Today in Hockey History: Aug. 17

Aug. 17 is a sad date for New York hockey fans as an era came to an end in 1992. There were also plenty of moves on this date, including one player announcing his retirement and another coming out of his to get back on the ice. The THW time machine is warmed up and ready to take back through the decades to relive all the best this date has to offer.

A Change on Long Island

Bill Torrey was the first employee ever hired by the New York lslanders back in 1972 when he was brought in to be the team’s general manager. He was responsible for building the dynasty that won four straight Stanley Cups between 1980 and 1983. He selected goaltender Billy Smith in the Expansion Draft. He traded a pair of popular veterans, Billy Harris and Dave Lewis, to the Los Angeles Kings for Butch Goring. He also drafted Hall of Famers Mike Bossy, Clark Gillies, Denis Potvin, and Bryan Trottier.

Bill Torrey
Torrey was the mastermind behind four Stanley Cup wins.
(Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

His 20 years with the team ended on Aug. 17, 1992, when the new ownership group wanted to change direction and forced Torrey to resign. He was replaced by 34-year-old Don Maloney, who was hired as assistant general after he retired from playing in 1991. He held the role until 1995 before working for the New York Rangers and eventually serving as general manager of the Phoenix/Arizona Coyotes for nine years.

A Pair of Moves in ’83

On Aug. 17, 1983, the Minnesota North Stars signed free agent Dirk Graham. The Vancouver Canucks drafted Graham in the fifth round of the 1979 NHL Entry Draft. After toiling in the minor leagues for three seasons, he finally made his NHL debut with the North Stars in 1984. He finally earned a full-time NHL roster spot during the 1985-86 season. He scored at least 22 goals over the next three seasons in Minnesota.

Graham was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks for Curt Fraser on Jan. 4, 1988. He was named captain prior to the 1988-89 season, becoming the first black player to wear a “C” on his sweater. He scored a career-high 33 goals and 78 points that season. He retired in 1995 after scoring 219 goals and 489 points in 772 career NHL games. He served as head coach of the Blackhawks for 59 games during the 1998-99 season. Graham is currently a scout for the San Jose Sharks.

Latest News & Highlight

Also, on this date, the St. Louis Blues named Jacques Demers their new head coach. Emilie Francis and Barclay Plager served as head coach during the 1982-83 season. This was Demer’s second NHL head coaching job after coaching the Quebec Nordiques during the 1979-80 season. He spent three seasons behind the Blues’ bench and made the playoffs in each one. He was let go following a Game 7 loss in the 1986 Campbell Conference Final.

Demers bounced around the league until 1999. He coached 1,007 games with the Nordiques, Blues, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, and Tampa Bay Lightning. He won two Jack Adams Awards for being voted the best coach in the league, with the Red Wings. In his first season in Montreal, he led the Canadiens to the 1993 Stanley Cup.

Odds & Ends

Goaltender Reggie Lemelin signed his first NHL contract on Aug. 17, 1979. He inked a deal with the Atlanta Flames after playing for the Philadelphia Firebirds in the American Hockey League (AHL). Lemelin played in nine seasons with the Flames, the final two in Atlanta, and the first seven after the franchise relocated to Calgary. His best season came in 1984-85 when he won 30 games.

The Red Wings acquired defenseman Marc Bergevin, on Aug. 17, 1995, from the Tampa Bay Lightning, in exchange for forward Shawn Burr and a third-round draft pick. Bergevin played in 70 games during the 1995-96 season, his only one in Detroit. He signed with the Blues the following offseason.

On Aug. 17, 1998, Flames assistant coach Steve Smith announced he was coming out of retirement to join the team as an active player. The veteran defenseman retired following the 1996-97 season after 702 games with the Edmonton Oilers and Blackhawks. He played 69 games for the Flames during the 1998-99 season. He dressed for another 33 games over the next two seasons before a neck injury forced him to retire for good on Dec. 7, 2000.

Speaking of retirements, Daniel Briere announced his on Aug. 17, 2015. He was originally drafted by the Coyotes in the first round (24th overall) of the 1996 NHL Entry Draft. He split his first four professional seasons between the Coyotes and the Springfield Thunderbirds in the American Hockey League (AHL). He finally broke out with 32 goals during the 2001-02 season. This started a streak of six straight seasons of at least 24 goals.

Daniel Briere Pheonix Coyotes
Briere broke into the league with the Coyotes.
(Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images)

Briere scored 307 goals and 696 points in 973 regular-season games with the Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres, Philadelphia Flyers, Canadiens, and Colorado Avalanche. He excelled during the Stanley Cup playoffs, scoring 53 goals and 116 points in 124 postseason games. He scored 12 goals and 30 points in 23 games, helping the Flyers reach the 2010 Stanley Cup Final before losing to the Blackhawks. He is currently the general manager of the Flyers.

On Aug. 17, 2021, the NHL’s Board of Governors approved the use of ads on jerseys beginning in 2022-23. The ads would be 3×3.5 inches in size and occupy only a small area of the uniform – unlike the European leagues which see them take over almost the entire thing. This will accompany the already-implemented helmet ads which came into existence in 2020-21.

Happy Birthday to You

A total of 22 players born on Aug. 17 have played at least one game in the NHL. The first was Georges Boucher in 1896, with the most recent being Coyotes defenseman Dysin Mayo in 1996.

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Boucher is the lone Hockey Hal of Famer of the group. He was a key member of the original Ottawa Senators franchise that won four Stanley Cups in the 1920s. He began his career as a forward before switching to defense. He also played for the Montreal Maroons before one final season with the Blackhawks. He retired in 1932 with 118 goals and 205 points in 450 NHL games over 15 seasons. In 1960, he joined his brother Frank in the Hall of Fame.

Pete Peeters was born on Aug. 17, 1957. He was one of the most successful goaltenders of the 1980s. He went 29-5-5 during the 1979-80 season for the Flyers and helped them reach the Stanley Cup Final.

He won the Vezina Trophy with the Boston Bruins for winning 40 games with a .903 save percentage (SV%), 2.37 goals-against average (GAA), and eight shutouts during the 1982-83 season. He retired in 1991 with a 246-155-51 record, a .886 SV%, 3.09 GAA, and 21 shutouts.

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney was born on this date in 1966. The steady defenseman played 1,115 games for the Bruins and Dallas Stars before becoming a well-respected executive.

Don Sweeney Bruins
Happy Birthday, Don Sweeney!
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

David Legwand, who turns 43 today, played in the most games of this group, dressing in 1,136 contests for the Nashville Predators, Red Wings, Senators, and Sabres. He also is the highest scorer with 228 goals, 390 assists, and 618 total points.

Rob Garner, born on Aug. 17, 1956, played in the fewest games; just one for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1983.

Other notable birthdays today include Jamie Macoun (62), Nelson Emerson (56), Eric Boulton (47), Troy Brouwer (38), and the late Chico Maki.

*Originally constructed by Greg Boysen

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