The new year is almost upon us. While hockey has had an up-and-down 2016, considering the state of things we thought it best to end our year in review on a high note.
This past year brought us many things, but the best moments in hockey are all linked by one thing: the fans. From history making players to underdogs, the best hockey moments in 2016 are ones that brought fans together.
So, let’s not waste any more time! Without further ado ...
Team North America wins the hearts of hockey fans
The best part of the World Cup of Hockey was clearly Team North America. The under-23s stole the show practically from the moment their team concept was announced. And why wouldn’t people fall in love with them? We’ve seen the same Team Canadas or Team Swedens. This gave hockey fans a glimmer of seeing the NHL’s youth play together for maybe the only time in league history, and it gave many American fans disgruntled with their team a scrappy bunch to root for.
While Team Europe shocked the hockey world by making it into the World Cup Final, the young kids were sadly left on the outside looking in at the final four. Yet, the kids had the best moment of the tournament, a wild overtime ride that featured some incredible moves from Nathan MacKinnon.
Considering the NHL’s dislike for things fans find fun, this was probably the only time we’ll see this team in action. So, thanks for the memories, Team North America.
Tony X reminds us of the joy of falling in love with hockey for the first time
Maybe the most heartwarming story of the NHL’s 2016 calendar year was Tony X and his discovery of hockey. Twitter user @soloucity exploded onto the scene after his live tweets of a pretty intense playoff game between the Blues and Blackhawks went viral. His naiveté about the sport as a whole and his hilarious reactions to mundane hockey things turned him into a superstar overnight.
It only got bigger from there. Tony X was invited to a Blues game, got a gifted Vladimir Tarasenko jersey, rubbed elbows with some pretty big Hockey Twitter royalty, and was invited to the NHL Awards ... but overslept!
Now, Tony X continues to tweet regularly about his Blues, and he’s still got the jokes, too.
Jaromir Jagr cements his place in the NHL history books
Jaromir Jagr had 1,828 points coming into 2016, just 22 behind Gordie Howe for third place on the NHL’s all-time scoring list. Just 61 points later in the calendar year of 2016, Jagr has now eclipsed both Howe and Mark Messier for second place all-time in points.
To see a player make history like that is one thing, but for Jagr to jump two NHL greats and sit less than a thousand points behind Wayne Gretzky is something else. There’s no way Jagr will break Gretzky’s record — he’d have to play until his 50s to do so — but it’s an incredible accomplishment to reach that scoring mark in today’s NHL.
From now until the end of Jagr’s career he has the chance to do something no NHL player has done since Messier, chip away at Gretzky’s record.
Phil Kessel became a champion in more ways than one
From being maligned in Toronto to hoisting the Stanley Cup and starting a presidential campaign, 2016 was really the Year of Phil Kessel. The Penguins’ forward was instrumental in Pittsburgh’s Stanley Cup win as a part of the “HBK Line,” putting up 22 points in 24 playoff games. When Kessel lifted the Stanley Cup over his shoulders back in June, most of the hockey world rejoiced at seeing a player rejected by his city win hockey’s biggest prize a season later.
Kessel’s best moment of 2016, without a doubt, was his burn of USA Hockey moments after their disastrous loss that kicked them out of the World Cup tournament.
Just sitting around the house tonight w my dog. Felt like I should be doing something important, but couldn't put my finger on it.— Phil Kessel (@PKessel81) September 21, 2016
Kessel, famously, was left off the World Cup roster for Team USA in favor of gritty players, if you’ll recall.
And that wasn’t all! Kessel also kicked off his own presidential campaign with some great T-shirts that will come in handy when he’s actually eligible for running in six years.
John Scott makes All-Star Game about more than just hockey
Hockey fans will have a hard time forgetting John Scott. We touched on his story in our worst NHL moments of the year, but ultimately he had a happy ending that extended far beyond hockey.
Though Scott’s journey to All-Star hero started as a joke, it ended as far from it. After being named captain of the Pacific Division All-Stars, Scott seized every opportunity given to him. He scored a pair of goals, got in a “fight” with Patrick Kane, roasted Jeremy Roenick, and won the evening as the MVP of the tournament despite being left off the original fan ballot.
Movies couldn’t write a script more perfect than that, and it turned into a story that will define Scott’s career. He’s even written a book, with a movie apparently on the way. Scott has since retired from hockey, but his story will be one NHL fans tell for years to come.