NHL’s Greatest Moments

retiring-kariya-had-rocket-speed-and-focus-vj6qb9j-x-largeWith the NHL season now in the distant past (relatively speaking), but next season still months away, as hockey fans we find ourselves mired in the most boring part of the season, the offseason. To help kill time during the offseason, we will bring you some classic NHL moments that we are taking a look back on, just because we are fans of the game. With such a great sport, played by great people over the course of a century, we certainly will not be short of great moments. Let’s get to it.

“Off The Floor, On The Board”

The Set Up:
​It was Game 6 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals which pitted the then Mighty Ducks of Anaheim against the New Jersey Devils. As the teams took to the ice, the Mighty Ducks were in a must-win situation, as they trailed 3-2 in the series. A concern from Mighty Ducks fans heading into the game was “we need more scoring from Paul Kariya.” The Mighty Ducks captain was struggling to score, but in a pregame interview, noted the fact that he himself would like to see more goals go in. With 13:44 left in the second period, and the Mighty Ducks leading 3-1, Kariya made a pass through the neutral zone, and a second later, was absolutely leveled by Devils captain Scott Stevens. Stevens was an easy selection to the Hall of Fame, and at this point in his career, had made a living DESTROYING those who chose to skate through the open ice with their heads down, and Kariya was no exception. The hit left Kariya unconscious at center ice, and he appeared to not be breathing for a moment. After lying motionless on the ice for a few seconds, it was as if his body snapped back into it and Kariya let out a big exhale which you could see hit his visor. The doctors attended to Kariya and helped him slowly off the ice and into the locker room and presumably to the hospital.

​If you have ever watched a hockey game in your life, you know how tough every player is and the warrior mentality that they all possess, but the scene at center seemed to all that Kariya’s season was over. To the surprise of everyone, most notably Stevens, just minutes later Kariya returned from the runway to the locker room and took a quick skate during a stoppage with 9:13 left in the second period. Many a NHL player have played through an excruciating injury in the playoffs or the Final, but minutes after being knocked out cold to the point of not breathing, Kariya returning was a moment in and of itself, until…

The Moment:
​After returning to play, with just under three minutes left in that second period, Kariya took a neutral zone pass, skated over the very spot where only a few minutes ago he was lying unconscious, crossed the blue line and wound up for a slap shot. From a good distance away, Kariya absolutely blasted a perfect slap shot and blew it by future first ballot Hall of Fame goalie Martin Brodeur, and the crowd erupted. With one of the best calls of his career, all-time great ESPN commentator Gary Thorne called the play: “SCOREEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!! OFF THE FLOOR, ON THE BOARD! Paul Kariya!!!”.

​The Mighty Ducks went on to force game seven, but ultimately lost in New Jersey in that seventh game. However, to any lifelong hockey fan, this was still one of those moments that epitomizes the sport of hockey and the players that play it.

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