Jonathan Bernier had an interesting night last week. On Thursday, his Toronto Maple Leafs were hosting the Arizona Coyotes, and they weren’t playing especially well. Through two periods they’d been badly outplayed, surrendering 32 shots on goal. But Bernier had been flawless and was almost single-handedly responsible for his team clinging to a 1-0 lead as the third period began.
And then, this happened …
This isn’t the first time Bernier has been caught napping, and it might not even be the worst goal he’s ever given up. And if they’re being honest, most goalies have been there. Hockey is a funny game, and sometimes even the best goaltender has a momentary lapse, or a brain cramp, or just plain bad luck.
And so today we’re going to take some time to celebrate the terrible goal. And by celebrate, of course, I mean rate, using an arbitrary scale I made up just now. We’re going to look at 10 of the worst goals from hockey history and rate them based on the following criteria:
Ugliness: Pretty self-explanatory. How bad did it look? And more importantly, how hard did you laugh?
Importance: When it comes to bad goals, the “when” can be every bit as important as the “how.” A bad goal in the second period of a meaningless game isn’t the same as one that happens in overtime or a Game 7.
Notoriety: For whatever reason, some awful goals are largely forgiven, while others stick to a goalie forever, like a bad rash.
We’ll rate the goals in each category before assigning a final overall score, which won’t be an actual average, because this is a nonscientific exercise and I’m basically pulling these numbers out of the air.
By the way, this isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list — I’m sure fans of every NHL team can remember a few stinkers that don’t appear below. I’ve also limited the list to goals that are available on YouTube,1 since having access to the visual evidence is most of the fun here.
Vesa Toskala’s 197-footer
You’re off the hook, Allan Bester.
Ugliness: 8.8/10. It would be just about impossible to give up a goal from any farther away than this masterpiece. You could argue that it’s a tougher play than it looks like — note the way announcer Joe Bowen’s voice betrays a rising sense of panic as the puck starts bouncing — and the last hop really is a crazy one when you see it from the behind-the-net angle. But in real time, this was unbelievably bad, and that’s how everyone remembers it.
Importance: 2.6/10. This was from an Islanders-Leafs regular-season game in March that the Leafs still ended up winning. It didn’t really matter.
Notoriety: 9.9/10. This has become the gold standard for awful goals, so much so that “Toskala” was trending across Canada immediately after Bernier’s gaffe Thursday. Toskala was awful in Toronto, and while you could argue that this goal isn’t even his worst — at least he didn’t direct it into his own net — it’s the one that will always come to mind when his name is mentioned.
Overall: 8.3/10. Like we said, this one has become the gold standard. But should it be? Let’s run through some other candidates.
Sebastien Caron Goes Full Toskala
Ugliness: 8.7/10. This is basically a carbon copy of Toskala’s effort (although if you want to get technical, this one actually came first). That bounce at the end is brutal — you can almost imagine Caron’s slow-motion “Noooo” as he slides helplessly in the wrong direction.
Importance: 2.3/10. This is a March game between the two worst teams in the conference. I’m pretty sure I’ve scored more important goals in NHL ’94.
Notoriety: 4.2/10. Maybe it’s just me, but I had no recollection of this happening until I started researching this post. Sorry to blow your cover, Sebastien.
Overall: 6.3/10. A fun side note: Caron was also on the ice for another awful goal that season; he was in the Penguins’ net when Maxime Talbot scored this monstrosity against Flyers goalie Antero Niittymaki. It was the first goal of Talbot’s career.
Tim Thomas Whiffs
Ugliness: 8.9/10. This is pretty comical — there’s no bad bounce, no equipment problem, no fluke distraction. Thomas just tries to sweep the puck, whiffs completely, and watches it trickle in through his legs.
Importance: 5.3/10. This was another regular-season game in March, and it didn’t mean much to the last-place Bruins. But the Devils were in a battle for the top spot in a tight Atlantic, and this win ended up making the difference between them finishing first and third.
Notoriety: 4.5/10. Thomas would do this every now and then — this 80-foot overtime winner against the Caps results in one of the great Losing Goalie Sprints of all time. But on the list of things Tim Thomas is notorious for, I’m not sure this goal cracks the top 10.
Overall: 6.8/10. Apparently, NHL goalies on bad teams have a real problem staying focused during games in March. Doesn’t anyone give up terrible goals on opening night anymore? Oh, wait …
Jonathan Quick’s Stick Flick
Ugliness: 9.1/10. This has almost all the distance of Toskala’s goal, and the puck isn’t even bouncing. It’s just a guy inexplicably losing his stick and then having no idea what to do.
Importance: 4.7/10. It wasn’t all that important, although it did come in the Kings’ home opener (and, as it would turn out, a Stanley Cup final preview).
Notoriety: 5.1/10. This was good for a laugh for a few days, but Quick is a good enough goalie that not many people other than Kings and Rangers fans remember it now.
Overall: 7.4/10. Bonus points for Quick’s reaction, as well as the classic Darryl Sutter face that follows. By the way, if this looked familiar, it’s because we’d seen essentially the same goal a decade ago.
Martin Brodeur Gets All Ducked Up
Ugliness: 9.2/10. It’s basically Quick’s goal, without the long-distance element but with an added degree of difficulty since the puck actually deflects off the sliding stick.
Importance: 9.1/10. I’m not sure there’s ever been a worse goal scored in Stanley Cup final history. Brodeur’s brain cramp came in Game 3, with the Devils leading the series 2-0 and having just tied the game seconds earlier. The Ducks ended up winning in overtime, clawing back into a series they’d eventually push all the way to a seventh game.
Notoriety: 6.5/10. The Devils did win the series, and that fact along with Brodeur’s sterling career résumé resulted in this one mostly being looked back on as a forgivable lapse.
Overall: 8.5/10. Bonus points for this one being called by the immortal tandem of Bob Cole and Harry Neale, and for “Even Betty Crocker burns the odd cake.” Also, what is it with the Ducks and goalies scoring on themselves during the Ffnal?
Patrick Roy’s Statue of Liberty
Ugliness: 8.5/10. This one isn’t so much ugly as it is stupid. Roy has just made a brilliant save on Steve Yzerman when he decides to put a little mustard on the hot dog. He waves his glove around, unaware that the puck has fallen out and is sliding through the crease, where Brendan Shanahan taps it in. (That tap-in may have saved Roy from an even more embarrassing result, since the puck might have had enough momentum to go in all on its own if nobody had touched it.)
Importance: 9.4/10. The goal came in the first period of Game 6 of a Western Conference final that the Avs were leading 3-2, and it stood up as the winner. The Wings evened the series, then won Game 7 in a 7-0 blowout. In hindsight, you could make a strong case that this goal went a long way to deciding the 2002 Stanley Cup champion.2
Also, note that there are seven Hall of Famers on the ice for this goal (and eight once Sergei Fedorov goes in).
Notoriety: 9.3/10. Weirdly, everyone remembers this goal even though you could argue that Roy deserved the same sort of mulligan Brodeur got. The big difference is that Brodeur’s bad goal was just a fluky misplay, while Roy’s was self-inflicted. For a guy who carried a reputation for being cocky, seeing him finally pay a price for his arrogance was apparently irresistible.
Overall: 9.1/10. I bet Jeremy Roenick watches this goal late at night while desperately trying to come up with a comeback to Roy’s legendary “rings in my ear” putdown.
Roman Turek Gets Handcuffed
Ugliness: 6.1/10. This one isn’t as silly as most of the others on our list. Owen Nolan could wire it, and he has a chance to really step into this one. But he’s still in the center ice faceoff circle when he lets it go, so Turek has to make the save.
Importance: 9.3/10. This ended up being the winning goal in a Game 7. Oh, and the Blues were that year’s Presidents’ Trophy winner, but thanks to this goal got knocked out by the 8-seeded Sharks. It was kind of a biggie.
Notoriety: 8.8/10. As much as any goal on this list, this one’s notoriety really depends on who’s doing the telling. Most fans remember it, although for some reason it never seemed to reach the same leaguewide level as some of history’s other terrible goals. But Blues fans absolutely do remember it, and they will get downright angry if you don’t include it in any discussion of the most crushing goals ever scored. It’s almost a source of pride for them.
Overall: 8.9/10. Seriously, I’m afraid Blues fans are going to surround my house for not ranking this one highly enough.
No Glove, No Love
Ugliness: 7.9/10. This one doesn’t seem so bad at first, since in real time it just look like Roman Cechmanek gets surprised by a quick shot from the corner. But the replay reveals what led to the goal: Cechmanek had dropped his glove and decided to bend down and get it during play.
Importance: 7.5/10. This one came in Game 6 of a playoff series. The Leafs ended up winning that game in overtime to extend the series, but the Flyers won Game 7 and bailed Cechmanek out a bit.
Notoriety: 8.1/10. Mention Cechmanek’s name to hockey fans and this is the first play that comes to mind for many. It’s a big part of the reason he’s remembered as some sort of bad goalie, which is unfortunate, since his career numbers were actually really good.
Overall: 7.8/10. By the way, what is it with guys named Roman?
Nicklas Lidstrom Beats Dan Cloutier
Ugliness: 7.7/10. Like the Nolan goal, this one has at least a small degree of difficulty to it, since Lidstrom’s a Hall of Famer and he gets to step into one at full speed. Still, it’s from center ice, and the puck doesn’t really seem to dip or flutter.
Importance: 9.0/10. This came in the first round of the 2002 playoffs. The Canucks were the underdog 8-seed, while the Red Wings were the powerhouse 1-seed. But Vancouver had stolen the first two games of the series on the road, and it had a chance to all but wrap up the series with a win. We’re tied 1-1 in the dying seconds of the second period when the goal happens. The goal stands up as the winner, the Wings go on to take the series in six, and they eventually win the Stanley Cup.
Notoriety: 9.5/10. Cloutier was 25 and in his first season with the Canucks, and his career was never really the same after this goal. He was pulled in each of the next two playoff games, had two more decent years as a starter, and then finished his career as a backup. This goal is probably his defining moment, which isn’t completely fair; the Canucks had already developed a reputation for getting killed by poor goaltending, so this was kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy (listen to the way all the air immediately goes out of the building). Needless to say, Canucks fans still aren’t over it.
Overall: 9.2/10. By the way, Cloutier eventually rejoined the Canucks as a goaltending consultant. I’ll let you fill in your own punch line.
Tommy Salo Uses His Head
Ugliness: 9.8/10. It’s one thing to get beat from center ice on a shot that dips under your glove or goes through your legs. It’s another thing entirely to take one right in the mask, then have the puck somehow bounce over you and into the net.
Importance: 9.9/10. This is from the 2002 Winter Olympics. Sweden is an international powerhouse, one of the favorites to win the gold medal. Belarus isn’t in its league and should have no chance at even staying competitive — we’re talking Miracle on Ice territory here. But the two teams are tied late in the third, and this goal with two minutes left ends up being the winner in one of the greatest upsets in hockey history.
Notoriety: 9.3/10. Salo never really recovered — his NHL numbers plummeted and he was out of the league within two years. To their credit, his Swedish teammates stood up for him, and he gets off the hook ever so slightly because Sweden did go on to win gold four years later. But to this day, any hockey fan who hears the name “Tommy Salo” will picture a guy doing a weird hop and then getting drilled right between the eyes.
Overall: 9.7/10. Sorry, Tommy. I’m pretty sure this holds up as the worst goal of all time.