A look back at 2012 in hockey

Jerry York

Image courtesy AroundtheRes.com

Although the 2012-13 National Hockey League season has yet to start, the hockey world never stopped producing stories. We at Flyers Faithful compiled our list of the top hockey stories of 2012. Let us know what moments are on your list.

10. Small-market signing frenzy

During the final free agency period before the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expired, small market teams suddenly found themselves at the forefront of big name free agent signing news. Minnesota made a big splash by landing both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, arguably two of the top free agents this offseason; Nashville matched a ludicrous offer sheet from the Philadelphia to keep Shea Weber defending their blue line; Phoenix shelled out big bucks to keep Shane Doan around; Carolina made a big splash by acquiring Eric Staal’s brother, Jordan, from the Pittsburgh Penguins just a season before he hit the free agent market; even the Oilers opened the checkbook to shell out sizable deals to key players.

Meanwhile, the traditional big spenders remained relatively quiet. Too quiet.

9. Jack Jablonski

Last year, high school hockey player, Jack Jablonski, was paralyzed when he was hit against the boards during a game. It was the sort of tragedy that every player and every parent fears.

What came next, though, was an overwhelming amount of support that was truly unfathomable. The likes of Wayne Gretzky and Pavel Bure called his house to see how he was doing. NFL star, Adrian Peterson, met him and called him an inspiration.

Community members donated money. People all around the globe wore t-shirts in support of the paralyzed hockey player. Rallies were held. Facebook groups were formed and flooded with supportive messages. All the world was suddenly focused in on an obscure player on a team that gets no press playing a sport that gets little recognition and it was amazing to see everyone transcend boundaries to come together to help out as part of a larger community.

8. Brawl in Huntsville

While NHL fans starved for any hockey action, Huntsville Havoc and Mississippi Surge answered the bell, in more ways than one.

One Havoc player landed in the Surge bench during an altercation and the player was ganged up on by the entire opposing team. The Havoc squad came rushing over to defend their teammate. What happened from there was a all-out war spawned directly from the heads of “Slap Shot” and the infamous 2004 Flyers/Senators brawl.

It was violent, uncalled for, completely preventable, and just enough to sate the bloodlust of hockey fans while the NHL and NHLPA go through another round of breaking fans’ hearts.

7. U.S.-born captains make history

When the New Jersey Devils met the eventual Stanley Cup winners, Los Angeles Kings, the two teams made history. It was the first time in NHL history that both teams in the Cup Finals were captained by U.S.-born players. Zach Parise, now a member of the Minnesota Wild, and Dustin Brown proudly lead their teams through six thrilling games that helped Americans once again buy into the sport they previously abandoned. Well, that is until a  ridiculous pissing contest between the NHL and NHLPA caused fans to once again lose interest (not that I’m bitter or anything).

6. Operation Hat Trick

After Superstorm Sandy tore through the East Coast, hockey players teamed up at a benefit game in Atlantic City towards the end of November to raise money for the victims of the hurricane. First Responders and affected families were bused in alongside 10,000 other fans to watch Team New York square off against Team New Jersey/Philadelphia and raise over $500,000 for charity.

5. Jessica Redfield

Image courtesy of SportsRantz.com

Up-and-coming hockey journalist, Jessica (Redfield) Ghawi, narrowly escaped a shooting in Toronto. She blogged about the harrowing experience back in June. Two weeks later, she was one of the many victims of the shooting at the “Dark Knight Rises” showing at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.

Soon, she became a face for the victims of the tragedy and the hockey community came up with numerous ways to keep her spirit alive. The Flyers created the Jessica Redfield Internship. Nearly $55,000 was raised on Indiegogo for the Official Jessica Redfield Sports Journalism Scholarship Fund. The Jessica Redfield Foundation was created. The San Antonio Rampage honored her during the team’s home opener. An equipment drive was held and one donator wrote a check out for $20,000.

During an awful year with many tragedies, it is at least nice to know that a victim becomes the one memorialized in the long run and not the shooter.

4. Lokomotiv Yaroslavl returns to KHL

A year after losing 37 players, coaches, and staff members when Lokomotiv’s plane crashed on the way to the team’s season opener in September of 2011, the team rejoined the Kontinental Hockey League this year. It was a feel-good story that helped fans, families of the players, and the community, move past this difficult time.

The organization managed to put together a strong team which received support even from rivals and currently stands second in the Western Conference and first in the Tarasov Division.

3. CHLPA files to allow CHL to compete for Stanley Cup

In November, the CHLPA announced that they applied to play for the Stanley Cup, should the 2012-2013 NHL season be canceled. From the announcement:

Lord Stanley intended that the Cup be given to the top amateur hockey club in the Dominion. The CHL is the top amateur league in Canada so we believe that it’s only fitting that in the event the NHL continues it’s lockout throughout the entire 2012/13 season that the Stanley Cup be competed for with the original reasons the Stanley Cup was intended for by keeping the true spirit of the Trophy in mind.

We also believe that the cause is just.

All revenues from the event will go directly into Players education fund.

2. Jerry York sets NCAA’s all-time wins record

It was inevitable, but took just a bit longer than most thought to accomplish the milestone. Boston College head coach Jerry York became the all-time winningest coach in NCAA history with 925 victories, passing Ron Mason, when the Eagles beat Alabama-Huntsville 5-2 on Saturday on the opening day of the Mariucci Classic in Minneapolis.

This is York’s 41st season behind the bench. He also graduated from BC and played hockey for the Eagles in the 1960s. Along the way, the Watertown, Massachusetts native began his career with Clarkson, and has led his alma mater to four national titles and Bowling Green to another.

1. NHL, fans suffer through third lockout in league history

You know what league, you can suck it. I’ll never stop supporting the Flyers but the league is doing its best to lose even the most diehard fans. Maybe Gary Bettman doesn’t deserve all the blame; maybe he’s just a puppet for the owners; maybe some good things have happened during his tenure but he’s also presided over the league as it faded into oblivion, drifted away from the cash cow of ESPN, waded through some of the most insufferable moments and produced some of the most idiotic decisions in its history. So, you can suck it too, Bettman.

Honorable mentions

Nicklas Lidström retires, Glendale approves 20-year rink lease, Tim Thomas is insane, KHL/IIHF/AHL/etc. get air time and press during NHL lockout