Harman Patil (Editor)

2003–04 NHL season

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League  National Hockey League
Number of teams  30
Champion  Tampa Bay Lightning
Dates  8 Oct 2003 – 7 Jun 2004
Sport  Ice hockey
Presidents' Trophy  Detroit Red Wings
Top scorer  Martin St. Louis
Number of games  82
2003–04 NHL season wwwhockeydbcomihdbstatsprogramimgphpifbos
Duration  October 8, 2003 – June 7, 2004
Season MVP  Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning
Goals  Patrick Marleau, Patrik Eliáš, Richard Zedník, Martin St. Louis, Bobby Holík, Ilya Kovalchuk
Coaches  Ron Wilson, Pat Burns, Claude Julien, John Tortorella, Glen Sather, Tom Renney, Bob Hartley, Andy Murray
Similar  2005–06 NHL season, 2006–07 NHL season, 2004–05 NHL season, 1993–94 NHL season, 1992–93 NHL season

The 2003–04 NHL season was the 87th regular season of the National Hockey League. The Stanley Cup champions were the Tampa Bay Lightning, who won the best of seven series four games to three against the Calgary Flames.


For the fourth time in eight years, the all-time record for total shutouts in a season was shattered, as 192 shutouts were recorded. The 2003–04 regular season was also the first one (excluding the lockout-shortened 1994–95 season) since 1967–68 in which there was neither a 50-goal scorer, nor a 100-point scorer. This was the final season that ABC and ESPN televised NHL games. It was also the final NHL season before the 2004–05 NHL lockout, and the final season in which games could end in ties.

League business

The schedule of 82 games was revamped. The 30 teams played 82 games in a revamped format that increased divisional games from five to six per team (24 total), conference games from three to four (40 total), and decreased inter-conference games to at least one per team, with three extra games (18 in total).

The alternating of jerseys was changed. For the first season since the 1969–70 season, teams would now wear their colored jerseys at home and white jerseys away.

The Phoenix Coyotes moved to a new arena in Glendale, Arizona, after playing their first seven seasons at America West Arena.

Regular season

The 2003–04 season was one overhung by concern over the expiry of the NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement. It would lead to the cancellation of the League's games for the entirety of the next season. During the entire season, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL Players' Association (NHLPA) head Bob Goodenow waged a war of words with no agreement being signed.

On September 26, just before the season was to begin, young Atlanta Thrashers star Dany Heatley crashed his Ferrari in suburban Atlanta. The passenger, Thrashers teammate Dan Snyder, was killed. Heatley himself was badly injured and eventually charged with vehicular homicide.

Entering the season, the two Stanley Cup favorites were the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference, who had won the Presidents' Trophy and come within a win of the Stanley Cup Finals the year before, and the Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference, who, despite losing legendary goaltender Patrick Roy to retirement, added both Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya to an already star-studded lineup. Neither of these teams, however, were as successful as expected, with Ottawa finishing fifth in their conference and Colorado finishing fourth, losing the Northwest Division title for the first time in a decade when the franchise was still known as the Quebec Nordiques.

The greatest disappointments were the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, who, despite making it to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals the year prior and adding both Sergei Fedorov and Vaclav Prospal, failed to make the playoffs. The Los Angeles Kings failed to make the playoffs in large part due to a season-ending 11-game losing streak. In the East, the star-studded New York Rangers again failed to make the playoffs. The Washington Capitals, who were regarded as a contender, also stumbled early in the season and never recovered. The end of the season saw two of the most extensive housecleanings in League history, as the Rangers and Capitals traded away many of their stars and entered "rebuilding mode." The Capitals traded away Jaromir Jagr, Peter Bondra, Sergei Gonchar, Robert Lang and Anson Carter, while the Rangers moved Petr Nedved, Brian Leetch, Anson Carter and Alexei Kovalev to other NHL teams.

The most surprising teams were the Tampa Bay Lightning in the East and the San Jose Sharks in the West. The Lightning, who had a remarkable season with only 20 man-games lost to injury, finished atop the Eastern Conference, while the Sharks, who were firmly in rebuilding mode after a disastrous 28–37–9–8 campaign the last season, came second in the West and won the Pacific Division.

Two other teams that did better than expected were carried by surprising young goaltenders. The Calgary Flames ended a seven-year playoff drought backed by the solid play of Miikka Kiprusoff, and the Boston Bruins won the Northeast Division by a whisker over the Toronto Maple Leafs with the help of eventual Calder Memorial Trophy-winning goaltender Andrew Raycroft.

Goaltending was also the story of the Presidents' Trophy-winning Detroit Red Wings as the return from retirement of legend Dominik Hasek bumped Curtis Joseph to the minor leagues. At the same time, long-time back up Manny Legace recorded better numbers than both veterans and won the starting job in the playoffs.

Of note is the fact that the Nashville Predators made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, though they were dispatched by a star-studded Detroit Red Wings team in the first round.

The regular season ended controversially, when in March 2004, the Vancouver Canucks' Todd Bertuzzi infamously attacked and severely injured the Colorado Avalanche's Steve Moore, forcing the latter to eventually retire.

Final standings

Detroit Red Wings won the Presidents' Trophy and home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.

For rankings in conference, division leaders are automatically ranked 1–3. These three, plus the next five teams in the conference standings, earn playoff berths at the end of the season.

Eastern Conference

Note: CR = Conference rank; GP = Games played; W = Wins; L = Losses; T = Ties; OTL = Overtime loss; GF = Goals for; GA = Goals against; Pts = Points
         Bolded teams qualified for the playoffs.

Note: CR = Conference rank; GP = Games played; W = Wins; L = Losses; T = Ties; OTL = Overtime loss; GF = Goals for; GA = Goals against; Pts = Points
         Bolded teams qualified for the playoffs.

Note: CR = Conference rank; GP = Games played; W = Wins; L = Losses; T = Ties; OTL = Overtime loss; GF = Goals for; GA = Goals against; Pts = Points
         Bolded teams qualified for the playoffs.

Divisions: AT – Atlantic, NE – Northeast, SE – Southeast

Z- Clinched Conference; Y- Clinched Division; X- Clinched Playoff spot

Western Conference

Note: CR = Conference rank; GP = Games played; W = Wins; L = Losses; T = Ties; OTL = Overtime loss; GF = Goals for; GA = Goals against; Pts = Points
         Bolded teams qualified for the playoffs.

Note: CR = Conference rank; GP = Games played; W = Wins; L = Losses; T = Ties; OTL = Overtime loss; GF = Goals for; GA = Goals against; Pts = Points
         Bolded teams qualified for the playoffs.

Note: CR = Conference rank; GP = Games played; W = Wins; L = Losses; T = Ties; OTL = Overtime loss; GF = Goals for; GA = Goals against; Pts = Points
         Bolded teams qualified for the playoffs.

Divisions: CE – Central, PA – Pacific, NW – Northwest

P- Clinched Presidents Trophy; Y- Clinched Division; X- Clinched Playoff spot


Note: All dates in 2004.

The 2004 playoffs were considered to be wide open, with no clear favorite. All of the top teams had weaknesses. Tampa Bay and Boston were both young teams with no history of recent postseason success. Detroit, Ottawa, Colorado, and Philadelphia all had major questions in goal. New Jersey was marred by injuries to Scott Stevens and Brian Rafalski, while Vancouver was missing the suspended Todd Bertuzzi.

The first-round Eastern Conference matchups were notable for the number of heated rivalries. The Ottawa Senators met the Toronto Maple Leafs for the fourth time in five years in the always passion-filled Battle of Ontario. The Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens met in a resumption of the most common of all NHL playoff series, and one which the Canadiens have thoroughly dominated, including an upset win two years prior. The Philadelphia Flyers also played a hated division rival in the New Jersey Devils. The only non-rivalry was the Tampa Bay-New York Islanders series.

The West saw the resumption of the Vancouver-Calgary rivalry, which had been somewhat dormant as the Flames made the playoffs for the first time since 1996. In a less passionate but still interesting matchup, Detroit played division rival Nashville (whom they had struggled against during the regular season) in Nashville's first ever franchise visit to the playoffs. San Jose met the St. Louis Blues, while the always difficult four-five matchup saw Colorado and Dallas meet.

The Calgary Flames, a sixth seed, defeated the Canucks, the Red Wings and the Sharks to become the first Canadian team to reach the Stanley Cup Finals in ten years, since the Canucks lost to the Rangers in 1994. They faced the Tampa Bay Lightning, who defeated the Islanders in five, swept the Canadiens and defeated the Flyers in seven games.

Stanley Cup Finals

The Lightning beat the Flames in the Stanley Cup Finals, four games to three. With the Flames having a 3–2 series lead and the series going back to Calgary for Game 6, with the Stanley Cup in the building and with the game tied 2–2 in the third, Martin Gelinas of the Flames (who scored the series-winning goals in the Flames' three previous series) appeared to have scored the go-ahead goal. Gelinas redirected a pass towards the Tampa net using his skate that was kicked out by Lightning goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin. It appeared that before Khabibulin kicked the puck out, it had already crossed the goal line. The play was not reviewed. To this day, many Flames fans argue that the puck was in. The game eventually went into double overtime, where Lightning winger and former Flame Martin St. Louis scored the overtime winner. The Lightning went on to win Game 7 by a score of 2–1 and captured their first championship in franchise history. Brad Richards, with 12 goals and 26 points in the playoffs, won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

Playoff bracket

  • During the first three rounds home ice is determined by seeding number, not position on the bracket. In the Finals the team with the better regular season record has home ice.
  • Awards

    The NHL Awards presentation took place in Toronto.

    Scoring leaders

    Note: GP = Games played, G = Goals, A = Assists, Pts = Points

    Leading goaltenders

    Note: GP = Games played; Mins = Minutes played; W = Wins; L = Losses: OT = Overtime losses; GA = Goals allowed; SO = Shutouts; GAA = Goals against average


    The following is a list of players of note who played their first NHL game in 2003–04 (listed with their first team):

  • Chris Kunitz, Anaheim Mighty Ducks
  • Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
  • Jason Pominville, Buffalo Sabres
  • Derek Roy, Buffalo Sabres
  • Eric Staal, Carolina Hurricanes
  • Travis Moen, Chicago Blackhawks
  • Tuomo Ruutu, Chicago Blackhawks
  • Nikolai Zherdev, Columbus Blue Jackets
  • Niklas Kronwall, Detroit Red Wings
  • Dustin Brown, Los Angeles Kings
  • Brent Burns, Minnesota Wild
  • Marek Zidlicky, Nashville Predators
  • Dominic Moore, New York Rangers
  • Fedor Tyutin, New York Rangers
  • Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins
  • Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks
  • Alexander Semin, Washington Capitals
  • Last games

    The following is a list of players of note who played their last NHL game in 2003-04, listed with their team:


    2003–04 NHL season Wikipedia