The NHL kicked off the 2017 calendar year in style, as it began its celebration of 100 years of history with the 2017 NHL Centennial Classic at the Exhibition Stadium built on the grounds of BMO Field in Toronto, Canada. The main event was a regular season game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings, though there were more attractions that gave the event more meaning. The hockey game lived up to its hype as it was full of drama, highlighted by a goal scored in the last second of the game to tie things up.
The NHL Centennial Classic began with unveiling the first 33 players on the “100 Greatest NHL Players” list. Players introduced included legends such as Maurice Richard, Syl Apps, and Gordie Howe. According to the league website NHL.com, the reason the 33 players were announced at the event was because they “played predominantly during the League’s first 50 years (1917-66),” and they decided that the NHL Centennial Classic was the appropriate time to unveil the players who represented that first half of the NHL’s history. The All-Star Game in Los Angeles will be when they unveil players representing the latter half.
The players were represented by family members, who walked out on the ice wearing the players’ jerseys. They were joined by Wayne Gretzky, who became the NHL’s Centennial Ambassador at the beginning of the season. According to Sportsnet, he will be attending several centennial events over the course of the year.
“I was thrilled when the Commissioner called me to ask me to be a part of the 100th anniversary and to be an ambassador on behalf of the players and the League,” Gretzky said. “I was ecstatic, to say the least. I’ve said it a million times, but it’s the greatest game in the world and I was fortunate enough to be a part of the National Hockey League.”
During the first intermission, Canadian rock star Bryan Adams played with his band, with a unified participation from the crowd when they played his most popular hit “Summer of ’69.”
Detroit’s Anthony Mantha scored the first goal of the game 5:33 in the second period as he took an extra look at the net before putting the puck in the net from just above the face-off circle. The Maple Leafs then took the third period by storm, as they went on to score four unanswered goals. The Red Wings would close the gap by scoring two goals, including pulling the goalie and scoring with an extra attacker to bring the score to 4-3. The Red Wings were able to work magic a second time, with Mantha tying the game with 1.1 seconds left in the game.
Toronto’s future franchise centre in Auston Matthews would play hero, as he would score in overtime to win it for the Maple Leafs. The victory going to Toronto was perhaps appropriate since the Maple Leafs are also celebrating their 100th year. The NHL Centennial Classic was just one of a few initiatives to celebrate 100 years for the organization.
The NHL was founded in November 26, 1917, and is considered to be the top professional ice hockey league in the world. Outdoor hockey games have been an annual occurrence mostly on New Year’s Day since 2008 as a throwback to how hockey was played during the early days of the sport. However, this game was one of a kind since it was celebrating 100 years of the NHL, so other outdoor classics do not have as much meaning. The 2017 NHL Winter Classic got pushed to January 2 to make room for the Centennial Classic.
[Featured Image by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images]