One of the most iconic teams in the history of the National Hockey League was close to relocating before a legendary name stepped up and took control. This date has been full of big moments by some of the greatest members of the Hockey Hall of Fame and a couple of players who will be joining them soon. Let’s take our daily trip back in time to relive all the best memories Feb. 15 has given us over the decades.
Early NHL Memories
Punch Broadbent extended his goal-scoring streak to a record 16 games, on Feb. 15, 1922, during the Ottawa Senators’ 6-6 tie with the Montreal Canadiens. His two goals gave him 28 on the season in 18 games.
Could you imagine the NHL without the Toronto Maple Leafs? Well, they almost never came to be. The struggling Toronto St. Patricks were close to moving to Philadelphia before Conn Smythe bought the team on this date in 1927. He quickly changed the name to the Maple Leafs and traded in the Kelly green for the familiar blue and white we still see today.
Smythe was the majority owner of the team from this date until 1961. He also spearheaded the construction of Maple Leafs Gardens, which opened in 1931. His name appeared on the Stanley Cup eight times during his time in Toronto. Today, the most valuable player of the postseason is awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy each spring.
On Feb. 15, 1945, the New York Rangers train from Detroit made them over two hours late for their game at the Chicago Blackhawks. The opening faceoff was delayed until 10:50 p.m., but despite the long travel, the Rangers beat the Blackhawks 6-2 in a penalty-free game.
Maurice Richard scored a natural hat trick, his 10th career hat trick, and added an assist, on Feb. 15, 1974, as the Canadiens and Maple Leafs skated to a 4-4 tie.
Jean Beliveau picked up two assists, giving him 400 career points, on Feb. 15, 1959, in a 5-1 win at the Rangers. He accomplished this feat in 362 regular-season games. Jacques Plante became the second NHL goaltender to win 30 wins in five different seasons.
Guy Lapointe became the first defenseman in Canadiens history to score 20 goals in a season, on Feb. 15, 1975, in a 12-3 win over the visiting Blackhawks. However, his milestone was overshadowed by winger Yvan Cournoyer, who scored five goals and added two assists.
Three years later, on Feb. 15, 1978, Montreal won 6-2 at the St. Louis Blues to extend their undefeated streak to 24 games (19-0-5). This broke the previous NHL record shared by the 1940-41 Boston Bruins and 1975-76 Philadelphia Flyers. Guy Lafleur led the offense with two goals and a pair of assists.
Motown Legends Take the Spotlight
Gordie Howe scored twice, on Feb. 15, 1953, to lead the visiting Detroit Reds to a 4-1 win in Chicago. At 24 years old, he became the youngest player in NHL history to score 200 career goals.
Terry Sawchuk became the first goaltender in NHL history to win at least 30 games in five straight seasons, on Feb. 15, 1955, when the Red Wings beat the Blackhawks 3-2, at the Olympia.
Alex Delvecchio became the third player in franchise history to score 250 goals, on Feb. 15, 1964, and also had an assist in the Red Wings’ 4-1 road win at the Canadiens.
Brendan Shanahan scored to give him at least 20 goals for the 15th consecutive season, on Feb. 15, 2003, in the Red Wings’ 6-2 win at the Atlanta Thrashers.
Wayne Gretzky Sets Them Up
The Great One was in a giving mood on this date. First, on Feb. 15, 1980, he had tied the NHL single-game record by racking up seven assists in the Edmonton Oilers’ 8-2 win over the Washington Capitals. The was the first of three seven-assist games he had in his career.
On Feb. 15, 1999, Gretzky played in his one and only game in Nashville and he made it a night to remember. He ended his game with five assists in the Rangers’ 7-4 road victory against the Predators. His five helpers put him exactly 1,000 points ahead of Howe, who was second all-time scoring.
Martin Brodeur’s Big Day
Martin Brodeur stopped 25 shots, on Feb. 15, 1997, as he led the New Jersey Devils to a 4-1 win in his hometown of Montreal. This was the 107th victory of his career, passing Chris Terreri for the most in franchise history. It also extended his personal undefeated streak to 11 games (8-0-3).
Exactly three years later, on this date in 2000, Brodeur became the first goaltender in league history to score a game-winning goal. He was the last Devils player to touch the puck before the Flyers inadvertently deposited it into their own net. This gave them a 3-1 lead and became the game-winner after Mark Recchi scored later in the third period.
This came exactly 23 years after Rogie Vachon thought he became the first goaltender in league history to score a goal. He was originally given credit for a goal in the Los Angeles Kings’ 3-0 win over the New York Islanders, but it was later correctly changed to Vic Venasky.
Hall of Fame Moments
Bobby Orr had four assists in the opening frame, on Feb. 15, 1972, to tie an NHL record for most assists in one period set by Montreal’s Buddy O’Conner in 1942. He led the way in the Bruins’ 6-2 win over the Oakland Seals.
Two years later, Orr’s teammate, Phil Esposito became the 10th player in NHL history to score 1,000 career points, with an assist in a 4-2 Bruins’ win at the Vancouver Canucks.
Mario Lemieux had two goals and two assists, on Feb. 15, 1986, in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 9-4 win over the Canucks. This gave him both 200 points in his career and 100 points on the season, making him the first player in team history with back-to-back 100-point seasons.
One year later, on Feb. 15, 1987, Michel Goulet had two goals to give him 350 in his career, as the Quebec Nordiques lost 6-4 at the Blackhawks.
Brett Hull scored his fifth career hat trick, on Feb. 15, 1990, to lead the St. Louis Blues to a 9-2 win over the visiting Nordiques. The three goals gave him 55 for the season, most ever in team history, breaking the old record of 54 set by Wayne Babych in 1980-81.
Luc Robitaille scored two third-period goals to give him 900 career points, to give the Rangers a point in a 2-2 tie with the Canadiens. The draw improved New York’s home unbeaten streak to 24 games, tying the team record.
Future Hall of Fame Moments
We go from some big-time performances from players already in the Hockey Hall of Fame to two who will be in the very near future.
Jaromir Jagr celebrated his 45th birthday in style, on Feb. 15, 2017, by becoming just the second player in league history to score 1,900 career points. His huge milestone came with an assist on Aleksander Barkov’s goal during the Florida Panthers’ 6-5 overtime win against the San Jose Sharks.
The following year, on Feb. 15, 2018, Alex Ovechkin scored his league-leading 34th goal of the season and added three assists as the Capitals beat the Minnesota Wild 5-2. His big night made him the 61st player in NHL history to rack up 1,100 career points.
Odds & Ends
The newly-formed Islanders hired Bill Torrey as their first general manager, on Feb. 15, 1972, eight months before the team played its first NHL game. The Hall of Fame Builder held on the job through the 1991-92 season. He was the architect of the Islanders’ 1980s dynasty that won four straight Stanly Cups by drafting players like Denis Potvin, Bryan Trottier, Clarke Gillies and Mike Bossy while trading for other key pieces including Billy Smith and Butch Goring.
Boston’s Bep Guidolin became the first rookie coach in NHL history to win each of his first five games, on Feb. 15, 1973, when the Bruins scored a 3-1 road win at the Flyers.
Linesman Ron Finn set a league record, on Feb. 15, 1992, when he worked his 1,754th NHL game. He broke the previous record set by Neil Armstrong in the Winnipeg Jets 3-1 win in Toronto.
Ed Olczyk scored the 250th goal of his NHL career, on Feb. 15, 1993, and had an assist Rangers beat the visiting Blues 4-1.
One year later, Tom Barrasso became the winningest U.S.-born goaltender when he earned his 253rd win by leading the Penguins to a 5-3 victory over the Jets. He broke Frank Brinsek’s record, who won 252 games with the Bruins and Blackhawks between 1938 and 1950.
Jeff Friesen had two assists in the Sharks’ 4-1 win over the Islanders, on Feb. 15, 2000, to become the first player in franchise history to score 300 points.
On Feb. 15, 2017, the Predators acquired Peter Forsberg from the Flyers for Scottie Upshall, Ryan Parent and a first and third-round pick. The first-round pick was eventually traded back to Nashville and the third-rounder was part of a deal with the Capitals. Forsberg played just 17 games for the Predators, scoring two goals and 15 points.
Happy Birthday to You
In addition to Jagr turning 49 today, there are 31 other players who have skated in the NHL born on this date. The most accomplished of the lot are Brent Peterson (63), Tony McKegney (63), Brian Propp (62), Craig Simpson (54), Tim Cheveldae (53), Adam Mair (42) and Dennis Cholowski (23).
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.