I don’t think we really need to sell this idea to hockey fans, but goals have the potential to be vastly more impressive than any equivalents from other sports. There are plenty of entertaining ways to score in basketball, but you see dozens of dunks and a few three pointers every game. Touchdowns are awesome, but if you know what to watch for, you can generally see what’s coming. Goals in soccer (football, whatever) can be incredible but scoring plays can take ages to develop.
Hockey is among the fastest games out there. Therein lies one of the reasons for which goals can particularly amazing. NHL players can skate as fast or faster than even the quickest soccer or football player, and the puck moves around faster than any ball in any other game. Furthermore, having to use a stick creates more opportunity for a player to either look like a fool or bury the puck in a memorable way.
Here is our list of the greatest goals in hockey history. We’ll include two kinds of goals. The first is those that are visually incredible and flashy, and the second is those goals that are of great importance to the history of the game. If your favorite didn’t make the list, that’s what the comments section and hate tweets are for.
20. Keith Primeau – Pops the Winner in the Longest Game Since the 1930s
I will admit, there may be some not pleased that this goal is even on this list. It’s not a flashy dangle, nor did the puck get shot so fast that it ripped through the mesh and shattered a piece of glass. But he had been playing about two and a half hours of hockey. These guys get a workout after a period, let alone three periods plus four overtimes. The fact that Primeau and the rest of the players on the ice were still playing is a miracle. To this day the Flyers vs Penguins game. that started on May 4th, 2000 and ended on May 5th, still stands as the longest game in the last 75 years of NHL.
With that said, the goal was a nice one. Primeau managed to shake a defender and then fire a picture perfect wrist shot past Ron Tugnutt.
19. Mario Lemieux – Scores off Face-off
Alright, admittedly this has happened a few times and Mario Lemieux’s face-off goal is just one of a small list. It does however, have the best story of any of these rare goals. It was back in December 2002, and Lemieux had a running bet with a local radio DJ that if he could score off a puck-drop he would donate $6,600 to the Mario Lemieux Foundation which funds medical research. Basically, this goal was an example of both perfect timing, and philanthropy all in one.
18. Denis Savard – Mean Old-School Dangles
The star of the Chicago Blackhawks during the 1980s was Denis Savard. In the 1990s, his numbers slipped, but he managed to win a cup with the Canadiens in 1993 and have three 50+ point seasons in the 90s, so that “slip” in numbers wasn’t that bad. In 1988, against the Edmonton Oilers, Savard intercepted a pass at his own blue line, strategically worked his way through the neutral zone, before breaking into the Oilers’ end, making two defensemen look like pilons and picking a corner.
17. Jaromir Jagr – Embarrassing the Blackhawks in the 1992 Stanley Cup Final
The same can be said of a few members of this list, but we could have used a few Jagr goals here. If you don’t like our choice, call us whatever names first come to mind in the comments section. This was back in 1992 and Jagr was in his second year with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He and the Pens were taking on the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Finals. In game one, the Blackhawks had a commanding lead but Jagr started the comeback with a brilliant play; handling the puck through two opposing players before beating Ed Belfour with one of the finest backhands the league has ever seen. He and the Penguins would go on to win the series for their second straight Cup.
16. Ron Hextall – First ‘Real’ Goal From a Goalie
You didn’t think we’d leave goalies off this list, did you? Playing sixteen years in the NHL, Ron Hextall was known for many things. He was one of the best puck handling goalies to ever play the game and he was the kind of guy who would try to murder anyone who got too close to his crease. To be clear, Billy Smith was the first goalie to ever be credited with a goal. During a game against the Colorado Rockies, Smith was the last Islander to touch the puck when opposing forward Rob Ramage scored in his own net.
Hextall had a different method. Back during the 86-87 season, during a game against Boston, he shot the puck down the ice into an empty net after the Bruins had pulled their goalie. He would do something similar in the playoffs the following year. We should also point out that while Hextall was the first, Martin Brodeur (possibly the greatest goalie of all time: debate) did it three times, so a big shout-out to Marty.
15. Tomas Hertl – Four Goals in Style
Czech forward Tomas Hertl is in his third year in the NHL right now with the San Jose Sharks. He had a thirty point season in 2014-2015 and has three goals and eight assists so far in this season. 2013 looked like it was shaping up to an amazing rookie year for Hertl but he injured his knee in December, ending his season.
In October of 2013, however, Hertl lit up the New York Rangers, scoring four goals in one game. The first was a nice tip on a pass from the corner, the second a easy slide under the pad on a breakaway and the third came on a buried rebound. His fourth was another breakaway but he did the “stick through the legs” trick and roofed it.
A reporter questioned whether his actions were unsportsmanlike after the game, at which point veteran Joe Thornton blurted out that the reporter needed to shut up and commented that in the event of such a night: “I’d have my c*** out if I scored four goals. I’d have my c*** out, stroking it.” This will be featured if we do an article about the best hockey quotes of all time.
14. The Great One Tallies Number 802
Fast forward to the 20 second mark to see a great defensive effort that leads to the picture-perfect passing that produced this goal. First things first though, why is 802 so important? Gordie Howe was the all-time leader for regular season goals at the time with 801. It was March 23rd, 1994 and in a game against the Vancouver Canucks (that would end in a 6-3 loss) Gretzky put his 802nd in the net to finish off a great tic-tac-toe from Jari Kurri and Marty McSorley.
I should point out, right here, that there are so many amazing goals by number 99 that we could have done an entire list of just those. That is an article for another day, folks.
13. Maurice Richard – Fifty in Fifty
This goes all the way back to 1945. World War Two was still going on and the NHL season had just fifty games. A man whose name remains the stuff of legends was 49 for 49 in terms of goals and games and he was suiting up for the Canadiens one last time in that regular season. They were taking on the Boston Bruins and with just over two minutes left in the game, Rocket netted one.
50 goals in 50 games is a huge accomplishment in the NHL and has happened just seven times since. Mike Bossy and Mario Lemieux both achieved it once while Brett Hull did it twice and Wayne Gretzky did it three times.
12. Bill Barilko’s Last Goal
Like a few of the goals on this list, Bill Barilko’s goal wasn’t particularly flashy. He was in the process of falling down and managed to swat the puck past Montreal Canadiens goalie Gerry McNeil. The importance of the goal is undeniable, however, as it won the Stanley Cup for Toronto Maple Leafs. Just a few months later he was killed in a plane crash on return from a fishing trip. Prior to ’51, Barilko played on four other Stanley Cup winning Leafs teams. He remains a cherished name in the Leafs’ community due in part to the band The Tragically Hip’s 1992 song 50 Mission Cap which tells his story.
11. Valeri Kamensky – Mid-Spin Five Hole
Valeri Kamensky played eleven seasons of NHL hockey, playing with the Quebec Nordiques from 1991 until their move to Colorado and there until 1999. After that he played three more seasons; two with the New York Rangers and another with the Dallas Stars. In an era that featured Russian stars like Sergei Fedorov and Pavel Bure, Kamensky’s abundant skill was sometimes overlooked. Nonetheless, he was a regular top contributor to Colorado’s success in the late 1990s and finished his NHL career with over 500 points.
His most memorable goal, and one of the best in the history of the league, was scored back in the 96/97 season against the Florida Panthers. He received a pass in his skates from Alexei Gusarov, and in the middle of a falling spin, managed to get his stick on the puck and smack it through the legs of John Vanbiesbrouck.
10. Pavel Bure – Lost in the Skates
Though he split his playing career between six professional teams in North America and Russia, Pavel Bure spent the most time with the Vancouver Canucks. He had no shortage of great goals no matter where he went. He had a perfect deke against Calgary back in 1994 and a couple of brilliant coast to coast rushes that ended with embarrassed goalies, but September 1996 brought a shorthanded goal in which he made it look like he lost the puck in his skate, chipped it back to his stick and popped it in the net. Admittedly, this was a preseason game, but he made a complicated move look easy and did it at full speed.
9. Owen Nolan – Calling It
Well if you’re upset that we included Bure’s preseason gem, you might not like this one either. Oh well, your loss, because this is one of the greatest moments in the history of the NHL All Star Game. Owen Nolan, then playing for the San Jose Sharks, had popped two already in 1997. He was hungry for number three and when he got a breakaway chance against Dominik Hasek (then with the Buffalo Sabres), he pointed to the corner and put the puck there.
Calling one’s shot is a chance to either make a memory for your fans or look like an absolute tool. The most famous account of an athlete “calling his shot” is Babe Ruth, although there is still some question over whether the Bambino actually pointed to the outfield in the 1932 World Series. There is no doubt that Nolan called his own shot during this play.
8. Bobby Baun – Forces Stanley Cup Game Seven on Broken Ankle
In case you’re not sold on the idea yet, hockey is a game played by tough men. Every so often, a meme appears online of a soccer player grabbing his leg as if he’d been shot while in a picture below, a hockey player is smiling, skating after the puck with a bloody face and no helmet for example.
Bobby Baun cemented his legacy among hockey’s toughest men back in 1964 with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He blocked a shot in game six of the Stanley Cup finals against the Detroit Red Wings. His ankle was broken and he was carried off the ice. In overtime, he returned and scored the winning goal. This forced game seven, which the Leafs took, winning their third straight cup.
7. Alexander Ovechkin – Scores Sliding on his Back
This goal is equal parts luck, skill and perseverance. Plenty of players at any level give up after they’re knocked down, but not Alexander Ovechkin. He’s had plenty of amazing goals, including at least one more that was scored while sliding on the ice, and his 500th which was scored with just a single hand on the stick, but against the Phoenix Coyotes he took a bad step while trying to pass the defense, took a tumble and was able to keep his stick on the puck and contort his body in such a way as to direct the puck into the net.
6. Sidney Crosby – 2010 Olympic Winner
There are a couple of reasons for this goal being on the list. It may not be as flashy as a deke or top shelf slapper from the top of the circle, but it demonstrates a picture perfect give and go by two of the best players in the business at the time. Sid chipped the puck along the boards to Jarome Iginla, who in turn slid it back, at which point Crosby buried it. Not only was the passing play perfect, but so was the quick release, along with the fact that the puck was kept low.
Furthermore, this was an overtime gold medal winning goal between two rival teams. The United States and Canada are neighbors, trading partners, and two of the top hockey nations in the world. This was one of the most exciting contests in the history of international hockey, ended on a simple but perfectly executed play.
5. Steve Yzerman – Game 7 Double O/T Howitzer
Widely considered to be one of the greatest captains in the history of the NHL, Steve Yzerman could not only play the game, but he was a phenomenal leader. Back in 1996, he showed off the kind of power he could put behind a slapshot. It was game seven of the Western Conference semis between the Detroit Red Wings and St.Louis Blues. In double overtime, Yzerman jumped on a loose puck and cut through the neutral zone. While some may have opted for a dump and chase, and others might have tried to go around the defense and hold onto the puck, Stevie-Y wound up and blasted a shot that beat goalie Jon Casey blocker side, barely inside the post and just under the crossbar.
4. Mike Legg and Mikael Granlund – The Michigan
There are two players included here, Mikael Granlund, who currently plays for the Minnesota Wild and Mike Legg who was drafted but mostly played in smaller pro leagues. The “Michigan” is one of the dirtiest dangles the hockey community has ever seen. Granlund pulled it off in 2011 in international competition when his Finnish team took on Russia, and Legg pulled off this trickery while playing for Michigan against Minnesota.
The trick is to get the puck flipped up on one’s stick while behind the net, and then reach around the post and sneak the puck in over the goalie’s shoulder.
3. Mike Eruzione – Miracle on Ice
I’ve included a few Russians on this list already, but this goes back to an era in which they were the bad guys both in the international politics and, more importantly for this list, the world of hockey. It was the Cold War era when it looked like the Soviet Union and United States might descend into nuclear war any day. The Soviets sent professional hockey players to the Olympic games and the United States sent university level players. It was 1980. The Soviets were favorites to win, but in the medal round the United States pulled off what is considered one of the biggest upsets in the history of the game.
Trailing by one at the start of the third, the United States scored on a power play to tie it up and just a couple of minutes later, captain Mike Eruzione put a wrist shot in the net from the top of the circle to put the United States ahead. It proved to be the winning goal.
2. Paul Henderson – Summit Series
Skip ahead to minute one if you don’t wish to watch the whole video. Much like the “Miracle on Ice” 1972’s Summit Series was a war, pitting bad guys against good guys in a series that was not just about the game, but also had political overtones. It was brutal, the teams hated each other and dirty play was constant. The Soviets took the first game and Canada took game two, with game three ending in a tie. Games four (the last to take place in Canada) and five, the first in Moscow, both ended in Soviet victories. Canada won the next two games, including a sixth that saw the ante upped in the violent play category.
In the eighth game, it was do or die for both sides and late in the third period, the score was tied up at five. With under a minute left, Paul Henderson missed a chance on net and crashed into the end boards. Phil Esposito recovered the puck and was checked by two Soviets. He was able to chip the puck on net and goalie Vladislav Tretiak failed to cover it. Henderson, meanwhile, had gotten up and picked up the puck in front of the net, burying the rebound. Morals of the story? Capitalism wins and goalies, handle your damn rebounds.
1. Bobby Orr – Iconic Finish
If you’re ever in a room of Canadians, mention this goal and there is a great chance that someone will blurt out “my buddy (family member, whatever) has a picture of that in his living room!” Even though he was playing for the Bruins, the man was a Canadian treasure and this finish is the greatest in hockey history.
After three convincing wins against the St. Louis Blues in games one through three, the Bruins and Blues went to overtime in the fourth game. About forty seconds in, Orr received a pass from center Derek Sanderson and put it in the net. He was being tripped at the time, and thus was flying through the air while beginning to celebrate. Much like Gretzky and a few others on this list, we could have used any number of Orr goals (an end-to-end rush for example), but this is probably the most iconic goal in NHL history, so we’re confident in our choice.
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