It’s been an unforgettable year in the NHL.

The journey started with the 2023 Discover NHL Winter Classic at Fenway Park in Boston and will end with preparations for the 2024 edition of the outdoor game, this time at T-Mobile Park in Seattle on Jan. 1.

In between, there were memories everywhere one turned: big games, monster performances, milestones reached, careers reflected on and games played in far-off locales.

The Vegas Golden Knights won their first Stanley Cup championship, in their sixth season, defeating the surprising Florida Panthers.

Speaking of the Panthers, their market held an entertaining All-Star Game in South Florida.

Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers had a season for the ages, and the Boston Bruins put together the best regular season in NHL history, only to be ousted in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

But what were the best moments of 2023?

We asked 11 NHL.com staffers for their favorite moment of the year. Here they are, in chronological order.

Fun at Fenway

A lot sure did happen in 2023, with so many memories to add to the scrapbook, but the most vivid happened on Day 2. On Jan. 2, the Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins arrived at Fenway Park -- in vintage baseball unis to boot -- to play in the Winter Classic, a New Year’s tradition started 15 years earlier in Buffalo, with the Penguins as the visitors as they were then. For a New England kid who has been away from home for too long, this game hit all the right notes. Bruins legend Bobby Orr was on hand prior to the game, as was former Boston Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. Jake DeBrusk scored two goals on a picture-perfect day for hockey to give the home team a 2-1 victory and send the Bruins fans out into the streets with smiles on their faces. Long after the noise stopped and the gloaming had settled, I sat quietly for a moment with a kaleidoscope of Fenway memories whirring in my head, knowing what I had just witnessed would be hard to beat. It never was in 2023. -- Shawn P. Roarke, senior director of editorial

Kraken upset defending champs, win first playoff series

The Seattle Kraken shocked everybody but themselves when they upset the Colorado Avalanche 2-1 in Game 7 of the Western Conference First Round on April 30. After finishing 30th in the NHL in its first season as an expansion team, Seattle earned the first wild card in the West in 2022-23 and became the first team to win its first playoff series by defeating a defending champion. The Kraken scored first in each game, won three of four in Denver and never panicked in a seesaw series, taking a 1-0 lead, falling behind 2-1, taking a 3-2 lead and coming back from a 4-1 loss in Game 6 to win Game 7. “For the people that have written us off early in the season or since the start,” goalie Philipp Grubauer said, “yeah, here we are.” -- Nicholas J. Cotsonika, columnist

A moment 11 years in the making

The New Jersey Devils gave their fans reason to celebrate long into the night when they delivered a 4-0 victory with their season on the line to eliminate the New York Rangers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference First Round at home May 1. It was loud, it was decisive, and it capped an incredible comeback after New Jersey had lost the opening two games of the series by a combined score of 10-2. It was the first playoff series win by the Devils since 2012, when they knocked out the Rangers in six games in the Eastern Conference Final. It also exorcised the demons of past must-win performances against the Rangers, with the Devils winning a Game 7 against them for the first time after losing 8-4 in the 1992 Patrick Division Semifinals and 2-1 in double overtime in the 1994 Eastern Conference Final. As New Jersey captain Nico Hischier said, "To beat the Rangers in a Game 7 at home ... I think those are memories that are going to stick forever." -- Mike G. Morreale, staff writer

Pavelski scores 4 goals in return from concussion

Joe Pavelski had been out more than two weeks when he played in Game 1 of the Western Conference Second Round against the Kraken on May 2. But that didn’t stop the Dallas Stars forward, who had sustained a concussion in Game 1 of the first round against the Minnesota Wild on April 17, from making a big statement in his return, scoring four goals in the Stars’ 5-4 overtime loss. Rust? You’d think there would’ve been some, but there wasn’t. Pavelski was tremendous throughout regulation. He scored his first goal 2:25 into the game. His fourth came at 13:23 of the third period to force overtime. He was a one-man show, and as Stars coach Peter DeBoer said afterward, “Epic, epic. Shame we wasted it and didn't win.” Pavelski has been a consistent producer throughout his NHL career, but with him coming off a concussion, this game was truly impressive. -- Tracey Myers, staff writer

Tkachuk ends 6th-longest game in NHL history

No one could blame Matthew Tkachuk for wanting to get off the ice as quickly as possible after scoring with 13 seconds remaining in the fourth overtime to give the Panthers a 3-2 victory at the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final on May 18. So, after Tkachuk beat Hurricanes goalie Frederik Andersen from the right circle to end the sixth-longest game in NHL history (79:47 of OT), he immediately pointed toward the exit to the visiting locker room, and his teammates followed as he skated off. Sergei Bobrovsky made 63 saves for the Panthers, who also won Game 2 in overtime with Tkachuk again racing off the ice after scoring the winning goal. Florida went on to sweep the best-of-7 series in four games and advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in its history (1996). -- Tom Gulitti, staff writer

Golden Knights win Stanley Cup

Six seasons. That’s it. That’s all it took for the Golden Knights to become Stanley Cup champions. There are NHL franchises that have been around for decades and haven’t won the Cup (Vancouver Canucks, Buffalo Sabres). The Golden Knights raised it after a 9-3 home win against the Panthers in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final on June 13. By the opening puck drop, it was almost a foregone conclusion that it was the Golden Knights’ year. They ripped through the Winnipeg Jets in the first round, winning four straight after losing Game 1. The Oilers gave them their stiffest test in the second round, and yet the Golden Knights never trailed in the series and won Games 5 and 6 to clinch it. They had a 3-0 lead against the Stars in the Western Conference Final, dropped Games 4 and 5, but said enough is enough in Game 6, winning 6-0. And then they went up 2-0 on the Panthers, lost Game 3 in overtime, won Game 4 and then exploded for nine goals in a Cup-clinching Game 5. Las Vegas celebrated in a way it hadn’t before, with a championship parade down Las Vegas Boulevard for its beloved six-year-old hockey team. Owner Bill Foley called it: Cup in six. -- Dan Rosen, senior writer

Watch Golden Knights celebrate in QFTSC clip

NHL goes Down Under

From the moment the Arizona Coyotes and Los Angeles Kings -- and the Stanley Cup! -- touched down in Melbourne, Australia, the country welcomed the NHL with enthusiasm, cheers and vegemite for the 2023 NHL Global Series. It was quite a feat to put together, with most of the supplies months in coming via shipping containers and 15-hour flights from the United States. But the Australian crowds could not have been more welcoming, wearing gear from every one of the 32 NHL teams, resulting in the merchandise being sold out, and simply enjoying the game of hockey, as the Coyotes and Kings played two exhibition games at Rod Laver Arena on Sept. 23 and 24, the first games played by the NHL in the Southern Hemisphere. And not only did the Australian fans get a taste of hockey, but the NHL players got a taste, sometimes literally, of Australia, taking in koalas, kangaroos, golf, and a heck of an Australian Football League playoff game. The trip was a rousing success, all the way around. -- Amalie Benjamin, staff writer

Take a look back at the Global Series in Melbourne

Outdoor hockey returns to Edmonton after 20 years

The idea of playing a regular-season NHL game outdoors was conceived in Edmonton, with the Edmonton Oilers hosting the Montreal Canadiens in the 2003 Heritage Classic at Commonwealth Stadium. So, for the Oilers to host the Calgary Flames at the same venue for the 20th anniversary of the first outdoor game was special and one of my most memorable moments of the calendar year. Unlike the game 20 years ago, which was played in November in extremely cold temperatures, the weather cooperated for the 2023 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic on Oct. 29. It turned out to be a perfect day for an outdoor game, and a sellout crowd of 55,411 watched Edmonton defeat Calgary 5-2. Oilers fans who were at the original Heritage Classic still talk about the game and the spectacle surrounding it 20 years later, and it’s likely the next generation of fans will remember the 2023 game for a long time as well. -- Derek Van Diest, staff writer

All the sights and sounds from the Heritage Classic

Price reflects on a career almost surely done

I go back nearly 20 years with Carey Price, to his junior days. I’ve covered his Canadiens career from its start in 2007 to what seemingly now has reached its end, a knee pretty much destroyed by the rigors of goaltending. We saw one another near the Montreal dressing room Oct. 14 following the team’s home opener, Price and his family in attendance, and he agreed to meet in Toronto on Nov. 11, during Hockey Hall of Fame induction weekend. A chat over coffee wound up being nearly six hours spent together -- alone, among huge crowds of fans at an autograph signing and over lunch before he flew back home to British Columbia. That day, Price spoke profoundly, wistfully, and, at times, emotionally of his roller-coaster ride as the Canadiens’ cornerstone goalie – about the highs, lows, how his still-aching knee simply won’t let him play at the level he expects of himself and how he now is refocusing his life on his young family. “I went through my career never envisioning an end,” Price said. “I wish that maybe I’d soaked it in a little more along the way.” -- Dave Stubbs, columnist

Stützle hits home run in Sweden

The NHL brought regular-season hockey to Sweden in November. Tim Stützle brought baseball. In the first of four games at the 2023 NHL Global Series Sweden presented by Fastenal, the Ottawa Senators forward did his best Mookie Betts impression to defeat the Detroit Red Wings in overtime. With two seconds remaining, Stützle knocked the puck out midair and past Red Wings goalie James Reimer to give Ottawa a wild 5-4 win at Avicii Arena in Stockholm on Nov. 16. What might have been even more memorable was the postgame reaction of teammate and St. Louis native Brady Tkachuk when Stützle said he thought baseball was boring. “Choked up on it and followed through,” Tkachuk sad. “I saw a lot of home runs in Busch Stadium when I was younger. And to see that (goal), that was unreal.” It was unreal, as was the entire experience in Sweden for the Senators, Red Wings, Wild and Toronto Maple Leafs. -- Bill Price, Editor-in-Chief

Watch Stützle's home-run swing in slow motion

An NHL debut, at last

Nothing is as special as when a rookie makes his NHL debut. For me, the best moment this year was the heart-warming debut of Marc Johnstone with the Penguins at the Panthers on Dec. 8. The 27-year-old forward from Cranford, New Jersey, was undrafted and undeterred. He chased his NHL dream the hard way: 116 games for Chicago of the United States Hockey League; 126 games for Sacred Heart University, including two seasons as captain; 94 American Hockey League games for Wilkes Barre/Scranton and Toronto; and 63 ECHL games for South Carolina and Greenville. Johnstone’s perseverance on the long and winding road resulted in 7:19 of ice time against Florida and the hard-earned right to say, “I played in the NHL.” -- William Douglas, staff writer

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