As 2010 comes to an end, it is the perfect time to reflect upon the many wonderful moments that made up the past 12 months. Here is my thank you to those who contributed something to the sport of hockey in 2010, in no particular order:
- Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin for the maturity, grace and class they demonstrated while the debate over who would be the top pick at the 2010 NHL Draft went on and on and on — these two showed poise that many veteran athletes do not possess. Here’s to hoping both have long, storied careers.
- Team USA and Team Canada for the amazing performance in Saskatoon in January. The game was played with the intensity of a Game Seven of an NHL playoff series, and the U.S. overtime win was as exciting a game as one could hope to see.
- HBO for its incredible 24/7 series. Though it is just two episodes long at this point, it has given incredible insight to the locker rooms, the benches, the offices and the people who make up this incredible sport.
- The Philadelphia Flyers for their remarkable comeback from a pair of 3-0 deficits –- one in the series and one on the road in Game Seven against the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
- Team Canada and Team USA for the unbelievable display of hockey at the Olympics in Vancouver. The sport gained thousands of new fans thanks to the efforts of both teams. Bravo to you, and bravo to Canada for winning gold.
The efforts of every NHL player at the Vancouver Olympics. While NBA stars are asking out of national programs, hockey players continue to put everything on the line for their respective countries. No one was getting paid in Vancouver, but you would not know that from the efforts on the ice.
- Steve Yzerman for the great job he did building Canada’s historic Olympic team, as well as for the job he is doing rebuilding the Tampa Bay Lightning in his first year as the team’s General Manager.
- Eric Staal, Jonathan Toews and Mike Babcock for becoming the newest members of the Triple Gold Club –- a group of 24 men who have won Olympic Gold, a World Championship and a Stanley Cup. Staal and Babcock (the first coach to earn this honor) claimed their membership with Canada’s win in the Olympics, while Toews punched his membership card when he won the Conn Smythe Award in leading the Chicago Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup.
- Jaroslav Halak for his incredible performance for Montreal during the Stanley Cup playoffs, and Carey Price for reviving his career during the first three months of the 2010-2011 season.
- Tim Thomas for coming back from a hip injury and looking like the Vezina-winning goalie he was in 2008-2009.
- The women of Team Canada and Team USA for demonstrating that there are plenty of amazing female hockey players, and to Angela James and Cammi Granato for their induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
- Michigan and Michigan State for drawing 85,451 fans (the game sold 113,411 tickets) to Michigan Stadium for an outdoor game between the cross-state rivals.
- Pat Burns for many great memories.
- The Winter Classic at Fenway Park. Other than the playing of “Sweet Caroline,” it could not have been a better day. The college doubleheader a few nights later was just as exciting.
- Sidney Crosby for the incredible point streak he is on, and for his ability to play at a high-level night in and night out under incredible pressure and scrutiny.
- All the people who make hockey the wonderful sport it is: from the youth coaches to the parents to the players in the NHL to the pond hockey players to the street hockey players to the fans of the game. Every one of you is part of a giant family.
(Steve Kendall is a freelance writer who has covered the NHL, the AHL, and college, junior and high school hockey for 20 years. He has worked for The Boston Herald, The Worcester Telegram & Gazette and New England Hockey Journal, among others.)