20 NHL Moments That Still Give Us Goosebumps
The history of hockey is full of great moments. Even with the passage of time, the memories of these events still inspire and move hockey fans around the world.
Usually, superstar players create these moments, like Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Bobby Orr or Gordie Howe. Sometimes, these moments appeal to our patriotism and national pride. Other times, relatively obscure players create a magic moment that makes them part of hockey history.
Sure, fans of every team have their favorites, but here are my Top 20 Hockey Moments That Still Give Us Goosebumps, presented in no particular order.
Feel free to comment and add your own.
Coach Lester Patrick Plays Goalie
It's not every day a 44-year-old coach comes off the bench and ends up playing goalie for his team in the Stanley Cup final, but that's just what Lester Patrick did for the Rangers back in 1928.
Not only that, but he gave up only one goal behind a team determined to protect him, and the Rangers went on to defeat the Montreal Maroons in overtime.
Patrick was long since retired as an active player and wasn't even a goalie when he did play. But for one night, he strapped on the pads and helped lead his team to victory and eventually, a Stanley Cup.
A retired GM/coach coming out from behind the bench and playing goal just couldn't happen today. Now, teams carry backup goalies on their roster. If both active goalies got hurt, teams would either fly in a player from the minors or use their goalie coach as quickly as they could sign him to a one-day contract.
But it did happen in 1928—and the result was magic.
Bob Baun Scores the Cup-Winning Goal on a Broken Leg
Sometimes players just do improbable things that inspire fans.
In 1964, defenseman Bob Baun was removed from Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final after suffering a broken leg. Miraculously, Baun returned to action in overtime and scored the game-winning goal that led the Maple Leafs past the Red Wings. The Leafs went on win Game 7 of the series and capture the Stanley Cup.
Baun was an unlikely goal scorer to begin with. He was a hard-hitting defenseman who was excellent in his own zone, but scored only four goals in 1963-64 and never scored more than eight goals in a season during his 17-year NHL career.
He is forever remembered by Maple Leafs fans and hockey fans everywhere for his heroic tally that helped bring his team a Stanley Cup.
Willie O'Ree Breaks the Color Barrier
During the 1957-58 season, Willie O'Ree became the first black player in NHL history. For this he is known as "The Jackie Robinson of Hockey."
O'Ree only played 45 games in his brief NHL career, but later when on to become a true ambassador for the game, always handling himself with dignity and class in the face of prejudice.
To this day, he remains active in promoting diversity in hockey and running outreach programs to include minorities in the game in both the USA and Canada. His hard work has inspired many players over the years.
The Miracle on Manchester
It was a nearly impossible comeback.
The Los Angeles Kings finished the 1981-82 season 48 points behind the mighty Edmonton Oilers in the standings, and on paper they were no match for the young and talented Oilers.
While Edmonton was still two years away from winning their first Stanley Cup, the talent was already in place. Look at the lineup Edmonton had: Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey, Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson and Grant Fuhr were already on the roster and showing how talented they were.
The Kings trailed in Game 3 of the best-of-five series 5-0 after two periods. They started the third period just trying to salvage some pride and send a message for Game 4—but instead, a miracle happened.
The Kings managed a remarkable comeback, tying the game at 5-5 with just five seconds left on the clock on a goal by Steve Bozek. Then Los Angeles won the game at the 2:35 mark of overtime on a goal by Daryl Evans, which sent the crowd at the "Fabulous Forum" in Inglewood into a frenzy.
Remarkably, the underdog Kings went on to win the series in five games, concluding with a 7-4 win in the deciding contest. The upset was inspiring, but the Miracle on Manchester lives on as one of the greatest comebacks in Stanley Cup playoff history.
Gordie Howe Returns to Detroit at the 1980 All-Star Game
It was the 23rd and final NHL All-Star Game of Gordie Howe's illustrious career, and the crowd at the new Joe Louis Arena in Detroit made it a special moment.
Howe started his NHL career with Detroit in 1946-47 and remained with the Red Wings until 1971. After a one-year retirement, "Mr. Hockey" returned to the ice to play with his sons in the WHA, first with the Houston Aeros and then with the New England Whalers. He remained with the Whalers until the WHA folded after the 1978-79 season.
The Whalers (now renamed Hartford) were one of four WHA teams to join the NHL in 1979-80, and Howe remained with the club at the age of 51 for one final NHL season.
Coach Scotty Bowman selected Howe to be part of the All-Star Game along with other retiring veterans Phil Esposito and Jean Ratelle.
The Detroit crowd had one last chance to shower the greatest player in franchise history with love, and when Howe was introduced during the pregame ceremonies, he was given an ovation that lasted so long that he had to skate back to the bench just to get the crowd to stop cheering for him.
Howe didn't disappoint the fans, picking up an assist as the Whales Conference beat the Campbell Conference, 6-3.
Ray Bourque Finally Lifts the Cup
Ray Bourque played nearly 21 seasons with the Boston Bruins and filled those years with consistently excellent play that made him a shoo-in for the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Despite playing in nearly 180 playoff games with the Bruins, however, Bourque had never played for a Stanley Cup winner and knew his career was nearing the end.
In 2000, the Bruins dealt Bourque to the Colorado Avalanche and one year later, in the final season of his career, Bourque finally won the Stanley Cup.
Bourque was no passenger that year, either. In 21 playoff games, he scored four goals and added 10 points.
When it was Bourque's day with the Stanley Cup, he took it to Boston where roughly 20,000 fans showed up at a rally to celebrate the moment.
Mario Lemieux Returns After Overcoming Cancer
Mario Lemieux was at the peak of his powers in 1992-93 when he announced mid-season that he was suffering from cancer and would take time off from hockey to undergo radiation treatments.
Had he stayed healthy that year, it was possible "Mario the Magnificent" could have challenged Wayne Gretzky's all-time single season records of 92 goals scored and 215 points.
Lemieux made his first appearance after his cancer treatment in Philadelphia, the home of the hated Flyers. Instead of booing the captain and leader of their intrastate rivals, Flyers fans gave Super Mario a standing ovation when he skated back on the ice for pregame warm-ups.
Lemieux scored a goal and added an assist, playing almost like he hadn't missed a beat. That season, he helped lead the Penguins to the best record in the league.
For one brief moment, the rivalry between the Penguins and Flyers was put aside and Philadelphia fans cheered the courage and fortitude of Pittsburgh's captain, which transcended the game of hockey.
Ace Bailey Shakes Eddie Shore's Hand
Eddie Shore ended the hockey career of Ace Bailey on December 12, 1933, in a violent stick swinging incident. In fact, Shore almost ended Bailey's life when he hit the Maple Leafs player from behind causing brain damage. Bailey managed to recover after being so close to dying—he was even read his last rites.
The very first NHL All-Star Game was actually a fundraiser to benefit Bailey and his family in order to help pay his medical expenses.
Before the game began, Shore and Bailey shook hands at center ice and embraced, showing that peace has been made between these two hockey titans after this horrible event.
Both players were later inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
The Unofficial Eddie Giacomin Night
Ed Giacomin was one of the most popular players in New York Rangers history, and for more than 10 years he provided the Rangers with outstanding goal-tending, helping them reach the playoffs for eight consecutive seasons.
The Rangers started a rebuild in the fall of 1975, and after a rough start to the season, GM Emile Francis started to trade away some of his veteran players. On October 31, 1975, Giacomin was waived and picked up by the Detroit Red Wings.
As fate would have it, Giacomin's first game with Detroit was against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on November 2nd. The fans cheered Giacomin during pregame warm-ups, they cheered him during the national anthem and they continued to applaud him throughout the game, chanting "Ed-die, Ed-die" to pay tribute to a player who had given his all for them over the past decade.
Giacomin played well and the Wings beat the Rangers 6-4. Along the way, Ed Giacomin enjoyed the most unique (and unofficial) tribute night in NHL history.
The Easter Epic
The Washington Capitals and New York Islanders played a game for the ages on April 18 and 19, 1987. It remains the longest Game 7 in Stanley Cup playoff history.
The teams ended regulation time tied at 2-2. The first three overtime periods became a goal-tending duel between Kelly Hrudey of New York (73 saves) and Bob Mason of Washington (54 saves).
Pat Lafontaine of the Islanders finally scored at the 8:47 mark of the fourth overtime period, giving the Islanders the game and the series. Mason was screened on the play and never saw the puck coming. After it went into the net, he slumped to the ice, nearly too exhausted to move.
The game started just after 7:00 PM on Saturday night and ended at 1:58 AM on Easter Sunday morning. In the end, it was a test of endurance and a dramatic Game 7 that anybody who saw it would never forget.
Jaromir Jagr Fakes out the Blackhawks
Jaromir Jagr scored one of the most incredible goals in NHL history against the Chicago Blackhawks during the 1992 Stanley Cup final.
Jagr picked up the puck just inside the Chicago blue line, faked out four Blackhawks players along the boards, cut across to the front of the net and lifted a backhander past goalie Eddie Belfour before the final Chicago defender could get to him.
The Penguins trailed 4-1 at one point in the game, but came back to win the game and their second straight Stanley Cup.
Mario Lemieux called it the most incredible goal he had ever seen.
Too Many Men Sinks the Bruins
The Bruins finally had the Montreal Canadiens where they wanted them in Game 7 of the NHL semifinal back on March 10, 1979.
With just a few minutes left in the game, Boston, who had lost in the Stanley Cup final the past two seasons to the Habs, led by a goal at the Forum in Montreal.
Don Cherry's club was called for too many men on the ice, and the Canadiens converted on the power play with just 1:14 left on the clock to tie the game. The great Guy Lafleur scored the goal on a give-and-go rush that beat a dejected Gilles Gilbert.
Montreal went on to win the game in overtime and defeat the Rangers to win their fourth consecutive Stanley Cup.
Bob Nystrom Gives the Islanders Their First Stanley Cup
Bob Nystrom scored at the 7:11 mark of overtime to give the New York Islanders their first Stanley Cup championship. It came in Game 6 of the 1980 Stanley Cup final against the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Islanders joined the NHL in 1972-73 and had the worst single season record in NHL history. They quickly became a league power, coming within one game of reaching the Stanley Cup final in just their third season.
After huge playoff disappointments at the hands of the Maple Leafs (1978) and Rangers (1979), the Islanders finally won their first title on Nystrom's goal. It was the start of a dynasty, as the Isles went on to win four straight Stanley Cups from 1980-83.
Brett Hull Wins the Cup for Dallas
Brett Hull scored one of the most controversial goals in Stanley Cup history in Game 6 of the 1999 final when he beat Dominik Hasek of the Buffalo Sabres in triple overtime to give the Stars their only league title.
The NHL had a zero tolerance policy that year for offensive players being in the crease. Hull's skate was clearly in the crease when he scored on his own rebound to bring the Stanley Cup to Dallas.
To Stars fans, the goal remains historic; for Sabres fans, it should not have counted and remains a source of anguish.
Either way, it was a very exciting moment in NHL history.
Paul Henderson Scores for Canada
It remains one of the most famous goals in hockey history. In the eighth and final game of the Summit Series between Canada and the USSR, Paul Henderson scored the game winner with just 34 seconds left in the game.
As a result, Team Canada, which was stocked with the best players the NHL had to offer, captured a 4-3-1 series win over the Soviets. The NHL stars were heavily favored entering the series and had to win the final three games of the series to eke out a victory.
Any hockey fan old enough to remember where they were on September 28, 1972, still gets chills when Paul Henderson's name is mentioned.
Miracle on Ice
It remains the most dramatic moment in the history of American hockey. A group of unknown college hockey players came together and stunned the Soviet squad that just one year earlier had beaten a squad of NHL All-Stars in a three-game series.
Coach Herb Brooks molded the team and coached them to victory, uniting them in their hatred for him. Goalie Jim Craig helped the Americans beat the USSR on February 22, 1980. The final score was 4-3, and team captain Mike Eruzione scored the winning goal.
Two days later, the Americans beat Finland and clinched the gold medal.
Al Michaels' final call still sends chills down the spine of any American hockey fan...."Do you believe in miracles? Yes!!!!"
Bobby Hull Scores No. 51
On March 12, 1966, Bobby Hull became the first player to score more than 50 goals in an NHL season. Maurice Richard and Bernie Geoffrion held the previous record with 50.
The goal came at Chicago Stadium against the New York Rangers, and the Chicago fans gave "The Golden Jet" a seven-minute standing ovation.
Hull finished the season with 54 goals.
Wayne Gretzky Scores 50 Goals in 39 Games
Wayne Gretzky obliterated the NHL record book in the early '80s with the Edmonton Oilers.
On December 30, 1981, "The Great One" was approaching the long-time standard of 50 goals in 50 games set by Rocket Richard in 1944-45 and equaled by Mike Bossy in 1980-81.
Gretzky managed to break the record in just 39 games. He scored five goals in the Oilers' 39th game of the season, a 7-5 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. The final tally was scored into an empty net and came in the final seconds of the game.
Thirty years later, the record still stands.
Mark Messier Delivers the Stanley Cup to Broadway
It had been 54 years since the New York Rangers won the Stanley Cup.
So many Hall of Famers had tried and failed to bring the Cup back to New York since 1940. Andy Bathgate, Rod Gilbert, Boom-Boom Geoffrion, Rod Gilbert, Brad Park, Jean Ratelle, Phil Esposito, Marcel Dionne and Guy Lafleur had all tried and failed.
But in 1994, Mark Messier finally delivered the elusive trophy back to Broadway. His famous guarantee in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final against New Jersey was one highlight, as was a double overtime goal by Stephane Matteau in Game 7 of that series.
The Rangers led the final against Vancouver 3-1, but the Canucks won Games 5 and 6 to force a deciding contest as Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers held on to win 3-2 to finally capture the Stanley Cup. As broadcaster Sam Rosen said, "The one will last a lifetime!"
Bobby Orr Flies Through the Air
It remains the most famous photograph in hockey history: Bobby Orr flying through the air just after scoring the Stanley Cup-winning goal in overtime of Game 4 of the 1970 final against the St. Louis Blues.
It showed the greatest player of his generation at his finest moment, helping the Bruins to their first Stanley Cup victory since 1941.
It truly showed why Orr was special. He had just skated circles around the opposition who managed to catch up to him and trip him only after he had scored the goal and ended the game.
Orr won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1970 and again when he led the Bruins to another Stanley Cup title in 1972. He remains the greatest defenseman in NHL history.