Today in Hockey History: Dec. 11

One of the wildest games in National Hockey League history was played on this date in the Windy City. Offense was the theme of the day over the years as numerous players set the scoresheet on fire. Additionally, one of the game’s all-time greats came out of retirement and there was quite a bit of success with penalty shots. It is time for a daily trip back in time, so let’s get started.

Blackhawks & Oilers Go Crazy

The Edmonton Oilers traveled to the Chicago Blackhawks, on Dec. 11, 1985, and the two teams treated the packed house at the old Chicago Stadium to one of the craziest games in the history of the league.

When the dust settled, the teams scored a combined 21 times and got 90 shots on goal as the Oilers survived for a 12-9 victory. The 21 goals were the most scored since the red line was adopted in 1943. They also set an NHL-record for the most goals in one period by scoring 12 during the middle frame.

Wayne Gretzky, Edmonton Oilers
Gretzky had seven assists on this night in 1985. (Photo by B Bennett/Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

The Oilers jumped out to a 6-0 lead before the Blackhawks fought back to cut the score down 8-6 before the visitors pulled away late. Surprisingly, Wayne Gretzky did not score a goal in this wild affair, but he did tie a league record with seven assists. Jari Kurri led Edmonton with hat trick while Troy Murray and Ken Yaremchuk each scored a pair of goals for Chicago.

The Offensive Explosion Continues

The whacky game in 1985 was far from the only huge offensive performance on this date. On Dec. 11, 1952, Red Kelly had four assists in the Detroit Red Wings’ 10-1 over the Boston Bruins. This was a new franchise record for the most assists by a defenseman in one game.

Frank Mahovlich scored four goals and added an assist, on Dec. 11, 1960, in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 6-1 win at the Blackhawks. It was the fifth hat trick of his NHL career.

On Dec. 11, 1973, Garry Unger scored his sixth career hat trick and added an assist in the St. Louis Blues’ 7-3 win over the visiting Maple Leafs. Future Hall of Fame builder and coach, Glen Sather, had a goal and four assists in the victory.

Tom Bladon had himself quite the night, on Dec. 11, 1977, during the Philadelphia Flyers’ 11-1 beating of the Cleveland Barons. He scored four goals and picked up four assists for an eight-point evening, setting the franchise record for the most points in a game by a defenseman. He also set a new NHL record for finishing the game as a plus-10. He only scored 27 points total in the other 78 games he played in during the 1977-78 season.

Denis Maruk had two goals and three assists, on Dec. 11, 1981, to lead the Washington Capitals to an 11-2 blowout of Toronto. This was his second game with at least five points in his last four games. He had four goals and six points versus the Winnipeg Jets a week earlier. This was part of his remarkable 1981-82 seasons where he scored a career-high 60 goals and 136 points.

Exactly one year later, Peter Stastny scored his seventh career hat trick and added three assists to finish with six points in the Quebec Nordiques’ 7-4 road win at the Pittsburgh Penguins. His older brother, Marian, put up five points with a pair of goals and three assists.

A trio of Minnesota North Stars had four-point nights, on Dec. 11, 1985, in their 10-2 win at the Red Wings. Brian Bellows led the way with four goals for his first career hat trick. Scott Bjugstad also scored his first career hat trick and added an assist, while Keith Acton lit the lamp twice and assisted on two other goals.

Steve Yzerman posted five points, on Dec. 11, 1990, in Detroit’s 8-3 victory versus the Buffalo Sabres at Joe Louis Arena. The captain scored two goals and assisted on three more to cap off his big evening.

Steve Yzerman Red Wings
Yzerman had five points on this date in 1990. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

Two years later, on Dec. 11, 1992, Dave Andreychuk scored a goal and added four assists to lead the Sabres to a 9-3 win over the Hartford Whalers at the Memorial Auditorium.

Finally, on Dec. 11, 1993, Martin Straka had four points with a goal and three assists in the Penguins 6-3 triumph at the Tampa Bay Lightning. Doug Brown came up big for the visitors with four assists.

Super Mario’s Big Announcement

Staying with the Penguins, this was a pretty big date for the greatest player in their franchise history. On Dec. 11, 1987, Mario Lemieux scored a goal and added four assists to lead the Penguins to a 6-4 win over the visiting Islanders.

However, this date is not remembered for his five-point night in 1987, but rather for the announcement he made 13 years later. On Dec. 11, 2000, Lemieux declared that he would be returning to Penguins after retiring in the spring of 1997. He originally called it quits because he was hampered by injuries and other health concerns and he had grown frustrated with the style of hockey being played across the league.

Mario Lemieux Pittsburgh Penguins
Lemieux came out of retirement on this date. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images)

Since his retirement, Lemieux was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and became the owner of the team. When he returned to lineup just over two weeks later, he became the first owner to ever play for his own team. He also joined Gordie Howe and Guy Lafleur as the only players to play in the NHL after being inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Penalty Shot Success

If you had a penalty shot attempt on this date, chances are, you converted. Starting on Dec. 11, 1973, Los Angeles Kings rookie center Phil Hoene scored a penalty-shot goal against goaltender Cesare Maniago, in a 6-3 loss to the North Stars. He became just the second player in league history to score his first NHL goal on a penalty shot.

Brent Ashton scored on a penalty shot, on Dec. 11, 1988, during the Jets’ 8-6 loss at the Vancouver Canucks. It was the 200th goal of his career and the first converted penalty shot for the Jets in the NHL since coming over from the World Hockey Association (WHA) at the start of the 1979-80 season.

Last, but not least, on Dec. 11, 1992, Theoren Fleury scored twice, including his second career penalty-shot goal, and added two assists to lead the Calgary Flames to a 6-3 win at the Maple Leafs.

A Fun Night in 2002

Dec. 11, 2002, proved to be quite the eventful night. Starting in Vancouver, where Joe Sakic scored the 500th goal in his career, becoming the 31st player in NHL history to do so. It was the only goal for the Colorado Avalanche that evening as they dropped a 3-1 decision to the hosting Canucks. Sakic went on to score another 125 goals before retiring in 2009.

Goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere recorded his second consecutive shutout, and 11th of his career, to lead the Mighty Duck of Anaheim to a 3-0 win over the visiting Capitals. Fredrik Olausson, who was playing in his 1,000th career game, scored the game-winning goal and added an assist.

Speaking of consecutive shutouts, the Kings posted shutouts in back-to-back road games for the first time in franchise history on this night. Jamie Storr stopped all 35 shots he faced to earned his 14th career shutout in a 3-0 blanking at the Dallas Stars. This came just 24 hours after Felix Potvin kept the Predators off the scoreboard in Nashville.

Odds & Ends

Rookie Johnny Bucyk scored the first goal of his NHL career, on Dec 11, 1955, in the Red Wings’ 2-0 win over the visiting New York Rangers. This was his only goal in the 38 games he played during the 1955-56 season. He scored 11 goals total in Detroit before being traded to the Boston Bruins, in 1957, where he went on to scored 545 goals and 1,339 points over 21 seasons.

The Flyers started a new tradition, on Dec. 11, 1969, by playing Kate Smith’s version of “God Bless America” before the game for the first time. Philadelphia beat the Maple Leafs 6-3 on this night. Over the next three seasons, they went 19-1-1 in games where the song was played before the opening faceoff.

Larry Robinson became the fourth defenseman in NHL history to record 600 career assists, on Dec. 11, 1986, when he set up two goals in a Canadiens’ 6-2 win against the Rangers.

Larry Robinson, Montreal Canadiens
Robinson was of the greatest blueliners in NHL history. (THW Archives)

Two years later, on Dec. 11, 1988, Steve Larmer played in his 510th consecutive game, setting a new Blackhawks’ franchise record. He broke the previous record held by John Mark during Chicago’s 5-2 win over the Blues. Larmer never missed a game in his career with the Blackhawks, playing in 884 straight contests.

On Dec. 11, 1992, the NHL named Gary Bettman as its first-ever commission. The job went into effect on Feb. 1, 1993. He has been the only many to hold this job since this date.

Goaltender Patrick Roy made 30 saves for his first career victory with the Avalanche, on Dec. 11, 1995, with a 5-1 win over Toronto.

NHL officially approved the sale of the Phoenix Coyotes to Gretzky and partner Steve Ellman, on Dec. 11, 2000. He became the head coach of the team at the start of the 2006-06 season. Just prior to the start of the 2009-10 season, the Coyotes declared bankruptcy and Gretzky resigned as head coach and gave up his share of ownership.

That five-point night in 1992 wasn’t the only big night for Andreychuk on this date. On Dec. 11, 2003, he played in his 1,541st NHL game, passing Bucyk for the most-ever by a left wing. He scored the 618th goal of his career, but it was enough as the Lightning lost 3-2 at the Ottawa Senators.

Happy Birthday to You

A small but very impressive group of current and former NHL players are sharing a birthday today. The bunch includes Ted Hampson (84), Dave Gagner (56), Daniel Alfredsson (48) Mark Streit (43) Matthew Tkachuk (23) and the late Pierre Pilote, Moose Vasko and J.P. Parise.