It was a year that featured frigid temperatures, women continuing to rise in NHL ranks, a 60-goal scorer, a rivalry renewed, a young defenseman filling up his trophy mantle, Slovakian history at the NHL Draft, a blockbuster trade, the ironman streak falling twice, and an 800-goal scorer.
To highlight the NHL in 2022, here are 22 of the most prominent moments of the year.
1. Freezing in Minneapolis
It was cold. Really cold. As in minus 5.7 degrees Fahrenheit at puck drop, the coldest NHL outdoor game. Cold as in water bottles had to be filled with chicken broth. Cold as in the NHL had to keep insulated blankets on the ice as long as it could, to keep the rink warm enough so it didn’t become brittle. Yes, the ice had to be warm, or at least warmer than Mother Nature would have allowed on New Year’s Night.
But the NHL created the perfect Minnesota winter scene at Target Field in Minneapolis for the 2022 Discover NHL Winter Classic.
The field was staged to look like a pond hockey tournament. Nine rinks were carved out of the snow on what the NHL called “Lake Winter Classic,” a fitting nickname since it was a state known as “The State of Hockey” and “The Land of 10,000 Lakes.” There were deer (fake), lumberjacks and ice anglers (both real), and much more.
A hardy 38,619 fans braved the conditions and saw the visiting St. Louis Blues score five goals in the second period, an NHL outdoor game record for goals in a period by one team, in a 6-4 win.
But maybe the best part of it all was the Blues arrival. All the players were wearing beach attire. They went for the plunge and won.
2. To the rafters
Willie O’Ree was the first Black player to play in an NHL game on Jan. 18, 1958, when he suited up for the Boston Bruins.
Sixty-four years to the day, the Bruins retired the Hockey Hall of Famer’s No. 22 in a ceremony at TD Garden prior to a game against the Carolina Hurricanes.
He was one of eight players to have his jersey number retired by a team in 2022.
Chris Pronger (No. 44) by the Blues on Jan. 17, Henrik Lundqvist (No. 30) by the New York Rangers and Sergei Zubov (No. 56) by the Dallas Stars on Jan. 28, Pekka Rinne (No. 35) by the Nashville Predators on Feb. 24, Rick Nash (No. 61) by the Columbus Blue Jackets on March 5, Mikko Koivu (No. 9) by the Wild on March 13, and Marian Hossa (No. 81) by the Chicago Blackhawks on Nov. 20.
3. Women in hockey
Emilie Castonguay and the Vancouver Canucks started a trend on Jan. 24.
Castonguay became the first woman to be named assistant general manager for an NHL team when she was hired for the position by Vancouver.
Castonguay, who in 2016 became the first certified NHL Players’ Association agent in Canada, was joined in the Canucks front office by Cammi Granato on Feb. 10. Granato left her position as a scout for the Seattle Kraken to take on the same role as assistant GM.
The Kraken hired her on Sept. 25, 2019, making her the first female pro scout in NHL history.
The Blackhawks promoted Meghan Hunter to assistant GM on June 22. The Toronto Maple Leafs did the same for four-time Olympic women’s hockey gold medalist Dr. Hayley Wickenheiser on July 5.
The New Jersey Devils promoted Kate Madigan to assistant GM on July 6, and the Kraken promoted Alexandra Mandrycky to assistant GM on Sept. 14.
In addition, the Washington Capitals promoted Emily Engel-Natzke to video coordinator on July 30, making her the first woman to be a full-time coach in the NHL. Jessica Campbell became the first woman in American Hockey League history to be behind as an assistant coach when she was hired by the Coachella Valley Firebirds, the Kraken’s affiliate, on July 5.
More than 100 women are currently working in hockey operations, player scouting and development, player health and safety and in analyst roles across the NHL.
4. Sin City hosts All-Star Weekend
Magic tricks, showgirls, a stage hanging from the rafters, the famous Fountains of Bellagio, hockey-style 21 on the Las Vegas Strip, Elvis and Sinatra impersonators on skates, odes to “The Hangover” and “Dodgeball,” Carrot Top and so much more.
Las Vegas hosted 2022 NHL All-Star Weekend and did it up with the over-the-top entertainment you’d expect from a city known for its glitz, glamour, lights and stars.
The NHL stars shined in Vegas, where the festivities took place at T-Mobile Arena and in some of the most recognizable spots outside the home of the Vegas Golden Knights.
It ended with Claude Giroux, then of the Philadelphia Flyers, taking home MVP honors, and the Metropolitan Division being crowd champions of the 3-on-3 tournament.
5. Crosby scores 500
Sidney Crosby became the 46th NHL player to score 500 goals when the Pittsburgh Penguins center hit the milestone with a power-play goal at 16:34 of the first period in a 5-4 overtime win against the Flyers on Feb. 15.
Crosby hid himself on the opposite side of the puck in the small area between the bottom of the right face-off circle and just above the goal line. Evgeni Malkin one-timed a diagonal pass from the top of the left circle down to Crosby, who settled the puck on his stick and quickly released it, beating Flyers goalie Carter Hart under the glove.
6. Country-style Stadium Series
The NHL staged a country music festival around a hockey game, or maybe it was the other way around. Doesn’t matter. What took place in Nashville at Nissan Stadium on Feb. 26 was nothing short of the perfect combination of hockey and honkey-tonk, exactly the spectacle you’d expect in a city known as “Smashville” and “Music City.”
The Predators lost 3-2 to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2022 Navy Federal Credit Union NHL Stadium Series, but the city and all the fans, including the 68,619 in the stadium, partied like country music stars, proving once and for all what kind of a hockey town Nashville has become.
The players arrived in party busses, high-fiving fans along the way. The Predators players arrived in custom hats and leather jackets, the Lightning players in cowboy hats and boots and Canadian tuxedos of denim jackets and jeans.
7. 60 for Matthews
Auston Matthews went from zero to 60 in 73 games to become the first player in Maple Leafs history to score 60 goals in a season. Matthews became the first player in the NHL to score 60 in a season since Steven Stamkos did it with the Lightning in 82 games in 2011-12.
Matthews scored his 60th goal on the power play at 5:49 of the third period in a 3-0 win against the Detroit Red Wings on April 26, the Maple Leafs second to last game of the season. He did not play in their last game of the season.
8. Spicy pork and broccoli
Louis Domingue was hungry between the first and second overtimes, and since the Penguins backup goalie in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round didn’t think he’d be playing that night, he figured why not get an early start on the postgame spread.
“Spicy pork and broccoli,” Domingue said. “Not great.”
Certainly not for a goalie who a few minutes after filling his belly with the spicy meal had to go right into the fire of a game between the Penguins and Rangers that was in the middle of the second overtime.
But Domingue played through and made 17 saves in relief of an injured Casey DeSmith to help the Penguins pull out a 4-3 triple-overtime win.
The meal became the talk of the NHL and prior to Game 3 at PPG Paints Arena, the Penguins had it on the menu for their pregame media meal.
9. ‘Battle of Alberta’
The Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames played each other in the playoffs for the first time since 1991. It was the rebirth of the “Battle of Alberta” rivalry postseason style, and once again the Oilers were too tough for their provincial neighbors to the south.
Edmonton and Calgary played each other in the playoffs five times from 1983-91; the Oilers won the series four times. They needed five games to dispatch the Flames from the playoffs in the Western Conference Second Round this year.
Game 1 was bonkers, with Calgary winning 9-6 after the Oilers came back from 6-2 down to tie it early in the third period only to see the Flames score three more times.
But the Oilers took control from there, winning the next four games by a combined score of 19-11, including 5-4 on Connor McDavid‘s overtime goal in Game 5 to clinch the series and a berth in the Western Conference Final.
10. Avalanche go all the way
The Colorado Avalanche completed the journey on June 26, winning the Stanley Cup by defeating the Lightning 2-1 in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. Nathan MacKinnon tied the game 1-1 at 1:54 of the second period and had an assist on Artturi Lehkonen‘s goal 10:34 later that held up as the Cup-clincher.
MacKinnon celebrated by jumping into the arms of defenseman Erik Johnson, the two tumbling to the ice, Johnson hitting his head and MacKinnon cutting his hand. Neither cared.
They were part of the Avalanche team that finished last in the NHL with 48 points in 2016-17. They were part of the teams that lost in the first round in 2018, and in the second round in 2019, 2020 and 2021.
And now they were part of Avalanche history, the first Colorado team to win the Stanley Cup since 2001.
11. Makar’s crowded mantle
Cale Makar won the Stanley Cup, Norris Trophy and Conn Smythe Trophy all at the age of 23 years old. The Colorado Avalanche defenseman had quite the year to say the least.
Makar had 86 points (28 goals, 58 assists) in 77 games last season, leading to his first Norris Trophy win as the NHL’s best defenseman. He then had 29 points (eight goals, 21 assists) in 20 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, leading to the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs, helping the Avalanche win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 2001.
12. Montreal rules NHL Draft
The Montreal Canadiens hosted the 2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft at Bell Centre on July 7 and 8, and had the No. 1 pick, the first time for the host team since 1985, when the Maple Leafs had it and took Wendel Clark at Maple Leaf Gardens.
The Canadiens let the excitement brew and finally let the secret out by taking Slovakia-born forward Juraj Slafkovsky with the No. 1 pick. It was only the beginning of a wild draft for the host team.
Montreal made 11 picks, including another Slovakia-born forward, Filip Mesar, with the No. 26 pick.
Montreal also acquired center Kirby Dach in a trade with the Blackhawks. They first traded defenseman Alexander Romanov and the No. 98 pick to the New York Islanders for the No. 13 pick, and then flipped that pick to the Blackhawks for Dach, the No. 3 pick in 2019.
The Devils went with a Slovakian at No. 2, defenseman Simon Nemec. He and Slafkovsky became the highest drafted Slovakia-born players in NHL Draft history.
Logan Cooley went No. 3 to the Arizona Coyotes, leaving the Kraken to take Shane Wright, the projected No. 1, with the No. 4 pick.
Wright was actually wearing socks and a tie with matching Kraken colors.
13. Gaudreau goes to Ohio
It was Johnny Gaudreau‘s free agency day, with the hockey world wondering where the forward would sign on July 13.
It took until late on the first day of the NHL’s free-agent frenzy, but Gaudreau chose the Blue Jackets for a seven-year, $68.25 million contract ($9.75 million average annual value).
It was the move few saw coming. Even the Blue Jackets top executives didn’t know that Gaudreau would choose them until they got a call from his agent telling them that the forward, who had a career-high 115 points (40 goals, 75 assists) with the Flames last season wanted to come to Columbus.
14. Blockbuster trade
It was a quiet summer Friday evening until the Florida Panthers and Flames turned the hockey world upside down, completing a trade involving two 100-point players and a top pair defenseman with an announcement shortly after 11 p.m. ET.
The Panthers sent forward Jonathan Huberdeau, defenseman MacKenzie Weegar, forward Cole Schwindt and a conditional first-round pick in the 2025 NHL Draft to the Flames for forward Matthew Tkachuk and a conditional fourth-round pick in 2025.
Huberdeau had a career-high 115 points (30 goals, 85 assists) and Weegar a career-high 44 points (eight goals, 36 assists) with the Panthers, both in 80 games last season. Tkachuk had a career-high 104 points (42 goals, 62 assists) in 82 games with the Flames.
But Tkachuk, who turned 25 on Dec. 11, was a restricted free agent who told the Flames he was not going to re-sign. Both Huberdeau, 29, and Weegar, 28, were each entering the last year of his contract.
All three have since signed eight-year contracts.
15. Retirement Day
It was like rapid-fire retirement day in the NHL on Sept. 20 with Keith Yandle, Zdeno Chara and P.K. Subban all announcing their decisions in succession in a span of about eight and a half hours.
Yandle went first, retiring at the time with the record for most consecutive games played (989).
Chara went next, retiring as one of the best defensemen in NHL history, the captain of the Bruins 2011 Stanley Cup championship team and the winner of Norris Trophy in 2008-09.
Then Subban jumped off the NHL carousel. He also won the Norris Trophy (2012-13).
Combined, Yandle, Chara and Subban played in 3,623 regular season NHL games, the equivalent of more than 44 seasons of 82 games. They had a combined 1,766 points (427 goals, 1,339 assists).
16. Josi’s ’emotional’ return to Bern
Roman Josi grew up less than three kilometers from PostFinance Arena in Bern, Switzerland, in a three-bedroom, ground-floor apartment in Ostermundigen, a town on the northeast edge of the city that is home to SC Bern of the Swiss National League A.
Josi started to go to the arena at the age of 4. He played hockey there as a youth, as a junior and as a pro in Switzerland. At 32 years old, he played his first road game in his home building, the captain of the Predators bringing his NHL team into play his old team in an exhibition game as part of the 2022 NHL Global Series Challenge on Oct. 3.
Josi had two goals and an assist in Nashville’s 4-3 win in front of a sellout crowd of 17,031. He was the first star of the game.
Yandle got there first on Jan. 25, the former Flyers defenseman passing Doug Jarvis’ ironman record for consecutive games played by playing in his 965 straight regular season game.
Jarvis held the record since Dec. 26, 1986. Yandle, whose streak ended at 989 games because he was scratched on April 2, had the record for nine months.
Phil Kessel passed Yandle and became the NHL’s new ironman by playing in his 990th consecutive game on Oct. 25. The Golden Knights forward also scored his 400th NHL goal in the same game, a 4-2 win against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center in San Jose.
18. Fire Lindy, Sorry Lindy
Give the fans of the Devils credit for making amends.
It was in the home opener at Prudential Center on Oct. 15 during a 5-2 loss to the Red Wings that Devils fans started chanting “Fire Lindy” in reference to coach Lindy Ruff.
Fast forward to Nov. 12, in the second period of what would become a 4-2 win against the Coyotes, the Devils ninth straight in what eventually became a 13-game streak, that the Devils’ fans inside Prudential Center literally issued an apology by chanting “Sorry, Lindy.”
“I accept the apology and maybe one day we can all sit down and have a beer and laugh about it,” the veteran coach said.
19. Hall of Fame weekend
It was a gold medal weekend in Toronto from Nov. 11-14.
Twins Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Daniel Alfredsson and Roberto Luongo were feted, celebrated and ultimately enshrined into the Hockey Hall of Fame along with the late Herb Carnegie in the Builders category and Finnish star Riikka Sallinen, who could not be in attendance.
The weekend was filled with celebrations, but none was more impactful than the Maple Leafs welcoming Borje Salming to Scotiabank Arena, prior to games against the Penguins on Nov. 11 and against the Canucks the next night.
Salming, who was battling ALS, was visibly emotional, as were many around him, including former Maple Leafs Darryl Sittler and Mats Sundin.
Salming dropped the ceremonial puck before the game against the Canucks.
He died on Nov. 24. He was 71.
20. Legends pass
Former NHL players and/or coaches Randy Boyd (Jan. 20, 59), Mike Nykoluk (Jan. 30, 87), Jean Potvin (March 15, 72), Larry Hillman (June 3, 85) and Eric Nesterenko (June 6, 88) also died.
The hockey community also lost former NHL general counsel, vice president and president Gil Stein (March 24, 94) and former Senators owner Eugene Melnyk (March 28, 62).
21. Marner streaks into history books
Mitchell Marner made history this season with a Maple Leafs record 23-game point streak that ended in a 3-1 loss to the Rangers on Dec. 15. It began Oct. 27 and the forward had 32 points (11 goals, 21 assists) in the 23 games.
Marner’s streak crushed the previous Maple Leafs record of 18 games, set by Sittler in 1977-78 and matched by Eddie Olczyk in 1989-90.
It was the longest point streak for a player in the NHL since Patrick Kane had a point in 26 straight games for the Blackhawks from Oct. 17-Dec. 13, 2015.
Marner became the third active player with a point streak of 23 or more games, joining Kane and Crosby, who had a 25-game streak from Nov. 5-Dec. 28, 2010.
22. Ovechkin joins 800-club
Of course, Alex Ovechkin did it with a hat trick, the 29th of his legendary NHL career.
Ovechkin, the Capitals left wing, joined Wayne Gretzky (894) and Gordie Howe (801) in the NHL’s exclusive 800-goal club by scoring three in a 7-3 win against the Blackhawks at United Center on Dec. 13.
Ovechkin started the game with 797 goals. He scored 798 just 24 seconds into the game. No. 799 came on the power play at 8:14 of the first period. He scored his 800th off a scramble in front of Chicago’s net at 6:34 of the third period.
Hats rained on the ice and Ovechkin’s teammates poured over the boards to mob him. The crowd, in a road building for Ovechkin, chanted, “Ovi, Ovi, Ovi.”
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.