As the end of the calendar year nears, The Hockey Writers will look at some of the top moments from the world of hockey. From major trades and marquee skill to some extremely dark shadows cast over the world of hockey, this is 2015 in review starting with some of this year’s benchmark and milestone moments.
A New Beginning in Women’s Hockey
Yahoo’s Jen Neale said it best when she wrote about the inaugural season of the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) starting in 2015-16 – that prior to this league it was next to impossible to find a career as a female hockey player.
Now, thanks in large part to Dani Rylan and Angela Ruggiero, women have can find jobs as hockey players in the four-team league. While it still isn’t enough to qualify as a full-time gig for most players, it gives these women a chance to pursue their dream knowing that there is a salary involved.
On top of that, the league should continue to grow with some of the top players in women’s hockey having made the jump to the NWHL in it’s inaugural season in 2015-16.
The Szabados Shut Down
As if it weren’t enough for Edmonton-native Shannon Szabados to win a gold medal in Sochi back in February of 2014, the 29-year-old made headlines again in 2015 when she made 33 saves for the Columbus Cottonmouths in a 3-0 shutout win over the Huntsville Havoc.
The shutout was the first posted by a female player in men’s professional hockey and comes in Szabados’ second season in the Southern Professional Hockey League. She’s won 18 games for Columbus over that span with a 3.29 goals-against average and a .907 saver percentage.
— Shannon Szabados (@ShannonSzabados) December 27, 2015
A Matthews Among Men
In one of the worst kept secrets of the 2015 offseason, projected first overall pick in next year’s NHL draft – Auston Matthews – decided he was going to leave the country to play hockey in 2015-16. The decision led the young man to Switzerland where he joined the ZSC Lions of the Swiss National League A.
Matthews became the first highly touted North American prospect to head over to Europe for his NHL draft season, where he played against men in the hopes of developing his already impressive skill set.
“It’s a really good place for development,” said Jonas Siegenthaler, a Washington Capitals pick who’s also playing with the Lions. “It would be perfect for him.”
Since joining the Lions, Matthews has 25 points (14g-11a) in just 22 games – not bad for an 18-year-old looking to make some noise overseas.
Taking the Game Outdoors
From overseas to the great outdoors, the game is seeing more and more success when it comes to the pond hockey type games. Still, they’re looking to expand a grow the interest in the game from all perspectives. That’s why they’ve decided to add an outdoor women’s game to the schedule for the Winter Classic between the rival leagues – the NWHL and the CWHL.
The game will take place prior to the NHL’s Winter Classic between Les Canadiennes (CWHL) and the Boston Pride (NWHL). While it won’t be televised – possibly in part because of the late notice as discussed at Pension Plan Puppets – it is a start to growing the game on a national level.
On top of that, the IIHF announced that the 2018 World Junior Hockey Championship would include an outdoor game at the home of the Buffalo Bills – Ralph Wilson Stadium. Buffalo – who also hosted the 2011 tournament – was selected to host the 2018 tournament and will look to draw more than the roughly 330,000 fans they did in 2011.
While the teams that will be included in this outdoor game are still being determined, the outdoor game will be a highly anticipated feature added to the already hot ticket event.
The Moves Like Jagr
He’s arguably among the best players to ever suit up in the NHL and that includes being part of three NHL lockouts (two of which were just shortened seasons) and taking three season to play in Russia’s KHL. Imagine where Jaromir Jagr would sit on the all-time lists had he not had to deal with all of these layoffs during his career.
That being said, on December 10, Jagr scored his 731st NHL goal against Washington tying him for fourth on the NHL’s all-time list with the great Marcel Dionne.
Over parts of 22 seasons in the NHL, here’s what Jagr’s been able to do offensively during the regular season and where he ranks on the NHL’s all-time lists: 1,584 games played (10th all-time), 733 goals (fourth all-time), 1,095 assists (sixth all-time) and 1,828 points (fourth all-time). Not bad for a 43-year-old and he’s likely not done yet.
There you have it, some of hockey’s best benchmark moments from 2015. Look for more the top hockey headlines from the past year as THW continues to count them down.
For more, you can find Andrew on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.
Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.