May 15 goes down as one of the most intriguing dates in National Hockey League history. There was so much more than just the exciting moments on the ice that makes it a memorable date. The league announced some significant expansion teams, one of the most lopsided trades ever occurred, and one team made a franchise-altering draft pick. The THW time machine is warmed up and ready to take us back through the years to relive all the best moments.
The Heist of the Century
Depending on which team you root for, May 15, 1967, is either a great day or one you’d love to forget about. This was the date when a trade forever changed the Boston Bruins franchise. The Chicago Blackhawks traded a disgruntled Phil Esposito to the Bruins, along with Ken Hodge and Fred Stanfield, for Pit Martin, Jack Norris, and Gilles Marotte.
Esposito went from being an excellent player in Chicago to a goal-scoring legend in Boston. In fact, all three players excelled with the Bruins, making this one of the most lopsided trades in NHL history.
The trio of Esposito, Hodge, and Stanfield combined for 873 goals and 2095 points and won two Stanley Cups with the Bruins. Meanwhile, Martin had a very good run with the Blackhawks by scoring 243 goals and 627 points. However, Norris and Marotte combined for just 13 goals and 79 points.
Bobby Clarke’s Historic Date
Clarke can fondly look back on May 15 throughout his Hall of Fame career. In 1975, he and the Philadelphia Flyers hosted Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Buffalo Sabres. He scored a goal and added two assists as the Flyers won 4-1. All four of their goals were scored in the third period.
On May 15, 1980, the Flyers evened up the Stanley Cup Final with an 8-3 win over the New York Islanders in Game 2. Clarke had a goal and three assists in the victory, while Paul Holmgren became the first American-born player to score a hat trick in a Final game.
Four years later, Clarke retired as an NHL player and was named the Flyers’ new general manager. He held the job until 1990, with the Flyers getting to two Stanley Cup Finals. He returned for a second stint, which lasted from 1994 to 2006. He was replaced by his former teammate, Holmgren.
Good Time for a Shutout
On May 15, 1993, rookie goaltender Felix Potvin recorded his first career playoff shutout to lead the Toronto Maple Leafs to a 6-0 win over the visiting St. Louis Blues in Game 7 of the Norris Division Final. Doug Gilmour scored a goal and two assists as the Maple Leafs advanced to a very memorable Campbell Conference Final against the Los Angeles Kings.
Two years later, Trevor Kidd recorded his first career playoff shutout as the Calgary Flames won 5-0 over the visiting San Jose Sharks in Game 5 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals. The Flames tied an NHL playoff record with their fifth shorthanded goal of the series.
Patrick Roy extended his NHL record on May 15, 2002, when he picked up his 22nd career playoff shutout. Peter Forsberg scored the only goal of the night in the Colorado Avalanche’s 1-0 victory over the Sharks in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals.
The New Jersey Devils recorded their 100th all-time playoff victory on May 15, 2003, with a 1-0 win against the Senators in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final. Martin Brodeur recorded his 17th career playoff shutout in the victory.
Matt Murray was in the winning end of another 1-0 playoff game on May 15, 2017. Phil Kessel found the back of the net in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 1-0 win versus the Ottawa Senators in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final.
Odds & Ends
May 15, 1926, is a historic date for the NHL as they announced that New York would be getting a second team. A franchise was granted to Madison Square Garden president Tex Rickard, and they eventually became the Rangers, joining the Americans, who made their debut in the 1925-26 season.
The league also announced that Chicago and Detroit would have teams for the 1926-27 season, pushing the league to 10. Eventually, the Americans, Montreal Maroons, Ottawa Senators, and Pittsburgh Pirates all folded to give us the “Original Six.” The Americans were the last team to call it quits in 1942.
The Detroit Red Wings beat the Montreal Canadiens 5-2, on May 15, 1938, in the finale of their nine-game exhibition tour of Europe. The two teams played six games in England and three in France during their four-week series, won by the Canadiens 5-3-1.
The 1973 NHL Amateur Draft was held on May 15, 1973, in Montreal. The Islanders used the first-overall pick to select future Hall of Fame defenseman Denis Potvin.
During that same draft, the Flyers traded a first-round draft pick in and future considerations to the Maple Leafs for the rights to goaltender Bernie Parent and a second-round draft pick. Toronto used the pick from the Flyers to select Bob Neely, and they later received Doug Favell to complete the trade.
On May 15, 1979, the Canadiens and Rangers met in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final. Head coach Scotty Bowman pulled goaltender Ken Dryden during a 4-1 loss in Game 1 and had planned to bench him for Game 2. However, that changed when Michel Larocque was injured during the pregame warmups. Dryden gave up two early goals but finally settled in as the Canadiens rolled to a 6-2 victory to even the series.
The Rangers and Devils began their epic Eastern Conference Final on May 15, 1994. Stephane Richer was the hero for the Devils by tying the game with 43 seconds left in the third period before winning it with his fourth career playoff overtime goal. This was the first time the Devils beat the Rangers in 1993-94 after New York swept the six-game regular-season series.
One year later, the Vancouver Canucks scored two shorthanded goals in just 17 seconds, setting a new Stanley Cup playoff record. The goals by Christian Ruutu and Geoff Courtnall came in the Canucks’ 6-5 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues in Game 5 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.
On May 15, 1997, Joe Sakic scored a goal and added an assist in the third period to give the Avalanche a 2-1 win over the visiting Red Wings in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals. It was Colorado’s 11th straight home playoff victory.
Erik Karlsson scored the overtime winner on May 15, 2019, to give the Sharks a 5-4 win over the Blues in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final. Karlsson scored two goals, as did Joe Thornton.
This was Thornton’s first multi-goal performance in 176 career playoff games. He became the oldest player in NHL history to pick up his first playoff game with at least two goals.
Speaking of veterans hitting postseason milestones, on this date in 2021, Craig Anderson became the 15th-oldest goalie to play an NHL playoff game when he suited up for the Capitals’ 3-2 overtime win in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round. He also was the oldest goalie to win a playoff game in franchise history, eclipsing Mike Liut (34 years, 110 days).
In that same playoff game, Zdeno Chara became the seventh player in NHL history to play a postseason game at age 44 or older, and the first forward since Jaromir Jagr with the Florida Panthers in the 2016 Eastern Conference First Round.
Finally, Patrice Bergeron played his 150th playoff game for the Bruins, tying Chara for second in franchise history. Ray Bourque is first with 180.
Happy Birthday to You
There are 28 current and former NHL players who were born on May 15. The most notable of the group are Pat Hickey (69), Dave Langevin (68), Dave Reid (58), Paul Ysebaert (56), Wes Walz (52), Nick Holden (35), Mark Fayne (35), Jordan Eberle (32), Valentin Zykov (27), Dakota Joshua (26) and the late Hall of Fame goaltending legend Turk Broda.