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Year in review: 14 most memorable people of 2014

by Dan Rosen / NHL.com

There were unforgettable events and memorable moments across the hockey world in 2014, from "The Big House" to Bolshoy Ice Dome, New York to Los Angeles, Montreal to Boston, Toronto, Chicago, and so many other places.

Here are the 14 people who were front and center in those events, seemingly ordinary people doing extraordinary things, making them the most memorable people in the hockey world in 2014:

Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins/Canada

Crosby had the best year for a player who didn't win the Stanley Cup, or even get past the second round in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

He captained Canada to a gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, waiting until the most important moment of the tournament, the gold-medal game, to make his biggest imprint. Crosby scored the goal that gave Canada a 2-0 lead against Sweden, all but clinching their second straight Olympic gold.

He cleaned up at the 2014 NHL Awards show by taking home the Hart Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award and the Art Ross Trophy for leading the League with 104 points, 17 more than anybody else. He received 128 of a possible 137 first-place votes for the Hart Trophy.

The playoffs did not go as planned for Crosby as he and the Penguins were knocked out by the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Second Round. Crosby was limited to one goal in 13 playoff games, but it was revealed later that he was playing with a wrist injury. Crosby refused to use the injury as an excuse.

He started the 2014-15 season on fire with nine points in the first four games. His production has waned as the Penguins' injuries have mounted, but Crosby still has 38 points in 33 games.

Jean Beliveau, Montreal Canadiens

Beliveau was revered across the NHL for decades because of his poise, charisma, class and ability to lead and win. His name is on the Stanley Cup a record 17 times -- 10 times as a player for the Montreal Canadiens and seven more times as a Canadiens executive.

He captured the attention and commanded the respect of the hockey community in death as much as he did in life. Beliveau's death Dec. 2 at the age of 83 prompted a state of international mourning throughout the hockey community.

His funeral Dec. 10 at Mary Queen of the World Cathedral in Montreal was a national event in Canada attended by numerous dignitaries, including the current prime minister, two former prime ministers, the Quebec premier, the mayor of Montreal and 40-50 former teammates, many who have been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

An estimated 1,500 people were inside the cathedral with countless more watching on video monitors outside. The Canadiens honored Beliveau by placing his No. 4 over his customary seat in Bell Centre, a seat that will remain empty for the remainder of the season.

Brendan Shanahan, Toronto Maple Leafs

A 600-goal scorer, three-time Stanley Cup champion turned League disciplinarian, Shanahan left his job in charge of the NHL Department of Player Safety to run the Toronto Maple Leafs as president and alternate governor, bringing his cachet and high profile to a position at the top of the NHL's most talked about and publicized team in the League's biggest market.

Shanahan left behind a department he helped build at the NHL to go to a team he grew up rooting for as a kid from the Toronto suburb of Mimico, Ontario. He has made progressive changes, implementing an analytics department run by 28-year-old assistant general manager Kyle Dubas, who Shanahan hired in July.

Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings/Slovenia

Reaching the quarterfinals at the Olympics was to Slovenia what winning the Stanley Cup was to the Kings in 2014. Kopitar helped fuel both achievements.

Slovenia's Anze Kopitar celebrates with goalie Robert Kristan following the country's first Olympic hockey victory, a 3-1 upset against Slovakia in the preliminary round of the 2014 Sochi Olympics. (Photo: Getty Images)

He was the face of Slovenia's stunning story of success in the Olympics.

Slovenia never had played in the men's Olympic ice hockey tournament before qualifying to compete in Sochi, but they quickly turned into one of the best stories of the event.

Slovenia lost 5-2 to Russia in its first game but stunned Slovakia 3-1 in its second game of the preliminary round. It lost 5-1 to the United States but beat Austria 4-0 in the qualification round to advance to the quarterfinals, where Slovenia lost 3-0 to Sweden.

Months later Kopitar was one of the faces of the Kings' historic championship run. He finished the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the leading scorer with 26 points in 26 games, going head to head and winning battles against some of the other top centers in the League, such as Joe Thornton, Ryan Getzlaf and Jonathan Toews.

Mike Babcock, Detroit Red Wings/Canada

Babcock's year started at Michigan Stadium in the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. His presence in the national spotlight only grew at the Olympics in Sochi, where for the second consecutive time he coached Canada to a gold medal.

Babcock's approach in Sochi was to win from the goal out. No team was as stingy as Canada, which allowed three goals in six games en route to winning the gold medal.

Babcock then got the injury-riddled and young Red Wings into the playoffs for a 23rd consecutive season. Detroit had 418 man-games lost last season, second in the League behind the Pittsburgh Penguins. Babcock finished second in the voting for the Jack Adams Award.

Since last season Babcock's contract with the Red Wings has been a hot topic. He is coaching in the final year of his contract and there is all kinds of speculation about his future, whether he will re-sign with the Red Wings or become a free agent.

Babcock also won his 500th game this season. He reached the milestone in 895 games, second all-time to Scotty Bowman (825). And the Red Wings are on target for a 24th consecutive playoff berth.

Alec Martinez, Los Angeles Kings

Martinez scored arguably the two most important goals in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He scored them both in overtime, adding to the drama of a year he and the Kings never will forget.

Martinez capped the Western Conference Final against the Chicago Blackhawks by scoring the series-clinching goal on a wrist shot from the point through traffic and off a deflection 5:47 into overtime of Game 7 at United Center (WATCH).

He didn't score again until he clinched the Kings second Stanley Cup championship in three years with his rebound goal off a 3-on-2 rush at 14:43 of the second overtime in Game 5 against the New York Rangers.

Martinez finished the playoffs tied for seventh on the Kings in goals (five) and tied for 11th in points (10) while playing the 10th-most minutes (432:09). It was an otherwise average postseason for a depth defenseman, but he made it unforgettable with two timely goals.

He did enough to earn a raise from the Kings in the form of a six-year, $24 million contract extension he signed in early December. Martinez has been making $1.1 million per season on a two-year contract that will expire at the end of this season.

Dean Lombardi, Los Angeles Kings

Lombardi's roster once again was good enough to win the Stanley Cup, Los Angeles' second in three seasons. And just like he did during the 2011-12 season, when the Kings won their first Stanley Cup, Lombardi, the Kings general manager, pulled off an impactful in-season trade.

He acquired Marian Gaborik from the Columbus Blue Jackets for Matt Frattin and two draft picks on March 5. Gaborik teamed with Kopitar to form one of the best one-two combinations in the League during the playoffs.

Gaborik led the playoffs with 14 goals, including six against the Ducks in the second round. Lombardi signed Gaborik to a seven-year contract June 25, less than a week before he could become an unrestricted free agent.

P.K. Subban, Montreal Canadiens/Canada

Subban didn't win any individual awards and he was a bit player for Canada in the Olympics, but his profile as the NHL's leading crossover superstar with appeal among fans of hockey, entertainment and fashion alike grew by leaps and bounds.

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Subban's glitz and personality was on full display at the 2014 NHL Awards show, where he wore an orange suit while working the red carpet for NHL Network. Most of the NHL stars there wore black, blue or gray.

The average ALS Ice Bucket Challenge video from NHL players involved a small bucket of water and a smartphone; Subban's featured a dump truck full of ice water and a live television shoot on a morning talk show in Toronto.

He was seen interviewing his peers and Hollywood stars, mingling in the fashion world, snapping photos with basketball legend Magic Johnson and dining with tennis champion Novak Djokovic. But Subban's play on the ice equally was as impressive and appealing.

Subban had 53 points in 82 games in 2013-14 and helped the Canadiens reach the Eastern Conference Final. He signed an eight-year, $72 million contract extension in early August and has started this season where he left off, with 23 points through his first 36 games.

Patrick Roy, Colorado Avalanche

Roy put himself and the Avalanche back on the map with a remarkable 2013-14 season. Colorado finished with 112 points to win the Central Division after finishing 29th in the League standings and earning the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NHL Draft the prior season.

The Avalanche lost a heartbreaking seven-game series to the Minnesota Wild in the Western Conference First Round, but Roy was named the Jack Adams Award winner as NHL coach of the year in June. Roy received 68 of 95 first-place votes, was named on 89 ballots and had 399 voting points, 236 more than Babcock.

Dan Craig, NHL

Craig, the NHL Facilities Operations Director, had one of the most stressful years of anybody in the game.  He was in charge of building five rinks for games in six non-NHL venues, one of which was in Southern California.

The League went big in 2014 with the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium, the Tim Hortons Heritage Classic at BC Place in Vancouver, and four Coors Light NHL Stadium Series games at Yankee Stadium (two), Dodger Stadium and Soldier Field. Craig was in charge of the rink build and the ice at all of them, and they played to rave reviews.

In between all of that Craig had to oversee the 30 normal rinks in the NHL as part of his regular job. He's currently at Nationals Park in Washington putting the final touches on the rink for the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Thursday.

Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel

When was the last time two prospects from different countries caught the attention and were guaranteed to be the top two picks at the upcoming NHL draft the way Canadian center Connor McDavid and American center Jack Eichel have this year?

McDavid and Eichel have captured the imagination of fans of struggling teams such as the Edmonton Oilers, Carolina Hurricanes and Buffalo Sabres. They are considered franchise-changing prospects, and they'll only get bigger in 2015.

It can be argued that there haven't been two prospects as highly touted as them in the same draft since Russians Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin in 2004.

Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers/Sweden

Lundqvist led the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final and Sweden into the gold-medal game at the Olympics. He didn't win the Cup or the gold medal, but he wasn't at fault for either loss.

He had a .927 save percentage and 2.14 goals-against average in 25 playoff games, including a .923 save percentage and 2.46 GAA in the Cup Final against the Kings. He had a 1.50 GAA and .943 save percentage in the Olympics. Sweden lost 3-0 to Canada in the gold-medal game.

Lundqvist also became the Rangers' all-time leader in wins (325) and shutouts (55) in 2014.

Shannon Szabados, Canada

Szabados led Canada to its fourth consecutive Olympic women's hockey gold medal by allowing three goals on 62 shots in her three games in Sochi. She finished with a 0.96 GAA and .954 save percentage. She made 27 saves in Canada's 3-2 overtime win against the United States in the gold-medal game.

She also became a groundbreaker for women's hockey by signing with the Columbus Cottonmouths of the Southern Professional Hockey League on March 7. She became the first female goalie to win an SPHL game Nov. 21, when she made 34 saves in a 5-4 win against the Fayetteville FireAntz.

According to the SPHL, Szabados became the first female player in history to win a player of the week award in a men's professional hockey league when she was honored by the SPHL on Dec. 2 for going 2-0 with a 1.49 GAA and .963 save percentage. This season she has five wins, a 3.28 GAA and .907 save percentage in nine games.

George Stromboulopoulos, Sportsnet

Stromboulopoulos replaced Ron MacLean as the host of "Hockey Night in Canada" this season, making him the new face of hockey in Canada as Sportsnet took over the Canadian national broadcast rights.

The acclaimed talk show host has brought his unique interviewing style and national following, including nearly 600,000 followers on Twitter, to anchor Sportsnet's coverage of the NHL.

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