This date in National Hockey League history has been quite eventful. Nearly 70 years ago, the league got a new all-time leading scorer. Also, it was a good day to be playing in Boston and there was a trio of hat tricks scored the likes we had never seen before. It is time for a daily trip across hockey history. Let’s get started!
The Rocket Ascends
Maurice Richard was the man of the hour, on Dec. 12, 1953, in the Montreal Canadiens 7-2 beating of the New York Rangers. “The Rocket” scored a goal and added two assists to become the NHL’s all-time leader in points with 611.
He broke the record held by his teammate, Elmer Lach, who was injured at the time. Lach had taken over the top spot on the all-time points list in February of 1952. Richard took over the lead in points just a few weeks after passing Nels Stewart for the most goals in league history. He retired in 1960 with 544 points and 966 points, all scored in a Canadiens uniform.
Big Moments in Boston
The Boston Bruins played the first afternoon game in team history, on Dec. 12, 1942, as they beat the Canadiens 3-2. All of the proceeds from the matinee were donated to the American Red Cross to help out with the effort during World War II.
Dean Prentice scored his 200th career goal, on Dec 12, 1963, in the Bruins’ 2-1 victory over the visiting Chicago Blackhawks. He scored 391 goals and 860 points during his 22-season NHL, with 50 goals and 106 points coming during his time with the Bruins.
Phil Esposito scored the 300th goal of his career, on Dec. 12, 1971, in a 4-2 loss at the Oakland Seals. He became the 16th player in NHL history to score 300 goals and the second was fastest to get there, behind only Richard.
Ken Hodge became just the third player to score 250 goals as a member of the Bruins, on Dec. 12, 1974, in an 8-1 win over the visiting Los Angeles Kings.
A Hat Trick of Historic Hat Tricks
Orland Kurtenbach became the first player in Vancouver Canucks history to score a hat trick, on Dec. 12, 1970, in a 5-2 win over the Oakland Seals. He also added an assist to go along with the only three-goal game of his career.
Brad Park scored three goals, on Dec. 12, 1971, and added an assist to lead the Rangers to a 6-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Even though the team had been in the league his 1926, he was the first defenseman to ever score a hat trick for the Blueshirts.
A decade later, on Dec. 12, 1981, Ian Turnbull became the first blueliner in Kings’ franchise history to score a hat trick. He had four goals in a 7-5 win over the visiting Canucks. This wasn’t the biggest offensive output of his career. Five years earlier, he scored five goals in a game as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Mario & Wayne’s Huge Night
Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky are two of the greatest players in NHL history and the fact they played in the same era made the 1980s and 1990s a great time to be a hockey fan. The legends had huge nights on this date in 1986.
First, Lemieux had four goals and two assists in the Penguins’ 8-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. His six points tied a team record for the most in a single game. He had racked up the third hat trick of his career before the game was even 14 minutes old.
On that same night, out west, Gretzky factored into three goals in the Edmonton Oilers’ 6-3 victory over the Winnipeg Jets. This gave him 902 assists in his career and he only needed 584 games to get there.
Hitting Personal Milestones
Bobby Hull became the fifth player in NHL history to score 1,000 career points, on Dec. 12, 1971, in the Blackhawks’ 5-3 win over the Minnesota North Stars. He joined the 1,000-point club with an assist in his 909th career game.
Rod Gilbert became the second player to appear in 1,000 games for the Rangers, on Dec. 12, 1976. He celebrated by picking up three assists in New York’s 5-2 win over the Canadiens at Madison Square Garden.
On Dec. 12, 1979, Marcel Dionne hit two personal milestones. He scored both his 350th goal and recorded his 500th assist to lead the Kings to a 7-4 win over the Hartford Whalers.
Former first overall pick, Bobby Smith, picked up three assists, including the 500th of his NHL career, on Dec. 12, 1987, as the Canadiens beat the Detroit Red Wings 5-3.
Staying in Montreal, a decade later, on Dec. 12, 1997, Mark Recchi scored his 300th NHL goal as the Habs lost 5-2 at the New Jersey Devils.
Patrick Roy was in goal, on Dec. 12, 1999, when the Colorado Avalanche beat the Canucks 3-2 in overtime. The win was the 424th of his career which put him ahead of Tony Esposito for third place on the all-time wins list for goaltenders.
Exactly two years later, on Dec. 12, 2001, Cliff Ronning picked up his 500th career assist in the Nashville Predators’ 4-2 win at the Rangers.
Finally, on Dec. 12, 2009, Alex Kovalev snapped his 16-game goal drought in grand fashion by scoring a hat trick in the Ottawa Senators’ 4-2 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes. The three goals gave him 400 for his career. He became the 82nd 400-goal scorer in NHL history and just the fourth to be born in Russia.
Odds & Ends
Gordie Howe scored his 15th career hat trick, on Dec. 12, 1965, as the Red Wings beat the Bruins 5-3.
On Dec. 12, 1979, Claude Ruel became the Canadiens’ head coach, replacing Bernie Geoffrion, who had recently resigned. This was his second stint behind the bench in Montreal. He was replaced with Bob Berry following the 1980-81 season.
The New York Islanders named head coach Mike Milbury as their new general manager, on Dec. 12, 1995. He replaced Don Maloney, who had been fired 10 days earlier.
Corey Perry scored three goals, on Dec. 12, 2011, to lead the Anaheim Ducks to a 6-2 win over the Minnesota Wild. He scored at full strength, on the power play and a shorthanded penalty-shot goal to complete the first hat trick of his career. He became the first Ducks player to score at all three player strengths in the same game since Paul Kariya on Jan. 10, 1997.
Andrei Vasilevskiy made history, on Dec. 12, 2017, in the Tampa Bay Lightning’ 3-0 victory at the St. Louis Blues. He became the sixth goaltender in league history to win 20 games in just his first 25 appearances of the season. He finished the 2017-18 season with 44 wins, tying him with the Jets’ Connor Hellebuyck for the most in the league. He finished third in Vezina Trophy voting, given each season to the NHL’s top goaltender, behind Pekka Rinne of the Predators and Hellebuyck.
Happy Birthday to You
A big group of 26 current and former NHL players have been born on this date. The most notable of the lot are Hall of Fame goaltender Billy Smith (70), Dan Bouchard (70), Jim Sandlak (54), Colin White (43), Andrew Ladd (35), Austin Czarnik (28), Kevin Labanc (25) and late Hall of Famers Clint Smith and Ted Kennedy.
Greg Boysen has been writing about the Chicago Blackhawks since 2010 and has been a site manager for both FanSided and SB Nation. He has been published in The Hockey News and was fully credentialed for the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. Among his various roles with The Hockey Writers are covering the Blackhawks, the AHL, writing the daily “Today in Hockey History” column, serving as a copy editor, and appearing and hosting multiple YouTube shows, including Blackhawks Banter. He is credentialed with the Chicago Wolves, Rockford IceHogs, and Milwaukee Admirals, while also being a regional scout for the NAHL. And, just because his plate isn’t full enough, Greg hosts trivia in the Chicago area two nights a week. For interview requests or to provide topic suggestions, follow Greg on Twitter and reach out.