P.K. Subban’s return to Montreal Thursday night was an emotional one. His Predators teammates stepped out of the way to let him on to the ice first where he got a rousing ovation. And when he was being honoured pre-game, the crowd shook the building again, and left Subban with tears down his cheeks.
Later in the game, the fans were booing Subban — out of a sign of respect and certainly (clearly) not disdain. It brought the whole evening full-circle.
Subban’s moving return was certainly a memorable one, and a moment we’ll recall in lists like these ones in years to come. But today, we’re using it as a jumping off point to look at some of the other most memorable crying moments in NHL history.
5. Anthony Mantha scores first NHL goal, his grandfather sheds a tear
Mantha’s grandfather is Andre Pronovost, a former NHLer himself who played for the Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings. He was in attendance at Joe Louis Arena for a game in March of 2016, when Anthony scored his first career NHL goal.
Pronovost, who was 79 at the time, was moved to tears as he was capturing the moment on his phone.
4. Jeremy Roenick after the Blackhawks’ 2010 Stanley Cup win
Roenick was drafted by Chicago eighth overall in the 1988 NHL draft and played seven seasons for them before moving on to the Phoenix Coyotes. The furthest he got with the Hawks was the Stanley Cup final in 1992, where they were swept by the Mario Lemieux-led Pittsburgh Penguins.
When the Hawks won in 2010, it ended a 49-year drought since their last win in 1961. Roenick, who had retired as a member of the San Jose Sharks a year earlier, was now a commentator on the NHL Network and was reduced to tears as the Cup was being celebrated on the ice.
“For the kid that was there in 1992 who was crying when I came off the ice after we lost Game 4 in Chicago Stadium, you waited 18 years, I hope you have a big smile on your face.”
When Dan Patrick asked Roenick was it affected him, he said: “It’s the Chicago Blackhawks man. I didn’t get to do that. It’s pretty unbelievable.”
“I’m proud, I’m happy.”
3. Eric Lindros’ Hart Trophy Acceptance Speech
Four years after he was selected first overall by the Quebec Nordiques against his wishes, Eric Lindros totalled 29 goals and 70 points in 46 games for the Philadelphia Flyers for his first, and only, Hart Trophy as league MVP.
At the time, it seemed like this one would be the first of many for the 6-foot-4, 230-pound, swift-skating centre who meant as much to the future of the game then as Connor McDavid does now. But although he had some great years left in him (including a follow-up 115-point campaign), concussion issues interfered with Lindros’ great career.
In his acceptance speech, Lindros thanked everyone from Flyers owner Ed Snider, GM Bobby Clarke, coach Terry Murray, his family and his friends. But after almost being cut off by the music, Lindros started to thank the fans of the Philadelphia Flyers — and that’s when he lost it.
“And in closing I’d just like to say thank you to the fans of Philadelphia who supported us when we weren’t so good. We’re getting better and we’re going to do it.”
2. Patrick Maroon gets emotional at son’s support
This one happened just this season. Patrick Maroon, a native of St. Louis, scored a big game-tying goal when his Oilers were in town to take on the Blues. Being a goal by the road team, the overall crowd reaction was muted, except for Maroon’s young son Anthony, who was beaming in while wearing his dad’s sweater.
After the game, Maroon was being interviewed by Sportsnet’s Gene Principe and saw the replay of his son’s reaction, which made the big man break down in a humanizing scene.
“It’s pretty cool. Pretty emotional,” Maroon said. “I don’t get to see him as much. It’s pretty special.”
1. “I promised Mess I wouldn’t to this”
This is, far and away, the most famous NHL crying moment — and it relates to the most famous trade in league history too.
Wayne Gretzky had been traded from the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings and was holding a press conference. Gretzky had spent nine NHL seasons with the Oilers, winning four Stanley Cups, eight Hart Trophies, seven Art Ross Trophies, and two Conn Smythes.
It was the trade that shook the hockey world and Gretzky was moved to tears, and uttered the now-famous quote: “I promised ‘Mess’ I wouldn’t do this.”