Today in Hockey History: Dec. 1

For those of you who like to look back at the early days of the National Hockey League, then Dec. 1 is your kind of date. In cornerstone cities like Boston and Toronto, some of the first stars of the game had big moments that laid the foundation for future success. Plus, there were plenty of other memories from more recent history involving some great players.

Early Moments in Boston

Dec. 1, 1924, is one of the biggest dates in NHL history. The Boston Bruins hosted the Montreal Maroons at the Boston Arena in the first league game ever played in the United States. Chuck Dinsmore struck the opening blow for the visiting Maroons before Smokey Harris and Carson Cooper scored to give the Bruins a 2-1 victory. This was one of just six wins during the team’s inaugural season.

Tiny Thompson made 28 saves for his 53rd career shutout, on Dec. 1, 1935, in a 2-0 Bruins’ win over the New York Rangers. The was the first game played on a Sunday in franchise history as blackout laws were lifted.

Three years later, on Dec. 1, 1938, rookie goaltender Frank Brimsek made his NHL debut. The Bruins lost 2-0 to the Montreal Canadiens with fellow rookie netminder Claude Bourque earning his first career shutout. Brimsek went on to record shutouts in six of his next seven games to earn the nickname Mr. Zero, which stuck with him throughout his Hall of Fame career.

Mr. Zero made his NHL debut on this date. (THW Archives)

On Dec. 1, 1940, the Bruins scored seven unanswered goals in the third period to beat the New York Americans 10-3. Bill Cowley scored two goals and added four assists to become the first player in franchise history to have six points in one game. Three of his four assists came on setting up Eddie Wiseman’s hat trick.

Milt Schmidt scored his 100th NHL goal and picked up an assist, on Dec. 1, 1946, in a 3-3 tie at the Detroit Red Wings. At the time of his retirement in 1955, his 229 goals were tied with Dit Clapper for the most in franchise history. The duo is now tied for 13th all-time in Boston goals.

More Old School Memories in Toronto

The Toronto Maple Leafs beat the St. Louis Eagles 4-3, on Dec. 1, 1934, as George Hainsworth became just the second goaltender to ever win 200 games. The team set an NHL record by winning their first eight games of the season. The streak was snapped the following night by the Red Wings. This remained the league record until the 1993-94 Maple Leafs won their first 10 games of the season.

Six years later, on Dec. 1, 1940, the Leafs became the first team in NHL history to win their first six road games of the season. They accomplished this historic feat with a 3-1 win in Detroit. They extended their road winning streak to a seventh game before it was ended two weeks later. This was the NHL record until the Buffalo Sabres won 10 straight road games to begin the 2006-07 season.

Rookie Frank Mahovlich scored his first NHL hat trick, on Dec. 1, 1957, as the Maple Leafs picked up a 7-2 road victory at the Chicago Blackhawks. This was the first of his 14 career NHL hat tricks, the first six of which came in Toronto.

George Armstrong became the fourth player to score 200 goals as a member of the Maple Leafs, on Dec. 1, 1963, in a 4-1 win at the Red Wings. He finished his career with 269 goals, which are tied with Mahovlich for the sixth-most in team history.

George Armstrong
Armstrong scored 269 goals for the Leafs. (THW Archives)

George “Punch” Imlach died at the age of 69, on Dec. 1, 1987. He started his long association with the Maple Leafs when he and King Clancy were hired as assistant general managers in 1940. After just four months on the job, he took over as the full-time general manager and also named himself as head coach.

The Maple Leafs won four Stanley Cups during the 1960s with Imlach in charge. He was fired from both jobs in 1969 before becoming the first head coach and general manager of the Sabres, who joined the league in 1970. He returned to Toronto’s front office in 1979 and remained with the team in some capacity until his death.

Two More Milestones for Mr. Hockey

It is rare that a day goes by on the hockey calendar that doesn’t have Gordie Howe’s name on it. On Dec. 1, 1954, he scored twice to be the second member of the Red Wings, and the seventh player in NHL history, to score 250 goals. His teammate, Red Kelly, also lit the lamp twice to become the first defenseman in franchise history to score 100 goals.

Gordie Howe, Detroit Red Wings
Few did it better tha Howe. (THW Archives)

Exactly six years later, on Dec. 1, 1960, he past Maurice Richard for the most points in league history, regular season and playoffs combined, with 1,091. He reached this mark by assisting on two third-period goals in the Red Wings 3-2 loss to the Bruins.

A Family Affair

Long before the Sutter family sent five brothers to the NHL, a game between the Blackhawks and Rangers, on Dec. 1, 1940, had a family flare to it never seen before. When the rivals took to the Chicago Stadium ice, the game featured four sets of brothers, two on each side, squaring off. New York had Lynn and Muzz Patrick and Neil and Mac Colville, while Chicago dressed Max and Doug Bentley and Bob and Bill Carse.

Rookie Max Bentley scored his first NHL goal in the Blackhawks’ 4-1 victory that night. He went on to score 245 goals during his 12-season NHL career with the Blackhawks, Maple Leafs and eventually one season with the Rangers.

Odds & Ends

Jean Ratelle picked up two assists for 730 career points, on Dec. 1, 1974, passing Andy Bathgate for second place on the Rangers’ all-time scoring list. He still trailed his linemate, Rod Gilbert, who had 774 career points at the time. The milestone assists came during a 4-4 draw with the Bruins at Madison Square Garden.

On that same evening, Tony Esposito became the 14th goaltender in NHL history to record 50 career shutouts in the Blackhawks 3-0 win over the visiting Minnesota North Stars.

Tony Esposito
Esposito picked up his 50th career shutout on this date. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Rookie Mike Gartner scored his first career hat trick, on Dec. 1, 1979, in the third period of the Washington Capitals’ 7-2 blowout of the Quebec Nordiques. Wes Jarvis added a goal and three assists in the win. This was the first of 18 regular-season hat tricks for Gartner, 13 of those coming with the Capitals. He also had three during the playoffs; two with the Rangers and one for the Maple Leafs.

Stan Smyl became the first player in Vancouver Canucks’ history to get 600 career points, on Dec. 1, 1987, when he scored a goal in a 3-1 win over the Nordiques. Peter Stastny made history in the losing effort as he passed Ivan Boldirev to become the second-highest European-born scorer in league history with 867 points.

The Los Angeles Kings beat the Maple Leafs 9-3, on Dec. 1, 1988, as a trio of their stars had huge nights. Veteran Dave Taylor scored a hat trick while Wayne Gretzky racked up five assists. However, they were both overshadowed by Bernie Nicholls scored two goals and set a new single-game team record with six assists and eight points.

Bernie Nicholls Los Angeles Kings
Nicholls had a huge night on this date in 1988. (Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images)

Pierre Turgeon scored his first career NHL hat trick and picked up two assists, on Dec. 01, 1989, to lead the Sabres to a 6-4 win over the New Jersey Devils. This was their 10th consecutive win at the Memorial Auditorium and improved their home record to 11-0-1.

Phil Housley became the seventh defenseman in NHL history to score 900 career points, on Dec. 1, 1995, when his goal helped the Flames to an 8-2 win at the Edmonton Oilers. He retired with 1,232 points, which are the fourth-most all-time among blueliners.

Gretzky had a goal and an assist, on Dec. 1, 1996, to help the Rangers beat the Canadiens 6-2.  With his performance, he became the first and still the only player to score 3,000 points in the regular season and playoffs combined. His teammate, defenseman Brian Leetch, also had a goal and assist for his 600th career point.

On that same night, Gretzky’s former teammate in Edmonton, Kevin Lowe, became the 30th player in NHL history to appear in 1,200 games in the Oilers’ 4-2 loss at the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.

Kevin Lowe Edmonton Oilers
Lowe was an unsung hero of the Oilers’ dynasty. (Photo by Graig Abel/Getty Images)

The Canadiens became the first NHL team to play 5,000, on Dec. 1, 1997, when they hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins. Jaromir Jagr’s third-period goal was the only scoring as the visitors left with a 1-0 victory.

Ed Belfour became the Dallas Stars’ all-time leader in career victories, on Dec. 1, 2001, when he picked up No. 146 in a 6-4 win in Edmonton. He broke the mark of 145 set by Minnesota North Stars goaltender Cesare Maniago. It was also his 350th NHL win.

On Dec. 1, 2009, the Blackhawks beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3 in an 11-round shootout. Chicago got goals from Kris Versteeg, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews during regulation before defenseman Brent Seabrook ended the game with the 22nd shot attempt in the shootout. This was the 500th career win for head coach Joel Quenneville. He currently has 925 wins, second only to Scotty Bowman’s 1,244.

Happy Birthday to You

A big group of 25 current and former NHL players share a birthday today. The most successful of this lot are Jim McKenny (74), Mike Gillis (62). Ryan Malone (41), Michael Raffl (32), Tomas Tatar (30), Noel Acciari (29), Gustav Olofsson (26) and Carl Grundstrom (23).


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