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20 Best "Where Were You?" Moments in NHL History

Steve SilvermanFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 6, 2017

20 Best "Where Were You?" Moments in NHL History

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    It's a phrase that is most commonly uttered with the biggest news events in history.

    Where were you when John F. Kennedy was shot? Where were you when man landed on the moon? Where were you on 9-11?

    But it is also a phrase that is appropriate to the biggest moment in sports. Especially hockey.

    Hockey fans personalize their association with the sport, in general, and their favorite team, in particular.

    All hockey fans take pride in those accomplishments, and they revel in their memories.

    Here's a look at the top 20 moments in NHL post-expansion history.

    While there were many memorable players, teams and moments prior to the 1967-68 season, that seems to be the appropriate jumping off point for the best moments in the sport.

1970 -- Bobby Orr Delivers Cup with Flying Goal

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    Bobby Orr was hockey's golden child.

    The Bruins first became aware of him as a 12-year-old when he was skating around Parry Sound, Ontario. As soon as he joined the Bruins in 1966-67, it was clear that he was going to be their best player, and he would give them a chance to win the Stanley Cup.

    That opportunity came in the 1970 Stanley Cup Finals.

    After ripping through the New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks in the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Bruins took a 3-0 lead over the St. Louis Blues in the Finals. The fourth game went to overtime, and Orr took a pass from Derek Sanderson early in the extra session and shoveled it past St. Louis goalie Glenn Hall to give the team its first championship since 1943.

    As Orr got his stick on the puck, St. Louis defenseman Noel Picard put his stick between Orr's skates and tripped him. Orr flew in the air, saw the puck go by Hall and celebrated the moment by extending his arm in one of hockey's most famous images.

1971 -- Canadiens Upset Big, Bad Bruins; Beat Hawks

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    In 1971, the Montreal Canadiens were an aging team that had finished third in the East Division behind the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.

    The Bruins were a record-setting offensive team, and they were expected to defend their championship with ease.

    The Canadiens, with Ken Dryden in the nets and aging stars Jean Beliveau and Henri "Pocket Rocket" Richard leading the way, were not intimidated.

    They battled the Bruins on even terms for six games and registered a monumental 4-2 upset in Game 7 in Boston to complete the shocker.

    In the Stanley Cup Finals, the Canadiens defeated the Chicago Blackhawks (known as Black Hawks at the time) in seven dramatic games. Chicago had a 2-0 lead in the seventh game, but Jacques Lemaire's slap shot from just past center ice eluded goalie Tony Esposito and started a comeback that Richard concluded in the final period.

1972 -- Summit Series

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    The stars of the NHL represented Team Canada in the Summit Series against the Soviet Union's best players.

    The Soviet Union had dominated international hockey against amateur teams, and this series represented the best Canadian pros against the Soviet Union's best players.

    While Canada expected to roll in the eight-game series, the Soviet players were far more skilled than the Canadians anticipated and in much better shape.

    The series was tied 3-3-1 going into the final game in Moscow and, in the final moments, that eighth game was tied. However, Canada's Paul Henderson picked up a rebound with 34 seconds remaining and put it in the net to give Canada the 6-5 win.

    The victory brought relief and celebration to the team, its coaches and Canadian supporters.

    Many Canadians view it as the greatest moment in the history of the sport.

1974 -- Philadelphia Flyers Win Stanley Cup

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    Prior to the 1974 Stanley Cup playoffs, none of the 1967-68 expansion teams had seriously contended for the Stanley Cup.

    From 1968 through 1970, the St. Louis Blues had emerged as the West champions and had been in the Stanley Cup Finals. They were swept each time.

    But by 1974, the Philadelphia Flyers had emerged as a legitimate hockey power. They played a rollicking and aggressive style, willing to drop the gloves every time they took the ice.

    In addition to intimidation, they had highly-skilled players like Bobby Clarke and Bill Barber, as well as the brilliant goaltending of Bernie Parent.

    They beat the New York Rangers in seven games to earn a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals. While they were underdogs, they beat the Boston Bruins in six games to become the first expansion team to win the Stanley Cup.

1976 -- Canadiens KO Flyers

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    The Philadelphia Flyers had become the dominant team in the NHL, winning two straight Stanley Cups.

    However, they didn't have many admirers outside of Philadelphia because of their roughhouse tactics.

    When the Montreal Canadiens put together a brilliant team in the 1975-76 season, the Flyers were on notice.

    Montreal was, by far, the more skilled team, and they had the backbone to stand up to the Flyers. When the two teams met in the Stanley Cup Finals, the Canadiens rolled to a 4-game sweep, as high-scoring Guy Lafleur scored the game-winning goal in the Game Four clincher.

    The Broad Street Bullies were gone and there was a new champion wearing the crown.

1979 -- Too Many Men on the Ice

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    The Montreal Canadiens won three straight Stanley Cups from 1976 through 1978, beating the Boston Bruins in the Finals in '77 and '78.

    In '79, those two ancient rivals met in the semifinals.

    While Montreal had one of the greatest teams in hockey history, the Bruins had extended the series to seven games. In that final game, the Bruins had a 4-3 lead late in the final period at the Montreal Forum and appeared to be on their way to a monumental upset.

    However, the Bruins were whistled for too many men on the ice, and the Canadiens took advantage of the late power play (source: Canada.com). Guy Lafleur took a drop pass from Jacques Lemaire and blasted a whistling slap shot past the extended skate of Bruins goalie Gilles Gilbert to tie the game and send it into overtime.

    While the Bruins had chances in the extra session to win the game—most notably on a wrist shot by Don Marcotte—the Canadiens scored the winner when Yvon Lambert scored after taking a goal-mouth pass and putting it past Gilbert.

    The Canadiens went on to beat the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Finals for their fourth straight Stanley Cup.

1980 -- Miracle on Ice

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    While this is not an NHL moment per se, it is perhaps the biggest moment in hockey history, and it resonated throughout the league for years to come.

    In the 1980 Winter Olympics, the Soviet Union was expected to dominate the ice hockey competition again. Even though the games were held on American soil in Lake Placid, New York, the American team was considered to be an outsider for medal contention.

    The idea of the Americans beating the Soviets and emerging with the gold medal was ludicrous.

    However, head coach Herb Brooks had selected and conditioned an outstanding group of college players and melded them into a solid team.

    They peaked at the Olympics and played the Soviet Union in the medal round. The Americans stood up to the Soviet pressure, and the score was tied midway through the third period when Mike Eruzione fired a wrist shot past Soviet goalie Vladimir Myshkin for the game-winning goal in a 4-3 victory (source: ESPN.com).

    The Americans clinched the gold medal two days later with a win over Finland.

    The win over the Soviets is considered one of the greatest moments in American sports history.

1980 -- Islanders Start Dynasty

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    The New York Islanders were an emerging team.

    They were getting better every season, and the Montreal Canadiens' reign as champions had to end sometime.

    That came in 1980.

    The Canadiens lost a playoff series to the Minnesota North Stars, while the Islanders had beaten the Los Angeles Kings, Boston Bruins and the Buffalo Sabres to earn a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals against the resurgent Philadelphia Flyers.

    The Islanders were faster, sharper and just as tough as their old rivals.

    In the sixth game, Bob Nystrom took a pass from John Tonelli and deflected the Stanley Cup-winning goal in overtime into the net to give the Islanders the first of four-straight Stanley Cups.

1982 -- Wayne Gretzky Scores 92 Goals

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    Wayne Gretzky owns nearly every significant offensive record in hockey history.

    He was a brilliant player who dominated the game with his skills, even though he was a physically unimposing player who looked skinny at 6'0" and 185 pounds.

    Yet Gretzky's acceleration, balance, instincts and shot made him the best player in hockey.

    He had brilliant season after brilliant season, but nothing beat what he did in 1981-82. Gretzky scored a record 92 goals and had 212 points.

    He set the record for goals that year, and he became the most dominant athlete in the sport.

1984 -- Oilers Win First Stanley Cup

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    In the mid-1980's, the NHL had been a league of dynasties.

    The Montreal Canadiens had won four-straight championships from 1976-79, and the Islanders had won four-straight from 1980 through 1983.

    The Edmonton Oilers were ready to emerge as the next dominant team in 1984. They had been beaten the year before in the Stanley Cup Finals by the Islanders, and they were determined not to let it happen again.

    Led by Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier, the Oilers won the championship in five games and served notice that there was a new sheriff in town.

1988 -- Wayne Gretzky Traded

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    Wayne Gretzky had just led the Oilers to their fourth Stanley Cup in five years in 1988.

    However, times were changing in Edmonton.

    Oilers owner Peter Pocklington was going through financial difficulties, and he decided to trade off his best asset in an effort to improve his financial status.

    Still, when Pocklington made the move and the Oilers traded Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings, it shocked the hockey world.

    Gretzky was hockey's best player. While it was a blow for the Oilers, it helped hockey emerge in Southern California and other non-traditional hockey markets.

    When Gretzky was traded Aug. 9, 1988, it rocked the hockey world.

1989 -- Mario Le Magnifique

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    Wayne Gretzky was the best player in hockey through the 1980s, but he had a very worthy challenger in Mario Lemieux.

    The Pittsburgh Penguins drafted Lemieux, and he paid dividends as a 19-year-old rookie in 1984-85 with a 100-point season.

    By the 1988-89 season, Lemieux was at his peak—he scored 199 points as he tallied 85 goals and 114 assists.

    Lemieux was a gifted physical specimen at 6'4" and 230 pounds. However, it was his artistry on the ice and his superior hands that helped Lemieux become one of the greatest players of all-time and a worthy challenger to Gretzky.

1990 -- Oilers Win Fifth Stanley Cup

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    The Edmonton Oilers were nearing the end of a great run in 1990.

    They had traded Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings, and they were clearly not the same team they had been, but they were not about to go meekly into the night.

    While the Calgary Flames would take advantage of Gretzky's absence to win the 1989 Stanley Cup, the Oilers bounced back in 1990 and made it to the Stanley Cup Finals against the Boston Bruins.

    They did not waste their opportunity.

    After winning the first game in triple-overtime on a goal by little-used Petr Klima, Mark Messier brought the Oilers' fifth Stanley Cup in seven years home in a five-game triumph.

1994 -- New York Rangers Win Stanley Cup

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    1940...1940...1940.

    Every New York Rangers fan knew the significance of the year, particularly when it was chanted derisively by New York Islanders fans.

    However, in 1994, the Rangers had a powerhouse of a team. Led by former Edmonton Oiler superstar Mark Messier, the Rangers were ready to break their 54-year jinx.

    They beat the Islanders and Washington Capitals easily in the first two rounds of the playoffs.

    However, they were trailing in the semifinals against the New Jersey Devils when Messier guaranteed the Rangers would not lose. He backed up his words with a sixth-game hat trick, and the Rangers won the seventh game in double-overtime on Stephane Matteau's dramatic wraparound goal.

    The Stanley Cup Finals were equally as dramatic.

    The Rangers had a 3 games to 1 lead, but the Vancouver Canucks came back to tie it. However, the Rangers won the seventh game 3-2, and they celebrated their first championship in 54 years.

1997 -- Detroit Red Wings Emerge

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    While the Rangers had to wait 54 years before winning the Stanley Cup in 1994, the Red Wings had a long wait of their own.

    Going into the 1997 playoffs, they had gone 42 years without a title. However, there was no stopping the Red Wings that year.

    They had a brilliant team, led by Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan, Sergei Fedorov and Nicklas Lidstrom, and they also had a pretty good coach named Scotty Bowman behind the bench. They defeated the St. Louis Blues, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and the Colorado Avalanche to get to the Stanley Cup Finals.

    They swept the Philadelphia Flyers in four straight games to start an era when they would dominate the sport for much of the next 15 seasons.

2004-05 -- Season Cancelled

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    There had been work stoppages in hockey and work stoppages in all North American professional sports.

    However, when the NHL cancelled the 2004-05 season because of labor difficulties with the NHL Players' Association, it became a shocking moment.

    It remains the only time a full season has been lost. Hockey fans are hoping history does not repeat itself in 2012-13.

2009 -- Sidney Crosby Leads Penguins to Stanley Cup

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    The Pittsburgh Penguins had been beaten in the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals by the Detroit Red Wings in six games.

    The defeat stuck in the craw of Sidney Crosby, who was emerging as the new standard bearer in the NHL. Crosby would not let the Penguins suffer another Finals defeat.

    Crosby, working in concert with explosive forward Evgeni Malkin and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, led the Penguins past the Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals and the overmatched Carolina Hurricanes.

    The win over the Capitals was particularly notable because Crosby and his mates defeated arch-rival Alex Ovechkin and his charges.

    In the Finals, the Penguins overcame a 2-0 game deficit to win the Stanley Cup. Fleury stopped Nicklas Lidstrom's last-second shot to clinch the title for the Pens.

2010 -- Chicago Blackhawks End the Misery

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    It had been 49 years since the Chicago Blackhawks last won the Stanley Cup, but they were primed for a memorable run in 2010.

    Led by stars like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa, head coach Joel Quenneville pushed the Blackhawks hard. They had dramatic wins over the Nashville Predators and Vancouver Canucks in the first two rounds before sweeping the San Jose Sharks.

    In the Finals, Chicago held a 3 games to 2 lead over the Philadelphia Flyers as the teams took the ice in the City of Brotherly Love.

    The game went to overtime and the Blackhawks secured possession of the puck, as Kane whipped a wrist shot from a sharp angle.

    Nobody knew what happened. The puck disappeared. The red light did not go on. Everybody froze.

    Except Kane. He knew the puck had gotten under the pads of goalie Michael Leighton, and the Hawks were Stanley Cup champions.

    Instant replay confirmed the goal and Chicago celebrated wildly.

2011 -- Bruins Win Dramatic Finals

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    The 2011 Stanley Cup Finals seemed like an interesting matchup, as the favored Vancouver Canucks were playing for their first NHL championship, and the Boston Bruins had not won since 1972.

    An intense hatred between the two teams quickly developed, as the Canucks egged on their Eastern Conference rivals when Vancouver's Alex Burrows bit the finger of Boston's Patrice Bergeron in the first game of the series.

    The teams split the first six games, with Vancouver winning narrow decisions on home ice, while the Bruins blew out the Canucks in the games in Boston.

    In the seventh game in Vancouver, the Bruins broke the trend as they won a 4-0 decision, and captain Zdeno Chara lifted the Stanley Cup in a monumental moment for the franchise.

    Vancouver fans wept...and rioted after the loss.

2012 -- Eighth-Seeded Kings Roll Through Playoffs

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    The Los Angeles Kings went into the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs as the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.

    However, the Kings looked dangerous.

    They had problems scoring goals during the regular season, but they had found their rhythm after a late-season trade brought in high-scoring Jeff Carter.

    The Kings became an unstoppable force in the playoffs.

    They rolled over the President's Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks and then beat the St. Louis Blues and Phoenix Coyotes.

    They went to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1993 against the New Jersey Devils—the Kings won the first Stanley Cup in their history, beating the Devils in six games.

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