By Sam Page
When you consider the personalities that are involved, it’s really no surprise the lengths to which NHL fans will go to celebrate their idiosyncratic in-jokes. Equal parts the ribbing, self-deprecating British humo(u)r of Canadians, American pop culture obsessiveness, and the us-against-the-world solidarity that comes with loving the low sport on the major league totem pole, hockey fan culture really can’t be topped.
Just kidding–it’s all about Phil Kessel’s stupid face. Ha ha, wow, look at that thing.
So in honor of all things virally funny that may or may not be Phil Kessel’s face, here are the top 13 NHL memes of 2013.
13. The coolest Bruins fan
The hands down GIF of the year is really a lesson in maturely handling defeat. Take notice, Vancouver.
The NHL’s realignment opened the door for new rivalries to form, but perhaps more importantly, new memes. While the decidedly weaker Eastern Conference was divided into two equally illogical groups, the “Metropolitan” (huh?) and the “Flortheast” (unofficial), the West broke down into the Pacific Coast teams and #ConferenceIII. Drawing from the early provisional name given to the Central Division, Conference III is developing a culture all its own.
11. Corey Crawford’s profane victory speech
Who would have thought that the cleanest word in Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford’s Stanley Cup parade speech would be “nuts”?
10. Horsehead mask
If you were watching SportsNet’s broadcast of the Canucks and Oilers on February 2, you probably spit out your drink after Ales Hemsky scored the first goal of the game. Then you probably rewound the TV a few times to make sure you really just had seen a man with a horse’s head celebrating in the stands. I think it’s better if we don’t ask “why?”
9. Reddit’s Rink map
8. Justin Bieber touches the Cup
The formula for something taking off on the internet is generally acknowledged as “Justin Bieber + literally anything.” So when the pop star caused a minor controversy by touching sport’s greatest trophy, of course hockey fans were going to have their fun.
7. Officer Bobrovsky
In April, former Maple Leafs GM and current Flames President Brian Burke decided to sue several internet commenters for defamation. Among the guilty parties? Poonerman, Sir_Psycho_Sexy, and CamBarkerFan. Personally, I find CamBarkerFan funnier, but only Poonerman inspired classic music.
5. Seth Jones, True American
Seth Jones may well turn out to be the greatest American-born defenseman to ever play the game. He’s got all the tools, he’s playing in the NHL at age 19, and he is mentored by American defense legend Phil Housley in Nashville. The internet’s not exactly known for patience, however, and has gone ahead and anointed Jones as the embodiment of all American virtue. Even his team is in on the act.
4. Roberto Luongo vs. Cory Schneider
Many people wondered how two ostensible 1A goalies would co-exist in Vancouver last season. Well, in the case of good-natured friends Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider, the answer was “hilariously.” Now Schneider is in New Jersey, leaving Luongo to turn his attention to new back-up Eddie Lack.
3. Phil Kessel’s face
2. Alex Ovechkin’s disconnected controller
During last season’s playoffs, Ovechkin produced a defensive effort so completely effortless, it evoked the batteries of an XBox controller running out during a game of NHL 13. This season, Ovechkin is experiencing a major revival, and his ability to turn catatonic to his advantage may be a big reason why.
1. Jonathan Toews’ face
The unusually stoic Blackhawks captain’s facial expressions–which typically range from serious to super-serious–have always been an object of fascination. For sure, 2013 was a banner year as Toews’ face produced not one but two major hits. First he sported this playful grimace during the Blackhawks’ White House visit, then his unimpressed, glazed look launched a thousand photoshop apps.