New Year’s Day has meant outdoor hockey for National Hockey League fans over the past few years. That tradition began on this date along with many other great moments that took place outside in the elements. Also, Boston fans have had plenty to cheer about on Jan. 1. It is time for our first trip through the decades of the new year!
A New Tradition Begins
Ralph Wilson Stadium, in Orchard Park, NY, was the site of history, on Jan. 1, 2008, as it hosted the first-ever Winter Classic. The Buffalo Sabres took on the Pittsburgh Penguins in front of over 71,000 passionate fans.
The first outdoor game in the United States got off to a fast start as Penguins’ forward Colby Armstrong scored the first Winter Classic goal just 21 seconds into the game. Sabres’ blueliner Brian Campbell eventually evened the score early in the second period.
As the game wore on, the snow began to fall creating an amazing atmosphere inside the stadium. The weather conditions slowed down the pace of play a bit and neither team was able to score during the rest of overtime and the five-minute overtime period.
In the shootout, Ales Kotalik scored for the Sabres in the first round. Kris Letang tied it up in the second round before Sidney Crosby won the game with the Penguins’ third shot. Ty Conklin, who made 36 saves in regulation and overtime, stopped Tim Connolly and Maxim Afinogenov to give Pittsburgh the memorable victory.
More Winter Classic Memories
Historic Wrigley Field was the first baseball stadium to host a Winter Classic, on Jan. 1, 2009, as two old “Original Six” rivals, the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings, battled at the famous ballpark. This day signified the return to national prominence for the Blackhawks, but they still had trouble with the defending Stanley Cup champions. After Chicago built a 3-1 lead in the first period, Detroit scored five goals in a row on their way to a 6-4 win. Brian Rafalski scored the winning goal on an early third-period power-play goal.
The 2011 Winter Classic did not go nearly as well for the Penguins as the first game did. The long day at Heinz Field, the home of the Pittsburgh Steelers, began when the start time was delayed from 1 pm to 8 pm because of the threat of rain. In addition to losing the game to the Washington Capitals 3-1, the Penguins essentially lost Crosby for the rest of the season after suffering a concussion due to a big hit by David Steckel. He played Pittsburgh’s next game, on Jan. 5, but did not suit up again until Nov. 21, 2011, after that.
The largest crowd to ever attend an NHL game showed up at Michigan Stadium, on Jan. 1, 2014, as the Red Wings hosted the Toronto Maple Leafs. The game was postponed one year because of the 2013 lockout, but that didn’t stop 105,491 fans from showing up. Tyler Bozak was the hero as he scored in the third period before getting the game-winning goal in the shootout to give the Leafs a 3-2 victory.
Troy Brouwer got revenge on his former team, on Jan. 1, 2015, as he helped the Capitals beat the Blackhawks 3-2, at Nationals Park in Washington, DC. He scored on the power play, with just 12.9 seconds left to play, to break the 2-2 deadlock.
The Winter Classic came to Texas for the first time, on Jan. 1, 2020, as the Dallas Stars hosted the Nashville Predators at the historic Cotton Bowl. The game drew 85,630 fans, the second-largest crowd in NHL history, to quiet the criticism that the game was in Texas between two teams from “non-traditional” markets. The huge crowd was treated to an entertaining game that saw the home team win 4-2. The Stars scored four straight goals, in a span of 7:43 between the second and third periods, after falling behind 2-0. Alexander Radulov’s power-play goal in the final frame was the game-winner.
Bruins Love Ringing in the New Year
New Year’s Day has brought the Boston Bruins a lot of success throughout the franchise’s long and storied history. On Jan. 1, 1930, they beat the New York Americans 5-2, at the Boston Garden, to tie an NHL record with their 11th straight win.
Rookie Willie O’Ree, the leagues’ first black player, scored the first goal of his career, on Jan. 1, 1961, in a 3-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens. His tally turned out to be the game-winning goal. He played in 45 NHL games for the Bruins and scored four goals and 14 points.
Fred Stanfield had a five-point night, on Jan. 1, 1971, when score scored two goals and added three assists in a 9-4 road win at the Buffalo Sabres. Johnny Bucyk had a big game, as well, with four assists.
Two years later, on Jan. 1, 1973, the Bruins used their star power to blowout the Vancouver Canucks 8-2. Bobby Orr tied an NHL record for defensemen by recording six assists. He joined Babe Pratt (1944) and Pat Stapleton (1969) as the only blueliners to pick up six helpers in a single game. Phil Esposito was the benefit of some of those assists by racking up a hat trick. Bucyk scored to become the first player to score 400 goals as a member of the Bruins.
Bruins have played in three different Winter Classics on this date over the years. The first came in 2010 when they hosted the Philadelphia Flyers at Fenway Park, the home of the Boston Red Sox. Mark Recchi tied the game with just over two minutes left in regulation before Marco Sturm scored in overtime to give the home team a 2-1 win.
The home of the New England Patriots, Gillette Stadium, was where the Bruins hosted their second Winter Classic in 2014. This day did not go as smooth as their first outdoor game as the Canadiens roughed them up 5-1.
They returned to the Winter Classic stage, in 2019, to take on the Blackhawks at famed Notre Dame Stadium. The Bruins got third-period goals from Sean Kuraly and Brad Marchand to improve to 2-1 in outdoor games with a 4-2 victory.
Odds & Ends
Jan. 1 was a big day for goaltender John Roach as he picked up three New Year’s Day shutouts during his career, for three different teams. He earned his fifth career shutout, on Jan. 1, 1926, leading the Maple Leafs to a 3-0 win over the Ottawa Senators. Six years later, he became the first New York Rangers goaltender to record 25 career shutouts with 3-0 blanking of the Detroit Falcons. Finally, in 1935, he picked up his 56th career shutout for the Red Wings, beating the Maple Leafs 1-0.
Paul Thompson scored the first penalty shot in Blackhawks’ franchise history, on Jan. 1, 1936, as Chicago lost 4-2 to the visiting Red Wings.
The Blackhawks made more history, Jan. 1, 1943, when Reggie Bentley made his team debut in a 6-5 win over the Rangers. He joined his older siblings, Max and Doug, to become the first set of three brothers to play on the same team.
Joe Nieuwendyk scored five goals, on Jan. 1, 1989, in the Calgary Flames 7-1 blowout of the Los Angeles Kings.
On that same night, Hall of Famer Bob Gainey scored a goal to give him 500 career points, as the Canadiens earned a 4-0 road win at the Canucks. Patrick Roy recorded his eighth career shutout in the victory.
Heading into their meeting, on Jan. 1, 1997, the Senators had beaten every NHL except the Bruins since joining the league in 1992. They had gone 0-20-2 in 22 all-time games against Boston. All of this ended with a 3-2 win thanks to Alexandre Daigle’s game-winning goal in the second period.
Goaltender Mike Vernon made his debut for the Florida Panthers, on Jan. 1, 2000, and beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 7-5 thanks to a four-goal night by Pavel Bure. The Panthers set or tied seven different team records in the win over their intrastate rivals.
On Jan. 1, 2001, Joel Quenneville became the St. Louis Blues all-time leader in games coached, when he went behind the bench for his 321st game with the team. He passed Brian Sutter in a 5-2 win over the visiting Edmonton Oilers. Three years later, he became the first coach to win 300 games for the team by leading the Blues to a 5-4 victory over the Rangers. He is still the franchise’s all-time leader with 307 wins.
Peter Forsberg scored and goal and added five assists, on Jan. 1, 2003, as the Colorado Avalanche beat the Predators 7-3, in Nashville. Milan Hejduk had a five-point night with two goals and three assists.
The NHL kicked off its 100th season in style, on Jan. 1, 2017, as the Maple Leafs hosted the Red Wings at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto. The Centennial Classic had plenty of drama thanks to a late comeback by Detroit. The Leafs led 4-1 with 6:06 to play before the Wings scored three times to force overtime, including the game-tying goal by Anthony Mantha with just 1.1 seconds to play. Auston Mathews saved the day for the home team by scoring in overtime for a 5-4 win.
Happy Birthday to You
Jan. 1 is a popular day for birthdays in the NHL as a total of 31 current and former players have been born on this date. The most notable names from this group are Gerry Hart (73), Dave Hunter (63), Bobby Holik (50), Jeff Carter (36), Devin Setoguchi (34), Patric Hornqvist (34), Jayce Hawryluk (25) and the late Hall of Famer Barney Stanley.
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.