Today in Hockey History: Aug. 15

Aug. 15 has been a very interesting day in National Hockey League history. This date has seen a pair of successful coaches find new jobs. Also, a current franchise filed its expansion application, and even a team owner was convicted of nearly 50 criminal charges. The THW time machine is warmed up and ready to take us back in time to relive all the memories.

Neilson Lands in New York

On Aug. 15, 1989, the New York Rangers named Roger Neilson as their new head coach, replacing Phil Esposito, who coached the final two games of the previous season. This was his fifth coaching job in his NHL career, and he was the 25th head coach in franchise history.

Neilson led the Rangers to their first division title since 1942 in his first season behind the bench. After beating the New York Islanders in the first round of the playoffs, they lose to the Washington Capitals in five games.

Roger Neilson Toronto Maple Leafs
Neilson was one of the most innovative coaches in league history.
(Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)

After missing the Stanley Cup playoffs in 1991, Neilson led the Rangers to 50 wins during the 1991-92 season and the Presidents’ Trophy for having the most points in the league. They beat the New Jersey Devils in a grueling seven-game first-round series. The successful season ended in the second round by losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games. The Penguins went on to win their second straight Stanley Cup.

Despite having a winning record, at 19-17-4, Neilson is fired 40 games into the 1992-93 season and replaced by Ron Smith. He didn’t remain unemployed very long as he was hired as the first head coach in Florida Panthers history.

Vigneault Joins New Organization

The Vancouver Canucks hired Alain Vigneault on Aug. 15, 2005, to be the head coach of the Manitoba Moose, their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate. Vigneault coached the Montreal Canadiens between 1997 and 2000 before joining the Canucks organization.

Vigneault led a Moose team that featured Mike Keane, Alex Burrows, and Kevin Bieksa to a 44-24-12 record before losing in the second round of the playoffs. His time in Manitoba doesn’t last long as he was promoted to the NHL that offseason after the Canucks let go of head coach Marc Crawford.

Alain Vigneault
Vigneault is the most successful head coach in Canucks history.
(Photo: Icon SMI)

He remained behind the bench in Vancouver through the 2012-13 season. He amassed 313 wins over his seven seasons, the most in Canucks franchise history. He took the Canucks to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final after leading them to the Presidents’ Trophy but lost to the Boston Bruins in seven games.

Odds & Ends

On Aug. 15, 1972, Toronto Maple Leafs and Maple Leafs Garden owner Harold Ballard is convicted on 47 criminal charges, including fraud, theft, and tax evasion. He was eventually sentenced to nine years in prison but is paroled in October of 1973. His son Bill ran the Maple Leaf Gardens while he was in prison.

Related – Do You Know Your Maple Leafs Trivia?

The Minnesota North Stars acquired center Tim Young, on Aug. 15, 1975, from the Los Angeles Kings for a second-round pick in the 1976 NHL Amateur Draft. Young debuted the following fall and played eight seasons for the North Stars. He had a career-high 66 assists and 95 points during the 1976-77 season and set his high-water mark for goals, with 31, in 1979-80.

Young scored 178 goals and 494 points in 565 games in Minnesota. He was traded to the Winnipeg Jets prior to the 1983-84 season. The Kings used the draft pick in 1976 to select left wing Steve Clippingdale. He scored just one goal and three points in 16 career games for the Kings.

The Islanders signed Swedish forward Anders Kallur on Aug. 15, 1979. He won the Guldpucken as the most valuable player of the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) for the 1978-79 season.

He scored 101 goals and 211 points over his six seasons with the Islanders. He was a part of four straight championships between 1980 and 1983. The 1980 Islanders team was the first to win the Stanley Cup with European-born players on the roster. Fellow Swedes Bob Nystrom and Stefan Persson were also members of that squad.

The Boston Bruins signed veteran free-agent defenseman Guy Lapointe on Aug. 15, 1983. He played the previous season for the St. Louis Blues. Before that, he spent 14 seasons with the Montreal Canadiens, winning five Stanley Cups during the 1970s. He played 45 games for the Bruins in his final NHL season.

On Aug. 15, 1990, the Ottawa Senators submitted their application to the NHL for an expansion franchise. Ottawa was awarded a new franchise in December, and they, along with the Tampa Bay Lightning, began play at the start of the 1992-93 season.

The San Jose Sharks signed Tony Granto on Aug. 15, 1996, after spending the previous seven seasons with the Kings. He played the next five seasons with the Sharks before retiring in 2001. He scored 57 goals and 99 points in 278 games in San Jose.

The Chicago Blackhawks signed free agent Theo Fleury on Aug. 15, 2002, to a two-year, $8.5 million contract. This came after the Rangers declined to pick up his contract option.

He did not make his debut with the team until December due to being suspended for violating the league’s substance abuse program. He only played in 54 games, scoring 12 goals and 33 points. He was suspended a second time during the season for an off-ice incident. He was suspended for another substance abuse program violation after the season and never played in the league again.

Happy Birthday to You

A total of 24 players born on Aug. 15 have skated in at least one NHL game. The first was Fred Doherty, born on this date in 1887, who played two games for the Canadiens in 1919. The most recent Aug. 15 came in 2000 with Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Adam Boqvist.

Craig MacTavish, born on Aug. 15, 1958, played in the most games out of this group. He appeared in 1,093 contests over 17 seasons. During his career, he won four Stanley Cups; three with the Edmonton Oilers and one with the Rangers. He might be most remembered for being the last player in the NHL not to wear a helmet.

Craig MacTavish
MacTavish played 17 NHL seasons before moving up to the front office.
(THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)

Ivan Boldriev is the highest scorer of the Aug. 15 birthday boys. Born in 1949, he scored 361 goals and 866 points in 1,052 games with the Boston Bruins, California Golden Seals, Blackhawks, Atlanta Flames, Canucks, and Detroit Red Wings between 1970 and 1985.

Other notable players born on this date include Peter Taglianetti (58), Greg Adams (58), James Black (52), Brendan Morrison (46), Martin Biron (44), Jakub Voracek (32), Teddy Blueger (27), and Oskar Lindblom (25).


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