2012 wasn't just hockey apocalypse
The NHL lockout makes it hard to remember that there was really hockey outside of contract lengths, HRR and back-diving deals.
But there was. A whole bunch of it. And maybe remembering will help us envision a future where the game returns from the boardrooms and under the thumb of lawyers to the ice, where fans can enjoy it once again. Maybe.
At any rate, here's a look at 2012, the calendar year, in hockey as we remember it.
Jan. 2, 2012: We recall the Winter Classic 2012 -- held Jan. 2 to avoid conflicts with the NFL's final regular-season games -- for a couple of reasons, including the last-minute penalty shot by Danny Briere that gave the host Philadelphia Flyers a chance to tie their hated rivals, the New York Rangers. Briere was denied, though, by Henrik Lundqvist in a fitting end to a terrific 3-2 Ranger victory. Remember the Flyers' starter? That's right, not big-money, big-universe netminder Ilya Bryzgalov but Sergei Bobrovsky, who has since been dealt to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Our other memory, not quite in 2012 but close enough, was seeing 48,000 show up for an alumni game that featured Bernie Parent, Bob Clarke and Eric Lindros. Yeah, tickets were bundled together but folks didn't have to show up. But they did. Just another reminder of the stupidity of the lockout as we consider what might have been this season and the canceled weekend featuring the Red Wings against the Maple Leafs and events scheduled for both Comerica Park in downtown Detroit and at Michigan Stadium.
A Winter of Discontent
Jan. 23: The Boston Bruins visited the White House, as is the custom with all Stanley Cup winners. All the team's active players were on hand -- and even some who were no longer with the team -- except defending Vezina and Conn Smythe Trophy winner Tim Thomas, who chose to politicize the normally apolitical moment by staying home. Thomas' stance created a media furor and infuriated many players and Bruins management. The event dogged Thomas throughout the season (he declined to answer questions about it at the All-Star Game in Ottawa shortly after). Thomas and the Bruins were ousted in the first round of the playoffs by the Washington Capitals, the seventh seed, in a hotly contested seven-game series. Shortly after the Bruins' season ended, Thomas announced, via his Facebook page, that he would be sitting out the 2012-13 season. Little did he know that the NHL would sit out as well, as though in silent support of his views.
Wild Ride (Down)Feb. 18: The Minnesota Wild lost 4-0 to the St. Louis Blues, marking the team's 15th loss of some sort in a 19-game span, dating to New Year's Eve 2011.The stretch crippled a Wild team that in mid-December had been atop the NHL standings and tumbled out of the playoffs for the fourth straight season. The collapse set the stage for what would be the most explosive offseason in team history. (See below.)
Karma Is a Female DogMarch 2: Coach Randy Carlyle, dispatched earlier in the season by the Anaheim Ducks, was reunited with old pal Brian Burke when Carlyle was named head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Carlyle, who won a Cup with Burke in Anaheim in 2007, replaced Ron Wilson. The firing shows that karma is indeed a, well, you know. Wilson enraged the large Toronto media contingent by announcing via Twitter on Christmas Day that his contract had been extended, a decision he knew would interrupt Christmas for those covering the team. Carlyle could not, however, get the Leafs over the hump, and they missed the playoffs for the seventh straight year. They are the only NHL team to have missed the postseason every season since the last lockout.
Sid the Kid Is BackMarch 15: Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby returned to the ice after another prolonged absence because of concussion-related issues, collecting an assist in a victory over the Rangers in New York. Crosby had been sidelined since December, but managed to stay healthy for the duration of the regular season and playoffs, collecting 37 points in 22 regular-season games. In June 2012, he would sign a 12-year deal worth just over $104 million, which should keep him a Penguin for the balance of his career.
Never A Dull MomentMarch 29: The Montreal Canadiens ended a tawdry period of their remarkable history by firing GM Pierre Gauthier with less than two weeks to go in the regular season. The team had continued a period of decline on the ice under Gauthier, but the 2011-12 season was marked by decisions that made the team a laughingstock. Early in the season, the Habs fired assistant coach Perry Pearn, as if he was responsible for the team's poor play and not the overpaid, underachieving lineup Gauthier had assembled. Later, in December, head coach Jacques Martin was fired and replaced by the unilingual Randy Cunneyworth, prompting an outcry in the French-speaking province. In a shameful display of pandering to the fan base, owner Geoff Molson apologized for the move, making Cunneyworth a lame-duck coach, the term "lame" pretty much also summing up the Habs' play. The Habs missed the playoffs and Gauthier was replaced by Marc Bergevin, who hired former Montreal head coach Michel Therrien on June 5 to take over the coaching duties.
Lose to Get In
April 5: With a shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks in their 81st game of the season, the Los Angeles Kings clinched a playoff berth. After a season in which they fired head coach Terry Murray in December, the Kings would in two months' time go on to win their first-ever Stanley Cup.