Dec. 26 has proven to be an extremely busy day in National Hockey League history. A handful of Hockey Hall of Famers had huge performances on this date as we had to say goodbye to two others. Some goaltending greats showed exactly why they are held in high regard, while fans in Pittsburgh and Vancouver had plenty to cheer about. Let’s strap in for our daily trip through the decades.
Hockey World Loses Two Legends
Hall of Famer Doug Harvey passed away on Dec. 26, 1989, at the age of 65. The Montreal native is considered one of the greatest defensemen to play the game. He played 1,113 games over 20 seasons with the Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings, and St. Louis Blues.
Harvey won six Stanley Cups with the Canadiens, including five in a row between 1956 and 1960. He was awarded the Norris Trophy for being the best defenseman in the NHL seven times in eight years. His final Norris Trophy came during the 1961-62 season, his first with the Rangers, at 37. After toiling in the minor leagues for the majority of five seasons, he returned to the Blues for the 1968 playoffs. He then played 70 games during the 1968-69 season at 44 years old.
Legendary goaltender Johnny Bower died on Dec. 26, 2017, at 93. It took “The China Wall” some time to finally get a starting job in the NHL, but he became one of the all-time greats once he did. After 77 games over three seasons with the Rangers, he played 12 seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, winning four Stanley Cups. He retired in 1970 with 609 professional wins, 250 in the NHL, and 359 in the American Hockey League (AHL), the most in league history.
A Big Day for Hall of Famers
Howie Morenz scored the first goal of his NHL career on Dec. 26, 1923, in the Canadiens’ 3-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators. He scored 271 goals in 550 games, becoming one of the league’s earliest stars.
Johnny Bucyk scored on Dec. 26, 1976, in the Boston Bruins’ 6-3 victory against the Cleveland Barons. The goal was the 545th of his career, moving him ahead of Maurice Richard for fourth place on the all-time list. At this time, he trailed only Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull, and his former teammate Phil Esposito.
Lanny McDonald scored three times on Dec. 26, 1982, during the Calgary Flames’ 4-4 tie with the visiting Edmonton Oilers. His 13th career hat trick gave him 350 NHL goals.
In another chapter of the Battle of Alberta, Paul Coffey scored four goals, including his second career hat trick, on Dec. 26, 1984, to lead the Oilers to a 6-5 win over the Flames. Coffey’s four goals set a new team record for a defenseman.
One year later, on Dec. 26, 1985, Dale Hawerchuk scored his 200th career goal and added two assists in the Winnipeg Jets 6-5 loss to the visiting Minnesota North Stars.
Mike Gartner had two big nights on this date. First, on Dec. 26, 1991, he helped complete a massive comeback against his former team. In the first period, the Rangers found themselves down 6-1 to the Washington Capitals. New York exploded for five goals in the final frame to steal an 8-6 win. Gartner scored the game-winning goal with just under eight minutes to play.
Two years later, on Dec. 26, 1993, Gartner scored his 600th career goal in an 8-6 win over the New Jersey Devils. He wasn’t finished there as he scored goal No. 601 just over a minute later.
Sergei Fedorov had a night for the ages on Dec. 26, 1996, as he provided all the offense in the Red Wings 5-4 overtime win versus the Capitals. After scoring four goals in regulation, including two in the third period to even up the score, he lit the lamp one more time in overtime. He became the first player in league history to score every goal for his team in a game when at least five were scored.
Doug Gilmour scored a goal to give him 1,200 career points on Dec. 26, 1998, during the Chicago Blackhawks’ 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. He was the 27th player in league history to score 1,200 points.
Goaltending Greats Hit Milestones
The skaters weren’t the only ones to shine on this date, as there were plenty of big-time efforts between the pipes too. On Dec. 26, 1968, Jacques Plante won his 350th NHL game leading the Blues past the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2. Only 23 goaltenders have won at least 350 games in league history. Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings is just six wins away from joining the club.
On Dec. 26, 1976, Tony Esposito became the 11th goaltender in NHL history to win 250 games in the Blackhawks’ 5-3 victory over the visiting Colorado Rockies.
Dominik Hasek was the star on Dec. 26, 1997, as he led the Buffalo Sabres to a 3-0 win over the Rangers. He became the first goaltender in franchise history to earn 25 shutouts. He is still the all-time leader in Buffalo with 55 shutouts. Ryan Miller is second with 28.
Patrick Roy became the first goaltender in NHL to win 500 games on Dec. 26, 2001, in the Colorado Avalanche’s 2-0 victory at the Dallas Stars. He, Martin Brodeur, and Marc-Andre Fleury are the only goaltenders to win at least 500 games. Roy retired with 551 victories while Brodeur went on to 691.
Spotlight on Steel Town
Something about playing on the day after Christmas has brought on the best in the Penguins: starting on Dec. 26, 1983, when Andy Brickley scored the only hat trick of his career during a 7-4 win over the Rangers. Randy Carlyle added four assists in the winning effort.
One year later, Mike Bullard scored his third career hat trick and an added assist in the Penguins’ 6-5 defeat of the New York Islanders. Rookie Mario Lemieux chipped with two goals and a pair of assists.
Joe Mullen recorded his 400th career assist on Dec. 26, 1990, as the Penguins won 7-3 at the Capitals. The following year, Mullen scored four goals for the second straight game in a 12-1 blowout of the Maple Leafs. Lemieux was the star of the night with seven points, two goals, and five assists. Kevin Stevens had a pair of goals and four helpers. Also, Larry Murphy became just the 10th defenseman in league history to score 700 career points.
Finally, on Dec. 26, 1995, Ron Francis became the 24th player in NHL history to reach 1,200 points when he had a goal and two assists in the Penguins’ 6-3 win over the Sabres.
Canucks Shine on Boxing Day
On Dec. 26, 1970, Andre Boudrias became the first Vancouver Canucks player to score a goal while two men short. His goal while killing a 5-on-3 penalty was also the 100th in the team’s brief history. Despite the historic goal, the Canucks lost to the Blackhawks 4-2.
Don Tannahill became the first Canucks rookie to score three goals in a game on Dec. 26, 1972, as he led them to a 4-3 win over the Oakland Seals.
The Canucks hosted Moscow Dynamo on Dec. 26, 1979, who was on a tour of North America from the Soviet Union. Brad Smith and Stan Smyl each scored twice while the Canucks scored three goals in 43 seconds, in the middle frame, to win 6-2.
Dan Cloutier earned the 12th shutout of his career on Dec. 26, 2003, with a 2-0 win over the Calgary Flames. This made the Canucks the 15th team in NHL history to win 1,000 games.
Jannick Hansen was the hero on Dec. 26, 2015, in Vancouver’s 2-1 overtime win against the Oilers. After scoring earlier in the game, he left the ice in the third period after he smacked his face off of the crossbar. He returned for the extra session and scored another goal to give the Canucks their first-ever 3-on-3 overtime win.
Odds & Ends
On Dec. 26, 1925, the New York Americans and Pittsburgh Pirates set an NHL record with 141 total shots on goal in the Americans’ 3-1 win. New York finished the crazy game with a 73-68 shot advantage. The goaltenders earned their game checks, with Roy Worters making 70 saves for the win.
Doug Jarvis played in his 915th straight game on Dec. 26, 1986, to establish a new NHL record. He was held off the scoresheet in the Hartford Whalers’ 1-1 tie with the Canadiens, the team he started his streak with in 1975. He broke the previous record held by Gary Unger, who played in 914 consecutive games for the Maple Leafs, Red Wings, and Blues between 1968 and 1979.
The Devils had a historic night on Dec. 26, 1987, despite losing 5-3 to the Rangers. Kirk Muller skated in his 475th game for the team, the most by any player in franchise history, breaking Mike Kitchen’s old record. Aaron Broten had a goal and two assists in the losing effort to become the first player to score 300 points for the team since relocating to New Jersey.
The San Jose Sharks beat the Los Angeles Kings 7-2 on Dec. 26, 1992, thanks to a Herculean effort by goaltender Jeff Hackett. He set new team records by facing 59 shots and making 57 saves to snap the Sharks’ 13-game losing streak.
In addition to his big game for the Penguins in 1991, Stevens scored his 300th NHL goal on Dec. 26, 1998, to help the Rangers beat the Carolina Hurricanes 6-3. Petr Nedved led the offense with two goals and a pair of assists.
Rookie Scott Gomez scored his first career hat trick, on Dec. 26, 1999, in the Devils 3-3 tie with the Rangers. The win extended New Jersey’s unbeaten streak versus New York to 16 games straight games (11-0-5).
Oilers won their 500th all-time home game on Dec. 26, 2001, beating the visiting Flames 3-2.
On that same night, Radek Bonk became the Ottawa Senators’ all-time leader in games played when he appeared in his 506th career game with the team, a 3-2 loss to the Bruins. He broke the old record of 505 games set by Alexei Yashin.
Happy Birthday to You
Just 12 NHL players have called Dec. 26 their birthday. The most notable names of the group are Hall of Famer Norm Ullman (86), Gene Ubriaco (84), Andy Delmore (45), and the late Colby Cave.
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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.