Wednesday 14 February 2024

Some Valentine's Day History

It's the annual day where couples are supposed to show each other a little more affection than normal, and this has always come off as weird to me. I understand the history and reasons behind these displays of affection for someone special, but shouldn't that be something that happens regularly throughout the year? My confusion aside, it seems that there were a lot of hockey marketing departments that were busy on Photoshop this week as I'm certain that virtually every hockey team and program posted mock Valentine's Day cards on social media, so at least a few people found meaning in Valentine's Day. This blog will contain none of that effort.

I have no clue why we observe this day when one looks at the history of the day. When one considers the Roman festival of Lupercalia, it was the Luperci, a group of priests, who played a major role in the restival as they would sacrifice goats and dogs and then use the hides to whip women to promote fertility while another facet of the festival saw men and women paired together through a lottery. I struggle to see how anyone enjoyed this, but when in Rome....

Instead, let's enjoy a moment in Buffalo when a particular netminder got his name in the history books. In 2004, the Buffalo Sabres visited the Toronto Maple Leafs where both teams were battling for playoff spots. After a goalless first period, Toronto jumped out to a 3-0 lead through the opening 12:52 of the middle frame off goals by Matt Stajan, Tom Fitzgerald, and Alexei Ponikarovsky. A couple of power-play goals by Chris Drury and DP Dumont pushed this to a 3-2 game by the second intermission.

Buffalo flipped the script in the third period as they scored three goals in 12:54 to open the frame as Maxim Afinogenov, Ales Kotalik, and Curtis Brown put the Sabres up 5-3. Robert Reichel would score a power-play goal for Toronto with 2:19 to play to make it 5-4, and that setup this final sequence where Mika Noronen would make history.
Mika Noronen would be credited with the goal after Robert Reichel's centering pass missed everyone and went the length of the ice, coming to a stop in the vacated Maple Leafs' net. Officially, Noronen scored his goal at 19:17 of the third period to help the Sabres win 6-4 over the Maple Leafs, becoming just the eighth goalie in the history of the NHL to be credited with a goal. The weird part was that teammate Dmitri Kalinin was announced as the scorer!

"It's pretty funny," Noronen said after finding out he was credited with the goal. "I guess I was the last guy to touch the puck. I don't know. It was fun."

Noronen got the puck and told reporters that he might put it in his summer cabin.

"It's my first goal ever," he said. "Hopefully, it's not the last one."

What might have made this moment even more unbelievable is that Martin Biron started this game, but was pulled after the Ponikarovsky goal in favour of Noronen. Had Biron made a couple of extra saves in this game, the Noronen goal may never have happened! Statistically, Biron stopped 15-of-18 shots he haced through 32:52 of play while Noronen recorded the win after stopping 17-of-18 shots he faced in his 27:08 of relief. And added the insurance marker as well.

February 14, 2004 was a pretty big day for Mika Noronen of the Buffalo Sabres, and I don't mind posting a loss by the Maple Leafs anytime I can. It's pretty crazy to think that the eighth goalie goal in NHL history was scored by a goaltender who didn't start the game, who only surrendered one goal, and wasn't announced as the goal scorer during the game. It's almost like the world wasn't going to show Noronen any love on Valentine's Day back in 2004.

In the end, though, he got a pretty cool moment on a day he wasn't even expecting to play. You gotta love hockey for its quirks, right? Happy Valentine's Day to all those celebrating today, and here's hoping that a few of you may even get a little lucky like Mika Noronen did on this day!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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