As the year winds to a close, it’s time to reflect on the big goals, saves, and hits that make hockey so exciting. In 2014, NHL fans enjoyed a snow-capped Winter Classic with an attendance of 105, 491. Team Canada won gold in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, shutting out Sweden for a 3-0 win. Southern California even saw its first successful outdoor game, to everyone’s surprise. Whether inside the barn, or out on the field, 2014 was also the year of some of the biggest hits in hockey. While you anticipate the upcoming Winter Classic at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., enjoy ten of the biggest NHL hits that stunned hockey fans this year.
1. Biggest Coors Light NHL Stadium Series Hit
As Jaromir Jagr carried the puck into the offensive zone, Ryan McDonagh of the New York Rangers plowed Travis Zajac over the boards and into the New Jersey Devils’ bench. While referees pried the players apart, legs and sticks flailed, making this one of the most dramatic hits of the Stadium Series.
2. Biggest Hit to Take Out Both Players
When Benoit Pouliot turns to exit the Rangers’ defensive zone, Scott Hartnell levels both Pouliot and himself, sending both players flying. Hartnell is known for falling down regularly, even writing a children’s book about his proclivity. At least this time he took another player to the ice with him.
3. Biggest Kronwall
Just as Bruins forward, Reilly Smith turns to take the puck back into the Red Wings’ zone from center ice, he is “Kronwalled” by none other than Niklas Kronwall himself. According to the tracking site posted by fans, this hit currently stands as the last known Kronwalling to occur.
4. Biggest Blue Line Hit
Making his Dallas Stars debut after spending 6 seasons with the San Jose Sharks, Jason Demers lifts Jarret Stoll with a hip check at the Stars’ blue line. Demers also scored his first goal in a green sweater in this game, making a huge impression on his new fans.
5. Biggest Hit Resulting in Interference
Raffi Torres of the San Jose Sharks hits Montreal Canadiens’ Lars Eller before he touches the puck, sending Eller hard into the boards. As the referee whistles for interference, Jarred Tinordi takes matters into his own hands, earning both San Jose and Montreal matching penalties.
6. Best Hit Leading to a Goal
After slamming Mikael Granlund behind the Minnesota net, Jonathan Toews brings the puck around to set up the play. Marian Hossa passes to Patrick Sharp, and he centers it before Toews crashes the crease, scoring backhand on Ilya Bryzgalov.
7. Best Avoided Hit
As the Blues’ captain, David Backes, attempts to check rookie, Nathan MacKinnon, the Avalanche forward pushes back, sending Backes to the ice. Unable to finish his hit, Backes takes exception and drops his gloves to jump the smaller, less seasoned, 18 year-old player. Though Colorado Avalanche coach, Patrick Roy, called Backes’ roughing attempt “gutless,” the captain’s aggression is a part of the game that any player should be prepared to face, regardless of age and experience.
8. Most Gravity-Defying Hit
According to NHL player bios, Phil Kessel and Antoine Roussel measure up to the same height and weight. This is what makes Roussel’s gravity-defying hit so unbelievable. As Roussel put his hands up to Kessel at the Stars’ blue line, Kessel goes airborne, breaking all known laws of physics.
9. Best “David and Goliath” Hit
When one considers the biggest players in the league like John Scott, Dustin Byfuglien, or Zdeno Chara, it’s rare to see them take a hit. Instead, Dylan Olsen decides to check Chara to halt the Bruins’ offense, despite the size difference, and does so successfully. At 6’9″ and 255 pounds, Chara greatly outsizes Olsen who is 7 inches shorter, and 32 pounds lighter.
10. Biggest Rookie Hit
Since the Ottawa Senators’ rookie, Curtis Lazar, was chosen as Canada’s captain in the 2015 World Junior Championship, it’s timely to celebrate his success with the big hit that plastered Mikhail Grabovski to the boards.
Holiday Bonus: Biggest Goalie Hit
No list of the biggest hits in 2014 would be complete without including either a goaltender or a reference to the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Ján Laco’s twerk-check on Alexei Tereshenko may have earned the Slovakian goalie a 2-minute minor for interference, but it also made the rounds on Twitter and Vine, immortalizing Laco in social media history.
With so many special events, 2014 was an exciting year for the NHL, and one in which many players had the opportunity to prove themselves in unique environments. Looking forward to the 2015 Winter Classic, World Junior Championship, and the battle to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the world’s best hockey players will ensure many more earth-shaking hits to come.