Today in Hockey History: Dec. 4

The most successful team in National Hockey League history was founded on this date. Decades later, one of the league’s greatest players achieved something no player ever had and very few others have since. In addition, this was a good day to be a goaltender or skating in Los Angeles.

Bad & Good for Howe

One of the most remarkable things about Gordie Howe’s legendary career was his durability. However, that was tested back on this date in 1948 when he suffered torn cartilage in his right knee during the Detroit Red Wings’ 3-2 loss at the Boston Bruins. The injury forced him to miss 20 games, which was the longest period of inactivity in his entire NHL career.

Exactly two decades later, on Dec. 4, 1968, the news was much better for Mr. Hockey. On this night, Howe became the first player ever to score 700 goals in the NHL. The major milestone came in a 7-2 win at the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Since this date, seven more players have joined the 700-goal club, with the most recent being Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals. Howe became the first player to score 800 goals in 1980, something only he and Wayne Gretzky have accomplished.

The Start of a Hockey Empire

On Dec. 4, 1909, J. Ambrose O’Brien officially founded Club de Hockey Canadien, which has been known to generations of hockey fans as the Montreal Canadiens. They joined the new National Hockey Association in 1910 and went 2-10-0 in their first season. When the NHA folded they joined the NHL and are the oldest franchise still playing today.

The Canadiens have won 34 Stanley Cups in franchise history with the first coming in 1916 and the most recent in 1993. Nobody has won more Cups than them in hockey history; the Red Wings are second with 24. Some of the greatest players of the game have worn the Habs sweater like Jean Beliveau, Bernie Geoffrion, Guy LaFleur and Maurice Richard. There have been 57 players who have played for the Canadiens inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Goaltending Legends Rule the Day

Tiny Thompson earned his 75th career shutout, and first with the Red Wings, on Dec. 4, 1938, in a 1-0 blanking of the Toronto Maple Leafs. This was just his second game with Detroit after being acquired from the Boston Bruins. He was the first goaltender in league history to earn 75 shutouts.

On that same night, Frank Brimsek, who replaced Thompson in goal with the Bruins, picked up his first NHL shutout in a 5-0 win at the Chicago Blackhawks. This started a streak of six shutouts in seven games for the rookie.

Bill Durnan extended his record unbeaten streak to start his career, on Dec. 4, 1943, with an 8-2 victory over the Red Wings. This improved his record to 12-0-2 over his first 14 NHL games. He held this record until Patrick Lalime of the Pittsburgh Penguins went 16 games without a loss at the start of his career in the 1996-97 season.

Bill Durnan
Durnan’s record stood for over 50 years. (THW Archives)

Harry Lumley and Paul Bibeault dueled to a 0-0 scoreless tie, on Dec. 4, 1946, in a game between the Red Wings and Blackhawks. This was Lumley’s fourth career shutout. Eight years later, on Dec. 4, 1954, Lumley, now a member of the Maple Leafs, picked up his 58th shutout in a 1-0 win over this former team, the Red Wings.

Terry Sawchuk recorded his 62nd career shutout, on Dec. 4, 1955, to lead the Bruins to a 5-0 win over the visiting Maple Leafs. The win snapped a six-game losing streak and 10-game winless stretch (0-8-2) for the Bruins.

Now back with the Red Wings, on Dec. 4, 1958, Sawchuk shutout the Bruins 4-0 at the Olympia Stadium in Detroit. It was the 74th career shutout of his Hall of Fame career.

Rookie goaltender Ken Dryden recorded his third career shutout, on Dec 4, 1971, in the Canadiens 7-0 blowout of the Vancouver Canucks. Jacques Lemaire scored his second career hat trick and added two assists while Frank Mahovlich picked up four assists to lead the offense.

On Dec. 4, 1996, Patrick Roy earned his 36th career and established a new franchise record with his fifth shutout of the season in the Colorado Avalanche’s 2-0 win over the visiting Edmonton Oilers. Peter Forsberg led the scoring with a goal and an assist.

Martin Brodeur became the first goaltender to record 25 shutouts in a New Jersey Devils uniform, on Dec. 4, 1997, in a 4-0 victory over the Penguins.

Martin Brodeur New Jersey Devils
Brodeur was one of the greatest goalies in NHL history. (Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Six years later, on Dec. 4, 2003, Brodeur earned his 69th career shutout in a 3-0 win over the Washington Capitals. The Devils outshot the Capitals 41-9. Patrick Elias picked up and assist while playing his 500th game.

A Record-Setting Date in LA

Marcel Dionne scored his 20th goal of the season, on Dec. 4, 1978, in the Los Angeles Kings’ 10-2 blow out of the Capitals. He became the fastest player in team history to 20 goals as it took just 23 games to get there.

Two years later, on Dec. 4, 1980, Dionne became the 16th player in NHL history to score 400 career goals. His goal early in the first period helped the Kings to a 3-1 win over the Canucks.

Bernie Nicholls became the 11th player in Kings’ history to score 100 goals, on Dec. 4, 1984, in a 2-2 tie with the Minnesota North Stars. Goaltender Bob Janecyk came up with 44 saves to earn the Kings a point.

Bernie Nicholls
Before Gretzky, Nicholls was the man in LA. (nhl.com)

On Dec. 4, 1985, Mark Hardy became the first defenseman in franchise history to earn 200 career assists. He also added two goals in the Kings 4-3 win over the Maple Leafs at the Great Western Forum.

Just Messin’ Around

Hall of Famer Mark Messier had a goal and two assists, on Dec. 4, 1995, in the New York Rangers’ 5-1 win over the visiting Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. The big performance made him the seventh player in league history to score 1,400 career points.

Mark Messier New York Rangers
Messier reached two milestones on this date. (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images/NHLI)

Six years later, on Dec. 4, 2001, Messier had an assist in the Blueshirts’ 5-2 loss at the Capitals. With the helper, he became just the seventh player to score 600 points a member of the Rangers.

Odds & Ends

The Blackhawks picked up their first-ever road victory, on Dec. 4, 1926, a 5-3 win over the Canadiens in Montreal. The win came after a loss and tie in their first two road games.

Marguerite Norris became the first female NHL executive, on Dec. 4, 1952, when she was named president of the Red Wings following the death of her father James. She became the first woman to have her name engraved on the Stanley Cup when the Wings took home the sports’ ultimate prize in 1954. She stepped down to the role of vice president after another Stanley Cup win in 1955 to focus on her business in New York City. Her brother Bruce took over as team president.

The Maple Leafs beat the Bruins 5-2 in Boston, on Dec. 4, 1960, to start a seven-game road winning streak. The streak included at least one victory in all five opposing NHL arenas.

Bruins’ forward Andy Hebenton played in his 581st straight game, on Dec. 4, 1963, in a 2-2 tie with the Blackhawks. This broke Johnny Wilson’s NHL record for the most consecutive games played. He never missed a during nine-season NHL career and played in 630 straight contests before hanging them up.

Rookie Tim Hunter became the first Calgary native to score a goal for the Calgary Flames, on Dec. 4, 1982, when he scored the first of his NHL career, in a 7-5 loss at the Edmonton Oilers.

Another rookie, and future Conn Smythe Trophy winner, Claude Lemieux scored the first goal of his NHL career, on Dec. 4, 1983, in a 6-2 Canadiens’ loss at the Buffalo Sabres.

Jimmy Carson scored three goals, on Dec. 4, 1988, to lead the Oilers to a 10-6 win over the Rangers. This made him just the third player in NHL history to register six hat tricks before his 21st birthday. This was his first hat trick with the Oilers, who acquired him from the Kings in the trade for Wayne Gretzky the previous August. Guy Lafleur tied his career-high with four assists in the losing effort.

Jimmy Carson, #12 for the Edmonton Oilers
Carson’s career got off to a tremendous start. (Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images)

Kirk McLean made 45 saves for his eighth career shutout, on Dec. 4, 1991, as the Canucks won 3-0 at Montreal. This was Vancouver’s first shutout over the Canadiens in their 21-season franchise history. Greg Adams did all the damage with his third career hat trick.

Staying in Vancouver, on Dec. 4, 1996, Jyrki Lumme became the highest goal-scoring defenseman in Canucks’ history. He scored his 66th goal with the team, in overtime, to beat the Sabres 7-6, breaking the old record held by Doug Lidster.

Prior to a 5-2 win over the Rangers, on Dec. 4, 2001, Peter Bondra was honored by the Capitals for recently becoming the franchise’s all-time leading goal scorer. That was just the start as he scored twice in the victory to become the first player to score 400 goals in a Washington uniform.

Happy Birthday to You

A total of 19 NHL players have been born on this date including a pair of Hall of Famers; the late Jack Darragh and Red Wings’ legend Alex Delvecchio (88). Other notable names from this group include Gary Sabourin (77), Rick Middleton (67), Dave Taylor (65), Jassen Cullimore (48) and Luke Kunin (23)


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