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NHL Kicks off Centennial Celebration


Happy New Year! As we approach the halfway mark for some teams in the season next week, we ring in the year 2017. This year marks the official Centennial Celebration for the National Hockey League. Though hockey is older than 100 years (and by some accounts, even thousands), the NHL as we know it today was formed 100 years ago this year. To celebrate such a momentous occasion, the NHL has and will continue to implement some great things to commemorate 100 years of the greatest sport on Earth.

On January 1, 2017, the Toronto Maple Leafs kicked off the league’s Centennial Celebration by hosting the Detroit Red Wings in a riveting and dramatic outdoor game played at Exhibition Field outside of Toronto. 40,148 hockey fans showed up to witness Auston Matthews pot two goals, including the game-winning goal in overtime. Not bad for a kid who never got the chance to play pond hockey growing up in the Arizona desert! Matthews’ overtime goal was not possible before Anthony Mantha of the Red Wings tied the game up at four with just two seconds remaining, his second of the game as well. But, the Leafs prevailed 5-4.

On Sunday before the game, the NHL also revealed the first 33 of 100 best hockey players of all time. The first 33 mostly played in the league for the NHL’s first 50 years (1917-1966). Voting was cast by the Blue Ribbon Panel, a committee encompassing 58 of the most prominent minds in the hockey world, including members of the media, coaches, team owners, broadcasters, and players. The first 33 were honored prior to the 2017 Scotiabank Centennial Classic.

The fun didn’t stop when on January 2, the St. Louis Blues played host to the Chicago Blackhawks at Busch Stadium, the home of the St. Louis Cardinals, for the 2017 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. As the fog cleared in the city, in the afternoon, the Gateway Arch was visible beyond right field. The annual outdoor classic was almost postponed due to inclement weather, but the rain held off as the Note defeated the Blackhawks in a decisive 4-1 game, Vladimir Tarasenko netting two of his own. The Blackhawks are now 0-3-0 at the Winter Classic. Of the nine Winter Classic games since its inception in 2008, only three times have the home team come out on top.

The NHL will reveal the remaining 67 of the top 100 players of all-time during the All-Star Weekend on Friday January 27 in Los Angeles, the host of the 2017 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend. How fitting that 67 players will be named in the very city that benefitted from the NHL’s expansion in 1967!

There are the obvious picks to be included in the remaining 67: Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Mike Bossy, Martin Brodeur, Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, etc. However, I’m sure there will be many “snubs” to more modern-day fans. Perhaps players like Eric Lindros, Brian Leetch, or even Henrik Lundqvist may find themselves not included in that remaining list of 67.

It’s too early to include players like Connor MacDavid and Auston Matthews in the conversation as greatest players of all time, but I would not be surprised to see the top picks from about a decade ago included in the remaining 67 – like Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin, who are both closing in on 1,000 career points. Crosby may be behind in the race for this season to reach 1,000, but he has also played over 100 games fewer than Ovechkin. Crosby is on pace to be the fastest current player to reach 1,000 in the fewest amount of games (come on now, who is going to beat Gretzky and Lemieux?!). Ovi is in a race with Henrik Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks is just four points behind 1,000. Henrik’s twin brother and teammate, Daniel, just earned his 600th NHL assist on Monday, though he still has 35 more points to go until 1,000.

Anyway, that was my shameless plug for upcoming milestones this season after we already watched Jaromir Jagr surpass Messier for second in all-time points. Does this mean we now launch #OviWatch, #HenrikWatch, and #CrosbyWatch, too? I say, “yes!” Off to the races, boys…Stay tuned!

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Evan is the Hockey Editor for He provides coverage of the New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, and Philadelphia Flyers, as well as some league-wide content.

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