Today in Hockey History: Aug. 14

Some big names in the history of the National Hockey League’s “Original 6” franchise made news on this date through the years. Plus, one of the best defensemen of this generation is celebrating a birthday.

Taffy to the Big Apple

The New York Rangers signed defenseman Clarence Abel on Aug. 14, 1926. The Sault Ste. Marie, MI native earned a regular spot in the Rangers’ lineup during the 1926-27 season, becoming the first American-born player to do so in NHL history. Abel, known to his teammates as “Taffy,” set the standard for large defensemen, at 6-foot-1 and 225 pounds.

He was part of the Rangers’ Stanley Cup win in 1928. Right after the 1928-29 season concluded, his contract was purchased by the Chicago Blackhawks for $15,000. Abel spent the next five seasons in Chicago and won a second championship in 1934. He retired after helping the Blackhawks to their first-ever Stanley Cup, playing in 333 NHL games.

Newsworthy Day in Toronto

George Armstrong is adored in Toronto. He spent all 21 of his NHL seasons with the Maple Leafs, scoring 296 goals and 713 points in 1,188 games. He was named head coach 33 games into 1988-89 season, replacing Jim Brophy. Armstrong was fired on Aug. 14, 1989, after going 17-26-4 in his only stint as an NHL head coach. The Maple Leafs named Doug Carpenter as his replacement a few days later.

George Armstrong
Armstrong’s coaching career was not as successful as his playing career.
(THW Archives)

On Aug. 14, 2009, former team captain Ted Kennedy passed away at the age of 83. He played 14 seasons with the Maple Leafs and wore the “C” on his sweater between 1948 and 1995. He helped the Maple Leafs to four straight Stanley Cup wins between 1945 and 1949. He led all players in 1948 playoffs with eight goals and 14 points. He was part of a fifth championship in 1951 as well. In his final full season, 1953-54, he won the Hart Trophy for being voted as the NHL’s most valuable player.

Odds & Ends

Aug. 14, 1996, was a busy day across the NHL. The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim signed free-agent forward Jari Kurri. He split the previous season with the Los Angeles Kings and Rangers. He played in all 82 games for the Ducks during the 1996-97 season. However, he scored just 13 goals and 35 points, the lowest-scoring season of his career, at that time. Kurri played one final season with the Colorado Avalanche before retiring in 1998 as the NHL’s highest-scoring left wing in history.

Also, on this date, the Ottawa Senators inked veteran goaltender Ron Tugnutt to a new deal. He spent the previous season as the backup for the Montreal Canadiens. Tugnutt took on a bigger role with the Senators. He played in 166 games over the next four seasons, going 72-51-25 with a .906 save percentage (SV%), 2.32 goals-against average (GAA) and 13 shutouts. He was eventually traded, in 2000, to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Tom Barrasso.

The New York Islanders closed out the busy day by signing forward Claude Lapointe. He spent the next seven seasons with the Islanders, scoring 76 goals and 171 points in 535 games. His time on Long Island came to an end in 2003 when he was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers for a fifth-round draft pick.

On August 14, 1997, the Flyers signed free-agent center Chris Gratton. He was originally drafted third overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning at the 1993 NHL Entry Draft, behind Alexandre Daigle (Senators) and Chris Pronger (Hartford Whalers). Gratton was coming off the first and only 30-goal season of his career. He scored 22 goals and 62 points during the 1997-98 season. Midway through the following season, he was traded back to the Lightning, with Mike Sillinger, for Mikael Renberg and Daymond Langkow.

Happy Birthday to You

Appropriately, there have been 14 current and former NHL players born on Aug. 14. The first was Ron Boehm, born in 1943, who played in 16 games for the Oakland Seals during the 1967-68 season. The most recent Aug. 14 birthday was Colorado Avalanche forward Logan O’Connor in 1996.

Shea Weber is, by far the best player of this group, who was born on Aug. 14, 1985. He has scored 218 goals and 570 points in 990 career games with the Nashville Predators and Canadiens. He was originally drafted by Predators in the second round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. He becomes a star in Nashville with his defense and his blistering slap shot. Weber was traded to Montreal for fellow All-Star defenseman P.K. Subban on June 29, 2016.

Shea Weber Montreal Canadiens
Weber wears the “C” in Montreal.
(Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Other notable players born on this date include Nolan Pratt (45), Brett McLean (42), Adam Hall (40), Kyle Turris (31), John Klingberg (28) and Carter Verhaeghe (25).