As we mentioned last week we are going to do something a little different with our Power Rankings during the 2018-19 season by mixing in a more fun and offbeat ranking every other week in between the true Power Rankings of all 31 teams.
This is the first week for a fun ranking and we are going to use the first week of the season as a bit of a jumping off point for them. What exactly happened over the first week of the season? Celebrations! Fun! Personality!
Professional sports are a business (a huge business, yes), but they are also at their core still very much a game whose sole purpose is to entertain us. Athletes are entertainers, and the games are more fun when they are doing things to … well … entertain us.
Just one week into the season we’ve already seen more of that than we usually see in an entire season, with Sunday being an especially big day for it with the Carolina Hurricanes introducing their new victory celebration and Auston Matthews taunting the United Center crowd after a late goal (only to have it answered by Patrick Kane mimicking the celebration).
More of this! More I say!
With all of this in mind, let’s take a look back at some of the wildest NHL goal celebrations.
Some of these made people angry; all of them were fun … unless you happened to be a part of the team that allowed the goal.
1. Teemu Selanne goes skeet shooting with his glove
Teemu Selanne, one of the most prolific goal-scorers in NHL history, started his career with an all-time great performance in 1992-93 with a record-setting rookie season that saw him score 76 goals and record 132 total points for the Winnipeg Jets.
On March 3 of that season he broke Mike Bossy’s rookie goal record with a two-goal effort in a 7-4 loss to the Quebec Nordiques and his record-setting goal was capped off with one of the all-time great celebrations as he flung his glove in the air and pretended to use his hockey stick to … go skeet shooting?
Is it over the top? Sure. But is it also amazing? Hell yes it is.
2. Artem Anisimov starts a brawl
This one was just totally wild.
In December of the 2011-12 season the New York Rangers dropped an otherwise forgettable 3-2 shootout decision to the Tampa Bay Lightning at Madison Square Garden. What made the game noteworthy wasn’t the result, but what happened in the second period when Rangers forward Artem Anisimov scored a shorthanded goal and then celebrated by pretending to shoot Lightning goalie Mathieu Garon, igniting a brawl on the ice that resulted in 36 combined penalty minutes, including 16 to Anisimov.
The great thing about this entire sequence is the Rangers were playing in the Winter Classic less than a month later against the Philadelphia Flyers, and because of that were being followed around by HBO’s cameras for the 24/7 documentary. This allowed us to get an up-close and uncensored look at what was said between the players, officials, and, of course, then-Rangers coach John Tortorella (watch all of that here but be warned there is some very not safe for work language in there)
This one might have been forgotten because it happened in Atlanta in a game featuring two teams that were, at the time, not very good, but it involved two of the biggest names in the modern era in Ilya Kovalchuk and Sidney Crosby.
The date: January 7, 2006.
At the time, Kovalchuk was the NHL’s most dominant goal-scorer and just entering his peak years as an offensive force. Crosby was the much hyped “next one” and in the middle of a dominant rookie season.
Kovalchuk was unhappy with the way Crosby was playing and a “stupid” penalty he had taken against Kovalchuk, and celebrated a power play goal by turning to the penalty box where Crosby was sitting and savagely pointing at him.
Kovalchuk did not stop delivering blows after the game, either, when he said of Crosby:
“He takes those stupid penalties all the time. He’s an 18 year old kid, and he can’t play like this. He starts yapping about his teammates in the newspapers … I don’t know, he should play really hard on the ice and keep it at that.”
The celebration itself is pretty understated, but it’s a level of taunting and “calling out” that you almost never see in hockey. And that’s what gets it in the top-three.
This incident was also mentioned by Penguins coach Michel Therrien after the Penguins’ following game when he went on his famous “I’ve never seen a team so soft” rant and lamented the fact that there wasn’t one guy (“not one guy…”) that did anything about it, except for “Maybe Max Talbot at the end … with about one second left … he’s about 5-foot-8.”
Just a remarkable sequence of events.
4. Sean Avery works out
Sean Avery was one of the NHL’s most notorious pests and trolls. His style was at times so outrageous that his actions actually forced the league to make a rule change during the playoffs (the Sean Avery rule).
Here he is in his early days with the Los Angeles Kings celebrating a bank-shot goal by dropping down to the ice and getting in a quick workout.
5. Alex Ovechkin‘s hot stick
It was the 2008-09 season and Alex Ovechkin, coming off of a 65-goal season the year before, hit the 50-goal mark for the third time in the first four years of his career.
Then he did this.
The Hot Stick.
Naturally, all of the usual suspects were angry about it, from the opponents to Don Cherry.
6. Tie Domi/Tiger Williams go for a ride
Former Vancouver Canucks forward Tiger Williams used to have some over the top celebrations during his playing days, with this one probably being the most noteworthy.
Tie Domi, during his days as a New York Ranger, brought it back.
7. Nail Yakupov goes wild
Nail Yakupov may not have panned out as the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, but he did give Oilers fans some brief excitement in his rookie season when he scored a game-tying goal in the final seconds against the Los Angeles Kings and went sliding across the ice.
It was all very reminiscent of the next one on the list…
8. Theo Fleury’s slide
You are probably asking, Adam, you stupid idiot, why don’t you have the original version ahead of the cover version?
My answer to that is simple: I feel like Yakupov’s was even more outrageous because it was a game-tying goal in some early regular season game that you have already forgotten about, while Fleury’s was an overtime winning goal in the playoffs. I feel like going that wild for a regular season game is just taking it to an entirely different level. It is natural to go wild when you score an overtime winner in the playoffs. But the regular season? In the first month of the season? No one does that.
9. Milan Hejduk goes for a swim
The Colorado Avalanche were one of the NHL’s powerhouse teams in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and Milan Hejduk was one of the cornerstone pieces of that team. On March 26 of that season he scored an overtime winner against the Dallas Stars and decided to celebrate by going for a swim across the ice.
This game was part of a season-ending eight-game winning streak for the Avalanche. They continued rolling through the first two rounds of the playoffs (winning eight out of 10 games against Arizona and long-time arch-rival Detroit) before running into the Stars in the Western Conference Final. The Stars would end up getting their revenge, eliminating the Avalanche in six games on their way to their second consecutive Stanley Cup Final appearance.
The Avalanche would come back the next season to win their second Stanley Cup.
10. Marek Malk’s understated greatness
There is nothing really wild or outrageous about this celebration, and that is kind of what makes it great.
Marek Malik played more than 750 games in the NHL (regular season and playoffs) and managed to score just 35 goals during that time.
That is why it was so stunning that he ended up scoring one of the best shootout goals we have seen in the shootout era and he celebrated by … acting like it was no big thing and he had done it 1,000 times before that.
Honorable mention: Brad Marchand‘s fake Stanley Cup lift
This is not a goal celebration but I still wanted to include it because … just look at this.
That is Brad Marchand skating in front of the Vancouver Canucks bench and pretending to lift the Stanley Cup in front of them because, well, Marchand and the Bruins defeated the Canucks in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final in a pretty intense series.
It is also noteworthy because during the NHL’s opening night this season Marchand took exception to Capitals forward Lars Eller skating in front of the Bruins bench and celebrating a little too much and then proceeded to pummel him later in the game.