(Montreal) The NHL crowned new champions in 2023 and saw a new star enter its ranks, but all that was tarnished by a controversy that it clumsily wanted to sweep under the rug.

Even before the Vegas Golden Knights’ first season, owner Bill Foley bravely predicted a playoff appearance in the club’s third campaign and then the Stanley Cup championship in its sixth.

The Golden Knights had defied the odds by making the playoffs in their first season, losing in the final to the Washington Capitals. However, Foley was right in his crystal ball, as the Nevada club lifted the precious trophy on June 13.

The Nevada team was led to great honors by captain Mark Stone, star Jack Eichel and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, but also by six original members of the team — William Karlsson, Reilly Smith, Jonathan Marchessault, William Carrier , Brayden McNabb and Shea Theodore.

The Golden Knights also defeated the Winnipeg Jets, the Edmonton Oilers, the Dallas Stars, then the Florida Panthers, thanks to the brilliance of their goalies – despite their label as support players. Adin Hill, a 27-year-old goaltender who had just 101 games of NHL experience before the playoffs began, became a star after taking over for Laurent Brossoit.

Their opponents in the final, the Panthers, had notably shown the way out in the second round to the Toronto Maple Leafs, who had just won their first round since 2004 by beating the Tampa Bay Lightning.

For their part, the Panthers defeated the Boston Bruins in the first round, who broke NHL records for wins (65) and points (135) in a season.

After seeing Connor McDavid become the first player in 27 years to surpass 150 points in a campaign and only the sixth in history, the NHL welcomed its newest star in June, during the draft in Nashville, in Connor Bedard .

After a miserable season, the Chicago Blackhawks won the lottery to get the first right to speak in the session — which raised many eyebrows. After all, the NHL had fined the Blackhawks $2 million about a year and a half earlier for “inadequate management and insufficient responses” regarding a video coach’s inappropriate actions toward a player more than a decade later. early.

Hours after the lottery result was announced, the Blackhawks announced sales of $5.2 million in season tickets for the following campaign.

There were no surprises during the draft. Bedard, who dominated the Canadian junior circuit and helped Canada win gold at the World Juniors, was the Blackhawks’ chosen one.

So far, the 18-year-old British Columbian is already shining with production of almost a point per game.

It all started on January 17 when Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov did not participate in the warm-up period of a game against the Anaheim Ducks because the Pennsylvania club’s players had to wear special jerseys as part of their Pride evening.

Provorov cited his Russian Orthodox beliefs to justify his decision, which had a snowball effect.

San Jose Sharks goaltender James Reimer and Panthers brothers Eric and Marc Staal also cited religious beliefs in emulating Provorov. Russians Ilya Lyubushkin, of the Buffalo Sabres, Denis Gurianov, of the Montreal Canadiens, and Andrei Kuzmenko, of the Vancouver Canucks, also missed their team’s warm-up during their Pride evening. Lyubushkin and Gurianov pointed to Russian laws against “gay propaganda.”

Some teams ultimately changed their plan, not requiring their players to wear special jerseys during the event.

This controversy led NHL leaders to vote last summer in favor of no longer using special jerseys or pieces of equipment with special colors during warm-ups for theme nights.

The decision was justified by saying that the controversy was harming the teams’ efforts in organizing its Pride evenings.

A few players defied the new restrictions. Arizona Coyotes defenseman Travis Dermott used rainbow tape during some warm-up sessions early in the campaign and the league ultimately relented by changing its rules to allow this type of gesture.

According to agent Allan Walsh, Minnesota Wild goalie Marc-André Fleury was also threatened with a fine when he wanted to wear a special mask during the evening tribute to the First Nations. The veteran did it anyway and raised more than US$35,000 for charity.