We’re fast approaching the 100th anniversary of the founding of the National Hockey League, and it’s certainly come a long way from its humble beginnings. In celebration of the founding of the best professional league for the best professional sport, we decided to take a look back at the top five moments in professional hockey.
This was the game that turned Pat LaFontaine into a national hero. In this game, the New York Islanders played the Washington Capitals in Maryland, on April 18th, 1987. Recorded as the longest game in hockey history, the match went on for over six hours before finally ending on Easter Sunday morning, April 19th, 1987, at just before 2 a.m. While Kelly Hrudey also made history during the game with 73 saves (a record that still stands today), it was Pat LaFontaine’s finishing goal almost 70 minutes into overtime that stands out in everyone’s minds.
The first-ever Winter Classic took place in 2008 at the Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, New York, where the Pittsburgh Penguins trounced the Buffalo Sabres by 2-1 in a shootout. The Winter Classic also stands because it gave the NHL its highest television ratings in 30 years and it’s a record that still stands today.
Prior to 2010, the Chicago Blackhawks had gone without a Stanley Cup win for forty years. But that streak was broken on June 9th, 2010, when the Hawks defeated the Flyers after six games. What was most interesting about the winning goal was that no one saw it go in except for the Hawks. Fans had figured out something had happened when they saw the Hawks celebrating on the ice, and it was only after the replay was broadcast that fans and officials alike were able to confirm that a winning goal did, in fact, take place.
In Pittsburgh, Jaromir Jagr is a hero of nearly saint-like proportions. But nowhere was this more evident, and deserved, than when the former Penguins right winger earned what has since been called “the most impressive goal in NHL history,” when the Penguins played against the Chicago Blackhawks. At the time, Jagr swooped past nearly the entire Blackhawks team to get the winning goal.
When Wayne “The Great One” Gretzky finally retired in 1999, he did so with a flourish, getting the Rangers’ only goal in front of a sold-out show at Madison Square Garden. Gretzky retired with 894 goals and 2,857 points.
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