There is little doubt that the city of Montreal is responsible for some of the biggest moments and greatest players in National Hockey League history. They had three of their numerous legends play their first NHL game on this date, two of them in the same contest. This was also a very memorable date in Chicago and the capitals of both NHL countries. Let’s begin our daily trip through time and look back at the biggest moments of Dec. 16.
Three Montreal Legends Debut
Although he began playing organized hockey in 1916, Aurele Joliat did not play his first NHL game until Dec. 16, 1992. On this night, he was the lone bright spot for the Montreal Canadiens as he scored their only two goals in a 7-2 loss at the Toronto St. Pats.
Joliat came to Montreal as compensation from the Saskatoon Sheiks of the old Western Canada Hockey League after they signed Canadiens’ star Newsy Lalonde. This move worked out well as Lalonde was at the tail end of his career and Joliat went on to play 16 seasons for the Canadiens, scoring 269 goals and 463 points. He was a member of three Stanley Cup championship teams and won the Hart Trophy for being voted the league’s most valuable player of the 1933-34 season.
Two future legends played in their first NHL games, on Dec. 16, 1950, as the Canadiens and New York Rangers skated to a 1-1 tie. Bernie Geoffrion scored his first career goal in his league debut. He spent the next 14 seasons with the Canadiens, scoring 371 goals and 759 points. He won the Calder Trophy in 1952 for being the NHL’s top rookie. He was the Hart Trophy winner in 1961, won two scoring titles and got his name engraved on the Stanley Cup six times.
Also putting on the Habs sweater for the first time on this night was Jean Beliveau, perhaps the greatest of all the Montreal legends. He only played in five games over the next three seasons because he did not have much interest in turning pro. He didn’t become a full-time Canadien until 1953 when general manager Frank Selke bought out the entire Quebec Senior Hockey League and made it a professional league, thus forcing Beliveau to sign with his club.
The rest, as they say, is history. When Beliveau retired in 1971, he scored 507 goals and 1,219 points in 1,125 games for the Canadiens. He was a two-time Hart Trophy winner and a 10-time Stanley Cup champion. He was the most beloved player in Montreal history, not only for his remarkable playing career but also for the impact he made within the community.
More Early Memories
The offside rule was originated, on Dec. 16, 1929, at the NHL’s Board of Governors meeting held in Chicago. The new proposed rule stated: “No attacking player shall be allowed to precede the play when entering the opposing defensive zone.” The rule became effective five days later.
Brothers Lester and Frank Patrick were behind opposite benches, on Dec. 16, 1934, marking the first time in NHL history where a pair of siblings face each other as coaches. Older brother Lester’s Rangers beat the younger Frank’s Boston Bruins 2-1.
Charlie Conacher scored twice, on Dec. 16, 1937, during the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 4-2 loss in Montreal. This made the future Hockey Hall of Famer became the first player in franchise history to score 200 goals for the Maple Leafs. Since this date, 12 more players have scored 200 goals in Toronto.
A Big Date for Blackhawks Greats
Bobby Hull scored two goals, on Dec. 16, 1964, to become the second player in Chicago Blackhawks history to score 250 goals. He also added three assists to cap off a five-point night in a 7-5 win over the visiting Bruins. He went on to score 604 goals with the Blackhawks, still the most in team history.
Stan Mikita and Cliff Koroll had their way with the St. Louis Blues, on Dec. 16, 1970, in a big 8-3 win. Mikita scored four goals and assisted on another, while Koroll set a team record with four assists during the second period. The victory extended their unbeaten streak at the Chicago Stadium to 17 games (15-0-2).
On Dec. 16, 1973, Tony Esposito became the second goaltender to win 150 games for the Blackhawks with a 6-1 road victory at the Rangers. He won 418 games in Chicago before retiring, more than any other netminder who ever played for the team.
Rookie Darryl Sutter scored the first goal of his NHL career, on Dec. 16, 1979, in a 7-3 win over the visiting Detroit Red Wings. He spent his entire playing career with the Blackhawks, scoring 161 goals and 279 points in 406 points. He then went on to a successful coaching career that saw him win 634 games over 17 seasons with the Blackhawks, San Jose Sharks, Calgary Flames and Los Angeles Kings. He led the Kings to two Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014.
Jeremy Roenick scored his third career hat trick, on Dec. 16, 1990, in the Blackhawks 5-2 win over the Minnesota North Stars. This extended Chicago’s home undefeated streak against the North Stars to 10 straight games (8-0-2).
Capital Gains (and a Loss)
This has been a very productive date in the capital cities of both the United States and Canada, starting on Dec. 16, 1991, when the NHL officially added the Tampa Bay Lightning and Ottawa Senators. When they began play at the start of the 1992-93 season, the league grew to 24 teams.
On Dec. 16, 2002, Daniel Alfredsson played in his 500th career game with the Senators and scored a goal in a 3-2 loss against the visiting Canadiens. Hall of Famer Doug Gilmour’s goal in the winning effort made him the 14th player to ever score 1,400 points.
Goaltender Olaf Kolzig recorded his 19th career shutout, on Dec. 16, 2000, in the Washington Capitals 4-0 win against the visiting Edmonton Oilers. In the same game, Peter Bondra became the seventh player in team history to play in 700 games. He is still third all-time in games played with 961, but Nicklas Backstrom is just five games behind him heading into the new season.
The Capitals lost to the Florida Panthers, on Dec. 16, 2014, in the longest shootout in the history of the league. Nick Bjugstad finally put an end to the night by scoring with the second attempt of the 20th round. It was Bjugstad’s second shot of shootout after both teams already used all 18 skaters. The Capitals took a lead five separate times but were answered after each goal. The 11 combined goals set another NHL record.
The Senators hosted the Canadiens, on Dec. 16, 2017, at the NHL 100 Classic. Nearly 34,000 fans packed Lansdowne Park to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first NHL game. Craig Anderson made 38 saves in the Senators’ 3-0 win with Ottawa-native Jean-Gabriel Pageau scoring the game-winning goal.
No shootout was needed, on Dec. 16, 2018, as Alex Ovechkin scored in overtime to beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-2. This was his 21st regular-season overtime goal. He has since added two more and his 23 are the most in league history, four more than Jaromir Jagr.
Odds & Ends
Gordie Howe scored two goals and set up two others, on Dec. 16, 1964, to become the first player to ever score 1,300 career points. His four points led the way in the Detroit Red Wings’ 7-3 win at the Rangers, the 1,000th in franchise history.
Bruce Boudreau scored the only hat trick of his NHL career, on Dec. 16, 1977, in the Maple Leafs 8-5 victory against the North Stars. Hall of Fame defenseman Borje Salming picked up five assists on the night.
Bobby Clarke scored two goals and added two assists, on Dec. 16, 1982, to give him 1,100 career points. His milestone evening came in the Philadelphia Flyers’ 7-2 blowout of the Red Wings.
On Dec. 16, 1993, Joe Sakic scored his 200th NHL goal in a Quebec Nordiques’ 3-2 loss at the Flyers. He is still the franchise’s all-time leader with 625 goals.
Luc Robitaille scored a goal, on Dec. 16, 2000, in the Kings’ 4-3 loss to the Lightning. His tally made him the second player in team history, after Marcel Dionne, to score 500 goals with the Kings. He was also the 16th player in league history to score 500 goals with one team.
Noah Clarke made his NHL debut, on Dec. 16, 2003, becoming the first California-born player to dress for the Kings. He picked up an assist to help Los Angeles to a 4-2 win over the Oilers. This was the only assist of Clarke’s career. He had three goals and four points in 21 NHL games, including one with the New Jersey Devils.
Happy Birthday to You
A group of 11 NHL players born on this date is headlined by Wayne Connelly (81), Eric Belanger (43), Mike Weber (33) and Mikkel Boedker (31).
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.