Today in Hockey History: Aug. 4

A legend of the National Hockey League was born on this date, and one of the biggest stars of the 1990s found a new home out west. Aug. 4 also saw plenty of coaching moves and some goaltending changes in Alberta. So, let’s all hop aboard the THW time machine for our daily journey through the decades.

JR Heads West

The Los Angeles Kings acquired center Jeremey Roenick, on Aug. 4, 2005, along with a third-round pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, from the Philadelphia Flyers for future considerations. Roenick became a star during his eight seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks, scoring 267 goals and 596 points in 524 games.

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Roenick was traded to the Phoenix Coyotes in 1996 and had five productive seasons there before signing with the Flyers in the summer of 2001. His season with the Kings was not a memorable one. He scored just nine goals and 22 points in 58 games. He re-signed with the Coyotes the following offseason before playing his final two NHL seasons with the San Jose Sharks.

A Trio of Coaching Changes

Aug. 4, 1977, was a busy day behind the benches. The Kings hired Ron Stewart as their new head coach. He was the seventh coach in franchise history and replaced Bob Pulford, who had led the team for the previous five seasons.

Stewart played 1,353 games as a right wing between 1953 and 1973, winning three straight Stanley Cups with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1960s. He coached the New York Rangers for 39 games during the 1975-76 season. He lasted just one season with the Kings, going 31-34-15 and losing to the Maple Leafs in the Preliminary Round. He was replaced by Bob Berry.

Also, on this day, the Buffalo Sabres hired Marcel Pronovost as their new head coach, replacing Floyd Smith.

He was the fourth coach in franchise history and went 44-19-17 in his first season. The Sabres beat the Rangers in the Preliminary Round before losing to the Flyers in the Quarterfinals. Pronovost was fired just 24 games into the 1978-79 season after an 8-10-6 start.

On Aug. 4, 1982, the Detroit Red Wings named Nick Polano, their new head coach. He replaced Billy Dea, who coached the final 11 games of the 1981-82 season after Wayne Maxner was fired. Polano went 79-127-34 in his three seasons as head coach. He got the Red Wings into the playoffs twice but lost in the first round both times.

Polano was replaced by Harry Neale in 1985 and remained with the team as an assistant general manager. He played a big role in the Red Wings landing some key players from Russia, including Petr Klima, Slava Kozlov, and Sergei Fedorov.

Oilers Nab a Pair of Netminders

The Edmonton Oilers were busy on this date as they brought in two different goaltenders. On Aug. 4, 1995, they traded their first-round picks in the 1996 and 1997 NHL Entry Drafts to the St Louis Blues for Curtis Joseph and Mike Grier.

Joseph went 76-76-20 in three seasons with the Oilers, posting a .902 save percentage (SV%), 2.90 goals-against average (GAA), and 14 shutouts. Grier played the first 448 of his 1,060 career NHL games in an Oilers uniform. He scored 81 goals and 183 points during his time in Edmonton.  The Blues used the 1996 draft pick to select Marty Reasoner. They eventually traded the 1997 pick to the Kings, who took Matt Zultek.

Four years later, on Aug. 4, 1999, the Oilers signed free-agent goaltender Bill Ranford. This was his second tenure with the team. He was with the team between 1988 and 1996 and was the starter for most of that time. He was between the pipes for the 1990 Stanley Cup championship.

Kevin Lowe Bill Ranford Edmonton Oilers
Ranford won a Cup with the Oilers in 1990.
(Photo by Graig Abel/Getty Images)

After stops with the Boston Bruins, Washington Capitals, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Red Wings, he returned to Edmonton. He appeared in 16 games during the 1999-00 season, his 15th and final in the league. He went 4-6-3 with a .885 SV% and 3.59 GAA.

Odds & Ends

On Aug. 4, 1995, the Ottawa Senators traded a second-round draft pick in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft to the St. Louis Blues for veteran defenseman Steve Duchesne. In his two seasons with the Senators, Duchene had 31 goals and 83 points in 140 games. The Blues traded the draft pick to the Sabres, who used it on Cory Sarich. The Senators traded Duchene back to the Blues, in 1997, for Igor Kravchuk.

The Lightning traded Niklas Sundstrom, and a 2000 third-round draft pick to the San Jose Sharks, on Aug. 4, 1999, for Andrei Zyuzin, Bill Houlder, Shawn Burr, and Steve Guolla. This marked the second time in six weeks that Sundstrom had been traded. He was sent from the Rangers to the Lightning on June 26, 1999, in a deal that included goaltender Dan Cloutier.

The Rangers acquired defenseman Sandy McCarthy, on Aug. 4, 2000, from the Carolina Hurricanes, in exchange for Rob DiMaio and Darren Langdon.

McCarthy played in 245 games for the Rangers before signing with the Bruins in 2003. He returned for 13 more games during the 2003-04 season after the Rangers claimed him off of waivers from Boston. DiMaio and Langdon played in a combined 195 games for the Hurricanes.

Happy Birthday to You

There are 13 players who have skated in an NHL game born on this date. The first was Alex Wellington way back in 1893, and the most recent was Lane Pederson in 1997.

One of the greatest players to ever play in the league, Maurice Richard, was born in Montreal on Aug. 4, 1921. He became a legend in his hometown, scoring 544 goals and 966 points in 978 career games for the Montreal Canadiens. Richard became the first player to score 50 goals in a season when he scored 50 in just 50 games during the 1944-45 season. He scored at least 20 goals in 14 straight seasons, and, in 1958, he became the first player ever to score 500 career goals.

Maurice Richard Elmer Lach Toe Blake
Richard, Elmer Lach, and Toe Blake – the Punch Line.
(THW Archives)

Richard won the Hart Trophy, for being the voted the most valuable player in the league after scoring 45 goals and 71 points in 60 games during the 1946-47 season. He was a 14-time All-Star and won eight Stanley Cups during his 18-season career with the Canadiens. He retired in 1960 with 544 goals and 966 points in 978 games. The Hockey Hall of Fame waived its normal three-year waiting period and inducted Richard in 1961. Since 1999, the NHL’s leading goal scorer is awarded the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy at the end of each season.

The “Rocket” isn’t the only Hall of Famer born on this date. Neil Colville was born on Aug. 4, 1914, in Edmonton. He played 12 seasons with the New York Rangers between 1935 and 1948, scoring 100 goals and 266 points in 465 games.

Colville played on the “Bread Line” with his brother Mac and Alex Shibicky. They were a big part of the Rangers’ 1940 Stanley Cup championship. Both Colville brothers left the NHL to serve in the Canadian military during World War II. He returned to the Rangers for the 1944-45 season and switched from being a center to playing defense.

He retired in 1949 and became the youngest head coach in Rangers’ history a year later. Unfortunately, he was forced to resign halfway through his second season behind the bench due to health issues. After his hockey career, he became a television executive in British Columbia. Colville was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1967. He passed away at the age of 73 in 1987.

Other players sharing a birthday today include Wayne Carleton (75), Ilya Sorokin (26), and Nicolas Baptiste (26).

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