Dec. 15 was a very important date in National Hockey History as two legendary arenas hosted their first games while another old barn saw the last game within its walls. Also, five was the magic number on this date, and numerous franchises had players accomplish various feats for the first time. Let’s take our daily trip back in time for all the great hockey moments!
You Say Hello, I Say Goodbye
The Big Apple was the site for some NHL history on Dec. 15, 1925, as the New York Americans hosted the Montreal Canadiens in the first game ever played at Madison Square Garden. The team insisted that the reigning Stanley Cup champions open the new building. The game turned into an event only New Yorkers could pull off, with many in attendance wearing tuxedos and elegant gowns.
Shorty Green scored the first goal at the Garden to give the Americans a 1-0 lead. Unfortunately for the 17,000 fans in attendance, the Canadiens scored the final three goals of the game to claim a 3-1 victory. Hockey was a huge hit in New York. So much so, they got a second franchise the following season when the Rangers joined the league.
Four years later, on Dec. 15, 1929, the Chicago Blackhawks played their first game at the Chicago Stadium. A record-setting crowd of over 14,000 fans saw the home team beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-1. Vic Ripley was the difference-maker by scoring a pair of goals just 35 seconds apart. The Blackhawks called the Chicago Stadium home until moving across the street to the United Center in 1994.
While they said hello to new buildings in New York and Chicago, on Dec. 15, 1979, fans in Detroit said goodbye to the Olympia Stadium. The Red Wings skated to a 4-4 tie with the Quebec Nordiques in their final game at the arena they called home since 1927, before they were even known as the Red Wings. Detroit rallied from three goals to earn a point, with defenseman Greg Joly tying the game, at the 18:35 mark of the third period, the last goal scored in the historic building.
On Dec. 15, 1992, the state of Texas hosted an NHL game for the very first time. The New York Islanders and St. Louis Blues played a neutral-site game at the Reunion Arena in Dallas. Derek King scored in overtime to give the Islanders a 4-3 win. The Minnesota North Stars relocated to Dallas the following season and called the Reunion Arena home.
The North Stars won 3-0 at the Los Angeles Kings on Dec. 15, 1967, to become the first expansion team to earn back-to-back shutouts. Cesare Maniago was in goal on this night, as well as two days earlier when the North Stars beat the Kings 4-0 back in Minnesota.
One year later, on Dec. 15, 1968, Dick Sarrazin scored twice as the Philadelphia Flyers ended their team-record 11-game winless streak (0-9-2) with a 3-1 win over the Rangers. This was the Flyers’ first-ever victory in New York. Sarrazin scored only 20 career goals in 100 NHL games.
The Winnipeg Jets hosted the Canadiens for the first time on Dec. 15, 1979, on “Tuxedo Night.” Over 1,000 fans and even the Zamboni driver wore a tux for the big game broadcasted on Hockey Night in Canada.
Bobby Hull was unaware that the game was moved up an hour to be on the national broadcast and showed up late. Head coach Tom McVie did not allow him to dress for the game for violating team rules about being on time. Even without Hull in the lineup, the Jets still knocked off the defending Stanley Cup champs 6-2. Hull never played for Winnipeg again and was eventually traded to the Hartford Whalers.
Mark Howe became the first defenseman in Flyers’ history to score 100 goals on Dec. 15, 1987, in a 5-2 win at the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Goaltender Guy Hebert made 38 saves on Dec. 15, 1993, to lead the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim to a 1-0 win at the Toronto Maple Leafs. This was the first shutout in franchise history, with Tim Sweeney scoring the only goal of the night early in the third period.
High Fives All Around
Hull had a much better night on Dec. 15, 1965, as he scored four goals and added an assist for five points in the Blackhawks’ 8-4 win over the Boston Bruins. He finished the 1965-66 season with 54 goals in 70 games, which was an NHL record at the time.
Lou Angotti had another five-point night for the Blackhawks on Dec. 15, 1972, with a goal and four assists in a 9-4 road win at the Oakland Seals. Dan Maloney chipped in with four assists.
One year later, on Dec. 15, 1973, Bobby Orr scored twice and added three assists in the Bruins’ 7-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks. Phil Esposito had two goals and two assists to help Boston extend their unbeaten streak to 14 games (12-0-2).
Wayne Gretzky scored five goals on Dec. 15, 1984, in the Edmonton Oilers 8-2 beating of the St. Louis Blues. He also added an assist for good measure.
Mario Lemieux put up five points on Dec. 15, 1988, with a goal and four assists in the Penguins’ 8-2 win over the Islanders. The big night gave him 349 career assists to pass Syl Apps for the most in team history. He only needed 321 games to break this record.
Gretzky had another huge night on Dec. 15, 1990, when he scored a goal and added four assists to lead the Kings over his former team, the Oilers, 8-2. Luc Robitaille had a goal and three assists in the offensive onslaught.
Finally, on Dec. 15, 1999, Jaromir Jagr scored two goals and picked up three assists in the Penguins’ 6-3 road win at the Carolina Hurricanes.
Odds & Ends
On Dec. 15, 1970, Glenn Hall became the second netminder in NHL history to win 400 games by making 38 saves in the Blues’ 2-1 victory over the North Stars. Bill Sutherland scored both goals for St. Louis. Hall joined Terry Sawchuk as the only two NHL goaltenders with 400 wins. There are now 13 members of the 400-win club, with the most recent addition being Marc-Andre Fleury.
Marcel Dionne became the fourth player in NHL history to score 600 career goals on Dec. 15, 1984, as the Kings beat the Calgary Flames 6-5. This milestone came two years, and one day after he scored his 500th career goal.
Steve Yzerman scored three goals on Dec. 15, 1989, to lead the Red Wings to an 8-4 win over the visiting Blackhawks. His seventh career hat trick made him the sixth player to score 250 goals as a member of the Red Wings.
Scotty Bowman became the first coach in NHL history to get 800 career wins on Dec. 15, 1992, when the Penguins beat the Flyers 6-2 at the Civic Arena.
Rookie defenseman Deron Quint tied an NHL record on Dec. 15, 1995, by scoring two goals in four seconds during the Jets’ 9-4 win over the Oilers. He tied the mark for the fastest two goals in league history that was set by Nels Stewart of the Montreal Maroons in 1931. Teemu Selanne led the offense with four goals, while teammate Alexei Zhamnov picked up four assists.
Mark Messier scored a goal and assisted on another on Dec. 15, 2001, during the Rangers’ 4-2 victory versus the Buffalo Sabres. He joined Gordie Howe and Gretzky as the only three players in NHL history to score 1,800 career points.
Happy Birthday to You
Just 10 current and former NHL players have been born on this date. Leading the way for this small group are Ric Seiling (64), Mario Marois (64), Yanni Gourde (30), the late Art Jackson.
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.