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Truly a year to remember

Sam McCaig explains why 2010 was a great one if you supported Chicago or were Canadian.

It was a great year for hockey, both in league and also internationally. Here are the top five stories of 2010:

5 Montreal's magical playoff run. When the Canadiens snuck into the playoffs as the No 8 seed, there was the usual frenzy in hockey-mad Montreal. But even the most ardent fans knew the team was the longest of shots.

However, goalie Jaroslav Halak carried Montreal to series upsets of the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Habs fell to Philadelphia in the East final, but not before electrifying their long-suffering fans.

4 Ilya Kovalchuk's summer vacation. He wanted a huge deal, and that whittled down the suitors to New Jersey and Los Angeles.

After lengthy negotiations, Kovalchuk signed with New Jersey for US$102 million (Dh375m) over 17 years. Done deal. Except that the NHL said the contract violated league rules.

Kovalchuk and the Devils came back with a revamped 15-year, $100m pact, and Kovalchuk became a Devil. And then the season started, New Jersey flopped, making LA look more inviting.

3The Bruins' play-off collapse. Rallying from a 3-0 series deficit in the playoffs is a near impossibility; it has happened just twice in the 90-plus years of the NHL.

Make that three times, after Boston's implosion against Philadelphia in the second round last spring. Not only did the Bruins hold a 3-0 series lead, they also led 3-0 in Game 7 before the final, epic collapse happened.

2Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup. For the first time since Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita led Chicago to a title in 1961, the Blackhawks were NHL champions. Goalie Antti Niemi, in his first NHL season, led the Blackhawks on their play-off jaunt.

1 Sidney Crosby scores in Olympic overtime. It doesn't get any bigger than overtime in the gold-medal game at the Olympics between hockey's biggest rivals. Canada entered the Vancouver Games as favourites, along with Russia and Sweden, while the US were considered a cut below.

But goalie Ryan Miller's spectacular play and Team USA's blend of toughness and talent proved to be the perfect formula as the self-proclaimed "underdogs" advanced to the gold-medal game. Canada, meanwhile, was loaded and had hit its stride by the medal round.

However, Zach Parise of the US scored in the final minute to force overtime. With the hockey world watching, Jarome Iginla won a battle in the corner, Sidney Crosby screamed for the puck - and then a nation stood and cheered, united for one magical moment in time.



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