Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The NHL's most memorable comebacks

Tiger Woods
Hey, why are there so
many Leafs on the course?
The big story in sports this week is the return of Tiger Woods. Four months after his headline-grabbing scandal, the world's most famous athlete will make his much-anticipated comeback this weekend at the Masters.

There's little question that the NHL has never seen anything quite like this week's PGA circus. But that's not to say that hockey hasn't seen its share of comebacks.

In fact, more than a few NHLers have made dramatic returns after an absence from their sport. Let's look back at some of the most memorable:

March 2, 1993 - After being diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, Mario Lemieux returns to the Penguins' lineup. He goes on to capture the league scoring title and MVP award despite missing two full months, undergoing grueling radiation treatments, and being confined at all times to a hospital bed in rural Pittsburgh.

May 24, 2000 - After missing several months due to a career-threatening concussion, Eric Lindros returns to the lineup for the Philadelphia Flyers and immediately gets back to doing what he does best: suffering a career-threatening concussion.

March 4, 2010 - Lee Stempniak records a goal for the Phoenix Coyotes in his return to the NHL after a 16-month absence.

July 7, 2003 - Dominik Hasek announces his intention to return to the Detroit Red Wings after a one-year retirement. Or maybe he was trying to order a pizza. Nobody has ever really understood a word that guy said.

October 5, 2001 - Nearly 18 months after suffering a gruesome eye injury, Bryan Berard returns to the NHL has a member of the New York Rangers. Berard becomes the first NHLer to return to the league despite being declared legally blind since Kerry Fraser in 1993.

January 19, 2009 - The San Jose Sharks recall 43-year-old winger Claude Lemieux, six years after his retirement from the league. Lemieux tells reporters that he chose the Sharks for his comeback because of their need for a veteran presence, his friendship with general manager Doug Wilson, and the fact that he's really too old to be playing more than one playoff round.

September 19, 2009 - Theo Fleury scores in a pre-season shootout for Calgary after a seven-year absence from the NHL. His inspiring comeback attempt ends weeks later, when the Flames release him after realizing he is not a former Maple Leafs third-liner.

March 5, 2009 - Sean Avery returns to the NHL after a three month absence due to the most shocking and controversial sex scandal in NHL history; or, as the rest of the sports world would call it, a slightly off-color joke.

May 27, 1993 - In the midst of the Kings/Leafs conference final series, Wayne Gretzky makes a miraculous recovery from a career threatening case of piano-on-back.

April 9, 2002 - Canadiens' captain Saku Koivu makes his return after a seven-month battle with cancer. Montreal fans are so moved by his recovery that they give him an emotional eight-minute standing ovation, before immediately spilling out onto the street to smash hospital windows and set ambulances on fire.

October 5, 2005 - In a bizarre coincidence, every single player in the entire league returns to action after an identical one-year absence.

October 5, 2000 - Alexei Yashin returns to the Ottawa Senators lineup after holding out for an entire year. He goes on to have a mediocre regular season and then disappears in the playoffs, leading the hockey world to conclude that anyone who would trade for him now would have to be a complete idiot.


  1. About Koivu's return... if memory serves, after the 8 minutes of cheering the remaining 52 were spent booing him for not speaking French. Pretty sure the ambulance flipping happened though.

  2. And the Isles are still paying Yashin.

  3. "Berard becomes the first NHLer to return to the league despite being declared legally blind since Kerry Fraser in 1993."


    Great line...

  4. Pure comedic gold.

  5. none of those are even remotely funny

  6. Cole D'Arc's comment isn't even remotely interesting.

  7. "Theo Fleury scores in a pre-season shootout for Calgary after a seven-year absence from the NHL. His inspiring comeback attempt ends weeks later, when the Flames release him after realizing he is not a former Maple Leafs third-liner."

    This is so true it is almost sad.

  8. With a look into the future

    April 10, 2020

    The Leafs return to the post-season for the first time since JFJ...

    Mr. Down Goes Brown, you are a genius when it comes to hockey and you've gotten me to consider the Leafs as my 2nd favourite team behind my hometown Philadelphia Flyers...

  9. 13 goals in 15 games for Stempniak in Phoenix....that comes out to about 68 for a whole season...

  10. The Avery one is so true, the best part of it is that my beloved Rangers (excluding a couple of players, a GM and president...) got him for half the salary as Stars overreacted.

    Anyway, DGB, there's a swedish newspaper that are currently listing the most hated opponents for all the NHL teams. When they came to Toronto, they listed Alfredsson as the most hated. I'm curious if you agree with it, or if Wellwood, McCabe or some other dude is more hated by the Leafs Nation?

  11. @Simon...

    Yeah, I'd say Alfredsson is probably the right choice. McCabe may be second, although hopefully that's fading.

    The Wellwood hate is really an ongoing in-joke among Leafs blogs and online types... I doubt it resonates much with the wider fanbase.

  12. "I guess this means Mike Milbury is both a neanderthal and an idiot."

    Indeed it is.

    Also, if Stempniak is anywhere near his nearest pace when the Jets show up in Toronto next year, he'll be ahead of Alfreddson and the victim of the NHL's first Zambonijacking.

  13. March 5, 2009

    soooooo true

  14. Gold. PURE gold.

    Yashin one was especially spot on. How on EARTH did we get Chara and Spezza out of that??? Was Milbury high?

  15. Daniel from Barcelona, SpainOctober 23, 2010 at 6:48 PM

    ha ha ha haaaaaaa haven't had that of a good late laugh here in CET for a while.

    Being a huge Bruins and live long hockey fan from Frankfurt GER I was looking for some Bruins vs Rangers pre-game stuff.

    But this is even better ... honestly, the Lindros analogy literally made me laugh out that loud my girlfriend asked me if i had too many beers during diner and now some more before the game.

    Will definitely come back for some catch up hoping to find some more like this