It’s Christmas. Let us eat fatty sh*t and (if you’re forced into it) rejoice in the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, or whatever. But, even if you don’t buy into all that “There was once a talking snake!” hullaballoo, we do have something to pray for: the return of hockey.
Oh, I’m not talking about the NHL. Who cares about that dysfunctional bureaucracy? I’m just talking about hockey.
Go down to your local rink. Watch your best friend’s kid — or yours — tear up his Christmas tournament. Just soak it all in.
Of course, the NHL is the professional embodiment of those young dreams…
So, without even further ado, here are the 25 Greatest Plays in NHL History.
Jonathan Toews Breaks Through the Avalanche
There’s so much to love about this goal from then-rookie Jonathan Toews. It starts out slowly. It looks unthreatening. And then… BAM!
Fittingly, Patrick Kane starts the play. Toews grabs it and blows the doors off the entire Colorado roster. Oh, and he’s 19 years old. At the 30 second mark, he dekes out the cameraman.
In this play, you can see the rest of his career unfolding. Within two and a half years (after this goal), Toews would be named captain of Chicago, have a Stanley Cup, a Conn Smythe Trophy, and an Olympic Gold.
It might be the greatest goal of all-time, depending on your team and location.
Martin Havlat Toe Drags the Rink
Look at this goal. Watch it. See it in all its shining brilliance. And, then ask yourself: “Is it physically possible?”
Henrik Sedin Wins the Art Ross
Entering this game against Calgary — the final game of the 2009-10 season — Henrik Sedin needed two points to probably lock up the Art Ross Trophy. He got four, including this assist on his brother Daniel’s defining moment.
It’s the best of both. It’s the one thing we’ll all look to after they’re done and say, “THIS is why they were the best.”
THE Ovechkin Goal
Like it needs explaining…
The Orr Pass
Bobby Orr seemed to do everything in one motion, and he’d do that motion across the entire rink. He skate at lightning speed from behind his own net, down through five bodies (some of them twice), and score on the opposing goaltender, and he’d do it all at once.
On this one, Orr gets knocked right on his ass — which didn’t happen very often — and he makes a greater play than he ever could from his feet. It’s not unlike the Ovechkin goal above, but it’s 30 years earlier.
This is why people thought nobody would ever play hockey better than Bobby Orr.
The Gretzky Pass
The best-ever behind-the-back moment?
Read Paul Coffey’s lips after the goal: “What a fu*king pass!”
Oddly, it’s the YouTube uploader of this video that sums up why it’s on this list the best: “The real beauty lies in that fraction of a moment where you see the slow and languid speed of the pass.”
Yeah, and the Flyers who whiffed on defence.
Datsyuk Does “The Datsyuk”
Hockey people have a hard-on for Pavel Datsyuk. They talk about him like women talk about their wedding dress designer… like he’s a magician that can do with his tools what no other person on Earth can.
If nobody understands you, show them this clip.
They may not understand how difficult it really is — because the beauty of Datsyuk’s Datsyukianism is how easy makes everything look — but they should at least see how badly he fools goaltender Marty Turco.
After this goal, he all realized just how stupid those alternate Dallas jerseys looked.
Evgeni Malkin has scored too many beautiful goals. The greatest thing about him and his highlights? He does everything at full speed. He doesn’t just put the puck through somebody’s legs. He blows right past and over them. He’s a supernova in a league of stifling goaltending and neutral zone traps.
This is his best so far:
“Tries To Fool Bourque And Does…”
At his best, nobody was like Mario. That’s not a shot at anybody else. Nobody was like Gretzky or Orr, either. They’re all great, and in their own way. It’s normally a toss-up between this one and his goal against the North Stars from the year before.
The footage is grainy. You could even say it’s “hard to make out”.
But, just know that Mario Lemieux throughly embarrassed one of the six greatest defencemen of all-time, and he did it in the third round of the Stanley Cup Finals, and he led his team to a Stanley Cup victory not two weeks later.
All bow to the innovator of the real and modern Spin-O-Rama.
Twenty years later — when Pierre-Marc Bouchard pulled something similar for the Minnesota Wild — Denis was on the opposing bench to witness it. Everyone knew where it came from, and they knew who was to blame.
Even in an ugly Jofa helmet, this looks masterful.
The Shooting Star That Was Sebastien Caron
Sebastien Caron could never hold down a starting job. He wasn’t consistent enough. He wasn’t a household name.
But, simply YouTube the dude’s name and you’ll be treated to a dizzying bevy of the most incredible saves you’ve ever seen, including the one below.
It’s physically impossible, and yet it somehow happened.
“Off The Floor! On The Board! Paul Kariya!”
The saga that was Paul Kariya’s one-time affair with Scott Stevens is one of the NHL’s most forgotten and most remarkable moments.
One minute, Kariya is punch drunk on his back — on the ice — after being hit by the greatest open-ice defenceman in NHL history. The next, he’s scoring a game-winning goal with a rifle of a slap shot from the left wing in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Because Anaheim failed to win Game 7, we forget it ever happened. Kariya never shook his career-long battle with concussions. He did, however, have this one shining moment, and it also shows the best of Stevens.
You get a hit and a Hell of a goal in one highlight reel. What more could you ask for?
It’s hard to even follow this with your eyes. Now, imagine being a defenceman. Now, imagine being Bure.
(Skip to 2:10, then watch the whole thing. You’re not that busy.)
Meet Me In St. Louis
It’s cheeky. It’s skilled, and lazy. It’s perfectly the perfect Martin St. Louis.
The Statue of Liberty
Make no mistake. To many people, Patrick Roy was the greatest goaltender of all time. He’s the only player — from any position — to ever win the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoff MVP three times.
But, he could be a bonehead. This goal lost the Avalanche the 2002 Western Conference Finals and — ultimately — their second straight Stanley Cup.
Brodeur’s Toe Save
It’s 2-1. You’re Canada’s goaltender, and you’re in the midst of your worst regular season. Ever. You were the third choice for Canada’s net that Olympics behind Patrick Roy (who turned down the job) and Curtis Joseph (who got killed by the Swedes). Brett Hull takes a one-timer that could tie it and send everyone at home into suicide watch.
Oh, and your country hasn’t won a Gold Medal in 50 years.
Roll the tape.
(Skip to 0:48.)
Do the Brathwaite
If Fred wasn’t wearing this hideous mid-90’s Calgary Flames jersey, this would look a lot better than it already does.
And, yes, this is real.
Claude Giroux Goes Off On Sidney Crosby
This is the kind of play that gives hockey fans wet dreams.
Crosby, Skate, Smooth, and Young
This is what has made Sidney Crosby the best player in the world since he entered the league. The ability to make slow motion plays at high speed. Nobody does it better.
(Skip to 1:47.)
Lecavalier vs. Iginla
You know the “wet dream” comment from above? Well, how about the top two scorers from each team throwing down in the Stanley Cup Finals?
The Beverley Hills 90210 Intro
It has nothing to do with hockey, but you can not watch this intro enough…
The Steve Yzerman Shot
There’s nothing special about this goal, unless you consider super-sick top corner slap shots from the blueline in the overtime of a Game 7 to be special.
Just know: this is the goal every hockey nerd talks about like it’s Jesus arising from the dead after three days. Unlike that story, though, Yzerman’s goal actually happened.
(Oh, and he stole the puck from Gretzky.)
The Big Easy
It’s not one moment, but it may as well have been.
For a brief moment in time, Eric Lindros was the greatest thing to hit Planet Earth. He was massive. He had hands. He could skate. He was what testicles call “the full package”. This is just a sample.
(Try to ignore his crying baby routine at the beginning.)
Jussi In The Nick of Time
There’s nothing like a buzzer beater, and Jussi Jokinen’s 2009 playoff winner is the best of the best.
Brian Boucher’s Only Great Save
Philadelphia is a goalie graveyard, and the Flyers have ruined netminders’ careers like no other franchise in hockey. But, for a split second, Brian Boucher was the best in the business.