Where were you when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon? Where were you when the USA beat Russia in 1980? Where were you when Tyree made the helmet catch? Where were you when Gretzky was traded? Where were you when OJ Simpson drove his Ford Bronco down Los Angeles’ freeways? Where were you when JFK was assassinated? Where were you on 9/11? Where were you when you got the news? Even if you weren’t alive for some of these major world and sports moments in time, each was so significant that it shook the world in its own unique way. Some events did so through suspense, others through tragedy, and others through shock. They had you looking at your phone (if phones existed at the time) or TV thinking “oh my goodness,” your jaw on the floor in disbelief of what just happened. They may provoke intense emotion; terror, grief, rage, jubilation.
For modern NHL fans, 3:30 pm on June 29th 2016 was one of those days. I was driving back from Connecticut, in an outlet, when my phone buzzed. Taylor Hall had been traded from Edmonton to New Jersey. No one had time to even analyze the deal before P.K Subban was dealt to Nashville. Now we have two blockbuster trades to try and wrap our heads around while Steven Stamkos announces that he signed an eight-year contract extension with Tampa.
It’s dubbed the 23 minutes that shook the hockey world, 3:34 to 3:57 pm. It completely changed the landscape of the league, and its effects are felt today. The Predators went to the Stanley Cup Final last year while the Habs made the Playoffs last year, but finished towards the bottom of the standings this year. Taylor Hall just won the Hart Trophy and led the Devils to their first Playoff appearance since 2012. The Oilers, after reaching the second round last season, need to retool their roster after taking a major step back this year and missing the playoffs. Steven Stamkos was dynamite alongside Nikita Kucherov, who, until the end of the season, was in the Hart and Rocket Richard discussion. Today is June 29th 2018, and one has to wonder if such a turbulent chain of events will ever occur again. I don’t think it’s so far fetched.
The Ottawa Senators are in disarray. Nothing went right for them this season. As if Islanders fans thought they had it bad, the management group in Ottawa is terrible. Owner Eugene Melnyk is Ottawa public enemy number one, GM Pierre Dorion can’t seem to get any luck with trades, and head coach Guy Boucher’s system has been abandoned by his own players. People are calling the locker room “toxic.” Last week the Senators dealt Mike Hoffman to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for Mikkel Boedker and some picks and prospects. This was in response to allegations that his girlfriend was tweeting hateful and disgusting things about captain Erik Karlsson’s wife. As if the low return wasn’t bad enough, the Sharks then dealt Hoffman to the Florida Panthers, a division rival for less than what they got him for. The Panthers had already inquired about Hoffman but Dorion refused to trade him at the San Jose price to a division rival. It seems like just when they thought they were in the clear, more problems arose and made things worse than before. Erik Karlsson, obviously, was not happy about Hoffman’s girlfriend. His name has been involved in trade rumors since the trade deadline, and he was almost dealt to Vegas. As he enters the final year of his contract, and Ottawa beginning to rebuild, expect a blockbuster trade within the coming days. As for the return, that’s anyone’s guess.
Hockey is Canada’s sport, and Canadians take the game very seriously. It’s why Canadian media markets are the toughest in the NHL. Montreal is no exception. Max Pacioretty is the current captain of the Montreal Canadiens, but Canadiens fans don’t think he’s lived up to expectations. He’s a perennial 30 goal scorer and put up 35 last year, leading the Habs to a division title. This year was not the case. He only scored 17 goals and finished with 37 points in 64 games. Granted, the Canadiens seldom scored at all this season, but as captain of one of the toughest teams to play on, much more was expected of the 29-year old left winger. Marc Bergevin and the Canadiens have already traded talented young center Alex Galchenyuk to the Coyotes for Max Domi, and now are desperate for centers. A three-team deal with the Isles was in place, one that I assumed might happen should the Canadiens not want then projected top-5 pick Noah Dobson. This was indeed the case, and I believed that they would trade down for the Islanders picks in exchange for the 3rd overall selection and a player. Many Canadiens fans were upset that they reached for Finnish center Jesperi Kotkaniemi instead of taking Filip Zadina or Brady Tkachuk. It could mean that they are going to let Kotkaniemi develop and trade for a top center, possibly Ryan O’Reilly, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Matt Duchene, or Jeff Carter. They still have Max Pacioretty for now, but rumors are flying that he won’t be wearing red white and blue in September.
June 29th ended with the signing of Steven Stamkos by the Tampa Bay Lighting. For everyone outside of Toronto, it was a feel good ending to a hectic 22 minutes as he decided to remain with the team he had played for his entire career. Unfortunately for the Leafs, but to the joy of Islanders fans, I predict that Tavares will follow in his long time friend’s suit and stay with the team that took him first overall, thus turning down a return to play with the team he rooted for growing up. The Isles’ have done everything they could to show the superstar center that the team is committed to winning Stanley Cups, on Long Island nonetheless. The hiring of Lou Lamiorello and Barry Trotz give the Islanders the managerial firepower few other teams in the league have. Already boasting one of the best forward groups in the league, and with multiple forward, defense, and goalie prospects, the Isles are a team that is set to win very soon, and Tavares likely knows that.
June 29th 2016 was an unprecedented day in hockey history, one that has already gone into the hockey history books. No, this year may not have exactly that kind of day, but as the free agent interview period winds to a close, and teams start to know who they are likely going to sign, expect your Twitter feeds to get very, very jam packed with rumors and deals.
Asking where we where when something major happens shows how normal things were until the event happened. We expect to hear answers like “grocery shopping,” “watching TV,” “driving to work,” and other mundane activities. June 29th was normal until 3:30, as was pretty much all other days that warrant the above question. This time of year is anything but normal for hockey fans. Sportsnet’s Steve Dangle calls this time of year “silly season,” and there’s no better term for it. Where will you be when that next big trade happens? Have fun.