, New York, N.Y. -- The 2001-2002 National Hockey League regular season produced a new scoring champion and Maurice Richard Trophy winner in Jarome Iginla of the Calgary Flames. It produced a new Presidents Trophy winner for the fourth consecutive year and new champions in four of the six divisions. The final week of the regular season saw the inspirational return of team captain Saku Koivu to the Montreal Canadiens. It saw playoff position battles go down to the last day of play. It attracted record crowds. Regular-season U.S. ratings jumped and Olympic ratings were the highest in decades, while other outstanding individual and team achievements made the 2001-2002 campaign a truly memorable one.
With 116 points, the Detroit Red Wings won the Presidents Trophy, replacing the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche, who won last season. St. Louis Blues won the Presidents Trophy in 1999-2000 and the Dallas Stars won in 1998-99.
The Boston Bruins (Northeast), Philadelphia Flyers (Atlantic), Carolina Hurricanes (Southeast) and San Jose Sharks (Pacific) head into the Stanley Cup Playoffs as regular-season division while the Colorado Avalanche retained their Northwest Division title and the Red Wings repeated in the Central.Some of the many points of interest:UNPRECEDENTED PLAYOFF RACES
Only seven points separated the top seven clubs in the Eastern Conference.
Only nine points separated the nine clubs ranked 2-10 in the Western Conference.
With just two days left in the season, the New York Islanders could have finished second, fifth, sixth or seventh in the final Eastern Conference standings, while five clubs -- the St. Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes and Vancouver Canucks -- ALL could have finished from fourth through eighth in the West.CLOSE GAMES; CLOSE SCORES
Of the 1,230 regular-season games played, 890 of them were decided by two goals or fewer (72.4%). There were 149 ties, 426 one-goal decisions and 315 two-goal decisions.
Of the nearly 75,000 total minutes played, the score was tied or within one goal 74.3% of the time.RECORD ATTENDANCE
The 2001-2002 regular season saw NHL fans turn out in record numbers once again. The total attendance was 20,614,613 and the per-game average was 16,760.
The total represented an increase of 1.2% from the previous high of 20,373,379, set last season. The per-game average exceeded the prior record of 16,564, also set in 2000-2001.
The Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings and Minnesota Wild reported sellouts for each of their 41 home games. Colorado boasts the NHL's longest current sellout streak at 336 games, including playoffs. The streak began Nov. 9, 1995, during the team's inaugural season in Denver.
The New York Rangers
, Edmonton Oilers, Philadelphia Flyers, St. Louis Blues, San Jose Sharks and Toronto Maple Leafs played to crowds of 99% of capacity or better for the full season.
In all, NHL teams played to over 91% of capacity during 2001-2002. Four clubs -- the New York Islanders (+28%), the Carolina Hurricanes (+16%), the Washington Capitals (+12%) and the Florida Panthers (+10%) -- posted double-digit percentage increases over last season.
NHL attendance trended upward with each passing month. October's average was 16,295; November's was 16,490 and December's was 16,578. January's average figure was 16,750, followed by 16,805 in February, 17,154 in March and 17,605 in April. The figures for November, December, January, March and April were records for each of those months.
NHL attendance has increased more than 60% over the past decade, up from 12,769,676 in 1991-92. Per-game averages have increased in each of the past four seasons.RATINGS
The NHL's television household ratings on ABC for the 2001-02 regular season jumped 29% compared to last season -- marking the highest NHL regular-season household average for the league in five years (1996-97). ABC's five broadcasts averaged approximately 1.5 million households, or about 2 million U.S. viewers per game -- a 29% improvement from last season's average of 1.1 million households or 1.5 million viewers per game. This season's final regular-season numbers on ABC represent the largest U.S. household average to watch NHL regular-season games since the 1996-97 season (1.8 million).
The largest demographic increases this year were represented in teens (+39%) and men 18-34 (+24%). In addition to the growth among young viewers on ABC, the following television markets showed significant audience increases from last year: Albuquerque (+160%), New York (+133%), Birmingham (+120%), Oklahoma City (+114%), Phoenix (+100%), Chicago (+78%), Tampa Bay (+78%), Raleigh (+71%), West Palm Beach (+71%), Houston (+50%) and Los Angeles (+50%).
NBC's live coverage (Saturday, Feb. 16, 11:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m. ET) of the USA vs. Russia hockey game scored the highest rating for any hockey broadcast in its entirety since the 1980 Miracle on Ice gold medal game in Lake Placid (2/24/80). The 7.2/20 generated for last night's game tops by 47 percent CBS 4.9/19 for the USA vs. Canada game during Nagano (2/15/98), which was previously the highest rated hockey game since 1980, according to Nielsen Media Research.
Canada's 5-2 victory over the United States for the gold medal was the highest-rated hockey game - Olympics or NHL - on U.S. TV since the 1980 Lake Placid Games. NBC's live broadcast drew a 10.7 national rating, meaning 10.7 percent of TV homes tuned in. About 38 million people watched at least part of the game. That's the biggest U.S. network audience in at least 22 years for a game involving NHL players. In Canada, the game was the most-watched TV program - sports or otherwise - in the country's history. An average of more than 8.6 million people (more than a quarter of the population) were tuned in at any given moment to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.'s telecast of the game.MILESTONES
New York Rangers center Mark Messier
appeared in his 1,600th career game, while Carolina Hurricanes center Ron Francis and New Jersey Devils defenseman Scott Stevens appeared in their 1,500th career regular-season game.
Messier tallied his 1,800th career point, Francis recorded his 1,700th career point and Pittsburgh Penguins center Mario Lemieux posted his 1,600th career point.
Francis moved past Ray Bourque (1,169) into second place on the all-time assist list.
Detroit's Steve Yzerman and Washington's Adam Oates recorded their 1,000th career assists.
Detroit's Luc Robitaille tallied his 600th career goal, giving the Detroit Red Wings three 600-goal scorers (Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull). Another Red Wings player, Brendan Shanahan, was one of two players to reach the 500-goal mark, joining Carolina's Ron Francis.
Robitaille tallied his 611th career goal Jan. 18 against Washington, becoming the all-time leader in goals scored by a left wing.
Head coaches Pat Quinn of Toronto Maple Leafs and Bryan Murray of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim reached the 1,000-game milestone behind the bench. Ottawa Senators assistant coach Roger Neilson coached his club's final two games of the regular season to reach 1,000 as well.
Goaltenders Patrick Roy of the Colorado Avalanche and Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils posted 30 victories for the seventh consecutive season, tying the NHL record held by Tony Esposito.
Phil Housley of the Chicago Blackhawks became the fourth defenseman in NHL history to post 1,200 career points. St. Louis Blues defenseman Al MacInnis became the fifth one week later.
Chicago Blackhawks right wing Tony Amonte, who has the NHL's longest active consecutive games streak, appeared in his 400th consecutive regular-season game.
Five players finished the regular-season among the NHL's top 10 goal-scoring leaders: Brett Hull, Detroit (6th, 679), Mark Messier, N.Y. Rangers and Steve Yzerman, Detroit (tie 7th, 658), Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh (9th, 654) and Detroit's Luc Robitaille (10th, 620).INDIVIDUAL TEAM PERFORMANCES
The Detroit Red Wings posted their second-highest totals in the Club's 76-year history for victories (51) and points (116).
The Red Wings posted the NHL's best home record 28-7-5-1, compiled an 18-3-0-1 mark against the Eastern Conference and set a franchise record by winning eight consecutive road games.
Head coach Scotty Bowman, in his 30th NHL season and ninth with Detroit, reached 50 wins for the eighth time in his career. He coached in his 13th NHL All-Star Game, the most among the four major pro sports. He improved his career record to 1,244-584-313 in 2,141 career games. He has won more games than all but two individuals have coached (Al Arbour, Dick Irvin). He is just three victories shy of tying Jack Adams (413) for the most in franchise history.
The Red Wings became the first club in NHL history to feature three 600-goal scorers in the lineup (Brett Hull, Steve Yzerman, Luc Robitaille), and also had a 500-goal scorer (Brendan Shanahan).
Six-time Vezina Trophy winner Dominik Hasek, in his first season in Detroit, led the League in victories with a single-season career-high 41.
Forty-year-old defenseman Chris Chelios led the NHL in plus-minus (+40).
The Colorado Avalanche won their eighth consecutive division title, tying the NHL record set by the Montreal Canadiens from 1974-75 through 1981-82.
The San Jose Sharks captured their first division title in franchise history and an unprecedented seventh consecutive season with an improved record.
The St. Louis Blues have qualified for the playoffs for the 23rd consecutive season, the longest active streak in professional sports (NHL, NBA, NFL, MLB).
Atlanta Thrashers forwards Dany Heatley (26 goals, 41 assists) and Ilya Kovalchuk (29 goals, 22 assists) finished the season 1-2 among NHL rookies in scoring with 67 and 51 points, respectively, becoming the first rookie teammates to lead the League since Brian Leetch and Tony Granato of the New York Rangers in 1988-89.
Calgary Flames forward Jarome Iginla captured the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's points leader and the Maurice Richard Trophy as the League's top goal-scorer. Iginla recorded 52 goals and 44 assists for 96 points -- all career bests --- and also led his club in power-play goals (16), game-winners (seven), plus-minus (+27), shots on goal (311) and was the only Flames player to appear in all 82 games. Iginla becomes the first player to lead the NHL in goals and points since Mario Lemieux in 1995-96.
Colorado Avalanche goaltender Patrick Roy won the William Jennings Trophy, awarded "the goaltender(s) having played a minimum of 25 games on the club allowing the fewest regular-season goals." Roy appeared in 63 games and helped Colorado allow a League-low 169 goals. Roy led all NHL goaltenders in goals-against average (1.94) and shutouts (nine) and finished second in save percentage (.925). His 32 victories increased his career total to 516, extending his NHL record. Roy ended the season with 966 career games, just five shy of Terry Sawchuk's NHL record for career appearances by a goaltender (971).
Montreal Canadiens goaltender Jose Theodore earned the 2001-2002 MBNA Roger Crozier Saving Grace Award, a promotional award presented to the goaltender with the NHL's best save percentage during the regular season. Theodore played in 67 games this season and amassed a .931 save percentage, backstopping the Canadiens to the postseason for the first time since 1997-98.
Vancouver Canucks forwards Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi finished 2-3 in the NHL scoring race and were key to the Canucks' second-half resurgence that saw them post a 28-9-3-3 record from Dec. 26 to the end of the season. Naslund enjoyed a spectacular comeback season, returning from a broken right fibula and tibia bone suffered late last season. Bertuzzi, the NHL's leading scorer in March, surpassed his previous career-high point total by 30.