Aug. 5 is a bittersweet day in National Hockey League history. It has seen the death of one of the legendary names of the game and well as the birth as one of U.S. hockey’s most notorious head coaches.
Hockey World Loses a Pioneer
Hockey Hall of Famer Art Ross passed away, at the age of 79, on Aug. 5, 1964. Ross began his long career in the sport of hockey by joining the Montreal Westmount of the Canadian Amateur Hockey League (CAHL) in 1905. He was heralded for being one of the first defensemen to skate the puck up the ice and into the offensive zone, rather than just passing it ahead.
Despite playing in just three NHL games for the Montreal Wanderers during the 1917-18 season, he is a member of two Stanley Cup-winning teams from the National Hockey Association (NHA). First with the Kenora Thistles in 1907 and again with the Wanderers the following year. In 1911, Ross led an organized player strike to get an increase in play. He retired when the Wanderers’ arena burned down in 1918.
After his playing days ended, he worked as an on-ice official before beginning his coaching career with the Hamilton Bulldogs. He was hired as the first-ever head coach and general manager of the Boston Bruins when the team was founded in 1924.
He coached the Bruins on three different occasions, for 17 total seasons, amassing a record of 387-290-95. He won the Stanley Cup as a coach in both 1929 and 1939. He held on to the general manager job until he retired in 1954. The Bruins won three Stanley Cups in their eight Final appearances under Ross’ leadership and made the playoffs 24 times.
In addition to leading the Bruins for 30 years, he was responsible for numerous innovations within the game. He was instrumental in making improvements to both the nets and pucks being used. He designed the bevel edges we still see on the puck, which helped in the reduction of bouncing and rolling. He also brought the red line into the game, preventing teams from passing from the defensive zone straight into the offensive zone. The two-line pass was illegal until 2006.
In 1947, Ross donated the trophy that is given to the NHL’s leading scorer at the end of each season. The Art Ross Trophy has been won by some of the greatest players to ever play the game including Gordie Howe, Stan Mikita, Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.
Blues Rehire Hall of Famer
The St. Louis Blues hired Leo Boivin as their head coach on Aug. 5, 1977. He replaced Emile Francis, who took over for Boivin following the 1975-76 season. This was Boivin’s second stint as Blues’ head coach. He coached the final 43 games of the 1975-76 season, going 17-17-9 and losing in the Preliminary Round of the playoffs.
His second term didn’t go as planned. He was fired 54 games into the season, with a record of 11-36-7, and replaced by Barclay Plager. The 1977-78 season marked just the season time in the Blues’ 11-season history where they failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs. Boivin is best remembered for being a hard-hitting, Hall of Fame defenseman for the Bruins.
Odds & Ends
The Detroit Red Wings signed free agent Ray Sheppard on Aug. 5, 1991, after he spent the previous season with the New York Rangers. He went on to enjoy the best years of this career in Detroit. He scored 36 goals in his first season and a career-high 52 goals during the 1993-94 season. He scored 152 goals and 265 points in 274 games for the Red Wings. Sheppard was traded to the San Jose Sharks, early in the 1995-96 season, for center Igor Larionov.
Speaking of the Sharks, they signed free agent Bernie Nicholls, who had spent the previous two seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks. Nicholls, who scored 1,209 points in his 18-season NHK career, plays his final three seasons with the Sharks. Injuries limited him to just 18 goals and 57 points in 135 games.
Former Sharks goaltender Arturs Irbe signed with the Vancouver Canucks on Aug. 5, 1997. He spent the previous season with the Dallas Stars. Irbe played just one season with the Canucks, going 14-11-6 with a .907 save percentage (SV%) and 2.73 goals-against average (GAA). He signed with the Carolina Hurricanes the following summer, where he played in 309 games over six seasons.
Happy Birthday to You
There are 18 current and former NHL players who have been born on Aug. 5. The first was Bobby Walton in 1912, who played four games for the Montreal Canadiens in 1944. The most recent is Bruins forward Anders Bjork, born on this date in 1996.
The most successful player celebrating a birthday today is Anton Stastny, born on Aug. 5, 1959. He scored 252 goals and 636 points, in 650 career NHL games, for the Quebec Nordiques, where he played with his brothers Marian and Peter. He is the uncle of Vegas Golden Knights forward Paul Stastny.
Perhaps the most famous name born on this date is Herb Brooks, who never played in the NHL. Born on Aug. 5, 1937 in St. Paul, MN, Brooks is best remembered for being the head coach of the “Miracle in Ice” United States team that won the gold medal at the 1980 Winter Olympics.
Brooks played hockey at the University of Minnesota, where he began his coaching career in 1972 and won three NCAA national championships. Following his Olympic success, he coached 506 career games in the NHL for the Rangers, Minnesota North Stars and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Other notable players born on this date include Herb Raglan (53), Jeff Friesen (44), Mark Bell (40), Dale Weise (32), Jamie McGinn (32), Lukas Radil (30) and Ian McCoshen (25).