1 of 12Bruce Bennett/Getty Images; Sitthixay Ditthavong/AP
<italics>SI.com's Brian Cazeneuve has some special wishes for 2013 to bestow upon notable NHL players and people:</italics> On behalf of all hockey fans, here's hoping for the day when they can shake hands on a mission completed -- if not a job well done, then at least a negotiation finalized. And beyond that, here's to labor peace for a game that deserves better than three work stoppages in less than two decades. Every time the NHL seems to build momentum off a few exciting seasons that feature emerging stars, successful large markets, unsung heroes, and all the things that make for compelling drama, the league and union aim a slapper right at their own skates. For the good of the game, may they co-exist in peace and prosperity for the foreseeable future.
2 of 12Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images
The game's greatest player of all time has been noticeable by his relative absence during the last few years. Sure, he made an appearance at the Stanley Cup Final last spring, when one of his old teams, the Kings, played for the title. But Gretzky was reportedly upset with the way things went down at the end of his tenure with the Phoenix Coyotes, which were taken over by the league, and he is reportedly still owed roughly $8 million dollars on his contract. The game would be better served if Gretzky were serving in a prominent role. Rumors of possible involvement with the Maple Leafs fizzled out. Given all that he has done for the game, it's time to make this right and get him back into a role he will be eager to accept.
3 of 12Jerome Davis/Icon SMI
For Sid the Kid, we wish health, happiness, health, prosperity, and did we mention health? He could use that, and the game could surely use him. Think of the goals, the bumps, the bruises, the Stanley Cup, the Olympic gold of past years. That would be a heckuva career resume for a 40-year-old, but Crosby is still only 25. He also handles himself off the ice like a veteran. When it finally gets back to playing, the NHL needs its ambassador to stay pain-and-concussion-free. Few people have served hockey as well over the past few years, and this wounded game that will need his good service.
4 of 12Gregg Forwerck/NHL via Getty Images
One of the most rugged defensemen ever to lace on skates has had his career and health jeopardized by concussions. Ironically, when he was once asked about the Red Wings' brilliant Nick Lidstrom, it was suggested that the two bluelines might enter the Hall of Fame together one day. Pronger replied, "What are you trying to do, get me to retire early? I think I might be playing a little longer than Nick." After Lidstrom's retirement in 2012, Pronger deserves a chance to come back healthy and leave the game on his own terms.
5 of 12Carlos Osono/AP
The 2011 Calder Trophy-winner is a talented, playmaking forward and if it seems as though he skates with a figure skater's grace, it's because he was doing double Axels before he begamn scoring goals. Here's hoping he reaches his full potential after the concussion that married his 2011-12 season. Taking the cautious approach to his health was a big reason why he and the Hurricanes decided he'd be better off not playing in the AHL during the lockout.
6 of 12Nick Wass/AP
For the man who was once the game's most lethal sniper and perhaps its most exciting player, a return to his old self. It doesn't look as though Ovie has lost his physical edge, but perhaps his sniper' touch has left him, at least relative to what it was. Rumors about stick changes and hidden injuries will not resolve what the numbers confirm: his NHL production has decreased steadily over the past five seasons, from 65 goals to 32 before going back up 38 last season, when he recorded just 27 assists and was minus-8 in 78 games. Something is missing, and perhaps he's rediscovering it the KHL where he ranked fourth in scoring with 16 goals and 36 points after 27 games.
7 of 12Bob Frid/Icon SMI
A home sweet home. Really -- Toronto, Florida, even if it's Vancouver -- wherever it may be, here's hoping for a place where a goaltender with 339 career wins and an Olympic gold medal can get a fresh start. Luongo may well have a place in the Hall of Fame waiting for him someday. But for now, he has to kill the memories of soft goals, long goals, sideways goals, and goals from the concession stands that cloud his "highlight" reels.
8 of 12Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images
Two decades removed from the Gretzky-Messier- -Kurri-Coffey-Fuhr dynasty, may Edmonton begin to enjoy winning again. After signing 2012 No. 1 overall pick Nail Yakupov to a three-year deal, the Oilers are loaded with young talent, thanks to six-straight also-ran finishes and high draft choices. As a Muslim and an ethnic Tatar, Yakupov brings an unusual story with him and could become a marketing force unto himself. He lit up the OHL last season, netting 101 points in 65 games for the Sarnia Sting. He's fast, shifty, elusive and adds firepower to a roster that includes Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Justin Schultz, and Sam Gagner at a time when the Oilers' economic future, including a proposed new arena complex, is hanging in the balance.
9 of 12Jeanine Leech/Icon SMI
For (left to right) Alex Galchenyuk, Nail Yakupov, Ryan Murray, the top three picks at the 2012 Entry Draft, how about a chance to show off their existing skills and build some new ones by appearing in NHL games? The Canadiens, Oilers, and Blue Jackets respectively would like to get them on the ice, too. Not every first-rounder is NHL-ready before he's ready to shave, but many are competing at the World Junior Championship and deserve the opportunity to get their skates wet at NHL arenas this year.
10 of 12Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images
Islander fans had it great during the club's heyday in which the team won four Stanley Cups between 1980 and 1983. But poor management, bad decisions and the lasting strength of the Rangers and Devils in their division and market has meant a downward spiral ever since. After a the specter of Quebec or Kansas City luring the franchise away, Long Islanders will have to go to Brooklyn to watch their team starting in 2015. Old barn that it is, Nassau Coliseum's sight lines are not bad and the noise carries very well. Those great teams of Bossy, Trottier, Potvin and Smith benefitted from playing there. For the fans who will stick it out until the end, here's to another great moment or two before the moving vans arrive.
11 of 12Shamukov Ruslan/ITAR-TASS/Landov
Despite Ovechkin's criticisms of Russian hockey fans, they are still a knowledgeable and rabid group and Russia has a grand tradition of producing greats -- Viacheslav Fetisov, Valeri Kharlamov, Vladislav Tretiak, Sergei Fedorov and Alex Ovechkin. Now Russia is preparing to host the Winter Olympics for the first time: at Sochi in 2014. But here's the fly in the Borscht: the NHL and IIHF don't yet have an agreement to let NHL players participate. Though it will probably happen, an agreement is on the back burner until the lockout is settled. After a poor showing in Vancouver, the Russians would love their team to get it right in Sochi and want to have their best on the ice.
12 of 12John Cordes/Icon SMI
One more go-round for the ageless Finnish Flash, who still proves that being 42 can be a trifle in the NHL these days. If he can muster 26 goals and 66 points during last season's 82-game campaign, then surely he can handle the lesser demands of a 48-gamer plus a few more playoff matches. And maybe even keep playing beyond 2013.
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