There has been a lot for hockey fans to be angry about in 2012.
The first six months of the year saw vitriol directed at any number of incidents that ended up with or without punishment. But if you took all that anger and tripled it multiplied it by 100, you'd probably get close to the level of disgust hockey fans have felt the final six months of 2012 with CBA negotiations -- or lack thereof, at times -- dominating the headlines as we sit and wait and wonder when the NHL will return. The record books will label this season the "2013 NHL season" if there even is one.
But while hockey has seen more than its fair share of feel-bad stories, there are those stories that stand out and make you remember the good that can come from this game. We hate reading about CBA concessions and PR posturing, but give us an inspiring story on Jack Jablonski or players shaving their heads for various cancer charities or NHLers raising money for hurricane relief and we'll read it all day.
Here are your top 10 feel-good hockey stories of 2012.
10. Sidelined for three years after cardiac arrest, Swedish player returns to the ice
Niklas Lihagen took a hit during a game with Orebro of Sweden's HockeyAllsvenskan three years ago and collapsed to the ice. After going into cardiac arrest he was saved by one of the on-ice officials who knew CPR. Lihagen underwent several procedures, including a heart valve transplant during his recovery. This past August, after a few false starts, he finally returned to competitive hockey in an exhibition game with Orebro. After the game, Lihagen summed up his three-year journey simply: "I feel no fear at all. You can not think like that."
9. Josh Arnold, the one-handed goalie
Watching Josh Arnold on the ice, he looks like every other typical youth goalie. You'd never guess while watching him play that he's any different ... until he takes off his catching glove and you notice he's missing a hand. The sixth grader from Farmington Hills, Mich. has not let a disability get in his way and with help from the University of Michigan and Vaughn Hockey, Arnold has succeeded with custom-made equipment.
8. Nick Curley's "100 Miles for Danny"
Nick Curley never met Danny Stanton. Their dads knew each other, but 7-year old Nick had only heard about Danny passing away at age 4 from Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy. Nick's young cousin dealt with epilepsy, so he decided to do something on his own to help raise money and awareness. Enter "100 Miles for Danny", where Nick would skate five miles at Chicago-area rinks with a goal of raising $25,000. He finished his 100 mile trek during intermission at a Chicago Wolves game in October and received plenty of help along the way, including from Blackhawks legend Denis Savard.
7. Florida Panthers build beer memorial for dedicated fan that died of cancer
Ron Schmidt lost his battle with brain cancer on Feb. 16. He was a fan of the Florida Panthers and his son played goalie on one of their youth teams. Before Game 2 of their first round matchup with the New Jersey Devils, the Panthers paid tribute to Schmidt with a note and a beer in his honor.
[Related: The top five NHL stories of 2012]
6. Stanley Cup cheers up 9-year old accident victim, hockey player
NHL players aren't the only ones who can enjoy the presence of the Stanley Cup. The greatest trophy in sports can also brighten up the day of those who are in need. That was the case for Genny Shepler, a 9-year old who fell 30 feet from a cliff, fracturing her skull and ending up in a coma for 11 days over the summer. After hearing the news, a special visit was arranged with the Cup and Los Angeles Kings mascot Bailey. The little hockey player has dreams of playing hockey at Boston University when she's older.
5. Jessica Redfield's spirit lives on
On July 20, the hockey world lost a talented up-and-comer. Jessica Ghawi (Redfield) was one of 12 victims killed during a shooting at an Aurora, Co. movie theater. In her honor, the Jessica Redfield Sports Journalism Scholarship Fund was established. Hours after its creation, over $25,000 had been raised. The fund "will be seed money for the scholarship to help send another upcoming young sports talent to study journalism."
A "pizza party" organized by the Nashville Predators turned into a bigger community event when 250 fans showed up and filled the bleachers at A-Game Sportsplex in Franklin as two youth teams were warming up before their game. Paul McCann, the team's PA announcer, worked the game and even Gnash, the Predators' mascot, was on hand for the festivities. Instead of just their parents cheering them on in the crowd, both teams were given a much greater game experience.
3. Lokomotiv Yaroslavl is reborn
A year after the entire Lokomotiv team was killed in a plane crash, the club returned to the ice reborn. Featuring a brand new roster with the likes of locked out Dmitry Kulikov and Semyon Varlamov, as well as Niklas Hagman and Viktor Kozlov, and the support of the entire hockey world, Lokomotiv took off and has succeeded through the first half of the KHL season. Through 38 games, they sit second overall in the Western Conference.
2. 2012: the year of Jack Jablonski
Everything was coming up Jack Jablonski in 2012. In the aftermath of the accident during a high school hockey game that left him paralyzed, the sports world embraced Jablonski and helped further his drive to walk again. He watched his teammates at Benilde St. Margaret's win the Minnesota state title; threw out the first pitch at a Minnesota Twins game; made a pitch to Zach Parise to sign with the Minnesota Wild (hey, it worked!); was named the America's Choice Honoree for the Courage in Sport awards; and got to spend some time with the Stanley Cup thanks to Davis Drewiske of the Los Angeles Kings.
1. Bridgeport Sound Tigers honor victims of Newtown tragedy
The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Ct. shocked all of us. There were tributes to the 26 fallen students and adults across the sports world, but none were more profound than what the AHL's Bridgeport Sound Tigers decided to do for a stretch of seven home games. Beginning with last Saturday's game, the team announced that each time they wear their black alternate jerseys they'll replace the player's names on the backs with those of the 20 children who died at the school. The names of the six adults who were also killed will be featured throughout the game on the center ice scoreboard.
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy
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