One of the most prolific goal scorers in National Hockey League history had to step away from the game for one season, due to health reasons, on this date. Also, another talented class took their places in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Super Mario Steps Away
One of the greatest players to ever skate in the NHL made a huge announcement on Aug. 29, 1994. Mario Lemieux revealed his intentions to sit out the upcoming 1994-95 season. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in 1993 and the combination of radiation treatment and back injuries forced him into this decision.
Lemieux returned to the Pittsburgh Penguins for the 1995-96 season and looked like he hadn’t skipped a beat. He won the Art Ross Trophy for leading the league with 69 goals and 161 points. His huge season also earned him his third Hart Trophy of his career, for being voted as the NHL’s most valuable player.
After another 50-goal season in 1996-97, Lemieux announced his retirement. However, he doesn’t stay away from the team very long as he worked out a deal to become part-owner of the Penguins in November of 1998 as the franchise dealt with bankruptcy. On December 27, 2000, Lemieux, owner and Hall of Famer, returned to the ice in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He scored 35 goals and 76 points in the remaining 43 games of the 2000-01 season. He remained an active player until 2006 but only played in 127 games over this final four seasons.
Another HoF Class Inducted
On Aug. 29, 1964, the Hockey Hall of Fame welcomed four players, two builders and a longtime official into its ranks.
Doug Bentley headlined the group of players. He scored 219 goals and 543 points in 565 games with the Chicago Blackhawks and New Rangers. He led the league in goals in back-to-back seasons with 33 in 1942-43 and 38 in 1943-44. He played with his brothers Max and Reg during the 1942-43 season with the Blackhawks. Max joined Doug in the Hall of Fame two years later.
Montreal Canadiens’ goaltender Bill Durnan was part of the induction ceremony as well. He played only seven seasons in the NHL, between 1943 and 1950, but he won two Stanley Cups and six Vezina Trophies, for giving up the fewest goals in the league.
Babe Siebert, who won the 1937 Hart Trophy with the Canadiens, and defenseman Jack Stewart, who spent most of his career with the Detroit Red Wings, were also inducted.
On the builders’ side, Angus Campbell, who founded the Northern Ontario Hockey Association (NOHA), and longtime Quebec hockey administrator Frank Dilio were added. Referee Bill Chadwick rounded out the class. He worked over 900 regular-season games and 42 games in the Stanley Cup Final and was the first American-born official to make the Hall of Fame.
Blues Make A Pair of Moves
On Aug. 29, 1974, the St. Louis Blues traded forward Greg Polis to the Rangers for defenseman Larry Sacharuk and a first-round pick. The Rangers got the better end of this deal. Polis scored 65 goals and 141 points in 275 games in New York. Both Sacharuk and the draft pick returned to the Rangers in 1975. Sacharuk was reacquired for forward Bob MacMillan and the draft pick was sent back in a trade for Derek Sanderson. They eventually used it, in 1977, to select Lucien DeBlois, who played 326 games for the Rangers.
The Blues made a better deal, on Aug. 29, 1985, when they acquired center, Rick Meagher, from the New Jersey Devils for a 12th-round draft pick.
Meagher went on to play 413 games for the Blues over the next six seasons. He won the Selke Trophy for being the best defensive forward of the 1988-89 season. He was the captain for the 1989-90 season, becoming the 11th different player to wear the “C” on his Blues sweater.
Odds & Ends
The Los Angeles Kings acquired centers Jozef Stumpel and Sandy Moger, on Aug. 29, 1997, from the Boston Bruins, in exchange for forward Dimitri Khristich and Byron Dafoe. This is the first of three trades that the Bruins and Kings make that involved Stumpel. He was traded back to Boston, with defenseman Glen Murray, on Oct. 24, 2001, for defenseman Jason Allison and forward Mikko Eloranta. He returned to Los Angeles on June 22, 2003, in a deal that included multiple draft picks being exchanged.
On Aug. 29, 1999, the Washington Capitals named Adam Oates as their new captain, the ninth in franchise history. He replaced Dale Hunter and served as captain for the next two seasons. He played in all but one game and scored 25 goals and 153 points.
The Maple Leafs named John Ferguson Jr. as their new general manager, on Aug. 29, 2003, replacing Pat Quinn. He held on to the job until midway through the 2008-09 season. The Maple Leafs set a franchise record with 103 points during the 2003-04 season, but that was the only playoff appearance under Ferguson’s guidance. His most notable draft picks included Anton Stralman, Tuukka Rask, Leo Komarov, James Reimer, Nikolai Kulemin and Carl Gunnarsson.
Happy Birthday to You
A total of 20 players to skate in at least one NHL game were born on Aug. 29.
Aurele Joliat was the first, born in 1901, and is the only Hall of Famer of the group. He became a member of the Canadiens in 1922 and eventually became a star playing with Howie Morenz. He was a member of three Stanley Cup championships and when he retired in 1938, he was the franchise’s all-time leader with 270 goals.
Marin Erat played in the most games of this group (881) and had the most assists (369) and points (545). Nashville Predators fans have a soft spot for Erat. Not only for the 163 goals and 481 points he scored in 723 games but also for being traded to the Capitals in 2013 for Filip Forsberg.
Other notable players born on this date include Doug Sulliman (61), Shaun Val Allen (53), Jonas Hoglund (48) and Antti Niemi (37).