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The 2002–03 NHL season was the 86th regular season of the National Hockey League. Thirty teams each played 82 games. The Stanley Cup winners were the New Jersey Devils, who won the best of seven series 4–3 against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. This was the last season before the NHL switched home and away jerseys.

Regular season

As always the regular season saw several surprises. The San Jose Sharks, who many felt would be one of the elite teams in the West, stumbled early and badly and disassembled much of the team. The two-year-old Minnesota Wild, on the other hand, got out to an early start and held onto their first-ever playoff berth throughout the season, winning coach Jacques Lemaire the Jack Adams Award.

The elite teams of previous years such as the Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche and New Jersey Devils, were joined by two younger Canadian teams, the Ottawa Senators and Vancouver Canucks. The Dallas Stars, which had missed the playoffs the year before, returned as a major power, backed by the record-setting goaltending of Marty Turco.

The most surprising team was probably the Tampa Bay Lightning, which many had predicted to finish last, contesting for the Southeast Division title and making the playoffs for the first time in seven years. The most disappointing teams, other than the Sharks, were the New York Rangers, who finished out of the playoffs again despite bearing the league's leading payroll, and the Carolina Hurricanes, who finished last overall after a surprise run to the Stanley Cup Final the year before. On January 8, 2003, Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Michael Leighton gained a shutout in his NHL debut in a 0-0 tie versus the Phoenix Coyotes. Coyotes goaltender Zac Bierk earned his first career shutout, although it was not his NHL debut. It was the first time that two goalies in the same game both earned their first career shutouts.

At the midpoint of the season the Canucks lead the Western Conference, and Ottawa lead the East. Vancouver stumbled somewhat over the stretch and lost the Northwest Division title to Colorado and the Western Conference one to Dallas. Ottawa continued to dominate, having the best season in franchise history and winning both the Eastern Conference and the Presidents' Trophy.

The season was also marred by financial difficulties. Despite their success the Ottawa Senators were in bankruptcy protection for almost all of 2003, and at one point could not pay the players. Owner Rod Bryden tried a variety of innovative financing strategies, but these all failed and the team was purchased after the season by billionaire Eugene Melnyk. The Buffalo Sabres also entered bankruptcy protection before being bought by New York businessman Tom Golisano. The financial struggles of the Pittsburgh Penguins continued as the team continued to unload its most expensive players.

The season was marked by a great number of coaches being fired, from Bob Hartley in Colorado to Darryl Sutter in San Jose and Bryan Trottier of the New York Rangers.

Worries over the decline in scoring and the neutral zone trap continued. The season began with an attempted crack down on obstruction and interference, but by the midpoint of the season this effort had petered out.

Final standings

Note: W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, OTL = Overtime Losses, GF = Goals For, GA = Goals Against, Pts = Points

Eastern Conference

Western Conference


Scoring leaders

Note: GP = Games Played, G = Goals, A = Assists, Pts = Points
Player Team GP G A Pts
Peter Forsberg Colorado 75 29 77 106
Markus Naslund Vancouver 82 48 56 104
Joe Thornton Boston 77 36 65 101
Milan Hejduk Colorado 82 50 48 98
Todd Bertuzzi Vancouver 82 46 51 97
Pavol Demitra St. Louis 78 36 57 93
Glen Murray Boston 82 44 48 92
Mario Lemieux Pittsburgh 67 28 63 91
Dany Heatley Atlanta 77 41 48 89
Zigmund Palffy Los Angeles 76 37 48 85
Mike Modano Dallas 79 28 57 85



Note: All dates in 2003.

The Stanley Cup playoffs was one of shocking upsets in the Western Conference and hard fought battles in the Eastern Conference.

The most closely watched series in the first round was that between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Philadelphia Flyers. Two teams built around physical play with high salary and front-page trade deadline acquisitions. The series did not disappoint and the Flyers ousted the Leafs in seven games. The Senators easily dispatched the New York Islanders, who had traded away their starting goaltender (Chris Osgood) before the playoffs. Despite losing the first two games, Tampa Bay rallied and defeated their division rival the Washington Capitals. New Jersey easily defeated the Boston Bruins, effectively shutting down star player Joe Thornton.

In the west, the first round was one of unmitigated shock to all hockey watchers. The defending champions and perennial cup favourite Detroit Red Wings were swept by the underdog Mighty Ducks of Anaheim behind the goaltending of Jean-Sebastien Giguere. After losing three out of the first four games, the Minnesota Wild came back and defeated the powerhouse Colorado Avalanche in game seven. Vancouver also lost three of its first four games with the St. Louis Blues, but then rallied and won game seven. The only round that surprised no one was round seven of the Dallas Stars-Edmonton Oilers grudge match that saw the first place Stars oust the Oilers with only some difficulty.

The second round in the west brought more upsets. The Minnesota Wild again fell 3–1 behind while playing Vancouver, but rallied and defeated them in seven games. Giguère's stellar goaltending continued to triumph as the Ducks ousted the Stars in six games. The Western Conference final was a meeting of two dark horse teams, but the superb goaltending of Giguère and the Ducks triumphed over the tight checking of the Minnesota Wild. This was the first time since 1994 that a team other than Detroit, Colorado, or Dallas had won the Western conference and earned a trip to the Stanley Cup Final. These playoffs also signaled an end to the dominance of the afore mentioned three teams and shift the balance of power in the Western conference towards teams like Anaheim and San Jose. Of Detroit, Colorado, and Dallas only Detroit has returned to the Stanley Cup Final since, winning the Stanley Cup in 2008 and losing the Final to Pittsburgh in 2009.

The east was far more predictable as Tampa Bay's youth showed when playing the grizzled veterans of the New Jersey Devils and the Ottawa Senators dispatched a tired Flyers team for the second year in a row. The Eastern Conference finals were a contrast of styles between the offensively explosive Senators and the defense minded Devils. The Devils came out to an early lead in the series, Ottawa rallied, winning games five and six on the energizing play of rookie Jason Spezza, but then the Devils regained their form as goaltender Martin Brodeur helped them win game seven and advance to the Stanley Cup final for the third time in four years.

The Stanley Cup Final was a duel between two elite goaltenders, but after seven games the Devils triumphed to win their third Cup in seven years. The series also saw Scott Stevens land one of his prototypical crushing hits on Anaheim captain Paul Kariya, similar to the one that had knocked out Eric Lindros, then of the Flyers in the 2000 Playoffs. Unlike Lindros, Kariya returned to the game only ten minutes later and scored.

Playoff bracket

Conference Quarter-finals

Eastern Conference Quarter-finals

Ottawa vs. NY Islanders
Date Away Home
April 9 NY Islanders 3 0 Ottawa
April 12 NY Islanders 0 3 Ottawa
April 14 Ottawa 3 2 NY Islanders 2OT
April 16 Ottawa 3 NY Islanders 1
April 17 NY Islanders 1 3 Ottawa
Ottawa wins series 4–1
New Jersey vs. Boston
Date Away Home
April 9 Boston 1 2 New Jersey
April 11 Boston 2 4 New Jersey
April 13 New Jersey 3 0 Boston
April 15 New Jersey 1 5 Boston
April 17 Boston 0 3 New Jersey
New Jersey wins series 4–1
Tampa Bay vs. Washington
Date Away Home
April 10 Washington 3 0 Tampa Bay
April 12 Washington 6 3 Tampa Bay
April 15 Tampa Bay 4 3 Washington OT
April 16 Tampa Bay 3 1 Washington
April 18 Washington 1 2 Tampa Bay
April 20 Tampa Bay 2 1 Washington 3OT
Tampa Bay wins series 4–2
Philadelphia vs. Toronto
Date Away Home
April 9 Toronto 5 3 Philadelphia
April 11 Toronto 1 4 Philadelphia
April 14 Philadelphia 3 4 Toronto 2OT
April 16 Philadelphia 3 2 Toronto 3OT1
April 19 Toronto 1 4 Philadelphia
April 21 Philadelphia 1 2 Toronto 2OT
April 22 Toronto 1 6 Philadelphia
Philadelphia wins series 4–3
1As of 2008, this playoff game is the 19th longest NHL overtime game ever. 53 minutes and 34 seconds of overtime were played before Mark Recchi scored the game-winning goal.

Western Conference Quarter-finals

Dallas vs. Edmonton
Date Away Home
April 9 Edmonton 2 1 Dallas
April 12 Edmonton 1 6 Dallas
April 13 Dallas 2 3 Edmonton
April 15 Dallas 3 1 Edmonton
April 17 Edmonton 2 5 Dallas
April 19 Dallas 3 2 Edmonton
Dallas wins series 4–2
Detroit vs. Anaheim
Date Away Home
April 10 Anaheim 2 1 Detroit 3OT
April 12 Anaheim 3 2 Detroit
April 14 Detroit 1 2 Anaheim
April 16 Detroit 2 3 Anaheim OT
Anaheim wins series 4–0
Colorado vs. Minnesota
Date Away Home
April 10 Minnesota 4 2 Colorado
April 12 Minnesota 2 3 Colorado
April 14 Colorado 3 0 Minnesota
April 16 Colorado 3 1 Minnesota
April 19 Minnesota 3 2 Colorado
April 21 Colorado 2 3 Minnesota OT
April 22 Minnesota 3 2 Colorado OT
Minnesota wins series 4–3
Vancouver vs. St. Louis
Date Away Home
April 10 St. Louis 6 0 Vancouver
April 12 St. Louis 1 2 Vancouver
April 14 Vancouver 1 3 St. Louis
April 16 Vancouver 1 4 St. Louis
April 18 St. Louis 3 5 Vancouver
April 20 Vancouver 4 3 St. Louis
April 22 St. Louis 1 4 Vancouver
Vancouver wins series 4–3

Conference Semi-finals

Eastern Conference Semi-finals

Ottawa vs. Philadelphia
Date Away Home
April 25 Philadelphia 2 4 Ottawa
April 27 Philadelphia 2 0 Ottawa
April 29 Ottawa 3 2 Philadelphia OT
May 1 Ottawa 0 1 Philadelphia
May 3 Philadelphia 2 5 Ottawa
May 5 Ottawa 5 1 Philadelphia
Ottawa wins series 4–2
New Jersey vs. Tampa Bay
Date Away Home
April 24 Tampa Bay 0 3 New Jersey
April 26 Tampa Bay 2 3 New Jersey OT
April 28 New Jersey 3 4 Tampa Bay
April 30 New Jersey 3 1 Tampa Bay
May 2 Tampa Bay 1 2 New Jersey 3OT
New Jersey wins series 4–1

Western Conference Semi-finals

Dallas vs. Anaheim
Date Away Home
April 24 Anaheim 4 3 Dallas 5OT2
April 26 Anaheim 3 2 Dallas OT
April 28 Dallas 2 1 Anaheim
April 30 Dallas 0 1 Anaheim
May 3 Anaheim 1 4 Dallas
May 5 Dallas 3 4 Anaheim
Anaheim wins series 4–2
Vancouver vs. Minnesota
Date Away Home
April 25 Minnesota 3 4 Vancouver OT
April 27 Minnesota 3 2 Vancouver
April 29 Vancouver 3 2 Minnesota
May 2 Vancouver 3 2 Minnesota OT
May 5 Minnesota 7 2 Vancouver
May 7 Vancouver 1 5 Minnesota
May 8 Minnesota 4 2 Vancouver
Minnesota wins series 4–3
2As of 2006, this playoff game is the fourth longest NHL overtime game. 80 minutes and 48 seconds of overtime were played before Petr Sykora scored the game-winning goal.

Conference Finals

Eastern Conference
Ottawa vs. New Jersey
Date Away Home
May 10 New Jersey 2 3 Ottawa OT
May 13 New Jersey 4 1 Ottawa
May 15 Ottawa 0 1 New Jersey
May 17 Ottawa 2 5 New Jersey
May 19 New Jersey 1 3 Ottawa
May 21 Ottawa 2 1 New Jersey OT
May 23 New Jersey 3 2 Ottawa
New Jersey wins series 4–3

and Prince of Wales Trophy
Western Conference
Anaheim vs. Minnesota
Date Away Home
May 10 Anaheim 1 0 Minnesota 2OT
May 12 Anaheim 2 0 Minnesota
May 14 Minnesota 0 4 Anaheim
May 16 Minnesota 1 2 Anaheim
Anaheim wins series 4–0 and

Clarence S.
Campbell Bowl


Anaheim vs. New Jersey
Date Away Home
May 27 Anaheim 0 3 New Jersey
May 29 Anaheim 0 3 New Jersey
May 31 New Jersey 2 3 Anaheim OT
June 2 New Jersey 0 1 Anaheim OT
June 5 Anaheim 3 6 New Jersey
June 7 New Jersey 2 5 Anaheim
June 9 Anaheim 0 3 New Jersey
New Jersey wins series

4–3 and Stanley Cup
J. S. Giguere (Anaheim)

wins Conn Smythe Trophy

Scoring leaders

Note: GP = Games Played, G = Goals, A = Assists, Pts = Points
Player Team GP G A Pts
Jamie Langenbrunner New Jersey Devils 24 11 7 18
Scott Niedermayer New Jersey Devils 24 2 16 18
Marian Gaborik Minnesota Wild 18 9 8 17
John Madden New Jersey Devils 24 6 10 16
Marian Hossa Ottawa Senators 18 5 11 16
Mike Modano Dallas Stars 12 5 10 15
Jeff Friesen New Jersey Devils 24 10 4 14
Markus Naslund Vancouver Canucks 14 5 9 14
Sergei Zubov Dallas Stars 12 4 10 14
Andrew Brunette Minnesota Wild 18 7 6 13
Wes Walz Minnesota Wild 18 7 6 13

NHL awards

The NHL Awards presentation took place in Torontomarker.
Presidents' Trophy: Ottawa Senators
Prince of Wales Trophy: New Jersey Devils
Clarence S. Campbell Bowl: Mighty Ducks of Anaheim
Art Ross Trophy: Peter Forsberg, Colorado Avalanche
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy: Steve Yzerman, Detroit Red Wings
Calder Memorial Trophy: Barret Jackman, St. Louis Blues
Conn Smythe Trophy: Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim
Frank J. Selke Trophy: Jere Lehtinen, Dallas Stars
Hart Memorial Trophy: Peter Forsberg, Colorado Avalanche
Jack Adams Award: Jacques Lemaire, Minnesota Wild
James Norris Memorial Trophy: Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings
King Clancy Memorial Trophy: Brendan Shanahan, Detroit Red Wings
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy: Alexander Mogilny, Toronto Maple Leafs
Lester B. Pearson Award: Markus Naslund, Vancouver Canucks
Lester Patrick Trophy: Willie O'Ree, Raymond Bourque, Ron DeGregorio
Maurice 'Rocket' Richard Trophy: Milan Hejduk, Colorado Avalanche
NHL Plus/Minus Award: Peter Forsberg & Milan Hejduk, Colorado Avalanche
Roger Crozier Saving Grace Award: Marty Turco, Dallas Stars
Vezina Trophy: Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils
William M. Jennings Trophy: Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils;

Roman Cechmanek & Robert Esche, Philadelphia Flyers

All-Star teams

First team   Position   Second team
Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils G Marty Turco, Dallas Stars
Al MacInnis, St. Louis Blues D Sergei Gonchar, Washington Capitals
Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings D Derian Hatcher, Dallas Stars
Peter Forsberg, Colorado Avalanche C Joe Thornton, Boston Bruins
Todd Bertuzzi, Vancouver Canucks RW Milan Hejduk, Colorado Avalanche
Markus Naslund, Vancouver Canucks LW Paul Kariya, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim


The following is a list of players of note who played their first NHL game in 2002–03 (listed with their first team):

Last games

The following is a list of players of note that played their last game in the NHL in 2002–03 (listed with their last team):

2003 trade deadline

Trading deadline: March 11, 2003.Here is a list of major trades for the 2002-03 NHL trade deadline:

For complete list, see NHL trade deadline.

See also


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