Some of the greatest players in National Hockey League history hit personal milestones and had huge performances on Feb. 21. Unfortunately, one of those legendary figures left us far too early on this date. There was plenty of action on this night in 2001, including a Hall of Famer playing his former team for the first time. The THW time machine is fired up and ready to take us on our daily trip back through all the memories this date has to offer.
The Hockey World Mourns a Legend
Hall of Fame defenseman Tim Horton died in a one-vehicle crash, in the early morning hours of Feb. 21, 1974, in St. Catharines, Ontario. The 44-year-old had played the previous night with the Sabres at the Toronto Maple Leafs and was driving back to Buffalo by himself. Unfortunately, he had been drinking before getting behind the wheel and was not wearing a seatbelt when his car hit a center median and flipped several times. The sports car he was driving was given to him by Sabres’ general manager Punch Imlach as a gift for returning for one last season with the team.
Horton played 20 seasons with the Maple Leafs, where he was a six-time All-Star and four-time Stanley Cup winner. He also spent time with the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Sabres before his death. He is regarded as one of the best defensemen in league history and was named one of the NHL’s top 100 players in 2017. He was also the co-founder of the popular chain of fast food and coffee restaurants that bear his name.
Bobby Hull’s Big Day
Hull, the Chicago Blackhawks’ legend, loved lacing up his skates on this date during his Hall of Fame career. Starting in 1960, he scored four goals and added an assist to lead the Blackhawks to a 7-5 win over the visiting Maple Leafs. This was the first four-goal game and the fourth hat trick of his career.
Exactly one decade later, on Feb. 21, 1970, the “Golden Jet” became just the third player to score 500 career goals when he scored twice in the Blackhawks 4-2 win over the Rangers. He beat goaltender Ed Giacomin twice to join Maurice Richard and Gordie Howe as the charter members of the NHL’s 500-goal club.
One year later, Hull scored his 27th career hat trick, the most in NHL history at the time, breaking the previous record held by Richard. He also had two assists to complete a five-point night to lead the Blackhawks to a 7-5 victory over the visiting Los Angeles Kings.
A Huge Day for Personal Milestones
Syl Apps scored his 100th NHL goal on Feb. 21, 1942, in the Maple Leafs’ 4-3 win against the visiting Brooklyn Americans. He scored 201 goals and 432 points during his 10-season career in Toronto.
On Feb. 21, 1948, Frank Brimsek and the Boston Bruins beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-1. With the victory, he joined Tiny Thompson as the only goaltenders in team history and just the seventh overall, to win 200 games.
On the same night Hull joined him in the 500-goal club, Howe had an assist in the Detroit Red Wings’ 7-5 win at the Maple Leafs. This made him the first player in league history to have at least 50 points in 21 seasons.
Phil Goyette, who won four straight Stanley Cups with the Canadiens between 1957-60, scored his 200th career goal on Feb. 21, 1971, in the Sabres’ 3-1 loss to the visiting St. Louis Blues.
Playing in his 138th career game, on Feb. 21, 1981, Wayne Gretzky picked up an assist to give him 250 career NHL points in the Edmonton Oilers’ 5-1 road win at the Winnipeg Jets.
Rick Middleton scored his 350th NHL goal and added an assist, on this date in 1984, as the Bruins won 5-2 at the Vancouver Canucks.
Former number one overall pick Bobby Smith scored three times on Feb. 21, 1987, to give him 250 career NHL goals. He also had an assist to go along with his sixth career hat trick, but the Canadiens were bested by the New York Islanders 6-5.
Michel Goulet became the 26th player to score 400 NHL goals on Feb. 21, 1988, during the Quebec Nordiques 6-5 victory in Buffalo.
That same night, Mike Bullard scored the 250th goal of his career in the Calgary Flames’ 3-3 tie with the Blackhawks. Before his retirement in 1992, he scored 329 goals during his 14-season career with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Flames, Blues, Philadelphia Flyers, and Maple Leafs.
Doug Gilmour scored two goals, including the 300th of his career, on Feb. 21, 1994, as the Maple Leafs won 6-4 at the Kings.
Meanwhile, on that same night in New York, Keith Acton played in his 1,000th career game as the Islanders shut out the Washington Capitals 4-0.
Andy Moog became the sixth goaltender in league history to win 350 games on Feb. 21, 1997, as he led the Dallas Stars to a 4-2 defeat of the visiting Calgary Flames.
Dominik Hasek became the first European-trained goaltender in NHL history to record 200 victories on Feb. 21, 2000, as he and the Sabres beat the New Jersey Devils 3-2.
Luc Robitaille scored a power-play goal on Feb. 21, 2004, to help the Kings beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3. His tally on the man advantage made him the NHL player to score at least 10 power-play goals in 14 different seasons.
Finally, on Feb. 21, 2018, Joel Quenneville became just the third head coach in NHL history to take his spot behind the bench in 1,600 regular-season games. He got to celebrate at the end of the night thanks to the Blackhawks’ 3-2 shootout win over the Ottawa Senators.
A Busy Night in 2001
This date in 2001 was quite an eventful day, especially in Denver. The Colorado Avalanche started the day by acquiring defenseman Rob Blake and Steve Reinprecht from the Kings for Adam Deadmarsh, Aaron Miller, and two first-round draft picks. Blake played 662 games with Los Angeles over the first 12 seasons of his career.
Later that night, Ray Bourque, acquired the previous March, played his first game against the Bruins after suiting up for them 1,518 times over 21 seasons. He had two assists in the Avalanche’s 8-2 win over Boston.
Mario Lemieux set a franchise record with his 10th career overtime goal to give the Penguins a 3-2 victory against the Florida Panthers.
In Dallas, Joe Nieuwendyk became the 73rd player in NHL history to score 900 career points when he picked up two goals and an assist to lead the Stars to a 6-2 win over the visiting Minnesota Wild.
Lastly, out west, goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere recorded his first NHL career shutout as he led the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim to a 1-0 win over the San Jose Sharks. Defenseman Oleg Tverdovsky scored the game’s only goal.
Odds & Ends
On Feb. 21, 1928, a pair of brothers faced each other as head coaches for the first time, with Sprague and Odie Cleghorn behind the benches of the Bruins and Pittsburgh Pirates, respectively. Sprague was Boston’s acting coach, and Odie stepped in when Pirates’ head coach Art Ross fell ill. The Bruins won the game 2-0.
One year later, the Detroit Cougars, before being known as the Red Wings, clinched their first-ever playoff berth, with a 1-0 win over the Rangers. Goaltender Clarence “Dolly” Dolson recorded the eighth shutout of his rookie season and the first of three straight shutouts.
Steve Yzerman scored two goals and added an assist on Feb. 21, 1989, to lead the Red Wings to a 6-5 win at the Islanders. The three points gave him 123, breaking the team’s single-season record of 121 set by Marcel Dionne in 1974-75.
Related – Steve Yzerman, The Captain
Brett Hull scored his 65th goal of the season and added four assists on Feb. 21, 1991, as the Blues won their seventh straight home game by beating the Islanders 7-2.
Ray Sheppard scored twice on Feb. 21, 1999, to lead the Carolina Hurricanes to a 4-1 win over the Islanders. This gave him a 20-goal season with six different teams, becoming the first player ever to do so. He also scored 20 goals or more with the Sabres, Rangers, Red Wings, Sharks, and Panthers. This milestone came on the 11th anniversary of scoring his first career hat trick with Buffalo.
On Feb. 21, 2012, the Tampa Bay Lightning traded defenseman Kyle Quincey to the Red Wings for Sebastian Piche and a first-round draft pick. Piche never played in the NHL, but they used the draft pick to select goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. It is easy to say the Bolts won that trade.
The Vegas Golden Knights beat the Flames 7-3 on Feb. 21, 2018, to give them 84 points. This set the NHL record for the most points by an expansion team in their first season, one more than the 1993-94 Panthers had. The victory also gave them the most points in the NHL.
One year later, Lightning star Nikita Kucherov scored a goal in a 2-1 shootout win over the Sabres to become the first player to reach 100 points in the 2018-19 season. He needed just 62 games to hit triple digits, the fewest needed by any player since Lemieux scored 100 points in 61 games during the 1996-96 season. He also became the first player in franchise history to have more than one 100-point season.
Happy Birthday to You
A grand total of 29 current and former NHL players share a birthday today. Among those born on Feb. 21 are Brian Rolston (49), Ryan Smyth (46), Jim Vandermeer (42), James Wisniewski (38), Jake Muzzin (33), Ian Cole (33), Devon Toews (28), Jakub Zboril (25), and the late Hap Holmes (Hall of Fame) and Danny Grant.
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.