Dec. 20 has been a very eventful and exciting date in the history of the National Hockey League. Some of the biggest names in the Hall of Fame had memorable moments on this date, especially in the “Original Six” cities of Montreal and Chicago. Let’s all climb aboard our hockey time machine and take our daily trip through the decades.
Hall of Famers on Display in Montreal
Bernie Geoffrion and Maurice Richard are two of the biggest legends in Montreal Canadiens history, and they both had big nights on this date. On Dec. 20, 1955, the duo each scored three goals and had an assist as the Canadiens won 7-1 at the Chicago Blackhawks. This was the 25th hat trick of Richard’s NHL career and the fifth for Geoffrion.
On Dec. 20, 1973, Henri Richard, Maurice’s younger brother, became the ninth player in league history to score 1,000 career points. He achieved his milestone with a second-period assist during a 2-2 tie at the Buffalo Sabres.
One year later, on Dec. 20, 1974, Guy Lafleur scored his 100th NHL goal in a 6-1 Canadiens win at the Vancouver Canucks. He then scored his 500th career goal on this date in 1983. Lafleur wasn’t the only future Hall of Famer to hit a personal milestone on that night. Steve Shutt scored his 400th career goal to help lead the way in a 5-0 win at the New Jersey Devils.
Big Date for Blackhawks’ All-Time Greats
Bill Mosienko played his entire NHL career with the Blackhawks, spanning 711 games over 14 seasons. On Dec. 20, 1953, he scored two goals and added an assist to give him 500 career points, as the Blackhawks won 4-1 against the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs. He retired in 1955 with 540 career points, which are the 13th-most in franchise history.
The Blackhawks scored seven goals in the second period on Dec. 20, 1959, and won 7-4 against the Maple Leafs. Bobby Hull led the scoring with four points with his second career hat trick and an assist.
Hull had another big night five years later, on Dec. 20, 1964, when he scored a goal in a 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins. This gave him 28 goals through the first 28 games of the 1964-65 season. He had 32 goals in 35 games before the injury bug showed its ugly head. He finished the season with 39 goals in 61 total games.
Pit Martin and Hull each scored, on Dec. 20, 1970, to lead the Blackhawks to a 2-1 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The victory was their 13th straight win at the Chicago Stadium, a new team record, and increased their home unbeaten streak to 18 games (16-0-2).
Denis Savard scored a goal and added three assists on Dec. 20, 1986, as the Blackhawks earned a 6-2 road win in Boston. He loved seeing the Bruins on the schedule during his career as he scored 20 goals and 58 points in 58 games against them.
The Blackhawks set a team record on Dec. 20, 1989, with four goals within a span of 1:56 during the third period of a 9-6 win against the St. Louis Blues. In the victory, Doug Wilson became the first defenseman in team history to record 500 career assists. He had a goal and three helpers on this night. Brett Hull, the son of Bobby, scored his third career hat trick in the losing effort.
Finally, on Dec. 20, 1992, Ed Belfour picked up his fourth shutout of the season in the Blackhawks’ 4-0 win over the Minnesota North Stars. He increased his unbeaten streak to eight games (7-0-1) as Chicago won their ninth straight game on home ice.
More Hall of Fame Moments
Rookie goaltender Frank Brimsek earned his third straight shutout on Dec. 20, 1938, in a 3-0 Bruins’ win over the New York Americans. This was his third consecutive shutout and his sixth in the last seven games. He had six shutouts in the first eight starts of his career, which earned him the nickname “Mr. Zero.”
Another all-time great netminder, Turk Broda, became the first goaltender in NHL history to win 300 games on Dec. 20, 1950, in the Maple Leafs 6-1 road victory at the Canadiens.
Two Bruins’ legends, Bobby Orr and Johnny Bucyk, had huge nights on Dec. 20, 1969, in a 6-4 win at the Penguins. Orr was credited with assists on Boston’s first five goals of the night, including two by Bucyk. He finished his historic season as the first defenseman to lead the league in scoring.
On Dec. 20, 1985, Denis Potvin became the NHL’s all-time leading scorer among defensemen during the New York Islanders 2-2 tie with the Rangers. His assist in the first period gave him 916 points, putting him ahead of Orr. He retired with 1,052 points, which are still the seventh-most among blueliners.
Paul Kariya scored twice and added three assists on Dec. 20, 1996, in the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim’s 7-0 blowout of the Calgary Flames
Pavel Bure set a Florida Panthers team record on Dec. 20, 1999, by scoring a goal in his fifth straight game during a 6-4 loss to the Maple Leafs. He also added two assists for a three-point night. This ended a streak of three straight games in which Bure scored the game-winning goal.
Oilers vs Kings
The Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings met on this date, in back-to-back years, and played two memorable games that were the stuff of nightmares for goaltenders.
On Dec. 20, 1985, Jari Kurri scored four times in the Oilers’ 9-4 over the visiting Kings. Wayne Gretzky terrorized his future team by assisting on six of the nine Edmonton goals.
One year later, the Kings were back in Edmonton and found themselves down 8-4 with just over nine minutes to play. Gretzky had two goals and three assists, while Kurri had a goal and three helpers to build the big lead. Bernie Nichols began an epic comeback with a goal at the 10:46 mark. Morris Lukowich and Marcel Dionne scored 44 seconds apart to cut the lead to one. Nichols scored again to even the score with 32 seconds to play as the game ended in an 8-8 tie.
Odds & Ends
The Philadelphia Flyers tied an NHL record by extending their undefeated streak to 28 games (19-0-9) on Dec. 20, 1979, with a 1-1 tie against the visiting Penguins. Behn Wilson saved the day by scoring the game-tying goal with just over four minutes to play.
Exactly one year later, on Dec. 20, 1980, Ron Greschner became the first defenseman in Rangers team history to score 100 career goals. His milestone tally came in a 3-3 tie with the North Stars.
Doug Smail scored the fastest goal from the start of the game on Dec. 20, 1981, in the Winnipeg Jets’ 5-4 win over the St. Louis Blues. His shot from 15 feet out beat goaltender Paul Skidmore just five seconds into the game. This was Skidmore’s NHL debut and the first shot he ever faced. Bryan Trottier (1984) and Alexander Mogilny (1992) have tied this record.
Trevor Linden scored his third career hat trick on Dec. 20, 1990, in the Canucks’ 7-4 win versus the Oilers. He helped set up three other Vancouver goals to finish the night with six points.
Rick Tabaracci became just the second goaltender in NHL history to play for seven different teams in his career on Dec. 20, 1999, when he suited up for the Colorado Avalanche in a 4-2 win at the Carolina Hurricanes.
Marian Gaborik scored five goals on Dec. 20, 2007, to lead the Minnesota Wild to a 6-3 win over the Rangers. He became the first NHL player to have a five-goal game since Sergei Fedorov had one for the Detroit Red Wings on Dec. 26, 1996.
The Kings named Darryl Sutter their new head coach on Dec. 20, 2011, taking over for John Stevens, who served as interim coach for four games after Terry Murray was fired. This was Sutter’s fourth head coaching job and first since 2006 with the Flames. The 2011-12 season ended with the Kings winning their first Stanley Cup in franchise history and Sutter’s career. He led them to a second championship in 2014.
Happy Birthday to You
Hall of Famer Charlie Conacher headlines a group of 20 current and former NHL players born on this date. Other notable players born on Dec. 20 are Bill Clement (71), Travis Green (51), Cory Stillman (48), Andrei Markov (43), Derek Dorsett (35), Chris Tanev (32), William Carrier (27), Anthony Richard (25), Jonathan Dahlen (24), and Nils Hoglander (21).
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.