The Five Most Influential Hockey Figures of 2016
The NHL, like any other sports league, has a large number of influential figures. These big names come from on the ice and off the ice. Many men and women had a large impact on hockey in 2016, but here are some who have had the biggest.
5. Jaromir Jagr
Jagr, the ageless wonder at 44 years old, has put together yet another successful year in the hockey world. He helped lead the young Panthers to the playoffs last season, although they lost in the first round. This season, the Panthers are not doing as well as the year prior, but Jagr is still putting up numbers. Currently, he sits at 21 points in 37 games. That is good for third on Florida’s roster.
The biggest accomplishment for Jagr in 2016 came recently. In a game against Boston on December 22, he assisted on Aleksander Barkov’s goal late in the third period. This assist propelled Jagr to 1,888 career points, which led him past Mark Messier for second all time. He still has almost 1,000 points to hit Gretzky, but second all time is no small feat.
2016 was a fantastic year for Jaromir Jagr, and who knows how many more years he will play.
4. John Chayka
The Coyotes finished in the middle of the pack in the 2015-2016 season, but still felt they needed a front office change. They fired Don Maloney just as the season ended, but did not name a new general manager for another couple of weeks.
The man that was later named was John Chayka, the youngest general manager in hockey history at 26 years old.
Chayka represented a revolutionary change in hockey philosophy. The divide between the “eye test” people and the “analytics” people is still evident, but Chayka’s hire proved how much weight analytics now has. His hire leads the way for a new wave of young minds to make their way into front offices.
As time goes on, there will be more hires like Chayka. The mindset of hockey is changing, and the numbers are not black and white anymore. John Chayka is just the beginning of that.
3. Connor McDavid
Drafted first overall by the Edmonton Oilers in 2015, expectations were astronomically high for Connor McDavid. So far he has produced on a large scale, despite being injured for a few months early in his career.
Currently, McDavid is arguably the second best player in the NHL behind Sidney Crosby. His electrifying speed and all around skill is something fun to watch every night. McDavid is case one of the NHL moving from size to speed.
Another accomplishment on McDavid’s list this past year is being named the youngest captain in NHL history, breaking Gabriel Landeskog’s record. McDavid also captained Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey.
2016 was just the start for Connor McDavid. He has many, many, many more years to come and the sky is only the limit for him. To be able to watch him progress as a player and captain is something the entire NHL and it’s fans should feel privileged to be watching.
2. Donald Fehr
Although he flies under the radar for a majority of the year, Donald Fehr has a massive pull on the strings of the NHL.
Fehr is the executive director of the National Hockey League Players Association. Recently, Fehr and the NHLPA rejected a CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) that would have seen the current agreement be extended in exchange for NHL players being able to participate in the 2018 Olympics in South Korea.
Participation in the Olympics has been an issue for some time now and a push-pull battle between Fehr, Bettman, and their associates. NHL players not going to the Olympics would be a huge loss for both the league’s popularity and the players and fans themselves.
It is unclear what is going to happen in terms of the Olympics, or even a potential lockout, but regardless Donald Fehr has an astronomical say in how things go and will continue to be an important figure in hockey for years to come, just as he was in 2016.
1. Bill Foley
There were not many, if any, bigger moves in NHL this season than the addition of the 31st franchise, the Vegas Golden Knights. The team was formally introduced in 2016, with their owner being none other than Bill Foley.
The expansion to Las Vegas is already having huge implications of the league. The expansion draft is looming, so trades are at a halt. Teams also have to figure out what they are going to do with players of no movement clauses.
The success of Las Vegas under Bill Foley is going to have a large impact on Gary Bettman’s legacy. Bettman has had his fair share of location controversies, including with the Islanders, Coyotes, and Thrashers, so he cannot afford a loss in Las Vegas.
Foley’s dedication to Las Vegas is going to reshape the league and change it forever. There is no saying how it is going to go or how good the team will be, but Foley is changing the landscape in the NHL forever.
Here’s to a good 2017. Thank you for all the continued support this year.