Down Goes Brown: 10 NHL own goals worth remembering

Patrik Laine talks with the media about the Winnipeg Jets falling to the Edmonton Oilers and what his teammates said to him after he scored on his own net.

Welcome to the club, Patrik Laine.

On Sunday night, the rookie took a break from the monotony of scoring highlight-reel goals for the Jets to try something new: Scoring a highlight-reel goal against the Jets. It turns out he’s really good at that, too.


From a purely artistic perspective, that’s a pretty sweet goal. Stick on the ice, quick release, far corner, all done late in a tie game with the pressure on. It would have been nice to see him go bar down there, but he’s only a rookie.

He’s also got plenty of company. NHL history is filled with players scoring into their own nets. So today, let’s celebrate that history by taking a look at 10 of the more entertaining own goals from NHL history. This won’t be a comprehensive top-10 countdown, but a sampling of some of the more creative ways to put the puck into your own net. And we’ll rate them using the following criteria.

Situation: Timing matters. An own goal in the preseason is just funny. One that comes in the playoffs might be career-defining.

Cringe factor: How bad did it look? Accidentally tipping a point shot or having a centering pass deflect off your skate isn’t a big deal—that stuff happens all the time. We’re looking for a goal that makes you scream “What was he doing?” at your TV.

Notoriety: Hindsight is funny thing. Some of these goals seem to stick in the hockey world’s collective consciousness, while others fade as time goes on.

We’re not sure yet how Laine will fare on that last category, although you’d imagine he’d do reasonably well in the first two. He’d certainly wind up with a decent overall score.

But you’re not alone, Patrik. And a few guys have had it a lot worse than you did.

Paul Coffey, 1996

Situation: 6/10 – This one came in the opening round of a conference final. And not just any conference final—one between the two greatest rivals of a generation, the Red Wings and Avalanche. Everything that happened between these two teams was memorable, from the crazy brawls to the cheap shots to the embarrassing bloopers.

So why does barely anyone remember this one?

Well, here’s the thing: It’s from game one of the 1996 series between the two teams. In game six, this happened, and the rivalry was on. But at this exact moment in time, the Wings and Avs were just two teams.

Cringe factor: 7/10 – You can see exactly what he was trying to do, but it still ends up looking awful. And we’ll award one bonus point for the Detroit crowd’s reaction, and another for Bob Cole’s fantastic call.

Notoriety: 4/10 – This one didn’t resonate the way so many of the future moments between the two teams would. Still, this was a key goal in a game that went to overtime and that Colorado won. They took the series in six, so if this play never happens… well, who knows?

Overall: 5.7/10 – If only Coffey had been shown a cautionary example of the danger of defenseman own goals back in his formative years as an Oiler. Oh look, the “ironic foreshadowing” light on the dashboard just started blinking.

Bryan McCabe, 2007

Situation: 5/10 – On the one hand, this goal was from a mid-October game between two teams who’d miss the playoffs. On the other hand, it did come in the dying seconds of overtime. We’ll split the difference.

Cringe factor: 7/10 – You can see what he’s trying to do, and in a goal-mouth scramble it makes sense to try to get the puck out of the crease as quickly as possible, but it still looks bad. And the top-down camera view with the ticking clock in the corner doesn’t help.

Notoriety: 8/10 – Considering this came in a game that ultimately didn’t remotely matter, it’s kind of strange that so many fans remember it to this day. A big part of that is the context here, which is that the Maple Leafs were bad and their fans were getting sick of it. Rightly or wrongly, McCabe was already becoming the lightning rod for that wrath, so everything he did was magnified. A few months later, the Muskoka Five were born, things got even worse, and this goal came to retroactive signal everything that was wrong with the JFJ era.

Overall: 6.7/10 – Like we said, hindsight is a funny thing. On the merits, this one probably shouldn’t rank all that high. But some of these goals just stick, and this is one of them.

Dan Boyle, 2010

Situation: 9/10 – It’s overtime of a 0-0 game in a tied playoff series. Yeah, I’d say that’s big.

Cringe factor: 7/10 – It seems like a completely harmless play, in which Boyle reacts to the forecheck by rimming a backhand around the back of his own net. Or at least, that’s what he’s trying to do. Instead, he’s off the mark by a few feet and puts it past Evgeni Nabokov, who barely reacts. It’s pretty funny, but we’ll have to dock it a point since Ryan O’Reilly might get a stick on it.

Notoriety: 6/10 – This goal put the underdog Avalanche up two games to one over the top-seeded Sharks. But luckily for Boyle, San Jose came back to win the series in six, so this gets remembered as a funny blooper instead of a series turning point.

Overall: 7.3/10 – How many tries do you think Boyle would need to make that backhand shot from the angle again? Would 100 be enough?

Craig Conroy, 2008

Situation: 3/10 – It’s a relatively meaningless regular-season matchup between a mediocre team and a bad one. This is the final minute of the game, but the goal only cuts the Flames’ lead to one, and they’d still hold on to win.

Cringe factor: 8/10 – Honestly, that’s a pretty impressive faceoff win. You have to admire a guy who can win one that cleanly in his own zone. Not sure what Miikka Kiprusoff is doing, though.

Notoriety: 3/10 – It made a few of the season-ending highlight reels, then was largely forgotten.

Overall: 4.7/10 – Bonus points to Dion Phaneuf, who almost gets to the dribbling puck in time to tuck it home for the rare double own-goal.

Ryan Suter, 2011

Situation: 6/10 – It’s late in a regular-season game between the Ducks and Predators. This goal cuts the Nashville lead in half, but they held on to get the two points, so it didn’t really matter.

Except… the player who got credit for this goal was Corey Perry. He ended the season with exactly 50 goals on the year, the only player to reach the milestone. He also narrowly edged out Art Ross winner Daniel Sedin for the Hart Trophy, winning a very close vote.

If Suter doesn’t score into his own net and Perry doesn’t hit the magical 50-goal mark, does Sedin win MVP honors? I feel like Canucks fans should start randomly holding a grudge against Suter for this.

Cringe factor: 8/10 – Get this kid a Toronto FC contract.

Notoriety: 2/10 – Not much, at least up until the next time the Wild are in Vancouver and everyone’s booing Suter for no reason.

Overall: 5.3/10 – Who kicks a puck into their own net? What’s next, somebody grabbing the puck and throwing it in?

Marc Bergevin, 2000

Situation: 8/10 – It’s game two of an opening-round series between the Presidents’ Trophy–winning Blues and the eighth-seeded Sharks. St. Louis has already won game one and were leading this one, but Bergevin’s goal helped the Sharks even the series, and San Jose would go on to win in seven. So… pretty big, I’d say.

Cringe factor: 10/10 – This might be my favorite own goal of all-time.

Most goals on this list have induced some variation of “OK, I can see what he was trying to do.” Not this one. I still have no idea what Bergevin thought he was going to accomplish here.

Without question, the best part of the clip is how long it takes anyone to realize what even happened. I think the only person with any idea is Chris Pronger, who just immediately skates away in disgust.

Notoriety: 7/10 – Not as high as it should be. Seriously, how does every Marc Bergevin press conference in Montreal today not include at least one question about this play? “Yeah yeah, Marc, Subban-for-Weber, that’s great. So were you trying to throw the puck to the goalie, or…”

Instead, the series is best remembered for another St. Louis mistake: Roman Turek whiffing on Owen Nolan’s center-ice slapper in game seven.

Overall: 8.3/10 – Bonus points for what I promise you is a real quote from Bergevin: “I was just trying to pass it, but I couldn’t pass gas back then.”

Ryan O’Byrne, 2008

Situation: 4/10 – It’s a November game between the Habs and Islanders that doesn’t really matter all that much, but this goal does tie it up late in the third, and the Isles went on to win in a shootout.

Cringe factor: 7/10 – There’s a whole sub-class of own goals in which a player shoots the puck back into a net that’s been vacated due to a delayed penalty or late-game goalie pull. We saw one earlier this year when Loui Eriksson pulled it off, and arguably the best ever was Niclas Wallin’s brain cramp.

They’re almost always pure accidents, usually with a guy trying a pass back to the point in his own end that goes wrong. Instead of flooding this list with near-identical plays, let’s let O’Byrne represent the entire category with this memorable effort.

In this case, he’s getting pressured in his own end and panics. It’s a bad play, because in theory the worst that can happen is that the Islanders touch the puck and the play ends. Instead, O’Byrne sends it towards… well, nobody. It’s safe to assume he doesn’t realize the goalie is out and thinks that’s who he’s playing it back to.

Notoriety: 4/10 – I’m not sure this one really stuck as much as others, although we all had plenty of fun with it at the time. Even O’Byrne apparently enjoyed it, since he rejoined the own goal club a few years later.

Overall: 5/10 – A key part of any own goal is the reaction. You want to look upset, but not overdo it. Laine handled this well. Shaking your head? Good. Gritted teeth? Sure. Full hands-on-head disbelief? Probably a little much.

Sylvain Lefebvre and Peter Zezel, 1994

Situation: 6/10 – First of all, for those who are wondering: No, we’re not doing Wayne Gretzky’s bank shot off of Dave Ellett’s skate in game seven of the 1993 Campbell Conference final between the Kings and Leafs, for two reasons. One, I’m still not emotionally ready to talk about it. And two, that was more of a deflection than anything intentional, at least on Ellett’s part.

Instead, I’ll offer up this Leafs game seven goof from one year later. It comes in the second round of the 1994 playoffs, in a game and series that the Leafs are seconds away from finishing off. They end up winning anyway, by a 4–2 final, so it didn’t matter. But this sort of makes the celebration awkward.

Cringe factor: 7/10 – Seriously, how do you score into your own net while you’re celebrating a playoff-series win?

Notoriety: 3/10 – This one’s largely been forgotten.

Overall: 5.3/10 – It was 4–1.

Chris Phillips, 2007

Situation: 10/10 – This was the Stanley Cup-winning goal. Let that sink in.

Cringe factor: 6/10 – It’s pretty bad, although it’s hard to tell whether we should be blaming Phillips or Ray Emery. This feels like one of those fluke plays that you couldn’t do again even if you tried, although it’s apparently in the Senators’ playbook since they somehow managed to pull it off again a few years later.

Notoriety: 7/10 – That seems low, doesn’t it? It is low.

I mean, Chris Phillips is a good guy who had a fine career, one that produced more than a few memorable moments. Nobody’s trying to pick on him. But if you’ll pardon me for breaking out the italics here, he scored the Stanley Cup winning goal on a wraparound into his own net, and everyone just kind of shrugged. It’s not that it’s forgotten by any stretch, but it didn’t really stick in the hockey fan consciousness like it could have. It might not even be the go-to embarrassing Senators moment from this series—more fans seem to remember that Daniel Alfredsson/Scott Niedermayer thing than this goal.

Given the circumstances, this play should be right up there with Bill Buckner and Scott Norwood, shouldn’t it? Instead, a few months later Bryan McCabe scores into his own net for a last-place team in October and half the hockey world remembers that one instead. It’s weird, right?

Overall: 7.7/10 – Be sure to check out this clip for a fun alternate call of the goal. Oy-yoy-yoy-yoy-yoy!

Steve Smith, 1986

Situation: 10/10 – Just game seven of a series between the sport’s two greatest rivals. One of them is a two-time defending Cup champ who’s looking to string together one of the greatest dynasties in the history of sport, the other is their stuck-in-the-shadow provincial rival looking to finally break through. One team has been kicking sand in the other’s face for years, while the other has been waiting for a miracle to finally get some payback.

Oh yeah, it’s a tie game with a few minutes left in regulation. Other than that, no big deal.

Cringe factor: 7/10 – Obviously, any own goal in this situation would be remembered forever. But Smith’s play isn’t really all that bad. It’s sloppy, sure, but it’s not comical on the same level as many of the other goals on this list. He just tries to make an ill-advised pass and picks the exact moment when Grant Fuhr suddenly hits the brakes and kicks his leg back out.

Notoriety: 10/10 – I’m willing to bet that as soon as you saw this list, you knew Smith’s goal was going to be the top score. You probably even made a Steve Smith joke when you saw the Laine highlight. It’s basically become the archetype for NHL own goals, and rightly so.

I’m old enough to remember this goal when it happened. At first, we were all confused—does that even count? Then we all fell off our couches laughing. (Well, except for Oiler fans.) But then we felt terrible. Smith was crushed, literally crying on the ice when he realized what he’d done. It was his 23rd birthday that night, and it really felt like his career might be over. But his teammates rallied around him, and eventually most of the hockey world did, too.

Needless to say, that wouldn’t happen today, since he’d be a trending meme by midnight and the subject of 1,000 character-bashing hot takes by the next morning. What can we say, the ’80s were a simpler time.

Overall: 9/10 – There’s a little bit of room for somebody to top this one someday, but it’s hard to imagine it actually happening. And that’s probably for the best.

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