The Zone Time crew wraps up the year by recapping the most joyous moments of 2021 in the NHL, from Auston Matthews's Rocket Richard win to Nikita Kucherov's shirtless press conference after winning the Stanley Cup.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: I was thinking maybe we could discuss something that gave us joy-- that made us happy in 2021. COVID is obviously something that has run rampant in our-- in our circles and our societies, and all that, in our sport that we love-- sports that we love because we all love more than one sport, I think. I think.
KYLE CANTLON: Not Omar.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: It doesn't--
KYLE CANTLON: Omar just likes hockey.
OMAR: I try to-- I'm trying. I watched golf for the first time like last year. It was interesting.
RAHEF ISSA: Of all the sports--
JULIAN MCKENZIE: What?
RAHEF ISSA: Golf?
OMAR: Yeah, golf--
JULIAN MCKENZIE: What?
OMAR: You know, golf is interesting because, you know, like I'll show you--
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Been watching Tiger at least?
OMAR: I don't know who I was watching. I was just watching people hitting golf ball. I mean, that's cool, you know. I was there. I was learning the terminology. You know, pars and stuff. That was cool. I was like watching people get frustrated when they miss an easy shot. They do the whole like, (SIGHS) thing, you know. It's interesting stuff. Interesting stuff.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: OK.
OMAR: But also, I think yesterday, there's the video going around of like people fighting in lacrosse. I didn't know that was a thing. Did anyone know that was a thing?
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Oh, yeah. I saw that video.
OMAR: It was wild. I didn't know that happens. Yeah, I think I might start, you know, broadening my horizons a little bit or a little more.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Well, regardless of--
KYLE CANTLON: I think you're too off topic but--
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Yeah, go ahead.
KYLE CANTLON: Not to get too off topic, but those lacrosse craps are just wild. Wild street fights.
OMAR: Yeah. [INAUDIBLE]
KYLE CANTLON: Different level.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: I don't know, man.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Yeah. I don't have any other lacrosse takes, but I would like to know from each of you, one thing that made you happy in 2021. Rehaf, I'd like to start with you.
RAHEF ISSA: OK. Well, you know, not to go down the sidely fan rabbit hole, but--
JULIAN MCKENZIE: It's supposed to be good.
RAHEF ISSA: But being a Leafs fan. Yeah. Yeah. Being a--
OMAR: See, Julian is enjoying this.
RAHEF ISSA: It gets good.
OMAR: Did you see the big smile--
RAHEF ISSA: It gets--
JULIAN MCKENZIE: --No, I'm not.
RAHEF ISSA: (CHUCKLES)
OMAR: I see that everyone-- everyone who's watching us on YouTube just see this big smile on Julian's face. He enjoys this. He enjoys-- he enjoys our pain.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: It's not true at all. I do not enjoy this. Anyway--
RAHEF ISSA: Yeah. So being a Leafs fan, you know, there's certain things that you have to latch onto.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: OK.
RAHEF ISSA: --Being a Leafs fan. Otherwise, you will just go crazy watching your team lose year after year after year. So for me, that has been Auston Matthews, and the commitment of believing that Auston Matthews is the best goal scorer on the planet. And to see him win the Rocket Richard last season was the best thing that happened to me in hockey,
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Wow.
RAHEF ISSA: --which maybe sad-- maybe sad, but considering the losing track record that the Leafs have, like I said, you have to love those things you have to latch onto, and so seeing Auston Matthews win the Rocket Richard was one of those things that was just like, yes. He-- it was so good to watch, and so good to see.
OMAR: OK. I'm going to preface my answer by just reiterating what the question was. The question was, what was something that brought you joy? And I will say that this genuinely made me laugh so hard. I flipped over my chair. OK. Nikita Kucherov's Stanley Cup winning press conference.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: That was really good. It was so--
KYLE CANTLON: That was really good.
OMAR: --It was so funny.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: That's a very good pick. I like that.
OMAR: --That was so funny.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: I actually really like that.
OMAR: --Everything from like the number one BS to him saying that like the [INAUDIBLE] Stanley Cup victory in the third round. Like it is obliterated. The destroyed book. And then just like, just seeing just the heat and the fire on Twitter. It was just-- it was so funny.
RAHEF ISSA: --That was so good.
OMAR: It was so funny.
KYLE CANTLON: --So good.
OMAR: I enjoyed it so much. That was definitely the number one. Like and specially considering, you know, what Rehaf and I had to go through. It was just so funny just this watching Kucherov-- no shirt on, just drink in hand afterwards, just destroyed-- just--
JULIAN MCKENZIE: --Oh, he did.
OMAR: talking off. That's like-- that's what hockey needs. Hockey needs these players who just like just to say what's on their mind. And they have a personality--
RAHEF ISSA: Personality. Yeah.
OMAR: It was so fun. It was so fun to see, and I know-- I know a lot of Habs fans were upset about it. And I get it. I understand, but just no. That was really funny.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Man, I get it. I totally understand. That was one of the coolest things to see. That Nikita Kucherov-- he's just a total badass. Just-- just shirtless. Just doing the whole thing.
KYLE CANTLON: --Badass. Yeah.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: I get why people would get upset about it, but like that was like-- that was a wrestling promo. That was WWE-like shit.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Kyle?
KYLE CANTLON: So I mean, that was obviously a breath of fresh air. Like I kind of want to switch my answer, and like what Omar just said, but it's such a breath of fresh air actually seeing someone like that just let out in the moment, and just show a personality whether you like it or not. It was hilarious. And another thing I'm loving right now is just the creativity, the fondness, and the players are finally feeling empowered to try cool shit in actual games. That, for me, is making hockey-- just the last year or so, it just been-- I just loved the direction that it's going. I mean, you got Stash [INAUDIBLE] making it in Michigan, a mainstream in-game threat a couple of seasons ago. And that's carried right over into the last couple of seasons. Guys are regularly trying not move in-game like it's not even a big deal anymore. We barely even notice what happens. Being that, and then obviously this year with Zegras and Milano, taking to the next level, and connecting on what was arguably the most vital goal I think that's ever gone around the NHL to be honest, from what I've seen
JULIAN MCKENZIE: --Yeah.
KYLE CANTLON: I mean, they had the [INAUDIBLE] over the shoulder kind of falling backwards one way back in the day, but that was pretty heavy social media and all that. I mean, their score obviously blew up, and I just been great for the game. I mean, you had celebrities tweeting it out. You had people arguing over it-- people who knew hockey, didn't know hockey. Everybody was talking about it. I mean, that's the kind of stuff this game needs. And these players have always had these kind of tools in their arsenal. There's this stuff that skills players have tried and practice for years and decades, and they've pulled it off. You've heard the stories of, you know, Patrick Kane, and guys like Robbie Schremp and Pavel Datsyuk. And you just hear about the myth of the stuff they used to pull off in practice. And you see them doing it, and probably see little highlights here and there, but to actually see the players are now confident enough to bring that into the game style, I mean, it's just-- it's great for the game, and everything about it is good, honestly. The entertainment factor is there, and across sport and celebrity appeals there. And even like guys, like towards being grumpy about it. Like people having bad opinions on it, good opinions on it. Like, all that talk is all great for hockey, and--
RAHEF ISSA: Yeah.
KYLE CANTLON: --it's all-- It's fantastic. Like, and it's the fact that these players are confident enough, and they feel empowered enough to now just try this shit, and they're confident they're not just going to try and look dumb, and they're going to actually pull it off and not get smoked. I mean, it's just great. It's really showing the skill all of these guys actually have and can only go up from here, I think.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: I just want to say if Zone Time existed during Robbie Schremp's day, I think we'd all be fans of Robbie Schremp.
KYLE CANTLON: So you think some of these guys like stick handling clubs just--
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Oh my God. Are you kidding me? This dude-- the way he was-- I mean, I can't say anything about how the rest of his NHL career went, but in terms of the skill he displayed, like--
KYLE CANTLON: Nuts.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: I really thought, dude was going to like light up the league or just be like at least someone really fun to watch.
KYLE CANTLON: And it's hard to say like he obviously-- it's hard to look back, and he always has some flaws in his game and all that, but like-- if back when he played off stuff like this is more accepted and more open and he could have actually, you know, really leaned on his skills during a game, it's hard to say where he's be right now because it would have opened up a whole new element for him for sure. Players like that-- I'm sure there's been a hundred of those guys, but he stands out to me, especially as a guy who just had immense skill, and just never really pulled that kind of-- and even tried to pull that kind of stuff off in a game for various reasons.
OMAR: Yeah. And I think--
JULIAN MCKENZIE: --That's true.
OMAR: that's what makes the upcoming drafts like so like, interesting for me because like, a lot of younger players are seeing this. Like we even saw like what that WHL game a couple days ago. Like, players like pulled it off the--
JULIAN MCKENZIE: [INAUDIBLE]
OMAR: Yeah. He pulled it off. So it's like you're seeing a lot of these young players who are growing up and developing watching these skilled players in the game now. It just makes you think like, what's coming next? Especially like in 2023, like you have the generational talent coming. It's like, what else are we going to see? So, I think it just makes the game like more and more exciting just thinking like, you know, like what other things are we going to see? Like before, it used to be just like a player like going like 1 on 4 against the offending players was amazing. But now we're seeing all these incredible things like video game moves being pulled off in real life. And that just make your jaw drop.
So I think that's what-- and so that's why like the takes about like, oh, how it hurts the game. It's a ridiculous thing. I think that makes the game even better. I think it makes you look forward to what these young players are going to be doing in five years, in 10 years. What are-- what are different methods are going to be used they'd do to make the game more exciting, make the game more energetic, make the game more fun, right? And, you know, right now when three on three overtime was invented, we were all was losing our minds like, oh my God. This is so fun. And then they got coach down, but the best way to break out of a coaching structure is so you'll introduce some skill, right?
You know, teams didn't know what to do against the Michigan, and now people are trying to figure it out. And now you have this new form of the Michigan and people are going to try to figure that out. And just more and more things are going to come. So I think seeing that creativity and seeing that skill grow, I think is only good for the game. So, yeah, definitely keep it coming.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Omar, are you ready for-- for mine? Are you ready for my thing that gave me joy in 2021?
KYLE CANTLON: Oh, I can guess, but I want to hear from you.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Well, I mean, I-- there's a pretty good guess because if you do go back to the episode of Yahoo Sports hockey podcast right after the Leafs were eliminated in game 7 of the first round, I did laugh at the beginning of that podcast with comfort. I-- here's the thing, man. Just-- and I said it. I said the Leafs were going to win that series. So like, it's not even me being like, oh, you know. My half said. Remember that. I just-- Omar, being enter-- here's the thing. If Omar didn't react the way that he did on this damn show, do you think he gets into mentions? I don't know.
OMAR: You told me to get over it.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: --That being said--
OMAR: You told me to let it go. Your words verbatim-- let it go. What?
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Yeah. Because-- because it was like--
KYLE CANTLON: Yeah.
OMAR: They were up 3 wins in this series, man. Let it go.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: In hindsight, it wasn't necessarily the best thing I should have said. All that to say, that is not the number one thing that gave me joy this year.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: It's two rounds later. When Artturi Lehkonen scored the overtime winner to send the Canadiens to the Stanley Cup Final.
OMAR: That was true.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Well you really-- that was awesome.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: That was so awesome.
OMAR: I'm glad that is was him, too.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Oh, man. A guy who could seemingly do everything except score But he is the one who had this one of the most important goals in Montreal Canadiens' history. The most important goal in 27 years on a provincial holiday. So it's like one of the biggest things to see. All these people just enjoying what happened outside, and in the arena as well. I know it was limited capacity in there, but it was just really fun to see everybody who was a Canadiens fan just enjoy that. I know a lot of people were upset. Well I guess, more of Omar than anything about. The fact that all of Canada tried to get around them, and they were Canada's team.
But like, that was fun to just see the Montreal Canadiens go on this run, that nobody-- I'm telling you, man. Like, we were-- we had conversations about how Marc Bergevin's time was up. I had said this was the best team I had ever seen from the Canadians as long as I was living, and I had to go back on that. And then I have to go back on the go back like, they made us all look dumb. And to everybody who looks at the Canadiens, and they say like, man, this is the worst finals team we've ever seen. How do you think that makes the Leafs look, and the Jets look, and the Vegas Golden Knights look? It makes you all look bad. Sorry. It does.
So the Canadiens are in the shit right now. They're going to go rebuild, and it's going to take them how many years before they really start to win again. But, at least, they can say they went to a Stanley Cup Final in the last how many months. And if people look back at that-- at the center of all of that, it's Artturi Lehkonen scoring a goal that sends them to the Stanley Cup Final. Sometimes-- excuse me for coughing, but sometimes, I'll look back at that YouTube video when you hear all these different calls on like, SportsNet, TSN radio, Fox radio out in Vegas-- shout out to Dan Canova, 98.5 FM from Martin McGuire, French as well, [INAUDIBLE] like, for people of my age who are die hard Canadiens fans before this year. It was only 2010.
But now, it's always going to be this year. That's the run that got a lot of people happy about the Canadiens, and then they did everything they could after that to put all the goodwill down the toilet because of Logan Mailloux and all the other bullshit they were surrounded by. So well, at least, in that moment, when they won game 6 against the Vegas Golden Knights as someone who-- oh, and you know what? I got to cover a Stanley Cup Final this year. That goal confirmed. That goal confirmed that I was going to come for a Stanley Cup Final that year. That's what gave me so much joy like, I didn't care if they were going to-- look, who cares? Like I get to be the Stanley Cup Final. That was awesome so that's definitely number one.
OMAR: --Timeout. Timeout.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: OK.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: All right. All right. All right. All right. Cool, cool, cool, cool, cool, cool, cool.
OMAR: Who cares? Who cares-- hey, first off, what I will say, I have never been happier for a non-Leafs than I was happier for Carey Price. Like, did you see Price just like game after game, just round after round, he just win and win, and just-- I was so happy for him. I'm like, if they win it, yes, it was-- yes, it will sting. It will sting hard. And-- but I believe just knowing that price would get a cup, like that was like-- that was the major silver lining of all of it. Now--
JULIAN MCKENZIE: OK.
OMAR: Who cares now? At least they made the final who cares of the blues. Come on, you can't-- you can always say that. I know you're not--
JULIAN MCKENZIE: I mean, me-- I-- for me, yeah, I don't care because like, I'm in it just for the stories for the Canadiens, and it would be nice if they would have won the Stanley Cup or would have be might look-- be might be in a different reality altogether. I mean, if I was a die hard Canadiens fan, of course, I wouldn't say that. But for me, I'm just like, OK. Well, I'm in it for whatever happens. Of course, I can say who cares.
OMAR: I envy you so much.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: If I was you, then maybe not.
OMAR: I envy you so much because if the Leafs-- if the Toronto Maple Leafs make the Stanley Cup Final, they have to win. They have to win.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Oh, man. Yeah.
OMAR: I mean, we all--
JULIAN MCKENZIE: You all set yourselves up.
OMAR: No. They have to have to win.
RAHEF ISSA: Yeah. Yeah.
OMAR: I'm saying-- I'm saying-- I'm looking right in the camera and I'm saying this, if Kyle Dubas or whoever is running the team--
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Give them a single cab. Give them the single cab when he says this.
OMAR: If you make the Stanley Cup Final, you have to win because I will not recover if you make it and lose. It would be-- it will be just so, so close. I would rather-- I'm not going to say it. I'm not going to put that in the YouTube. Just if you make it--
JULIAN MCKENZIE: No, no no. Put it out there.
OMAR: No, no.no.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Put it out there. Say what you need to say.
OMAR: No, no, no, no. I'm not going to do that because every time you bring up a pessimism against the Leafs, it comes true. It comes true. We've seen many--
JULIAN MCKENZIE: --Wait. Wait. Timeout. Time out.
RAHEF ISSA: --It's kind of manifesting.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: What have I ever brought up pessimism? What have I ever brought up pessimism against the Leafs?
OMAR: I'm sorry. I thought those were rhetorical question.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: (LAUGHS)
OMAR: What the-- what's-- come on. Come on, the Toronto Maple Leafs--
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Listen, what have I ever brought up-- what if I ever been pessimistic about the Toronto Maple Leafs?
OMAR: It's the subtext, Julian. It's a subtext.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Subtext?
OMAR: This is why--
JULIAN MCKENZIE: What have I-- genuinely, what have I ever been pessimistic about the Toronto Maple Leafs? I said that you guys have a top two player in the league in Auston Matthews. I've talked about how people have said they should have beaten the Canadiens in 3 games. I've given the Toronto Maple Leafs so much credit. I've laughed at them for their failures. But what have I ever said-- what have I ever given people reason to be pessimistic? I told you to get over something.
OMAR: Get over something. Do you see the word choice? Get over something. Get over the worst collapse in franchise history, and you're going to equate that as being something. And then you're going to have this little snarky smile like it's no big deal. Like-- like all the pain, and the negativity, and the poison, and the venom-- the venom that's surrounded around the city--
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Guys, we're supposed to be talking about what gives us joy in 2021.
OMAR: I am happy. Listen. Listen. I am happy those moments where the Leafs do good things, I'm happy for it. It's great.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: As you should.
OMAR: Habs making the playoffs. That was cool. That was sweet. That was amazing. That was great. But you know what? Was one day, I would like to be happy in the second round or the third. OK. Maybe the whole thing.
RAHEF ISSA: 2022 We're manifesting. Anything to believe we'll--
OMAR: Not going to be like this. I see you have a little wood stuff right behind you. Can just like knock on that? Just like-- just a couple of like 1, 2.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Yeah. Yeah. Rehaf, you got to give him the 1, 2 just in case.
RAHEF ISSA: (CHUCKLES)
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Wow. It's not like he said you were-- the Leafs are a juggernaut or something. By the way, when Chris Johnston called the Canadiens juggernaut, they made the final. Look, it's not a bad gig.
RAHEF ISSA: Yeah, we're gonna-- We're going to need him just do that for us.
OMAR: But he did. And what happened to us? He did call us a juggernaut. Then we blew a series.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Kyle, do you want last word on this before we-- before Omar decides he's going to go think about the Leafs some more?
KYLE CANTLON: I don't have too much to add of this. I mean, just you guys in a little room, and let you guys discuss your joys and woes of fandom right now.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Hey, look man, I--
KYLE CANTLON: --But you know what? Fan conversations like this give me joy or a gift.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: You know what?
KYLE CANTLON: --The greatest gift of all maybe. Someone said.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: You know what? Zone Time has given me so much joy on that subject considering all the different topics we've been able to tackle, good or bad. Omar alone, you can do a super kind of all of his answers and his reactions on every episode that he's done. That, literally, has given me so much joy to power through 2021. And I am very appreciative of you, Omar. I'm very appreciative of you, Rehaf. I'm very appreciative of you, Kyle. And that goes for Avery, Sam, Rune, Cuthbert as well, Steven Psihogios, who's been on this show as well. Yeah, man. I'm thank-- And yeah. I mean, I got to shout out Yahoo because they got the platform that's allowed us to do this show so-- and everyone who has watched an episode. I'm very happy at that. We're all very happy at that.