Aug. 26 is a date that is loaded with big names in NHL history. The Hockey Hall of Fame inducted three different classes. A legendary defenseman signed the biggest contract ever and one of the game’s greatest goalscorers called it a career.
Orr Signs Mega Deal
Bobby Orr scored a league-record 139 points during the 1970-71 season and the Boston Bruins rewarded him handsomely. On Aug. 26, 1971, the Bruins signed Orr to a new five-year deal worth $200,000 per season, making him the first NHL player to ever sign a $1 million contract. To put this in perspective, today’s standard entry-level contract is worth $925,000 per season.
The investment paid off as the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 1972, with Orr winning the Hart (regular-season MVP), Norris (best defenseman) and Conn Smythe (playoff MVP) Trophies. In the first four seasons of the contract, Orr scored a total of 475 points and won the Norris Trophy four times.
1974-75 was Orr’s last full season in the league. He won the Art Ross Trophy, for leading the league in scoring, by racking up 135 points. It was the second Art Ross Trophy of his career and he remains the only defenseman to ever win it. Chronic knee injuries limited Orr to just 10 games during the 1975-76 season, the final year of this deal. He went on to sign with the Chicago Blackhawks but only played in 26 total games during his two seasons there.
A Busy Day at the Hall
The Hockey Hall of Fame as been extremely busy on Aug. 26 through the years. In 1961, the Hall of Fame officially opens at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto, ON. This would be the home of the Hall until it moved to its current location, at BCE Place, in 1993.
They celebrated the new location by inducting an impressive class. The newest Hall of Famers included Montreal Canadiens legends Maurice Richard and George Hainsworth, Toronto Maple Leafs forwards Syl Apps and Charlie Conacher and defenseman Hap Day, Bruins defenseman Milt Schmidt, British defenseman Joe Hall, goaltender Percy LeSueur and Oliver Seibert, who was one of the first players to turn professional in 1904.
A decade later, on Aug. 26, 1971, another class was added to the Hall. The group included forward Harvey “Busher” Jackson, pre-NHL star Gordon Roberts, legendary goaltender Terry Sawchuk, Bruins center Cooney Weiland and former Blackhawks owner Arthur Wirtz.
A third Hall of Fame class was inducted on Aug. 26, 1976. AHL and NHL goaltending legend Johnny Bower and defenseman Bill Quackenbush were the only players in this group. William Wirtz, son of Arthur and another Blackhawks owner, Jack Gibson, who founded the first professional hockey league and journalist and Stanley Cup trustee Philip Ross were all added under the builder category.
Gartner Hangs Them Up
Mike Gartner announced his retirement on Aug. 26, 1998. He scored 708 goals, the fifth-most in NHL history, during his 19 seasons. He played in 1,432 games with the Washington Capitals, Minnesota North Stars, New York Rangers, Maple Leafs and Phoenix Coyotes.
At the time of his retirement, his 1,335 points were the 18th most in league history. He had 17 seasons of at least 30 goals, which is still the most by any NHL player. The only major accomplishment Gartner failed to achieve during his Hall of Fame career was winning a Stanley Cup. He was a member of the 1993-94 Rangers who won the Cup, but he was traded to the Maple Leafs for Glenn Anderson late in the regular season.
Odds & Ends
The Calgary Flames traded a first and third-round draft pick to the Philadelphia Flyers on Aug. 26, 1987, for veteran defenseman Brad McCrimmon. He spent the next three seasons with the Flames, scoring 16 goals and 109 points in 231 games. McCrimmon got his name on the Stanley Cup with the rest the 1988-89 Flames. The Flyers used the third-round pick to select goaltender Dominic Roussel. The first-rounder was eventually traded to the Maple Leafs and they drafted defenseman Steve Bancroft, who played in six career NHL games.
The Hartford Whalers traded three first-round draft picks to the Bruins on Aug. 26, 1994, in exchange for Glen Wesley. The defenseman spent almost all of the next 10 seasons with the Whalers and Carolina Hurricanes, playing in 729 games. He was traded to the Maple Leafs at the 2003 trade deadline and re-signed with the team the following summer. He was a member of the Hurricanes’ 2006 Stanley Cup championship.
The Bruins used the three draft picks to select defensemen Kyle McLaren and Johnathan Aitken and forward Sergei Samsonov. McLaren played in over 700 NHL games, including 417 with the Bruins. Aitken made only three appearances for Boston. Samsonov won the Calder Trophy, for being the league’s top rookie in 1997-98, by scoring 22 goals and 47 points. He scored 164 goals and 376 points in 514 games for the Bruins before being traded to the Edmonton Oilers in 2006. The draft pick the Bruins acquired in that trade was used on Milan Lucic.
On Aug. 26, 1998, the Blackhawks signed free-agent center Eddie Olczyk. They originally drafted the Chicago native with the third overall pick of the 1984 NHL Entry Draft. Olcyzk played the first three seasons of his career in Chicago, scoring 65 goals and 180 points, before being traded to the Maple Leafs in 1987. He bookended his career with two final seasons with the Blackhawks, scoring 12 goals and 29 points in 94 games.
Free-agent center Petr Nedved signed with the Coyotes on Aug. 26, 2004. He scored two goals and 13 points in 25 games before he was traded to the Flyers, for defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, on Jan. 20, 2006.
The Coyotes, on this date, also traded center Daymond Langkow to the Flames in exchange for defenseman Denis Gauthier and left wing Oleg Saprykin. Langkow scored 123 goals and 288 points for the Flames over the next six seasons. Gauthier and Saprykin played a combined 171 games for the Coyotes. The Flames traded Langkow back to Phoenix, in 2011, for Lee Stempniak.
Also, on Aug. 26, 2004, the Rangers inked goaltender Kevin Weekes to a new deal. He appeared in 46 games for the Rangers, over the next two seasons, winning 18 games while posting a .890 save percentage (SV%) and 3.01 goals-against average (GAA).
Happy Birthday to You
There are 17 current and former NHL players who share a birthday today. The first was defenseman Bill White, born on Aug. 26, 1939, who played 604 games for the Los Angeles Kings and Blackhawks between 1968 and 1976. The most recent was Matiss Kivlenieks, who tragically died on July 4, 2021, at the young age of 24.
The most successful player of the lot is Maple Leafs forward Wayne Simmonds. The 34-year-old leads all Aug. 26 birthday boys with 1,019 games, 263 goals, 261 assists, 524 points, and 1,264 penalty minutes.
Other notable players born on this date include Ron Stackhouse (73), Zach Trotman (32), Cole Schneider (32), Anthony Duclair (27), and Dylan Gambrell (26).
*Originally constructed by Greg Boysen