There was no Miracle on Ice in 2010, unless you consider the NHL's return into mainstream view in a big way as something of a miracle. But for a league that has always been seen as a niche operation, the business part reached new heights in the past 12 months, enough to set the stage for a salary cap hike in these recessionary times.
That has made this a remarkable year for the NHL, with high-profile events like the Olympics, the Winter Classic and some great playoff series capped off by a historic franchise's Stanley Cup win getting hockey the kind of attention it has rarely, if ever, had. And it has set the stage for more growth.
The league has taken advantage of the momentum and the interest it has been getting from various networks to expand its footprint, not only in North America but around the world, through a variety of technology-driven marketing strategies. And ultimately, that will be the legacy of calendar year 2010.
In the meantime, here's a look at 50 of the most newsworthy stories of the past 12 months.
|The Winter Classic at Fenway Park was another hit for the NHL to start the year. (Getty Images)|
2. Jan. 2: Andy Murray is fired as coach of the St. Louis Blues after leading them to a surprising playoff spot the year before. Rookie Davis Payne is promoted from the system.
3. Jan. 20: Eric Staal takes over from Rod Brind'Amour as captain of the Carolina Hurricanes. Brind'Amour continues playing and retires after the season.
4. Jan. 31: Toronto and the Calgary Flames put together an old-fashioned, and now very rare, blockbuster seven-player trade with the key piece being defenseman Dion Phaneuf going to the Maple Leafs.
5. Feb. 4: The Atlanta Thrashers finally give up begging Ilya Kovalchuk to re-sign and trade him to New Jersey for a package that has already paid big dividends for the franchise.
6. Feb. 9: Bob Gainey resigns unexpectedly as general manager of the Montreal Canadiens only weeks before the trade deadline and is replaced by Pierre Gauthier.
7. Feb. 22: Team USA defeats Team Canada in a preliminary round Olympic game, changing the entire tenor of the tournament and sparking comparisons of the 1980 Miracle on Ice.
8. Feb. 29: In a heart-stopping game witnessed by the largest television audience for hockey ever, Canada defeats Team USA in overtime to win gold, with Sidney Crosby scoring the winning goal.
9. March 3: The trade deadline doesn't bring much pizzazz, but still, 26 deals involving 44 players get done.
10. March 10: After star players David Booth and Marc Savard get shelved by blind-side hits to the head, NHL general managers recommend stiffer penalties for perpetrators.
11. March 11: Defenseman Chris Chelios suits up for Atlanta at age 48 and plays seven games. He retired before training camp after a career that spanned 26 NHL seasons.
12. April 10: Super sophomore Steven Stamkos gets his 50th goal and goes on to share the Rocket Richard Trophy with Crosby.
13. April 11: The Flyers edge the Rangers for a playoff spot in the East by beating New York in a shootout.
14. April 18: Colorado takes a 2-1 series lead against San Jose as Avs goalie Craig Anderson stops 51 shots and Dan Boyle scores into his own net in the second overtime.
15. April 28: Eighth-seed Montreal stuns President Trophy-winning Washington in Game 7 after rebounding from a 3-1 series deficit.
16. April 29: -- Jacques Lemaire resigns suddenly as coach of the Devils after the Atlantic Division winners lose in the first round.
17. May 8: The San Jose Sharks exorcise some demons by eliminating Detroit in five games, only to get swept by Chicago in the conference finals.
18. May 12: The Canadiens keep their Cinderella dream alive by eliminating the defending Cup champion Penguins in Game 7 at Pittsburgh, the final game at Civic Arena.
19. May 14: Philadelphia completes a remarkable comeback against Boston, winning Game 7 after trailing the game and the series 0-3.
20. May 17: Dale Tallon, removed unceremoniously as Blackhawks GM after building the Stanley Cup roster, is hired by the Florida Panthers as GM.
21. May 25: Long-time Detroit icon Steve Yzerman brings instant credibility to the Tampa Bay Lightning when he is hired as general manager.
22. June 9: Patrick Kane scores in OT of Game 6 to give the Blackhawks their first Stanley Cup in 49 years. Captain Jonathan Toews wins the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP.
23. June 17: Montreal trades goaltender Jaroslav Halak, the hero of its playoff run, to St. Louis and hands the starting job to Carey Price.
24. June 24: The salary-cap-driven breakup of the Cup champion Blackhawks begins with the trade of four players to Atlanta.
25. June 24: San Jose ends speculation about the future of Patrick Marleau by re-signing the veteran for four years.
|Taylor Hall went first to the Oilers, Tyler Seguin second to the B's. (Getty Images)|
27. July 1: Free agency opens and is good for defensemen. Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek go to Pittsburgh, Sergei Gonchar signs with Ottawa and Anton Volchenkov lands in N.J.
28. July 7: Longtime Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov leaves the NHL as a free agent to play in Russia.
29. July 10: The NHL crosses over into the world of country when Ottawa Senators center Mike Fisher marries Carrie Underwood.
30. July 20: The summer's top free agent, Ilya Kovalchuk, signs a record 17-year, $102 million contract to remain in New Jersey.
31. July 21: The NHL rejects the Kovalchuk deal after an arbitrator rules it was designed to circumvent the rules of the salary cap.
32. Aug. 3: Veteran goalie Marty Turco takes a big-time pay cut to sign with the Blackhawks.
33. Aug. 4: Buffalo is the first team to buy out a player after arbitration, essentially walking away from the $1 million award native son Tim Kennedy received. The Sabres offered $200,000 less
34. Aug. 4: American icon Mike Modano signs with his hometown Red Wings after not getting a new contract from the Stars, his only previous organization.
35. Aug. 15: The so-called Shanahan Summit brings together coaches, players and managers to test out various out-of-the-box ideas that might be implemented into rules in the future.
36. Sept. 4: The NHL approves a 15-year, $100 million deal between Kovalchuk and the Devils
37. Sept. 23: HBO announces it will produce a 24/7 series that follows the Penguins and Capitals for four weeks leading up to the Winter Classic.
38. Oct. 6: The Oilers are so desperate to dump Sheldon Souray, they loan him and his $5.4 million salary to another organization's farm team.
39. Oct. 9: Rangers rookie Derek Stepan makes history by becoming only the fourth player to score a hat trick in his NHL debut.
40. Oct. 12: Islanders defenseman James Wisniewski, since traded to Montreal, makes an obscene gesture on the ice toward Sean Avery of the Rangers and earns a two-game suspension.
41. Oct. 19: Vancouver forward Rick Rypien loses it and grabs a fan who was taunting him from the stands near the tunnel. Rypien is suspended for six games.
42. Nov. 8: American Cammi Granato and Canadian Angela James become the first women players to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
43. Nov. 19: Three-time Coach of the Year Pat Burns passes away at 58 after a lengthy cancer battle and without seeing himself enshrined in the Hall of Fame as many believed he should have.
44. Nov. 24: Mark Recchi, the NHL's oldest player at 43, scores twice in Florida to become the 13th player in history to reach 1,500 points.
45. Dec. 14: Wealthy businessman Matthew Hulsizer strikes a lease deal with the city of Glendale, clearing the way for him to purchase the Coyotes and keep the team in Phoenix.
46. Dec. 18: Donald Fehr is hired by the NHL players association as its new executive director and will lead the union through the next collective bargaining talks.
47. Dec. 23: Rookie coach John MacLean is fired by the Devils after winning just nine of 33 games. Jacques Lemaire returns for the third time.
48. Dec. 28: Darryl Sutter steps down as general manager of the Flames with the team heading for its second consecutive playoff miss.
49. Dec. 29: Sidney Crosby has his consecutive-game points streak snapped at 25.
50. Dec. 31: Barring any weather problems, Mario Lemieux will again be in uniform for the Penguins, playing in an alumni game as part of the Winter Classic festivities.