Jan. 18 is a very important date in National Hockey League history as it was when the color barrier was broken. Also, a trio of major milestones was hit in Detroit and memories were made on Long Island. There were some big moments between the pipes and at the All-Star Game well. Let’s jump on board for our daily trip on the THW hockey time machine!
O’Ree Makes History
It is rather appropriate that the anniversary of Willie O’Ree’s historic NHL debut falls on the day the United States remembers Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. On Jan. 18, 1958, O’Ree takes the ice for the Boston Bruins and becomes the first black player to play in the league. He is kept off the scoresheet in Boston’s 3-0 win at the Montreal Canadiens, but his legacy is left forever.
O’Ree only played in 45 total NHL games, scoring four goals and 14 for the Bruins before he was traded to the Canadiens. He was never called up to Montreal but he played professional hockey until 1979 with 13 seasons in the Western Hockey League.
In addition to dealing with racial taunts and slurs at every rink he skated at, O’Ree played the majority of his career without the sight of his right. He was hit in the eye while in juniors in 1956. He tried to keep the loss of his eyesight quiet, fearing it would prevent him from making the NHL.
He continued to have a vast impact on the game after his playing days concluded. In 1998, he is hired by the NHL to be the director of youth development for the diversity task force. With his new job, he traveled all across North America to talk to youth hockey programs and schools about inclusion, dedication and confidence.
The Hockey Hall of Fame inducted O’Ree in 2018. The Bruins announced last week that they will retire his No. 22. The ceremony will take place prior to their game against the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 18.
Major Milestones in Motown
A trio of Hall of Famers made league history while wearing a Detroit Red Wings uniform on this date. On Jan. 18, 1964, goaltender Terry Sawchuk became the NHL’s all-time leader in shutouts with a 2-0 win at the Canadiens. He made 36 saves for his 95th career shutout, putting him ahead of George Hainsworth. He returned in 1970 with 103 shutouts, which remained as the record until it was broken by Martin Brodeur in 2009.
Steve Yzerman scored the Red Wings’ lone goal, on Jan. 18, 2000, in a 6-1 loss at the Calgary Flames. This was his 614th career goal, breaking Mario Lemieux’s NHL record for the most goals by a player who spent his entire career with one team.
Two years later, on Jan. 18, 2002, Luc Robitaille scored his 611th career goal in Detroit’s 3-1 win versus the Washington Capitals. This made him the highest-scoring left wing in the history of the league, one ahead of Chicago Blackhawks legend Bobby Hull.
Islanders’ Memory Book
The New York Islanders’ inaugural season of 1972-73 was a rough one, to say the least. However, they had one of their few bright spots, on Jan. 18, 1972, by beating the Bruins 9-7. They jumped out to a 5-0 lead, but the defending Stanley Cup Champions came storming back, led by Johnny Bucyk’s four goals. The win snapped a 12-game losing streak and a 20-game winless streak on the road. This was one of just two road wins the team had all season long. They finished the miserable season with a 12-60-6 record and set a new league record for the fewest wins and points.
On Jan. 18, 1983, Bryan Trottier became the second player in franchise history to score 300 goals with the team. He also put up a pair of assists in the Islanders’ 8-1 blowout of the Hartford Whalers.
Exactly one year later, Mike Bossy and Bill Carroll each scored three goals, while Butch Goring had a goal and three assists in a big 9-1 road victory at the Chicago Blackhawks. It was the 29th hat trick of Bossy’s NHL career and the first for Carroll.
Head coach Barry Trotz returned to Washington, on Jan. 18, 2019, for the first time since leading the Capitals to the Stanley Cup the previous season. Goaltender Thomas Greiss made 19 saves to give Trotz and the Islanders a 2-0 win. Both of New York’s goals, by Josh Bailey and Cal Clutterbuck, came in the third period.
Harry Lumley earned his first shutout of the season, on Jan. 18, 1958, as he led the Bruins to a 3-0 win in Montreal. This set a new NHL record by earning at least one shutout in 14 straight seasons. He broke the previous record held by John Roach, who had a shutout in every season from 1922-23 to 1934-35.
Ed Johnston recorded his 200th NHL career victory, on Jan. 18, 1975, as the St. Louis Blues won 5-4 over the visiting Minnesota North Stars. He became the 16th goaltender in the NHL to join the 200-win club.
Rookie goaltender Tom Barrasso made 30 saves to record his first NHL shutout, on Jan. 18, 1984, as the Buffalo Sabres tied an NHL record with their eighth straight road win, 4-0 at the Los Angeles Kings.
A pair of goaltenders had personal milestones, on Jan. 18, 1999, in the Sabres’ 4-0 win at the Florida Panthers. Dominik Hasek picked up his eighth shutout of the 1998-99 season and became the first netminder to record 40 with the team. In his 11th season, Sean Burke played in his 500th career game on the losing side.
The New York Rangers beat the Maple Leafs 2-1, on Jan. 18, 2001, to give goaltender Mike Richter his 267th career victory. This made him the winningest netminder in franchise history, passing Ed Giacomin.
Roberto Luongo became the first Panthers goaltender to record back-to-back shutouts, on Jan. 18, 2003, in a 3-0 win over the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins. This was also his 13th shutout with the Panthers, tying him with John Vanbiesbrouck for the franchise record.
All-Star Game Moments
On Jan. 18, 1967, the NHL All-Star Game was played in the middle of the season for the first time. This was still during the time when the reigning Stanley Cup winners played a team made up of All-Stars from the rest of the league. The Canadiens beat the NHL All-Stars 3-0 on this date. Goaltender Charlie Hodge and Gary Bauman combined for the first and still the only shutout in All-Star Game history, while John Ferguson scored two goals.
Mark Recchi and Owen Nolan both scored hat tricks as the Eastern Conference beat the Western Conference 11-7, on Jan. 18, 1997, in the All-Star Game hosted by the San Jose Sharks. Adam Oates had two assists to set a career All-Star record with 12. Wayne Gretzky & Lemieux each scored their 20th All-Star point, another record. Recchi was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
The All-Star Game changed its format, on Jan. 18, 1998, as they had a team of North American players facing a “World” team made up of players born outside of the United States and Canada. Teemu Selanne, who won the MVP, was the first European-born player to score an All-Star Game hat trick. However, it was Team North America who won 8-7 in Vancouver.
Odds & Ends
Dit Clapper became the first player in Bruins history to score 200 goals, on Jan. 18, 1941, in a 1-0 win at the Maple Leafs. Goaltender Frank Brimsek recorded his 18th career shutout.
The Canadiens tied an NHL record with their eighth straight road victory, on Jan. 18, 1978, with a 7-4 win at the Cleveland Barons. Guy Lafleur scored two goals and two assists, while Jacques Lemaire added a goal and three assists.
Dale Hawerchuk scored twice to give him 250 career goals, on Jan 18, 1987, as the Winnipeg Jets won 5-3 over the visiting Minnesota North Stars.
Phil Housley played in his 500th NHL game, on Jan. 18, 1989, as the Sabres and North Stars skated to a 2-2 tie. Exactly four years later, he set a Jets’ team record for defensemen with five assists in Winnipeg’s 8-7 win versus the Hartford Whalers.
Doug Gilmour picked up his 600th career assist, on Jan. 18, 1994, as the Maple Leafs tied 3-3 with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
Peter Bondra became just the second player to score 300 goals in a Capitals uniform, on Jan. 18, 1999, during a 4-4 draw with the Canadiens.
The Vegas Golden Knights beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1, on Jan. 18, 2018, to become just the fifth first-year expansion team to win 30 games. They became the fastest team in their inaugural season win 30 games, needing just 44 games to do so.
Happy Birthday to You
A pair of Hall of Famers headline today’s group of 27 players born on this date. The late Syl Apps was born on Jan. 18, 1927. He scored 201 goals and 432 points in his 423 games for the Maple Leafs and won three Stanley Cup. The six-time Stanley Cup winner Mark Messier turns 60 today. His 1,887 career points are the third-most in NHL history behind Gordie Howe and Gretzky.
Other notable players celebrating birthdays today are Dean Kennedy (58), Brian Gionta (42), Ruslan Fedotenko (42), Alex Pietrangelo (31), Ryan Carpenter (30), Denis Malgin (24) and Ian Mitchell (22).
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.