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Top moment so far this season debated by NHL.com

Heritage Classic, Tavares big surprise, Laila's Stanley Cup ring among early favorites

NHL.com @NHLdotcom

The NHL season already has its fair share of wonderful memories and moments as we pass the four-week point of the 2019-20 season. Which ones have made the most impact? Well, we asked a collection of NHL.com writers for their favorite moment in the first month of the season, either on or off the ice.

Here are their thoughts:

 

Amalie Benjamin, staff writer

Pastrnak scores four goals against Ducks 

It remains to be seen whether the Boston Bruins can reach -- or exceed -- the heights of last season, when they lost to the St. Louis Blues in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. What is clear is that at least one member of the team is soaring. That's forward David Pastrnak, who is tied with Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl for the League lead with 12 goals, and his 24 points in 12 games are second in the NHL, one behind Draisaitl. And Pastrnak has a signature moment to boot, scoring all four Bruins goals in a 4-2 win against the Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 14, the first time in the NHL he's scored that many. Pastrnak is one of the most fun players in the game, his skills matching his infectious personality. It seems unlikely that he'll continue his goal-per-game pace, and given that 50 goals are a rarity these days he certainly could challenge for the Rocket Richard Trophy as top goal scorer this season -- and maybe even the Hart Trophy, awarded to the League's most valuable player.

 

Tim Campbell, staff writer

2019 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic

Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice said afterward that only a fly-by from Santa Claus and his reindeer could have made the Heritage Classic at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, Saskatchewan, on Oct. 26 more perfect. The implication being all the other boxes for greatness were checked, making this a no-brainer for my favorite moment from the first month of the season. Afternoon snow flurries began dusting a football stadium dressed up to the nines and sold out for an NHL event. The uniforms of the Jets and Calgary Flames were sublime. The opening ceremonies were impressive, featuring a ceremonial puck drop with indigenous former NHL player Fred Sasakamoose, Flames icon Lanny McDonald and Jets great Thomas Steen. The game itself was authentic outdoor hockey on near-perfect ice, with a constant, gently falling snow and a nail-biter of a plot, won by the Jets 2-1 in overtime. If there's another hockey event this season that raises the bar set by this Heritage Classic, I can't wait to see it.

Video: CGY@WPG: Little scores OT winner in Heritage Classic

 

Nick Cotsonika, columnist

Golden Knights honor second anniversary of Oct. 1 shooting

The day before their season opener, the Vegas Golden Knights honored the second anniversary of the mass shooting on the Strip on Oct. 1, 2017. They invited hundreds of people who were affected, including survivors and first responders, to a private practice and luncheon at their headquarters. Staff members gave them "VEGAS STRONGER" T-shirts before practice. Players visited them after practice wearing the same shirts. "I think this community has become family," TV analyst Shane Hnidy told the crowd. It showed that the bond created during that inaugural season hasn't been broken. It has grown stronger.

 

William Douglas, staff writer

'Willie' screening at Middleburg Film Festival

I was at a reception for a screening of "Willie," the Willie O'Ree documentary, at the Middleburg Film Festival in Virginia on Oct. 19, when I noticed two sharp-dressed hockey lifers standing in the corner of the room laughing and enjoying each other's company. O'Ree, the Hockey Hall of Famer who was the first black player in the NHL, and Neal Henderson, founder and coach of the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club and the first black person to be elected to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, were telling old hockey stories. Lou Vairo, director for special projects for USA Hockey, observed the moment and summed it up best. "I call Willie 'The Emperor,' you know, like an emperor penguin, strong, proud," said Vairo, a 2014 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame inductee. "I call Neal 'The Pope' -- when I heard him speak one time I said, 'This guy's the pope, I mean he can speak.' I'm real proud of the accomplishments that these men have and are rightfully recognized for."

 

Tom Gulitti, staff writer

Laila Anderson's Stanley Cup ring

My favorite moment so far occurred the day before the regular season opened, when St. Louis Blues defenseman Colton Parayko and forward Alexander Steen surprised Laila Anderson by delivering a Stanley Cup ring to her home on Oct. 1. Anderson, who has a rare and life-threatening inflammatory syndrome, hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, became close friends with Parayko and Steen last season and was an inspiration to the Blues during their Stanley Cup run. Receiving the custom Cup ring brought the 11-year-old to tears. "I feel like I shouldn't be touching this," Anderson said after pulling the ring from its box. The following day, before attending the Blues' Stanley Cup banner-raising ceremony and season opener against the Washington Capitals, Anderson spoke to a group of 300 Bank of America employees about the importance of taking the swab test to become part of the national bone marrow donor registry. Anderson received a bone-marrow transplant in January. "So maybe they can save somebody's life like somebody saved hers," her mother, Heather Anderson, said.

Video: Laila receives signed Stanley Cup replica from Blues

 

Pete Jensen, senior fantasy editor

Draisaitl, McDavid fuel Oilers comeback against Capitals

The most surprising team in the NHL through the first month of the season has been the Edmonton Oilers; and the memorable game that showed this season really could be different than the past two was when they rallied from down two goals at home to win against the Washington Capitals, the best road team in the NHL (7-1-1), 4-3 in overtime on Oct. 24. Forwards Connor McDavid and/or Leon Draisaitl had a hand in the final three goals of the game, including the vintage 2-on-1, tic-tac-toe winner scored by Draisaitl, assisted by McDavid. The Oilers (9-4-1) lead the Pacific Division, and they proved they can hang with the best teams in the League with this exhilarating comeback win.

 

Mike G. Morreale, staff writer

Jack Hughes vs. Quinn Hughes

The first big showdown between the Hughes brothers, New Jersey Devils center Jack Hughes and Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes, lived up to the billing in front of 75 family members and friends at Prudential Center on Oct. 19. Jack, the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, scored his first goal in the NHL, 14:08 into the first period of a 1-0 win. Quinn, the No. 7 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, left his brother in the dust on a nifty zone exit in the third period with Jack closing in on him at the Canucks blue line. Hughes vs. Hughes II is scheduled in Vancouver on Nov. 10.

 

Tracey Myers, staff writer

Chicago's Purple Carpet

There's something inspiring seeing people who have beaten the odds, so my favorite moment was covering the Purple Carpet, which the Chicago Blackhawks held as part of their Hockey Fights Cancer night at United Center on Sunday. More than 20 people walked the carpet -- those who have beaten cancer, those who are in remission and those who have lost a loved one to it. Eddie Olczyk, who beat stage 3 colon cancer, and Adam Burish gave brief bios of every attendee, and each was greeted with tremendous applause. The ceremony was emotional and generated thoughts of family or friends in the same fight; for me, that's my aunt Pat, who's been battling pancreatic cancer for more than a year. It was also a reminder that some of the most difficult battles can be won.

 

Dan Rosen, senior writer

Dumba gets emotional telling story of lost friend

The most impactful moment of this season for me happened before the season even started. It was in Chicago at the NHL/NHLPA Player Media Tour on Sept. 5. There were five of us in a locker room at Fifth Third Arena, the Chicago Blackhawks practice facility. It was our makeshift studio to record interviews for the NHL @TheRink podcast. Matt Dumba, the Minnesota Wild defenseman, sat across from me. I asked him about the tattoo he has on his back that reads "COURAGE." Dumba started to tell me the story, his voice cracking, of his friend Kale Williams from Red Deer, Alberta, who killed himself on Feb. 10, 2013. He was 17. Dumba talked about a tattoo he has on his back to honor Kale, and how he added "COURAGE" to it as a message to have the courage to speak to someone if you're struggling, the courage to help someone who might be struggling. I told him after the interview that I'd like to chat further about it, that the topic is important and a story on it could have a positive impact. I wrote that story with the help of Dumba, Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Haydn Fleury, who was also close to Kale, and Kale's step father, Dean Williams. It ran on Oct. 22. I'll never forget that interview. It was raw, emotional, real. And hopefully the story makes a difference.

 

Dave Stubbs, columnist

Guy Lafleur's health scare

Include me among those who was stunned by Guy Lafleur's emergency need for quadruple bypass surgery in late September. I loved the Montreal Canadiens icon as a fan in the 1970s and got to know Flower, as he's known (the English translation of his surname), in a closer way in recent years. I've shadowed Guy at home and on the road for various stories and if I'm usually dragging by assignment's end, Lafleur never shows his fatigue, working the crowd until the last photo has been taken, the last autograph signed. On Sept. 24, during a routine medical exam, it was discovered Lafleur had full blockages of four arteries. He was operated on the next day. Eight days later, he was in touch by text message. I shared the good news of his recovery on social media, which nearly imploded my Twitter account, and we've been back and forth a few times in the past month as he continues to rebuild his strength. Lafleur's health scare, timely surgery, his ongoing recovery and the outpouring of love and support flowing his way from literally around the world has been my biggest story this season.

 

Mike Zeisberger, staff writer

Surprise, Daddy!!!

The best moment for me in this infant NHL season fittingly came courtesy of an infant. Two days before the Toronto Maple Leafs season opener against the Ottawa Senators on Oct. 2, forward John Tavares was summoned to the office of general manager Kyle Dubas. Imagine his surprise when he entered the room to find his three-week old son, Jace, waiting for him decked out in a blue No. 91 Maple Leafs Tavares jersey with a "C" stitched on the front. This is how John found out that he would be the 25th captain in Maple Leafs franchise history. As he searched for the appropriate words, his wife Aryne, Dubas, coach Mike Babcock and team president Brendan Shanahan all applauded. "To see my beautiful wife Aryne and my son Jace present me with an amazing honor and gift and special opportunity, was pretty amazing," Tavares said. "It was a great moment and I was definitely surprised. They got me good."

Video: OTT@TOR: Tavares named Maple Leafs captain

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