Skip to Content

10 Most Unbelievable Moments in Hockey History

From record-breaking goals to epic fights, hockey history is full of unbelievable moments. It’s no surprise that hockey is among the most exciting sports. It is fast, intense, and full of passion, delighting fans both young and old.

On this list, you’ll discover 10 of the most unbelievable moments in the history of hockey. With surprising comebacks, picture-perfect moments, and much more, join us for the highs, lows, and even a controversy or two.

hockey history

Hockey’s Most Memorable Moments

1. Miracle on Ice

The American team beating the Soviet Union at the 1980 Olympic games isn’t just one of the most unbelievable moments in the history of hockey. It’s one of the most unbelievable moments in all of sports.

The Soviet hockey team had won the gold medal at the previous four Olympic games in a row. They beat the American team every time they faced each other (at the Olympics or otherwise) between 1960 and 1980. Outscoring them by a whopping 117-26.

Coach Herb Brooks put together a brand new team of young, inexperienced, mostly college players (12 of which were from Minnesota, by the way).

On February 22, 1980, that team took on the best team in the world at the biggest sporting event in the world, the Olympic Games. The Soviets were the clear favorite of the Olympics and practically no one expected the Americans to win.

But that didn’t matter.

Goalie Jim Craig made some huge saves to keep his team in the game. Captain Mike Eruzione scored the game-winning goal. And amazingly, the American team won with a final score of 4-3.

After beating the Soviets, the American team defeated the Finnish team and won the gold medal.

2. A Flying Celebration

The picture-perfect shot of Bobby Orr flying through the air is one of the most classic hockey moments of all time. The image was captured by photographer Ray Lussier right after Orr scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal on March 10, 1970.

The Boston Bruins were playing the St. Louis Blues in game four of the Stanley Cup Finals. Boston had won the previous three games in a row, giving them a 3-0 series lead. But St. Louis wouldn’t go away without a fight, and they played hard in game four, ending regulation with a 3-3 tie.

Just 40 seconds into overtime, Bobby Orr collected a pass from Bruins forward Derek Sanderson and shot it into the net. His epic celebration was captured for all time and has even been immortalized with a statue.

You can read more about this incredible moment from Bobby Orr himself in his biography titled Orr: My Story.

3. Five Straight Stanley Cups

When the Montreal Canadiens beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1960 to win their fifth straight Stanley Cup, it was certainly a momentous moment in hockey history.

After defeating the Chicago Blackhawks in a four-game sweep, the Canadiens made it to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they faced the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second year in a row.

With a four-game sweep, Montreal beat the Leafs to secure the series and win the Stanley Cup for the fifth time straight.

Maurice “The Rocket” Richard was part of the team and a big reason why Montreal was able to win so many victories.

No team has ever won five cups in a row again, though the New York Islanders got close when they won four Stanley Cups consecutively between 1980-1983.

Controversial Moments in Hockey History

4. A Rule-Breaking Goal to Win it All

1999 was an interesting time in the world, and the same is true for hockey history. In fact, one of the biggest NHL controversies of all time happened during the ‘99 Stanley Cup Finals when the Dallas Stars took on the Buffalo Sabres.

The Stars had a 3-2 series lead into game six. It was a close series, with each game only separated by 1-2 goals. Game six was close as well, with regulation ending in a 1-1 tie.

After two scoreless overtimes, Brett Hull scored at 14:51 of the third overtime period, clinching the Stanley Cup for the Dallas Stars. The bench went crazy, with players spilling out onto the ice to celebrate.

The only problem was Brett Hull’s skate was clearly in the crease before the puck, and according to the NHL rules of the time, that meant the goal shouldn’t have counted.

The goal did count, however, and the Stars lifted the Cup on June 19, 1999. A few months later, the NHL changed its rules on players being in the crease.

Though they’ve appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals five different times, the 1999 Series remains the only Stanley Cup Dallas has ever won.

5. An Amazing Comeback

Twenty years later, another controversy altered the outcome of a Stanley Cup playoff series, though this time it was in round one.

On April 23, 2019, the San Jose Sharks were playing the Vegas Golden Knights in game seven of the opening round.

The Sharks were down 3-0 halfway through the third period, and the game was all but over. That’s when Joe Pavelski took a crosscheck from Knights player Cody Eakin and went down hard. Really hard.

Pavelski slammed his head on the ice and stayed down, causing a stop in the play. Teammates rushed to his side, and a five-minute major penalty plus game misconduct were called on Eakin for the hit.

After helping their weak and bloodied captain off the ice, the Sharks rallied, scoring four quick powerplay goals to take the lead. The Knights tied the game with seconds left on the clock, sending it into overtime.

The Sharks scored at 18:19 into the overtime, winning both the game and the series.

After reviewing the play, most people, even Pavelski himself, agreed that it didn’t deserve the five-minute major. However, that was the call on the ice, and that five-minute power play was a big reason the Sharks were able to come back and win one of the most exciting games in hockey history.

6. A Big Brawl

This one isn’t controversial so much as it’s notorious.

Fights have been part of NHL history from the beginning, but some are bigger than others. The brawl between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Ottawa Senators on March 5, 2004, was one of the biggest.

After Flyer’s player Donald Brashear punched Brian Pothier, the game devolved into fight after fight, with even the goalies getting involved.

By the end of it, 23 players were ejected from the game, and 419 penalty minutes were issued, more than any other game in NHL history.

If you want to read about more wild hockey fights, check out The 5 Most Epic Hockey Fights in NHL History.

Unforgettable Goals

7. 50 Goals in 39 Games

On December 30, 1981, Wayne Gretzky scored a whopping five goals in one game, bringing his total goals for the season up to 50. What makes it even more amazing is that he scored those 50 goals in just 39 games.

The previous record for the fastest 50 goals in a season was set by Maurice Richard on March 18, 1945, and matched by Mike Bossy in January 1981. It took both of them 50 games to do what Wayne Gretzky did in only 39.

Gretzky finished the 1981-82 season with 92 total goals scored, the most any player has scored in a single season to this day.

8. A Record-Breaking Goal

Hockey history is full of exciting goals, and Wayne Gretzky has scored many of them. He’s called ‘The Great One’ for a reason. It’s no wonder he appears twice on this list!

On March 23, 1994, Gretzky scored his 802nd career goal, passing Gordie Howe to become the highest goal scorer in NHL history.

It was quite an achievement. One few players ever come close to. Gretzky finished his career with 894 total goals, another record that has yet to be broken.

9. The Most Points in a Single Game

On February 7, 1976, Darryl Sittler scored 10 points in a single game, the most of any player in NHL history.

The game featured Sittler’s Toronto Maple Leafs vs. the Boston Bruins at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto.

Boston was on a seven-game winning streak and led the Adams division in points. The Maple Leafs were struggling with a 21-20-11 record and were 20 points behind the Bruins in the standings.

Despite all that, the Leafs came out on top that night with an 11-4 win. Sittler lit up the score sheet with six goals and four assists.

The goalie for the Bruins, Dave Reece, was playing in his first NHL season. After that game, he was transferred back to the minors and never played another NHL game.

10. The Goaltender Becomes the Goal Scorer

Many goaltenders dream of Scoring an NHL goal, but few actually achieve it. In over a hundred years of NHL history, with over 370,000 scored goals, only 13 goalies have ever actually done it. Some, like Martin Brodeur, are lucky enough to have done it more than once.

On November 29, 1979, Billy Smith made history by becoming the first NHL goalie ever to be credited with a goal. Smith’s New York Islanders were playing the Colorado Rockies. The Rockies had an empty net because of a delayed penalty on the Islanders.

Smith knocked the puck into the corner, where the Rockies picked it up and sent it back to the point. Unfortunately for the Rockies, no one caught the pass, and it ended up in the empty net. As the last Islanders player to touch the puck, Billy Smith was credited with the goal.

Though he didn’t actually shoot the puck into the goal, it was still an unbelievable moment in hockey history because no goalie had ever been credited with a goal before.

The first goalie to score after intentionally shooting the puck toward the net was Ron Hextall on December 8, 1987.

So Many Great Moments in Hockey History

Whether it’s watching the best players set records or celebrating an underdog win, hockey history is full of exciting moments. The players’ passion and the game’s fast pace keep fans watching year after year. When it comes to hockey, you never know what will happen next.

To keep reading more about the great game of hockey, check out the hockey page. And to learn more about making your own game great, sign up for an online hockey training.