Compared to other major sports leagues in North America, the NHL managed to conclude its season in September. Despite many last-minute changes throughout the year, the Stanley Cup playoffs went on without a hitch and saw Tampa Bay take home the trophy after a six-game battle against the Dallas Stars.
With the 2020-21 trade deadline approaching on April 12, NHL news coverage is ramping up. With teams willing to exchange draft picks for players like Brendan Lemieux (moving from the Rangers to the Kings), pundits closely follow where top players are headed and how they’ll likely perform with their new squad.
For experts providing wagers on all US major leagues, it’s necessary to analyze trades in order to make accurate predictions for each division. For broadcasting groups, diving deep into trades provides interesting speculation on the future of a franchise. And for fans, it’s all about creating that wish-list roster that will turn their team’s fate around.
With a shortened 2020 to base Stanley Cup predictions and future trade speculation on, let’s take a dive into some of the most memorable moments from last year’s stunted season.
David Ayres Becomes EBUG Champion
On most days, Canadian David Ayres serves as the operations manager at the Mattamy Athletic Center in Toronto. During his off-time, he also moonlights as a backup goalie in the AHL for the Toronto Maple Leafs’ (of the NHL) minor league affiliates, the Toronto Marlies and Charlotte Checkers.
In February of 2020, Ayres got the call of a lifetime. It was from the Carolina Hurricanes, who were facing a serious goalie deficit and had called on Ayres to take up the position as Emergency Back-Up Goalie, or EBUG. He signed a one-game contract with the NHL and took his position in the second period.
Though he let the first two shots on goal slide into the net, Ayre then went on to stop the next eight. The Hurricanes won 6-3, and, at age 42, Ayres became the oldest player in an NHL debut.
The Makinen Slip-Up
During a contentious battle between the Dallas Stars and the Colorado Avalanche, one play-by-play man ended up topping an exciting game series finish. In the final period, the Stars put on Joel Kiviranta, a relatively unknown quantity from Finland, who went on to score a hat-trick and win the Stars the game.
Commentator Antti Makinen, also from Finland, couldn’t handle the excitement, and screamed, “Joel f—ing Kiviranta!” while broadcasting live.
Svechnikov Brings New Flavor to the NHL
Those watching the Carolina Hurricanes battle the Calgary Flames in October of 2019 likely had the same thought when Andrei Svechnikov lifted the puck onto his stick and maneuvered it into the goal—is that legal? The quasi-lacrosse move raised some questions for many, but the league later ruled there’s no issue with the maneuver.
Within two months, first against the Flames and then against the Jets, Svechnikov introduced a brand new move to the league. It’s believed he’s the first player to have capitalized on the style to score.
Best of 2021 So Far
The 2021 season start has seen more than a few standout moments from key players and emerging stars. However, with ongoing uncertainty related to the sporting world (and beyond), it seems that fans have glommed onto the league’s funnier moments thus far
First, play-by-play commentator Harnarayan Singh left fans with something to chew on after praising the season’s debut goal by Nils Höglander. Singh, new to English commentating, yelled out, “It’s time to hand out the sweets!” in celebration of the goal. Fans are unsure of what exactly the phrase means—but it’s likely to stick either way.
Other smaller moments have stuck out, as well. With spectator-less arenas, it seems that operational managers and camera operators are working overtime to fill in pauses in action with something amusing. For instance, workers at the Ball Arena played a nice game of solitaire, projected over the ice, during halftime. Another cameraman made sure to get every determined head bob from Canadiens goalie Carey Price when a Red Hot Chili Peppers song came on.