10 Moments the NHL Would Like to Forget
The NHL may not be mired in a PED scandal like the MLB, but that doesn't mean that there haven't been some awful moments that NHL fans have had to endure recently. Whether it was the 2004-05 lockout that cost the league an entire season or the atrocious Todd Bertuzzi-Steve Moore incident, there are certainly instants that the NHL would like to forget.
Of course, the various reasons that the league would like to forget these moments varies greatly, based both on severity and circumstance.
With that in mind, by "moments the NHL would like to forget," we mean "moments the NHL wishes had never happened."
Some of these snapshots in time cause pain because of financial reasons, and others because lives were drastically altered on these particular days. These types of events obviously aren't equal in importance, but the NHL—and probably most fans—would do anything to prevent these occurrences from going down in the first place if presented with the chance.
Todd Bertuzzi-Steve Moore Incident
This is what happens when "hockey justice" goes wrong. Very, very wrong.
Three weeks prior to Todd Bertuzzi's infamous sucker punch, Steve Moore had concussed Vancouver Canucks captain—and the NHL's leading scorer—Markus Naslund via a flying elbow typically reserved for the WWE.
The NHL didn't hand down a suspension and no penalty was called on the play. That's when the mystical honor code of hockey kicked in, and Bertuzzi took revenge into his own hands. What should have been a spendable sucker punch turned into a catastrophe in the heat of the moment, and Moore would never play another game of hockey again.
The punch, combined with the weight of two players smashing his head into the ice from above, fractured three vertebrates and is still being investigated in Canada as an act of criminal behaviour.
Brittanie Cecil Struck by a Puck During Columbus Blue Jackets Game
On March 18th, 2002, something happened in the NHL that had never happened before: There was a fatality caused to a fan by a puck that had been deflected over the boards. A play that happens several times a game and is considered routine had unexpectedly caused the death of a 13-year-old girl, sending the NHL back to the drawing board as far as fan safety was concerned.
The incident was simple enough. Columbus Blue Jackets center Espen Knutsen took a slap shot that hit the stick of Derek Morris, who was a member of the Calgary Flames at the time. The puck rifled up and over the glass, striking Brittanie Cecil in the left temple.
Sports Illustrated's L. Jon Wertheim breaks down what happened from there:
But what Brittanie's doctors didn't know was that she had suffered a tear to her right vertebral artery, which supplies blood to the back of the brain. (The CAT scan performed when Brittanie was in the hospital did not reveal the tear.) The torn artery developed a clot that increased steadily in size, so much so that it inhibited the blood supply to Brittanie's brain. As less and less blood flowed, the clot continued to expand.
She died from the torn vertebral artery at 5:15 p.m. on March 18, just two days before the 14th birthday she was at the Blue Jackets game to celebrate.
Derek Boogaard's Death
There are two things that we'll always know about Derek Boogaard: The man could hit harder than just about anyone in the history of the NHL, and that he was taken from this world far too soon.
One of the most notorious enforcers of the 2000s, Boogaard struck fear into the heart of his opponents with his ferocious striking ability and rock-solid jaw. It was these same traits that led to his tragic death in May of 2011.
He was recovering from a concussion when he accidentally overdosed on a mixture of prescription painkillers and alcohol.
This shed light on how easy it is for professional hockey players to acquire certain forms of medication, and forced the league to take a serious look at how concussions can negatively affect the ability of players to live normal lives.
Phoenix Coyotes' Ownership Limbo
The Phoenix Coyotes had been run by the NHL for four years before a group of four investors swooped in with $170 million to save the franchise. Going by the corporate name IceArizona, George Gosbee, Anthony LeBlanc, Avik Dey and Daryl Jones are the new owners of the Coyotes, and have promised to keep the team in Phoenix.
There were still a lot of forgettable bumps along the road to stability for this team, and the NHL would likely erase the inconsistency from the ledger if it could.
While it's outstanding news that the team is now in good—or at least wealthy—hands, it took far too long for this team to appear to be viable in the desert.
Vancouver Canucks' Stanley Cup Final Riots
The Stanley Cup Final is supposed to be the epitome of the sport, showing the best that hockey has to offer on the grandest and most public of stages. That spotlight is great for the growth of the NHL, until events such as the 2011 Stanley Cup Final riot occur.
When the Boston Bruins secured their Cup victory over the Canucks on June 15, 2011, fans of Vancouver poured into the streets of the city, flipping cars and busting out storefront windows to convey their dismay.
According to the CBC, more than $1 million in damages occurred, while CTV News reported that 117 people had been arrested in connection to the massive public disturbance. It didn't take the city long to clean up the mess, but it was still a black mark on the reputation of the NHL as a whole.
Especially considering that 2011 was actually the second time that Canucks fans had rioted following a Stanley Cup Final loss.
Formation of the WHA
When the World Hockey Association formed in 1972, it represented all the ideals that the NHL had been ignoring up until that point. Once the WHA opened its doors, though, the king of all things hockey was forced to take a good, hard look in the mirror.
Especially when star players such as Bobby Hull started jumping ship.
The WHA offered players more money than the NHL did, sought to capture markets that the NHL had neglected and took to signing European stars before the NHL considered that a serious option.
While the WHA wasn't nearly as financially stable as the NHL, it forced the reigning champion hockey league to change the way that it did business on terms that weren't its own. That's always a slug to the gut of corporations, and it wasn't any different for the NHL.
By the time the WHA met its end, the NHL was willing to merge with the sinking league. If not for the competing league, we may not have the Edmonton Oilers or Winnipeg Jets in today's NHL, and the very existence of the WHA changed the way the NHL did business forever.
The Emergence of the KHL
Google the simple phrase "KHL" and your search screen will be flooded with message board threads from concerned fans asking whether or not the league is a viable threat to the NHL. The fact that people even have to wonder this aloud is a negative thing for the top hockey league in the world.
At this point, Russia's version of the NHL isn't a threat, but it isn't going away anytime soon either, and every time a player like Ilya Kovalchuk bolts for the K, it looks bad on the NHL.
While the KHL didn't start out well, it has since gained solid financial footing and can offer a sound alternative to the NHL. Alternatives—such as the WHA—can force change against the dominant brand's will, and that is something that the league likely wishes it didn't have to face.
Lokomotiv Yaroslavl Air Disaster
An entire professional hockey team perished in the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl Air Disaster of 2011. It's a hard thing to wrap one's head around. So many lives, snuffed out in an instant. An entire franchise derailed because of a plane crash.
While the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl didn't play in the NHL, the team contained several players with league ties. That, and at the end of the day, all of these people are involved with hockey and do this for a living. One league's loss is another league's loss.
All told, 45 of the 46 passengers on the flight were killed. Included among the dead were Pavol Demitra, Stefan Liv, Ruslan Salei and Josef Vasicek.
2004-05 Season Lost to the Lockout
The 2004-05 season was totally cancelled due to various financial reasons, the least of which wasn't that the NHL was aggressively seeking to implement a salary cap. The NHLPA balked at many of these demands, and as the months wore on, no progress in talks was made.
For the first time in the history of the NHL, the Stanley Cup wasn't awarded; instead, it remained in its case while billionaires fought with millionaires about how to fairly divide income.
The lockout caused an incredible amount of damage to the reputation of the NHL as a whole, and it took many casual fans several years to return to viewing the game. Mostly because the lockout also caused a snag in TV deals across the board, and instead of airing games on ESPN2 for one season, the league decided to pursue a relationship with the channel formally known as the OLN.
Ouch. Across the board, ouch.
For the third time in 19 years, the NHL locked out its players in 2012. Money was once again at the center of the conversations, as the players and owners bickered about how to divide the billions the league had started generating since recovering from the lockout.
The hypocrisy and ridiculousness of this lockout could fill a 30-slide article, but the long and the short of it is that the league once again took its fans and players for granted when it cancelled all but 48 games of the 2012-13 season.
If not for the heroic intervention of Scot Beckenbaugh—who walked between the NHL's headquarters and the NHLPA's HQ on a freezing cold January day for 12 hours—we could have seen another entire season cancelled.
At least we saw the Stanley Cup lifted at the end of this shaky year, right?
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