When it comes to historic dates in the National Hockey League, Dec. 19 is right up near the top of the list. The first game in league history was played on this date and it also saw the 1,000-point mark reached faster than it ever had before or will again. Let’s start our daily trip through hockey history.
The Biggest Day in NHL History
The NHL began its inaugural season, on Dec. 19, 1917, with a pair of games. The Montreal Canadiens earned a 7-4 victory at the Ottawa Senators and the Montreal Wanderers won a crazy 10-9 game at the Toronto Arenas.
Wanderers’ defenseman Dave Ritchie made history just one minute into his game by scoring the first goal in NHL history. He scored a second goal in the third period, which proved to be the game-winner. Harry Hyland scored five goals for the winning side while Reg Noble scored four times for Toronto.
Scoring in bunches was the theme of the night as Joe Malone scored the first goal in Canadiens history on his way to a five-goal game. He won the NHL’s first scoring title with 44 goals and 48 points in 20 games. How about that for a goals-to-assists ratio?
Exactly a century later, on Dec. 19, 2017, the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrated the 100th anniversary of their first game with an 8-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. The Leafs wore Arenas jerseys for their “Next Century Game.” They got goals from eight different players in the blowout victory.
Gretzky, the Fastest to 1,000
Wayne Gretzky scored two goals and added four assists, on Dec. 19, 1984, in the Edmonton Oilers’ 7-3 win over the Los Angeles Kings. This big performance gave him 1,000 points in just 424 career games. This was the fastest any player has scored 1,000 points. He didn’t just break the record, he shattered into a million tiny pieces. The previous record was held by Guy Lefleur, who needed 720 games to reach 1,000 points.
Five years later, on Dec. 19, 1989, Gretzky had another six-point night. He matched his two goals and four assists, this time helping to lead the Kings to a win, 9-5 over the visiting Winnipeg Jets.
Big Day in Boston
Tiny Thompson made 34 saves for his 41st career shutout, on Dec. 19, 1933, and Bob Gracie scored at 6:24 of overtime for a Boston Bruins; 1-0 win over the Montreal Maroons. All proceeds of the game, nearly $7,000, were donated to Ace Bailey’s wife. Bailey, a forward for the Maple Leafs, suffered a career-ending injury a week earlier. He fractured his skull when his head hit the ice after a big hit from Bruins’ defenseman Eddie Shore.
On Dec. 19, 1945, Bill Cowley scored two goals and added two assists as the Bruins beat the New York Rangers 8-7, in a penalty-free game. Herb Cain scored the game-winning goal with 20 seconds remaining in regulation.
Phil Esposito set a new team record with seven points, on Dec. 19, 1974, by scoring three goals and four assists in the Bruins’ 11-3 win over the Rangers. This was the 23rd hat trick of his career.
Rick Middleton scored picked up his 800th NHL point, on Dec. 19, 1984, as the Bruins lost 6-5 at the Hartford Whalers. Terry O’Reilly had a very eventful night as he racked up nine total penalties; five minors, three majors and one game misconduct.
The Bruins and St. Louis Blues scored the fastest two goals in NHL history, on Dec. 19, 1987. Ken Linseman scored with less than a minute to play to cut the Blues’ lead down to 6-5. With the goaltender on the bench for an extra attacker, Doug Gilmour scored two seconds later by winning the ensuing faceoff and shooting the puck into the empty net.
Ray Bourque scored his 300th career goal, on Dec. 19, 1993, to lead the Bruins to a 2-1 win at the Florida Panthers. He joined Paul Coffey and Denis Potvin as the only defensemen to ever score 300 goals. His 410 career goals are still the most in NHL history by a blueliner.
Federko & Gartner Shine
A pair of Hall of Famers, Bernie Federko, the Blues’ all-time leading scorer, and Mike Gartner, one of only eight players to score 700 goals, both had a pair of big nights on this date.
Federko began things with four assists, on Dec. 19, 1978, to help end St. Louis’ seven-game winless streak (0-6-1) with a 7-4 victory over the Atlanta Flames. Brian Sutter chipped in by scoring two goals and assisting on two others, while rookie Wayne Babych had a goal and three assists in the win.
Three years later, on Dec. 19, 1981, Federko extended his team-record assist streak to 10 straight games in the Blues’ 5-0 win over the visiting Vancouver Canucks. Goaltender Mike Liut earned the fifth shutout of his career.
Gartner scored his seventh goal of the season, on Dec. 19, 1986, to become the first player to score 600 points as a member of the Washington Capitals. The milestone came in a 6-4 loss to the New Jersey Devils.
On Dec. 19, 1992, now a member of the Rangers, Gartner scored his 556th goal, tying Bruins’ legend Johnny Bucyk for eighth on the NHL’s all-time list. This historic goal came during a 4-4 tie with the Whalers.
Odds & Ends
Harry Lumley became the youngest goaltender to ever appear in an NHL game, on Dec. 19, 1943, during the Detroit Red Wings 6-2 loss at the Rangers. He was just 17 years and 38 days old when he took the ice. This was his first appearance in a long career that lasted until 1960 and saw him win 330 games.
Rookie goaltender Tony Esposito recorded his fifth shutout of the season, on Dec. 19, 1969, in the Chicago Blackhawks’ 4-0 win at the Oakland Seals. He finished the 1969-70 season with 15 shutouts, an NHL rookie record.
Charlie Simmer tied a modern NHL record with a goal in his 10th straight game, on Dec. 19, 1979, during a Kings’ 4-4 tie at the Maple Leafs. He extended this streak to 13 games before it was snapped. It is still the longest goal streak in the modern era and the fourth-longest overall.
The Calgary Flames and the Dallas Stars pulled off a big trade, on Dec. 19, 1995, that helped both teams. The Flames traded Joe Nieuwendyk to the Stars for Corey Millen and Jarome Iginla, who they drafted in the first round of the most recent NHL Entry Draft. Nieuwendyk was a huge part of Dallas’ Stanley Cup win in 1999 and Iginla went on to become Calgary’s all-time leader in goals and points.
Defenseman Michel Petit became the first player in NHL history to score a goal for nine different teams, on Dec. 19, 1997, when his first goal of the season helped the Phoenix Coyotes to a 6-2 win at the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
Wade Redden had a goal and an assist, on Dec. 19, 2002, in his 500th career game with the Senators. Daniel Alfredsson was credited with four assists in a 9-3 win over the visiting San Jose Sharks.
On Dec. 19, 2015, Phil Kessel became the 23rd player in NHL history to play in 500 consecutive games. He was held off the scoresheet as he and the Pittsburgh Penguins lost 2-1 on home ice to the Carolina Hurricanes.
Happy Birthday to You
A group of 19 NHL players born on this date is headlined by the late Hall of Fame defenseman Doug Harvey, who was born on Dec. 19, 1924. Other notable players sharing birthdays today are Ron Schock (77), Behn Wilson (62), Eric Weinrich (54), Robert Lang (50), Matt Stajan (37) and Carter Hutton (35)
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.