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Top NHL memories of 2016

In their own words, NHL.com writers share what made this year special

NHL.com @NHL

As we bid farewell to a year filled with interesting people and unforgettable events, the writers at NHL.com detail the moments that meant the most to them in 2016.

 
Arpon Basu, Managing Editor, LNH.com

What will stick out to me from 2016 is sitting in the press conference room at the Montreal Canadiens training facility on the afternoon of June 29, listening to general manager Marc Bergevin attempt to explain trading P.K. Subban for Shea Weber and saying he feels he has a better team, but not explaining why. I wrote my story, filed it to NHL.com and drove home, passing the Montreal Children's Hospital and the P.K. Subban Atrium on the way.

Video: Subban-Weber, Hall-Larsson traded, Stamkos re-signs

 

Amalie Benjamin, NHL.com Staff Writer

When I got my assignment for the World Cup of Hockey 2016, I didn't have high hopes. I would be covering Team Europe in Quebec City. The location was fantastic, but the team? Well, I just wasn't sure it would be around very long.

It was a messy start for Team Europe, with half the team still traveling back from Europe after going through qualifying for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. There were few players, and fewer media members covering them. There was no buzz, not like there was about Team North America, Team Canada or Team USA. But there was something about the way coach Ralph Krueger talked, even on that first day, that made you want to believe in this team, even if it was hard to do so realistically.

It was even harder after Team North America undressed Team Europe in the first pretournament game.

But by the time Team Europe made its way to Toronto for the World Cup, things had turned. It was a different group, a group that had come together in a way that was unexpected, seemingly impossible. It would soon convince everyone else of what it believed about itself -- it was a real team, with a real shot.

At the end of most of his press conferences, Krueger would nod at me, sometimes even saying the words aloud, "You were with us since the beginning."

I was the only national writer to have watched the team from its very first day. And it was an incredible thing to watch, even with the sudden way it ended, on a goal by Brad Marchand with less than one minute remaining in Game 2 of the final to end the tournament. That goal left Team Canada celebrating and left Team Europe stunned, with a number of players -- Frans Nielsen comes to mind -- in tears after it was all over. And though I might not have anticipated it at the start, it was a beautiful thing to watch.

Video: CAN@EUR, Gm2: Marchand on his late goal to win WCH

 

Tim Campbell, NHL.com Staff Writer

Into a 30th year of covering hockey in Winnipeg, the Heritage Classic was an immensely enjoyable celebration of the NHL and the game in general in the city.

After the Jets-Oilers game on Oct. 23, words by Jets coach Paul Maurice still ring profoundly today. Asked what memory of the week will stand out for him, Maurice had, for me, the most perceptive words of the week, and it says so much about Maurice that he was able to share this thought in the immediate disappointment of his team's defeat in the game just played:

"I have a picture in my head of yesterday's [alumni] game and the 'True North' chant that came during the national anthem. I happened to be standing behind [Jets co-owner and chairman] Mark Chipman, who was standing down two or three rows taking it all in, and what I will remember the most was wondering in my own head if he understands -- and I'm sure he does but he's such a humble man I don't know that he does -- the impact that he had on the community. And I wondered if at the inaugural game of the Manitoba Moose years ago (1996) if he knew that hard work would come to this in a really short period of time. I'm just really proud to be here."

For anyone who has experienced all or some of the journey Winnipeg has taken in the last 20-plus years, there's an amazing amount of gratitude and emotion in those remarks.

 

Brian Compton, NHL.com staff writer

Having covered the New York Islanders for NHL.com for the past several years, I've gotten to know the players on a more personal level. You realize the work they put in on a daily basis to try to make themselves and the team successful. Travis Hamonic was drafted in 2009, made his NHL debut the following year and played a key role in the Islanders' resurgence. Watching him shake and fight back tears after the Islanders ended a 23-year drought and advanced to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs by defeating the Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference First Round in six games, it was one of those moments when you realize professional athletes aren't robots; they're real people who have the same emotions and feelings we all do.

 

Nick Cotsonika, NHL.com columnist

Joe Louis Arena became a cathedral June 14, four days after the death of Gordie Howe. A red carpet led to Howe's closed casket, which seemed to sit upon an altar. Above him was his No. 9, lowered from the rafters and illuminated by a spotlight, flanked by the four Stanley Cup banners he helped raise. His family sat to the right. Memorabilia from his career sat to the left: his Detroit Red Wings sweaters, his leather gloves, programs and photos and more. Wayne Gretzky, Scotty Bowman, Al Kaline and Steve Yzerman stood nearby. So did Howe's sons: Mark, Marty and Murray. Mark and Murray greeted mourners personally. They started at 9 a.m. and didn't finish until after 9 p.m., the official closing time, because they were determined to meet every last mourner. Gordie Howe was Mr. Hockey, an ambassador for the game, a man of the people. He was celebrated as he lived.

Video: Jon Morosi on Gordie Howe's funeral service

 

Lisa Dillman, NHL.com staff writer

At least Drew Doughty had the McDonald's Player of the Month award.

(Fries not included)

It seemed, for a time, the in-house award was the only individual honor claimed by the Los Angeles Kings defenseman. He has won the Stanley Cup twice with the Kings and won two Olympic gold medals with Team Canada.

You could say 2016 was a breakthrough year for one of the most complete defensemen of his generation. His all-around play resonated with the voters and Doughty won the Norris Trophy, awarded annually to the NHL's top defenseman. My first personal memory of Doughty was when he was drafted by the Kings in 2008 in Ottawa and he talked about the importance of his family to his career.

Doughty got emotional after winning the Norris, referencing his mother. It was heartening to see a consummate team player finally get recognized for his individual achievements.

 

Tom Gulitti, NHL.com staff writer

For me, the most memorable moment of 2016 was being at Yubileyny Sports Palace in St. Petersburg before Team Russia's training camp practice for the World Cup of Hockey 2016 on Sept. 7.

It was the five-year anniversary of the plane crash that took the lives of 26 players, three coaches and eight staff members of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team. In memory of those who were lost, Team Russia's players gathered around the center ice circle with their coaches and stood in silence for about 20 seconds. Sept. 7 remains a sad day in Russian history. For that reason, the Kontinental Hockey League shuts down for the day every season. Although there were no fans around to see them, Team Russia's players and coaches felt it was important to take some time to pay their respects to those who died. Being among the few there to witness it was special and powerful.

 

Mike Morreale, NHL.com staff writer

At the NHL Scouting Combine each year, I'm given an opportunity to speak 1-on-1 to some of the big names projected to go early in the first round of the NHL Draft. In 2016, I had a chance to sit down with forward Patrik Laine, considered by many a strong candidate to win the Calder Trophy as a member of the Winnipeg Jets. In our interview, I was curious if Laine played any other position aside from forward when he was younger in Finland. I nearly fell off my chair when Laine told me he played goaltender for eight years because that's the position he enjoyed most. I looked at him and said, "What?" He looked at me and said, "Yes. This is true." Laine's dad told him it was ridiculous that he was playing goaltender and that he should switch to forward. Laine told me he made the switch when he turned 12 and that he's grateful his father gave him the right advice. I think Jets coach Paul Maurice, and every hockey fan, is grateful, too.

Video: TOR@WPG: Laine erupts for first NHL hat trick

 

Shawn Roarke, NHL.com Director of Editorial

For as long as I live, I hope I never forget the sight of the Nashville Predators players tumbling over the bench onto the ice after Mike Fisher scored the game-winning goal against the San Jose Sharks in triple overtime of the Western Conference Second Round series.

The two exhausted Nashville players flopping onto the ice from the bench looked like I felt at that point in the night, too tired to execute their job and overwhelmed by the excitement of what just happened.

As I sat down to write the game story, I remember being intimidated by the enormity of what had just happened and the sudden fear that I couldn't do the drama justice. But much like the Fisher goal, my lead came out of seemingly nowhere and everything else followed.

Leaving Bridgestone Arena, my ears still ringing from perhaps the loudest building of my 2016 playoff experiences, I stood drained on the corner of Broadway in the early morning hour, as happy as I was at any time during a four-round marathon out West. I quickly realized that any other game this year would have to go a long way to beat what I had just witnessed. Many games tried, but I am still waiting.

 

Dan Rosen, NHL.com senior writer

This job with NHL.com has taken me all over the world to places like Sweden, Finland, Russia, Czech Republic and Switzerland. This year alone I was in Sweden and Finland for World Cup pretournament coverage. It also has taken me across North America to places I had never been to or never thought I'd ever get to. It has allowed me to do some very cool things. In this case, my favorite memory of 2016, it has allowed me to do something very cool twice. This year, for the second time in my life, I visited Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, to cover Sidney Crosby's time with the Stanley Cup. Just like in 2009, I was more than just a spectator in Crosby's Cup parade through this wonderful town outside of Halifax. Along with a friend from ESPN.com and his son, I walked the parade route behind Crosby's caravan. The people along the route were amazing. Meeting some of them, chatting with many, was a highlight unto itself. It gave me insight to what the community is all about, what hockey and Crosby mean there. As the parade continued on, the crowd folded in behind us, forming a huge gathering of people following Crosby down Forest Hills Parkway to the turn into Cole Harbour Place, where he grew up playing minor hockey. It was a 1.1-mile route filled with joy and pride on a gorgeous and steamy Saturday morning. Once we got to Cole Harbour Place, the stage was set up just as it was in 2009. The area was covered in a sea of people with an estimated 30,000-plus in attendance, according to local police. I stepped on stage briefly, before Crosby, and looked out to the crowd just to get a sense of the atmosphere, of the moment. It blew me away. The whole environment in Cole Harbour was something I'll never forget, just like in 2009.

 

Dave Stubbs, NHL.com columnist

I was in my Pittsburgh hotel room on the morning of June 10, the morning after Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final, packing to leave for Game 6 in San Jose, when I learned of the passing of NHL icon Gordie Howe.

Immediately, I canceled my trip west and spent the day in my room speaking by phone with more than 20 hockey legends who shared their memories of Mr. Hockey, many of them through their tears, before returning home to Montreal. There, for two days, I spoke with dozens more NHL greats before I flew back to Detroit to cover Gordie's dramatic and emotional Joe Louis Arena wake, and then his funeral.

I had covered the passings, wakes and funerals of Montreal Canadiens legends Maurice Richard in 2000, Jean Beliveau in 2014 and Elmer Lach and Dickie Moore in 2015. But reporting on the loss of Gordie Howe was unlike any other; hockey was saying goodbye to a man who in the eyes of many was the greatest player in NHL history, and a community much larger than the game was saying farewell to a truly inspiring and generous gentleman.

 

Bill Price, Editor-in-Chief

My first year working at NHL.com took me to many incredible events all over the hockey world, but it was one moment that not many people saw that stands out. With the Pittsburgh Penguins a few minutes from wrapping up Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final and the franchise's fourth title, I stood in the hallway outside the press room of SAP Center in San Jose.

As the seconds ticked closer to the title, I looked down the hall toward the Penguins dressing room and saw the Pittsburgh players who hadn't dressed for the game heading toward the gate that would get them onto the ice. One of them, in full uniform, was Pascal Dupuis, who had played nine seasons with the Penguins but had to give up the game that December because of a medical condition related to blood clots.

As the seconds ticked down to the Penguins' championship, Dupuis could not hide his excitement about going back onto the ice, in full uniform, to hoist the Cup. He was so happy, so thrilled. It's something I'll never forget.

Video: PIT@SJS, Gm6: Pens celebrate fourth Stanley Cup title

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