Hockey Holidays: Happy New Year to All Who Made 2022 Great
By Scott Lowe – MYHockeyRankings.com
Well, just like that, 2022 has come and gone. Once again it wasn’t easy, but as usual we made it through with flying colors.
Welcome to 2023!
And although it wasn’t a totally normal year for hockey fans and participants – we again were treated to more great summer hockey thanks to another delayed start to the National Hockey League season and more COVID-induced postponements and scheduling changes – it was another big step back toward normalcy.
Regardless, it was quite a year, and if the end of 2022 is any indication – with Alex Ovechkin passing Gordie Howe for second place on the NHL’s all-time goals list, the red-hot Bruins still steamrolling the rest of the league as historic Fenway Park was being reconfigured to host the Winter Classic and huge upsets at the World Junior Championship – we should be in for quite a ride in 2023.
We hope that you enjoyed your Hockey Holidays and that everyone had a safe – dare we say, relaxing? – holiday season surrounded by those who mean the most to you.
We call them the Hockey Holidays, because for many hockey families this is the time of year to take a deep breath, step back and recharge the batteries for the second half of the hockey season. For others, however, there is no halt to the grind, and we know that some of you hopped in the Family Truckster and headed for spots like Grand Forks, N.D., Bedford, Mass. and Calgary for youth or minor hockey tournaments.
Once you’re a hockey family, you’re always a hockey family, and one way or another the holidays always seem to revolve around the sport we all love. Whether we are traveling somewhere for yet another weekend tournament, watching World Juniors on television, rounding up the troops to go see our favorite local pro team play or wrapping and opening hockey-related gifts, hockey never strays far from the forefront of our lives.
As it should be.
The holidays are a time for friends, family, peace, love, good cheer and reflection. Here at MYHockey Rankings, we always like to take a look back at the year that was in hockey as we move forward to what we hope will be the most prosperous year yet for everyone reading this.
It was another tremendous year of growth at MHR as we were featured in a New York Times article, set an all-time record for traffic to our website, worked with USA Hockey to reposition our ratings system for 10U teams and continued to rank nearly 20,000 youth, minor and amateur hockey teams all over North America.
We are grateful for all of you who contribute to that growth by taking an interest in our rankings, venturing to our website, mentioning us on social media and talking us up at rinks all of over the continent. We couldn’t do any of this without your support and interest, and for that we are extremely thankful. And without the countless volunteers, members, coaches and managers who spend some of their fleeting free time entering their team data, correcting erroneous scores and updating their team and club information, there is no way we could provide the service that we do without you.
So, first and foremost, we want to send out a huge THANK YOU to everyone who helps us in any way and wish you all a happy new year. Even if you don’t agree with our rankings or have differing opinions about the value of ranking youth hockey teams, if you are involved in this great sport and are providing opportunities for young people to grow on and off the ice, we thank you and wish you a happy 2023.
We hope that you enjoyed your Hockey Holidays and are primed and prepared for an amazing second half of the 2022-23 season. The North American hockey community has become our extended hockey family, and it is a family that takes care of its own and does so much good for young people and those in need on an annual basis. We consider ourselves extremely fortunate to be part of such a special group.
That’s what we think of first whenever we reflect on the year that has passed.
And what a year it was!
We opened 2022 with the disappointment of international tournaments at first being canceled – and thankfully later just postponed – as the COVID Omicron variant spread rapidly around the globe. We also were disappointed to learn that the NHL would not be sending its players to the Beijing Olympics because of the outbreak, effectively squashing what many thought might be the greatest international hockey tournament ever played.
That disappointment soon was forgotten, however, as events such as the WJC and the Women’s U18 World Championship were rescheduled for summer, allowing the young players who had spent their lives working so hard for the chance to represent their countries on an international stage the opportunity to realize the dream they had earned and deserved.
While me missed seeing the greatest male players in the world compete in Beijing, their absence allowed the women’s hockey tournament to take center stage again and provided an opportunity for some men’s players – and national teams – who may have gotten lost in the NHL shuffle to put their own stamp on the 2022 Games.
On the women’s side, the United States and Canada treated us to yet another pair of epic battles on the heels of the Canadians’ thrilling overtime victory in the rescheduled Women’s World Championship the previous summer. For the USA, Hilary Knight kept rewriting the record books, while Canada’s Marie-Philip Poulin continued in her starring role as Captain Clutch and goaltender Ann-Renee Desbiens proved to be the difference as the Canadians reclaimed the gold medal.
In the men’s tourney, Canada and the United States were forced to hastily throw together a group of professional veterans and younger prospects once the NHL decided not to send its players to Beijing. Neither team was able to get out of the quarterfinals, and that opened the door for Finland and Slovakia to write their own Cinderella stories.
Slovakia, with teenager Juraj Slavkofsky netting a tournament-high seven goals, captured its first-ever Olympic medal, shutting out Sweden, 4-0, in the third-place game. Slavkofsky and teammate Simon Nemec, a defenseman who later in the year went on to set a record for points by a teenage defender at the men’s World Championship, used the Olympic opportunity to propel themselves to the top of the NHL draft heap. They were selected first and second in the 2022 draft by Montreal and New Jersey, respectively.
And Finland, which in recent years has established itself as a consistent gold-medal contender in any international tournament, won its first Olympic gold medal by knocking off the team representing Russia, which took home the gold in 2018, 2-1 in the championship game.
Internationally speaking, the rest of 2022 was owned by the Canadian women, who captured both the rescheduled U18 Women’s World Championship in June and the WWC in August. One benefit of the recent years of chaos caused by COVID was that the International Ice Hockey Federation decided to hold a Women’s World Championship during an Olympic year, which normally doesn’t happen. Bonus summer hockey is never a bad thing, and as a consolation prize for American fans, we got to see Knight become the all-time leading scorer in WWC play.
The summer also saw the Colorado Avalanche and superstar Nathan MacKinnon bring to and end the Tampa Bay Lightning’s two-year run as Stanley Cup champions. The Avs finally lived up to their billing as the most-talented NHL team by knocking off the Bolts, four games to two, with Cal Makar earning the Conn Smythe trophy and head coach Jared Bednar winning his first Cup.
The Avs also shattered the dreams of Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers, who finally advanced to the Western Conference finals thanks in part to the inspiration provided by young cancer patient and Oiler superfan Ben Stelter. After Ben, who was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer before turning five, met the team, Edmonton won 10-straight home games that he attended as he became the face of the Oilers’ playoff run and an inspiration to hockey fans everywhere.
Sadly, Ben passed away in August.
RIP Ben. Thanks for making 2022 special for hockey fans everywhere.
Those were just some of the highlights that hockey provided us with in 2022. Now, we would like to wish a Happy new year to some folks in hockey who helped make the past year (and years past ) worth remembering.
Happy New Year to:
Ben Stelter, Ben’s family and Connor McDavid
Ovie and Gordie
Marie-Philip Poulin and Hilary Knight
Meghan Mikkelson and Anders Lee
Ann-Renee Desbiens and Darcy Kuemper
Nathan MacKinnon, Gabe Landeskog, Miko Rantanen and Erik Johnson
Cale Makar, Bobby Orr and Paul Coffey
Jared Bednar and Jon Cooper
Bruce Cassidy and Jim Montgomery
Don Sweeney and Kelly McCrimmon
Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and David Krejci
Lou Lamariello and Barry Trotz
Torts, Columbus and Johnny Hockey
Sid the Kid, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang:
One more spin around the dance floor?
Trevor Zegras, Mason McTavish, Matty Beniers and Tage Thompson
ESPN, TBS and TNT
The Great One, Chelly and Mess
Paul Bissonnette and Charles Barkley
Juraj Slavkofsky and Simon Nemac
Sarah Fillier, Taylor Heise, Caroline Harvey and Hanna Bilka:
The future is now.
David Carle and Nadine Muzerall
Tuuka Rask, Patrick Marleau, Zdeno Chara, Ryan Getlaf, P.K. Subban, Duncan Keith, Jason Spezza, Dustin Brown, Keith Yandle and Devan Dubnyk:
Has the sport ever said goodbye to so many great players at the same time?
Daniel Alfredsson, Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Roberto Luongo, Riika Sallinen and Herb Carnegie
Clark Gilles, Mike Bossy and Guy Lafleur:
RIP – heaven got a lot more goals, assists and Stanley Cups in 2022.
Eugene Melnyk, Jean Potvin, Emile Fancis, Bryan Marchment, Dave Dryden, Peter Mcnab, Borje Salming and Eric Nesterenko:
RIP – gone but never forgotten.
Here’s to the best year of hockey yet in 2023!