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Here are 15 wonderful gifts the NHL gave us in 2015

The NHL gave fans plenty of joy this year.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

2015 was an odd year for the NHL and hockey at large.

The Patrick Kane rape investigation and continued concussion lawsuits against the NHL left dark clouds hanging over the sport for months. And yet, while both were significant in importance, they couldn't ruin what was mostly a joyful year for hockey.

As soon as 2015 began, the sport kept feeding us wonderful moment after wonderful moment. In the spirit of the holidays, we picked out 15 of them. They're all gifts hockey gave us in a year in which the sport grew both on and off the ice in awesome and hilarious ways.

HOCKEY BIRD

No one was more excited for the Stadium Series at Levi's Stadium than this little guy.

3-on-3 OT

A success on every level. Shootouts are becoming a thing of the past while games are ending as some semblance of hockey is being played past regulation. And good lord, is it fun. Overtime 3-on-3 is hockey chaos and the best new thing about the sport in years.

The rookie wave

We all knew Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel would take the league by storm. But they're just the tip of a rookie spear that has dazzled the NHL in the latter stages of 2015. Dylan Larkin. Artemi Panarin. Oscar Lindberg. Nikolaj Ehlers. Max Domi. Shayne Gostisbehere. Sam Reinhart. Colton Parayko. The new era of hockey has begun and it's fun as hell.

The year of Jagr

Where do we begin? The ageless wonder was as much fun to watch off the ice as he was on it. When he wasn't busy becoming the fourth-best goal scorer in NHL history (only 162 behind Gretzky's record!) he was shrugging at extortion attempts from modelsbringing back his famous mullet and begging fans not to vote him into the All-Star Game because 3-on-3 hockey makes him tired. Here's hoping he never retires.

ROAR BACON

All it took was one autocorrect error on a St. Louis Blues Instagram post to turn the phrase "roar back" into a #ROARBACON rallying cry for an entire fan base.

Which led to this.

Carey Price's selfie moments

It was a banner year for the Montreal Canadiens netminder. He won the Vezina Trophy and the Hart Trophy in 2014-15.

But he saved his best moments for the fans.

Emergence of women's pro hockey

When the National Women's Hockey League formed in March, skepticism was rampant. But by the end of the year, the fledgling league had drummed up enough support to land a huge sponsorship deal, a television deal with ESPN and (potentially) a game alongside the Winter Classic. The Canadian Women's Hockey League has experienced a similar run of success. Both leagues brought women's hockey to the forefront of hockey fans' minds this year and their success was wonderful to see. We can't wait to see what 2016 brings for them both.

Phil Kessel drama

It was probably a headache for Kessel and Toronto fans. For the rest of us, the "controversies" surrounding Kessel's exit from the Leafs were often pure fun. Remember when we had to scientifically debunk that story about Kessel and hot dog vendors? What about when Kessel called a Toronto reporter an idiot? It even extended into the All-Star Game not once, but TWICE.

But the greatest Kessel gift of all?

P.K. Subban is a gift by himself

If you still hate P.K. Subban after 2015 then you have no soul. He hilariously sang "Let It Go." He donated $10 MILLION to Montreal's children's hospital. And he graced the world with the best Don Cherry impersonation you'll ever see.

P.K. Subban is the face of the NHL. Someday the league will learn that.

Blackhawks win Stanley Cup on home ice

Chicago has experienced Stanley Cup glory recently, but not like this.

It was the Blackhawks' third Stanley Cup in six years, but their first on Madison St. since 1938. Chicago waited a long time to party like it finally did on that June night.

Ovechkin steals the All-Star Draft show

Speaking of partying, it turns out Alex Ovechkin is incredibly funny when you get a few drinks in him. His tipsy campaign to get drafted last was amazing.

Someone buy the poor man a car.

John Tortorella returns

Love him or hate him, you can't deny that the NHL is more entertaining with John Tortorella behind some team's bench. So thank the Hockey Gods the Columbus Blue Jackets tanked out of the gate, giving old Torts another shot after a couple disastrous stints in New York and Vancouver. Torts might be more low-key these days, but that hasn't stopped the shenanigans from popping up around him.

Plus, we discovered his weakness.

A last-second Art Ross race

Low-scoring league be damned, the race for the most points in the NHL last season finished in thrilling fashion. John Tavares, Sidney Crosby and Jamie Benn all entered the final night of the regular season neck-and-neck in points. It took an incredible four-point performance for Benn to finish on top.

All-Star voting shenanigans

If you don't take the All-Star Game too seriously then boy was this a great year for you. Buffalo Sabres rookie Zemgus Girgensons demolished the voting totals in 2015 thanks to a random surge from Latvia. And this year fans are running a highly successful campaign to make Coyotes spare John Scott a captain! Bits are fun.

Playoff hockey returns to Winnipeg

For the first time since 1996, the Jets hosted a playoff game in front of their fans. Sure, they got swept by the Ducks. But at least they'll always have Game 3.