Christmas is a time for giving and New Year's is a time for reflection as well as anticipation for the year to come. In the spirit of the season and confident that my sentiments are shared by many fans throughout the hockey world, I would like to extend hearty thank yous to the following teams and individuals for their contributions to hockey in 2010:
1. Both the Canadian and American Olympic teams for their splendid display of hockey in Vancouver. The final game, won by Canada in overtime, was hockey at its finest.
2. Both the American and Canadian world junior teams for their splendid display of hockey in Saskatoon, Sask. The final game of that tournament, won by the United States in overtime, was as fine an exhibition of exciting junior hockey as you will ever see.
3. Sidney Crosby, for carrying the mantle of greatness so well throughout the year. His play in the first half of the 2010-11 season has reached another level. In the biggest hockey moment of the year, he came through with the Olympic-winning goal that electrified a nation. Only the truly great players can perform at his level.
4. The Chicago Blackhawks for reviving hockey in the Windy City by winning the Stanley Cup. Is there a better atmosphere in pro sports than a big hockey game in Chicago? Few franchises are as crucial for the long-term prosperity of the NHL.
5. The young dynamic duo of the Blackhawks, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. The overflowing crowds at the United Center and the large crowds the Hawks attracted on the road had numerous supporters wearing the jerseys of these two young stars. Both the future and heritage of our great game were enhanced in the playoffs when Toews or Kane did something brilliant on the ice and the television cameras flashed to Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita applauding in the Blackhawks booth.
6. Steven Stamkos for emerging as a potential talent at the Crosby-Ovechkin-Malkin level. This 20-year-old can do everything at top speed with a scorer's touch. Not only that, he does it with a smile on his face. He has the potential to serve as one of the faces of the NHL for the next generation.
7. Henrik Sedin who had a career year and became MVP while his twin brother Daniel missed substantial time with an injury. Henrik’s performance should dispel once and for all the theories that the twins are dependent on each other for their individual success.
8. Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom, Marian Gaborik, Daniel Sedin and many more like them who continue to prove hockey truly is a global game despite the recent successes of Canada and the United States at major international tournaments.
9. The families of many draft picks who made the very long trek to Los Angeles for the draft last June. You continued the long-established tradition of hockey being a family affair and displayed the total family commitment it requires to develop a young player.
10. The loyal fans of the NHL who continue to support their favorite teams and the league through some very tough economic times. People from every rung on the economic ladder have been hurting for the past several years. Disposable income for sporting events and sport-related merchandise is scarce, yet our game continues to grow and expand. All hockey fans should take a step forward and pat themselves on the back for their contribution to the betterment of hockey.
Christmas is a time for family and ours is the most family-related of all the professional sports. To all the readers of The Hockey News, I wish you a merry and peaceful Christmas and a healthy and prosperous 2011. See you in the New Year.
Tom Thompson worked as head scout for the Minnesota Wild from 1999-2001 and was promoted to assistant GM in 2002, a post he held until 2010. He has also worked as a scout for the Calgary Flames, where he earned a Stanley Cup ring in 1989. He will be blogging for THN.com this season.