On this date, in 1972, the greatest single class in the history of the Hockey Hall of Fame was inducted. Also, National Hockey League history was made when a part of brothers defected from Europe and became NHL stars.
An Elite Class is Inducted
The Hockey Hall of Fame is full of the greatest players and most legendary figures of the sport. There have been some memorable induction classes throughout the decades, but it is hard to argue that the one in 1972 was the greatest of them all.
On Aug. 24, 1972, the Hall opened its doors to Gordie Howe, Jean Beliveau, Bernie Geoffrion, Hooley Smith and longtime Boston Bruins executive Weston Adams. This foursome of players combined for 1,901 goals, 4,317 points and 22 Stanley Cup wins.
Howe and Beliveau were at the top of the list. Their careers were so outstanding that the Hall of Fame waived its mandatory three-year waiting period for induction as both were added just a couple of months after they retired.
At the time of his retirement, Howe was the NHL’s all-time leading scorer with 786 goals and 1,809 points. He did not stay in retirement for very long. He returned to the ice in 1973 with the Houston Aeros of the new World Hockey Association (WHA). When the WHA folded in 1979 and the Hartford Whalers were among the teams who joined the NHL, Howe was back in the league where he became a star. He was the first of three Hall of Famers to play in the NHL after their induction. Guy Lafleur and Mario Lemieux are the other two.
Beliveau spent all 20 of his NHL seasons with the Montreal Canadiens. He scored 507 goals and 1,219 points in 1,125 games. He was the second of three players to score 500 goals with the Canadiens; Maurice Richard (544) and Lefleur (518) are the others. He won a remarkable 10 Stanley Cups, second all-time only to his former teammate, Henri Richard, who won 11.
Geoffrion was a teammate of Beliveau’s for six of those Stanley Cup championships. He scored 393 goals and 822 points in 883 games between 1950 and 1968. He earned the nickname “Boom Boom” due to his thunderous slap shot, which he is considered to be an innovator of.
Smith played in 717 games in 17 NHL seasons between 1924 and 1941. He scored 200 goals 426 points playing both center and right wing. He won his first Stanley Cup with the original Ottawa Senators in 1927 and a second in 1935 with the Montreal Maroons. He also spent time with the Bruins and the New York Americans.
In a final interesting tidbit about this date, this was the first Hall of Fame induction ceremony in which women were allowed to attend.
Stastny Brothers Make History
Brothers Peter and Anton Stastny changed the hockey landscape forever when made the trip to North America on Aug. 24, 1980. Following a 4-3 loss to the Soviet Union, in Innsbruck, Austria, the Stastny brothers left the Czechoslovakian national team and deflected to Canada. With the help of Quebec Nordiques’ owner Marcel Aubut, Peter, Anton and Peter’s wife Dariana leave Vienna and land in Montreal.
Both brothers sign with the Nordiques and are in their opening night lineup for the 1980-81 season. Peter wins the Calder Trophy, for being the NHL’s top rookie, by scoring 39 goals and 109 points. Anton matched his brother’s 39 goals and added a total of 85 points. The following season, Marian, the oldest of the Stastny brothers, joins them in Quebec. The trio combined for 753 goals and 1,346 points during their time with Nordiques.
Peter went on to play for both the New Jersey Devils and St. Louis Blues before retiring in 1995. His two sons. Jan and Paul, have both played in the NHL. Yan played in 91 games for the Edmonton Oilers, Bruins and Blues. Paul has enjoyed a very successful NHL career after being drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in 2005. He is currently with the Vegas Golden Knights, playing in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Odds & Ends
On Aug. 24, 1992, the San Jose Sharks traded Brian Mullen, younger brother of Hall of Famer Joe, to the New York Islanders for the rights to Marcus Thuresson. Mullen scored 18 goals and 32 points for the Islanders during the 1992-93 season, his 11th and final in the NHL. Thuresson never played in the NHL.
Veteran free-agent defenseman Gerald Diduck signed with the Whalers on Aug. 25, 1995. This was his fifth different team after spending the 1994-95 seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks. He played in a total of 135 games for Hartford before he was traded to the Phoenix Coyotes, on March 18, 1997, for right wing Chris Murray. Diduck played in 932 career games, over 17 NHL seasons, with eight different teams before retiring in 2001.
The Avalanche signed free-agent forward Alex Kerfoot on Aug. 24, 2017. He was originally drafted by the Devils in the fifth round (150th overall) of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, but they failed to sign him after his college career finished at Harvard University.
Kerfoot scored 34 goals and 85 points in two seasons with the Avalanche. He was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs, on July 1, 2019, as part of the Tyson Barrie for Nazem Kadri deal.
Happy Birthday to You
A total of 25 current and former NHL players have been born on Aug. 24. The first was Red Spooner, who was born on this date back in 1910. He played in one game for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1930. The most recent is Dallas Stars goaltending prospect Landon Bow, who made two NHL appearances during the 2018-19 season.
The most successful player born on Aug. 24 is Los Angeles Kings captain Anze Kopitar, who is celebrating his 33rd birthday today. He has been a workhorse for the Kings, both on offense and defense, since he was selected with the 11th overall pick of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. He has played in 1,073 games, scoring 333 goals and 950 points. Kopitar played a huge role in both of the Kings’ Stanley Cup wins in 2012 and 2014.
Andrew Burnette, born on Aug. 24, 1973. played in the most games of this group. He dressed in 1,110 NHL contests, between 1996 and 2012, with the Washington Capitals, Nashville Predators, Atlanta Thrashers, Minnesota Wild, Avalanche and Blackhawks. He scored 268 goals and 733 points in his career and is the last player to ever score on Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy.
Other notable Aug. 24 birthday boys are Alain Daigle (66), Benoit Brunet (52), Ian Moran (48), Derek Morris (42), Marcel Goc (37), Brad Hunt (32) and the late Murray Balfour and Bill Goldsworthy.