Scoring a goal in hockey is not easy. The NHL net is 72 inches wide by 48 inches tall. Put a fully padded-up goaltender in the middle of the goal and getting a puck into the net is a formidable task. However, sometimes the goaltender is not in the net, and when a player attempts to score and whiffs, it’s an epic fail. While this is not the complete list, here are three of the most memorable.
Stefan’s Empty Net Fail
One of the most, if not the most epic fails belongs to Patrik Stefan of the Dallas Stars.
In a game versus the Edmonton Oilers, time was winding down with the Stars leading 5-4. Stefan gathered the puck and with no one between him and the Oilers’ empty net. Stefan, sure to make the empty-net goal and secure the win for the Stars promptly did this:
Stefan could have crouched on his knees and pushed the puck with his nose like a peanut. Instead, as Jared Clinton described in an article at The Hockey News, Stefan notched what may be the most epic fail in the history of the NHL:
As Stefan shifted the puck, it hit a rut in the ice, flipped up and over his stick and skittered helplessly wide. Stefan, trying to scramble to recover, lost his footing, mistakenly swatted the puck back towards Oilers center Jarret Stoll, which started a play up ice that resulted in a game-tying goal from Edmonton’s Ales Hemsky.
The Stars eventually won the game 6-5 in a shootout. The game will remain in the annals of hockey for the Stefan miss.
Craig Smith Goes Top Shelf, Err Stands
On November 17, 2011, the Nashville Predators were hosting the Toronto Maple Leafs. They had the game in hand, 3-1, with a little over a minute left in the contest. The Leafs had pulled their goaltender and were trying to score to cut the Predators’ lead.
Suddenly, Craig Smith grabs the puck in the Leafs’ zone, and raced to the wide open net:
Smith tried to go top shelf and instead sailed the puck into the stands. While this epic fail had no effect on the game’s final result, it lands him on this list of hockey’s most epic misses.
Matt Cooke Double Trouble
Matt Cooke goes down in “epic fail lore” as having the distinction of missing not one but two shots at an empty net.
On March 5, 2009, the Pittsburgh Penguins were sitting on a 2-0 lead against the Calgary Flames with a minute to go in the third period. The Flames pulled their goalie to try to pull back into the game, and Cooke wound up with the puck on a breakaway. He shot at the wide-open goal and watched as the puck slid by the post, on the wrong side. It was an epic whiff.
Undaunted by his first miss, Cooke found himself again with the puck and a chance to redeem himself. Instead, he whiffed a second time and became the butt of his teammates’ jokes. Another epic fail for Cooke.
NHL action is fast, tough and continuous and, occasionally, the bizarre happens. Players at the top of their games miss wide open shots. The good news is there is always a next epic fail that will cement itself into hockey history and it could happen in the next game. Stay tuned!
Mark lives in the Raleigh, NC area and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.