NHL fans appeared to forgive owners and players for
the lockout as spectators passed through the turnstiles in record numbers in the
New records for total, average attendance
According to the league, it set new records for total and average attendance -
20,854,169 fans overall and a per-game average of 16,955 - an increase of 2.4
per cent from the 2003-04 season and 1.2 per cent higher than the old records
set during the 2001-02 season.
In total, NHL teams played 1,230 games to 91.7 per cent capacity
Habs lead the way
The Montreal Canadiens played before sellout crowds of 21,273 for each of their
41 home games. The Habs established an NHL single-season, single-team attendance
record of 872,193, eclipsing the previous mark of 861,072 - or 21,002 per game
- which they set in 1996-97.
Canadians love their hockey
All six Canadian NHL teams - the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary
Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Ottawa Senators and Vancouver Canucks - played to 98
per cent capacity or better during the season.
Avalanche a hot ticket
Like Montreal, the Colorado Avalanche sold out each of their 41 home games (18,007-capacity)
to extend the NHL's longest current sellout streak to 480 games, including playoffs.
Colorado's incredible sellout run started in November 1995 during the team's first
season in Denver.
Sid the Kid draws them in
Twenty-four of the NHL teams finished even or ahead of their 2003-04 attendance
numbers. The biggest jump in attendance was in Pittsburgh (33 per cent), no doubt
thanks to the arrival of No. 1 draft pick Sidney Crosby.
GOALS, GOALS, GOALS
After the lockout, fans wanted to see more goals
when the NHL returned this season. Ask and ye shall receive.
Biggest jump in 75 years
Not including goals scored in the shootout, the NHL's 30 teams combined to score
7,443 goals in the regular season, an average of 6.1 per game. That's an increase
of 18 per cent over the average of 5.1 goals scored in 2003-04.
The 2005-06 season marked the largest percentage increase in goal scoring since
1929-30, when the goals-per-game average jumped from 2.9 to 5.9. That increase
was due to the introduction of a new rule that allowed forward passing inside
all three zones.
50-goals, 100-point seasons
Five players scored 50 goals this season (Jonathan Cheechoo, Jaromir Jagr, Ilya
Kovalchuk, Alexander Ovechkin and Dany Heatley), the most since eight players
reached that plateau in 1995-96.
Seven players tallied 100 points (Jagr, Ovechkin, Heatley, Daniel Alfredsson,
Sidney Crosby, Eric Staal and Joe Thornton), also the most since 1995-96.
A sensational rookie pair
Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, the No. 1 picks in the last two drafts,
each recorded 100-point seasons, the first time in league history two rookies
broke the century mark in the same season.
At 18 years and eight months, Crosby became the youngest player in NHL history
to reach 100 points. Dale Hawerchuk (1981-82) was 18 years and five months when
he set the old mark.
Ovechkin became only the second rookie in leage history with 50 goals and 100
points. Winnipeg's Teemu Selanne in 1992-93 (76 goals, 132 points) was the other.
Only Selanne (76) and the New York Islanders' Mike Bossy (53 in 1977-78) scored
more in their freshman campaigns.
CBC Sports Online's snapshot of the new-look NHL after 100 games.
Relaunching the game
CBC Sports Online's examines the new rule changes adopted by the NHL for the 2005-06
the winner is...
The Forecaster, CBC Sports Online's own content partner, makes its picks for the
INDEPTH: NHL HOCKEYA
season to rememberWho were the
players and teams that made the NHL regular season unforgettable?
CBC Sports Online has the answers. By John Molinaro, CBC Sports Online | Last updated
Apr. 20, 2006
The 2005-06 regular season was a crucial
one for the NHL, a league that was at the crossroads less than six
After the lockout wiped out the 2004-05 campaign and left a bitter
taste with many fans, the NHL was put in the dire position of having
to win back the trust of its fan base and the respect of a cynical
media. The league was equal to the task
Rookie sensations and new emerging stars, 50-goal scorers, 100-point
seasons, more goals, the spectacle of the shootout, attendance records,
battles for playoff berths that went right down to the wire ... the
new-look NHL delivered the goods and revitalized its flagging reputation
with some very entertaining hockey.
So, as the Stanley Cup playoffs begin, CBC Sports Online takes a look
back at the players and teams that made the 2005-06 regular season
one of the most exciting in years:
Which was the NHL's
best team in the regular season?
The Detroit Red Wings are top Stanley Cup contenders going into
the playoffs (Getty Images)
Who said the big-spending Detroit Red Wings
couldn't compete in the new NHL with a $39-million US salary cap?
It was believed the Red Wings would be hurt most by the changing economic
landscape following the lockout when they were forced to cut their
opening-day 2003-04 payroll of $77.8 million nearly in half.
But general manager Ken Holland didn't blink and went to work. In late July, he waived defenceman Derian Hatcher and forwards Darren McCarty and Ray Whitney to save about $9 million in cap space.
Others, such as goaltender Curtis Joseph and defenceman Mathieu Dandenault,
weren't re-signed, while more affordable players like Johan Franzen,
Mikael Samuelsson and Dan Cleary were added.
Holland capped the off-season by re-signing star forwards Pavel Datsyuk
and Henrik Zetterberg, who formed the Wings' nucleus with Brendan
Shanahan, Kris Draper, Robert Lang, Nicklas Lidstrom and Steve Yzerman.
Detroit then got off to one of the best starts in NHL history, winning
12 of its first 13 games. After reaching the Olympic break with a
Western Conference-best 39 wins, the Red Wings overcame a serious
injury to defenceman Jiri Fischer and set a team mark with its 27th
road victory of the season against Nashville on March 30.
The Red Wings ended the season on an 8-1 run to give them 58 wins,
one short of tying the 1977-78 Montreal Canadiens for third all-time.
Detroit also won its third Presidents' Trophy in four seasons as the NHL's top team with 124 points.
Things didn't go according to plan for Mario Lemieux and the
Pittsburgh Penguins. (Getty Images)
Sidney Crosby accomplished plenty in his first season as a Pittsburgh Penguin from withstanding the rigours of the NHL to playing without Mario Lemieux to adjusting to the role as alternate captain to becoming the youngest player in league history to score 100 points.
But there was one feat the future, er, present star forward couldn't
pull off: he failed to lead the Penguins out of the Eastern Conference
After a 58-point season in 2003-04, some believed Pittsburgh was on
the way up after the lockout when general manager Craig Patrick raided
the free-agent market to complement a young roster.
Veteran forwards John LeClair, Zigmund Palffy and Mark Recchi were added along with all-star defenceman Sergei Gonchar and goaltender Jocelyn Thibault.
But it didn't take long for the plan to blow up in Patrick's face as the Penguins lost their first nine games under second-year coach Ed Olczyk. Two weeks later, Thibault was lost for the season with an injured hip that required surgery.
What followed was a run of eight losses in nine games that dropped Pittsburgh's record to 8-17-6 worst in the East and led to the dismissal of Olczyk.
January was perhaps the toughest month. Pain from a lingering shoulder injury forced Palffy into retirement after 11-plus NHL seasons.
Shortly after that, Lemieux, the Penguins' part-owner and best player,
retired after being diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat. A devastated
Pittsburgh squad would lose seven of its next eight games.
Riding the outstanding play of Crosby, the Penguins went 8-11 over their final 19 games but still finished last in the East and 29th overall in the 30-team NHL.
The Carolina Hurricanes caught everybody by surprise in the
Eastern Conference. (Getty Images)
If Carolina's shocking 2005-06 regular season
seems familiar, well, that's because it is.
After several years of underachieving, the Hurricanes went on a Cinderella
run in the 2002 playoffs - upsetting New Jersey, Montreal and Toronto
along the way - before succumbing to the dynamite Detroit Red Wings
in the Stanley Cup finals.
Carolina failed to build on that success, and it missed the playoffs
the next two campaigns. After the lockout, nobody gave the Hurricanes
much of chance at the start of the regular season, and most pundits
predicted they would finish near the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
But a funny thing happened at the start of the season: the Hurricanes
deviated from the script and won 12 of their first 15 games and quickly
established themselves as one of the teams to beat in the East.
Buoyed by the offensive explosion of second-year forward Eric Staal
and the solid goaltending of Martin Gerber, Carolina showed its early
season form was no fluke: the squad won nine games in a row after
the Christmas break and lost only one of 14 contests in January to
solidify its place at the upper echelon of the NHL standings.
Carolina romped to the Southeast Division title - 10 points ahead
of defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay - and finished one point
back of Ottawa for first place in the Eastern Conference. Now the
Hurricanes are ready to repeat their 2002 playoff success.
No player meant more to his team than Joe Thornton in San Jose (Getty
Sometimes all you need is a change of scenery
to revitalize your career. Just ask Joe Thornton.
Thornton was selected by the Boston Bruins with the first pick in
the 1997 NHL draft and spent the next eight years as the franchise's
cornerstone. But last November, the Bruins' braintrust decided they
needed to shake up their floundering team and traded Thornton to the
San Jose Sharks.
West coast living seems to have agreed with the London, Ont., native:
Thornton finished the season with 29 goals and 125 points to edge
New York Rangers winger Jaromir Jagr in winning the Art Ross Trophy
as the league's scoring champion.
Thornton, a physically imposing centre with offensive flair, immediately
boosted San Jose's anaemic offence. Before Thornton, San Jose counted
only 63 goals in 24 games. Since the trade, the Sharks were one of
the top-scoring clubs in the NHL.
Jonathan Cheechoo benefited most from Thornton's arrival, becoming
another Glen Murray by playing on the burly centre's line and racking
up a league-leading 56 goals.
According to Hockey Night in Canada commentator Don Cherry, there's
no doubt who should win the Hart Trophy as the NHL's MVP.
"I say [Thornton's] the MVP. Think about San Jose, they were
four games under .500 (at the time of the trade), they are now 20
over … they're in the playoffs," explained Grapes during
a recent edition of Coach's Corner.
Miikka Kiprusoff showed his outsanding season with the Flames prior to the lokcout was no fluke. (Canadian Press
Where would the Calgary Flames be this season
without Miikka Kiprusoff?
Kiprusoff was an unproven commodity when he came to Calgary in a trade
with San Jose three years ago, but the Finnish goaltender quickly
became one of the NHL's best puck-stoppers as he backstopped the Flames
to the 2004 Stanley Cup finals.
The Flames knew they had a superstar on their hands and made it a
priority to lock up their No. 1 goalie, inking Kiprusoff to multi-year
extension last August.
Kiprusoff rewarded the Flames' faith by having one of the greatest
individual seasons by a goalie in recent memory – the 29-year-old
led all NHL netminders in shutouts (10) and goals-against average
(2.07), and finished with 42 victories, one behind league leader Martin
The Finnish star's 42 wins eclipsed the Flames' old single-season
mark set by Mike Vernon in 1987-88.
Renowned for his sound positioning and an effective stand-up style,
Kiprusoff was a workhorse – he started an amazing 73 games this
season – and was a model of consistency: he conceded three goals
or less in an amazing 37 consecutive games.
Thanks in large part to Kiprusoff's efforts, Calgary won 46 games
and finished first in the Northwest Division, its first division title
since the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season.
Alexander Ovechkin overshadowed fellow rookie sensation Sidney Crosby. (Getty
Hockey experts knew Washington Capitals rookie
Alexander Ovechkin would be good, but little did they know just how
good the young Russian star would be.
All the talk prior to the season was focused on another freshman -
Sidney Crosby - but Ovechkin stole the headlines by becoming only
the second rookie in NHL history to score 50 goals and 100 points
in a season.
Ovechkin's 52 goals put him in esteemed company: Teemu Selanne (1992-93),
Mike Bossy (1977-78) and Joe Nieuwendyk (1987-88) are the only other
players to score 50 in their first NHL seasons.
But it's not just about the stats with the Russian sniper, it's more
about the way he plays the game. Ovechkin dazzled hockey fans with
his blazing speed, slick puck-handling ability and accurate shot.
His highlight-reel goals became a staple on sports channels and fuel
for water-cooler conversation.
Earlier this year, Ovechkin scored one of the most spectacular goals
in recent memory – while on his back.
Dany Heatley had a career year in Ottawa. (Getty Images)
Dany Heatley found new life in Ottawa this
season, returning to the top of his game after tragedy looked to have
cut his NHL career short before it really started.
Heatley's life changed irrevocably in September 2003 when the car
he was driving spun out of control on a two-lane Atlanta road and
smashed into a brick and wrought-iron fence.
Heatley's Atlanta Thrashers teammate Dan Snyder was ejected from the
vehicle and underwent emergency brain surgery but never emerged from
his coma and died six days after the crash. He was only 25.
Heatley won the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie in 2002, but
his budding NHL career appeared be in jeopardy. After undergoing surgery,
Heatley returned for the last 31 games of the 2003-04 regular season,
but the memory of Snyder - not to mention the threat of criminal charges
- was clearly on his mind and he looked pedestrian and withdrawn on
The NHL lockout provided another obstacle on the road to recovery,
but Heatley showed why he was considered one of the game's emerging
superstars before the crash. Given a new lease on life after being
traded to Ottawa last August, Heatley responded by posting his best
NHL season to date: the 25-year-old led the Senators in goals (50)
and points (103) and was an impressive plus-29.
And while the loss of his close friend will always weigh heavily on
his mind, Heatley has somehow managed to deal with the pain and guilt
in rebuilding his brilliant career.
Eric Staal was the main reason behind Carolina's renaissance (Getty Images)
Unlike so many before him, Eric Staal didn't
succumb to the dreaded sophomore jinx.
In his second NHL season, the 21-year-old centre kept pace with perennial
NHL all-stars such as Jaromir Jagr and Joe Thornton, and highly-touted
phenoms like Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin, in the scoring
race and was the main reason why Carolina finished second in the Eastern
His outstanding 2005-06 campaign (45 goals and 100 points) is even
more remarkable in light of his rather lacklustre freshman season.
Like many rookies, Staal struggled to adapt to the NHL's quicker,
more physical style of play, registering only 31 points in his rookie
During the lockout, while his peers played in Europe or sat idle,
Staal was eligible to play for the Hurricanes' minor league team.
He spent the season with Carolina's American Hockey League franchise,
the Lowell Lock Monsters. The AHL experience paid off.
Staal's stellar play opened eyes throughout the NHL this past year,
so much so that he earned a place on Team Canada's Olympic taxi squad
and established himself as one of the game's most dangerous forwards.
Nicklas Lidstrom is the backbone of the Detroit defence (Getty
He's not flashy and doesn't command a lot
of attention on the ice, but he is, quite simply, the best defenceman
in the NHL.
Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom is the type of blue-liner fans take little
notice of, and that's a shame because they're missing something special.
Lidstrom dominates the game with his intelligence, efficient play,
quick puck movement and dangerous point shot.
Little wonder the Swede finished a remarkable plus-21 and logged over
28 minutes of ice time night after night.
At 35 years old, many thought Lidstrom was past his prime and would
struggle in the new NHL. Instead, Lidstrom showed he was more than
cable of anchoring Detroit's miserly defence, while at the same time
contributing offensively with 16 goals and 80 points.
The veteran defenceman also played a key role for Sweden at the Torino
Olympics, scoring the game-winning goal in the gold medal game against
Lidstrom was voted the NHL's top defenceman from 2001-03, a streak
that was ended by Scott Niedermayer. After a disappointing 2003-04
season, Lidstrom looks set to claim a fourth Norris trophy.
You'd get an argument from Toronto Maple Leafs
coach Pat Quinn, but the introduction of the shootout, more than any
other new rule, played a big part in bringing excitement back to the
A tie game in hockey is sort of like being forced to kiss your younger
sister - an unpleasant family obligation forced upon you by your parents.
The NHL's patriarch, commissioner Gary Bettman, finally wised up in
2005 and fans no longer had to pucker up.
Night after night, the shootout provided an enthralling spectacle
of the league's top snipers going one-on-one with goaltenders against
a backdrop of screaming fans.
While some teams crumbled under the pressure of the shootout, others
rose to the challenge. The Dallas Stars led the NHL in shootout victories
(12) and shooting percentage (.571, 24-for 42). Dallas winger Jussi
Jokinen won rave reviews and instilled fear in the hearts of goalies
by scoring on his first nine shootout attempts of the season.
About 12 per cent of all games (145 of 1,230) were decided by a shootout,
and the new winner-take-all format played a big part in the tight
playoff races in both conferences going down to the last three days
of the season.