to award the goal, while many have questioned whether or not it should have stood - Sabres fans soon adopted “No Goal!” as one of their chants.
Since the goal, the NHL have changed the “skate in the crease” ruling, the Stars haven’t won another Stanley Cup and the Buffalo Sabres haven’t returned to the Finals.
Scotty Bowman wins his 9th Stanley Cup
What Scotty Bowman missed out on in terms of a playing career, he certainly made up for as a coach. Widely regarded as one of the greatest coaches in any sport, Bowman coached the St. Louis Blues, Montreal Canadiens, Buffalo Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings during 35 years as an NHL coach.
Bowman holds the record for the most wins in the NHL with 1,467 (1,244 in the regular season and 223 in the playoffs) and is second in the all-time list of most Stanley Cup victories as a player or coach with 14. He also only failed to make the playoffs on one occasion during his career as a coach in the NHL (the 1985/86 season with the Buffalo Sabres).
The Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup four years in a row from 1975/76 through to 1978/79 with Bowman as head coach but it was his final Stanley Cup victory as a coach that is the most memorable.
Entering his ninth season as head coach of the Detroit Red Wings (having already won the Stanley Cup twice), Bowman and his team headed into the Final series against the Carolina Hurricanes looking to make history. The Hurricanes took the first game 3-2 but the Red Wings then took the next four and won the series 4-1. Bowman retired straight after the game and ended one of the greatest coaching careers in sporting history.
Joe Sakic hands the Stanley Cup to Ray Bourque
There’s always debate surrounding which is a sport’s most iconic moment but with the NHL, there are very few who could argue against Joe Sakic handing the Stanley Cup trophy to Ray Bourque in 2001.
Defenceman Borque was the eighth overall pick in the 1979 draft when he joined the Boston Bruins. Bourque captained the Bruins for 15 years of the 21 he spent with them (three of those were as co-captain with Rick Middleton) and became synonymous with the franchise during his time there.
While Bourque enjoyed a great career (spanning 1,612 regular season and 214 playoff games), the biggest honour in the NHL had always eluded him. However, after trading to the Colorado Avalanche in 2000, Bourque became part of a team that mounted a strong Stanley Cup challenge and then defeated the New Jersey Devils in game seven of the final.
It is traditional in most sports for the team captain to be given the honour of lifting a trophy after winning a major tournament/competition and the NHL is no different. Joe Sakic was handed the Stanley Cup trophy by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman but instead of holding it aloft, he passed it to the man who had waited longer than anyone; Ray Bourque.
Despite all the drama, action-packed games and sometimes indescribable skill we’ve seen in the NHL over the past two decades, the emotionally-charged moment Ray Bourque lifted the Stanley Cup trophy above his head is still the most iconic.
Has your favourite moment made the list? Tweet @ to let us know what you think is the best NHL moment of the last 20 years.