Jan. 12 has some big moments from some of the greatest players in National Hockey League history. One legend returned to where he made a name for himself, another became the first to reach a new plateau while a third had to step away from the game. Plus, there were memorable nights in New Jersey, Calgary and Chicago. The hockey time machine is fired up, let’s take our daily trip back through the decades.
Mr. Hockey Returns to Detroit
The great Gordie Howe stepped onto the ice in Detroit for the first time in nearly nine years, on Jan. 12, 1980, when the Hartford Whalers traveled to the Red Wings. He retired from the NHL and Red Wings in 1971 after 25 seasons, 786 goals and 1,809 points with the team. After six seasons in the defunct World Hockey Association, he was back for one final tour of duty in the NHL during the 1979 season.
The Whalers ended their nine-game winless streak with a 6-4 victory over the Red Wings. There were three members of the Howe family in the Hartford lineup; Gordie and his sons Mark and Marty. Mark was the only Howe to find the scoresheet with a pair of assists. He eventually played the final three seasons of his career with the Red Wings.
Lemieux Steps Away
On Jan. 12, 1993, the Pittsburgh Penguins announced that star forward Mario Lemieux was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. Thankfully, the disease was detected early. He has a large lymph node removed from his neck and undergoes radiation treatment which causes him to miss nearly two months of the season.
This doesn’t slow down Super Mario in the least. He returned to the Penguins lineup on March 2, 1993. In the final 19 games of the season, Lemieux had 15 games with at least two points including six with four or more. Despite missing 22 games, he still won the Art Ross Trophy for leading the league with 160 points.
Another First for Gretzky
We would need to take off our shoes in order to count all the feats in NHL history that Wayne Gretzky was the first to accomplish. On Jan. 12, 1994, he scored a pair of goals in the Los Angeles Kings’ 6-4 win over the Whalers to become the first player in league history to score 2,400 career points. His pair of tallies also made him the seventh player to score 200 goals as a member of the Kings.
Gretzky scored another 457 points before retiring in 1999. No other player in league history has ever scored 2,000 points. Jaromir Jagr is second in all-time scoring with 1,921 points. The Great One had 1,963 assists.
Devils Make History
Before the Russian Five made their debut in Detroit, the New Jersey Devils made history on Jan. 12, 1992. This was the night they had defensemen Viacheslav Fetisov and Alexei Kasatonov, and forwards Valeri Zelepukin and Alexander Semak in the lineup during their 5-2 win over the visiting Kings.
This was the first time in league history where four players born in the Soviet Union dressed for the same team. The foursome combined for three points with Zelepikin scoring a goal and adding an assist with Kasatonov setting up his goal. Fetisov was traded to the Red Wings in 1995 where he became part of the famed Russian Five line.
A Big Date for Flames
Cliff Fletcher was named general manager of the Atlanta Flames, on Jan. 12, 1972, nine months before the team made its NHL debut. He held this position until May of 1991 when he resigned to become the president and general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Gary Roberts scored his eighth career hat trick, on Jan. 12, 1996. as the Flames won 3-1 over the visiting Buffalo Sabres. The three-goal performance came in his second game back after missing nearly a full year with a neck injury.
Jason Wiemer scored in overtime, on Jan. 12, 2000, to give the Flames a 2-1 win against the visiting Dallas Stars. This was their eighth overtime win of the season, tying an NHL record set by the 1987-88 Winnipeg Jets.
Milestones in the Windy City
Stan Mikita scored the 450th goal of his NHL career, on Jan. 12, 1975, as the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Rangers 4-2, at Chicago Stadium. He scored 541 goals before retiring in 1980, the second-most in franchise history.
Tom Lysiak accounted for all of Chicago’s offense, on Jan. 12, 1983, in their 10-3 defeat to the Edmonton Oilers. He scored the third and final hat trick of his career which included his 250th NHL goal.
Denis Savard scored just four seconds into the third period, on Jan. 12, 1986, in the Blackhawks’ 4-2 victory over the Whalers. This tied the NHL record for the fastest goal to start a period, set by Claude Provost of the Montreal Canadiens on Nov. 9, 1957. James van Riemsdyk matched this feat with the Maple Leafs on March 28, 2014.
Odds & Ends
Joe Malone scored five goals, on Jan. 12, 1918, to lead the Canadiens to a big 9-4 victory over the Ottawa Senators. This made him the first player in the very short history of the NHL to score 20 goals in a season. This was just the seventh league game for him and the Habs and he scored at least one goal in all of them.
Bep Guidolin, a 16-year-old rookie, scored two goals and added an assist, on Jan. 12, 1943, during the Boston Bruins’ 3-0 win over the Blackhawks. Frank “Mr. Zero” Brimsek picked up the 26th shutout of his career. This was the second of four games that donated its proceeds to the American Red Cross and their war fund efforts. A total of $10,624 was raised at Boston Garden.
Staying in Boston, on Jan. 12, 1969, Ken Hodge scored two goals and set up two others in the Bruins’ 8-4 win over the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins. Phil Esposito tied a team record with five assists on the night.
On Jan. 12, 1981, the Canadiens became the first NHL team to have four different goaltenders earn shutouts in one season. On this night, rookie Richard Sevigny picked up the first of his NHL career in a 5-0 win over the Oilers.
Mike Foligno set a team record, on Jan. 12, 1985, by scoring a goal in his eighth consecutive game, in the Sabres’ 1-1 tie at Montreal. The draw extended Buffalo’s unbeaten streak to 10 straight games (8-0-2).
Two years later, on Jan. 12, 1987, Charlie Simmer registered the 13,000th goal in Bruins’ history during a 4-1 win over the Rangers. The milestone goal was scored over 62 years after Bruins’ Fred Harris posted the club’s first goal on Dec. 1, 1924.
Paul Coffey scored his 270th NHL goal, on Jan. 12, 1990, in the Penguins 6-4 road win at the Washington Capitals. This tied him with Bobby Orr for second place on the all-time goals list for defensemen.
Teemu Selanne scored his 100th career goal, on Jan. 12, 1994, in the Jets’ 3-2 win over the visiting Sabres. He became the second-fastest player in league history to score 100 goals, doing so in just 130 games. That was just one game more than Mike Bossy scored his first 100 goals in 129 games for the New York Islanders.
Ray Ferraro scored a goal, on Jan. 12, 1999, for his 700th career point. He scored again, in overtime, to give the Kings a 3-2 victory against the rival Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
One year later, on Jan. 12, 1999, Joe Sakic scored the 350th goal of his career and added an assist as the Colorado Avalanche beat the Blackhawks 4-1.
Defenseman J.J. Daigneault made history, on Jan. 12, 2001, with his first appearance for the Minnesota Wild. He became just the second player in league history to play for 10 different teams during a 5-0 loss to the Avalanche.
The Rangers retired Mark Messier’s No. 11, on Jan. 12, 2006, prior to their game against the Oilers. It was appropriate this ceremony was done with Edmonton in town, as his number hangs from their rafters as well. He spent 10 of his 25 NHL seasons in New York, scoring 250 goals and 691 points in 698 games. He captained the team to the 1994 Stanley Cup, the franchise’s first and still only championship since 1940.
Goaltender Curtis Joseph announced his retirement, on Jan. 12, 2010, following 19 seasons in the NHL. After never being drafted out of the University of Wisconsin, he spent time with the St. Louis Blues, Oilers, Maple Leafs, Red Wings, Phoenix Coyotes and Flames. He is sixth-all time with 943 games played and his 454 career wins are the seventh-most in league history.
Happy Birthday to You
The late Hall of Famer Tim Horton and member of the next induction class, Marian Hossa (42), headline a group of 32 players to be born on this date. Other notable birthday boys include Curt Fraser (63), Jocelyn Thibault (46), Niklas Kronwall (40), Claude Giroux (33), Maxime Lagace (28), David Kampf (26) and Ben Harpur (26).
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.