Today in Hockey History: Jan. 3

The players who had big days on Jan. 3 read like a list of who’s who in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Some of the greatest names in the history of the National Hockey League set new records, reached personal milestones, and added to their impressive resumes. Let’s buckle in for our daily trip through the decades.

Howe & Armstrong Make History

Gordie Howe and George Armstrong became the first NHL players to appear in four different decades on Jan. 3, 1970, as the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs played their first games of the new year.

Howe had a big night with four assists to help lead the Red Wings to a 6-1 victory at the Philadelphia Flyers. Alex Delvecchio scored his third and final career hat trick and added an assist, while Frank Mahovlich chipped in with a goal and three helpers.

George Armstrong
Armstrong was one of two legends to make history on this date in 1970. (THW Archives)

Armstrong had two goals and an assist as the Maple Leafs beat the visiting Chicago Blackhawks 6-2. Linemate Norm Ullman assisted on both of his goals as Toronto got the best of goaltending legend Tony Esposito this evening.

Jagr Sets Two All-Time Marks

Jaromir Jagr scored three times on Jan. 3, 2015, to become the oldest player in NHL to score a hat trick as the New Jersey Devils beat the Flyers 5-2. At 42 years and 322 days old, Jagr was more than a year older than Howe, the previous record holder.

Jagr proved age is just a number. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

He also broke Howe’s record for the longest amount of time between a player’s first and last hat trick. He scored his first for the Pittsburgh Penguins on Feb. 2, 1991. The 23 years, 11 months, and one day were much longer than the 19 years and 264 days between Howe’s first and last hat trick.

Old School Memories

On Jan. 3, 1929, defenseman Eddie Shore made two great individual efforts. First, he drove from Boston to Montreal in blizzard conditions and arrived just in time for puck drop. He then scored the only goal in the Bruins’ 1-0 victory over the Maroons. Rookie goaltender Tiny Thompson earned his fifth shutout of the season.

Nels Stewart scored a pair of goals four seconds apart in the third period on Jan. 3, 1931, to set an NHL record for the fastest two goals by one player. His two tallies were the difference in the Maroons’ 5-3 win versus the Bruins.

The Blackhawks made family history on Jan. 3, 1943, in their 3-3 tie with the New York Rangers. Reg Bently scored the opening goal of the game, with his brothers Doug and Max getting credit for the assists. This was the first goal in league history with all three points going to brothers.

Rangers Are All the Rage

Ron Stewart became the 11th player in NHL history to appear in 1,000 regular-season games on Jan. 3, 1968, when the Rangers and Bruins skated to a 5-5 tie at Madison Square Garden. He retired in 1973 with 1,353 games played, 306 of which were in a Rangers uniform. He spent 13 seasons with the Maple Leafs, where he won three Stanley Cups and had stints with the Bruins, St. Louis Blues, Vancouver Canucks, and New York Islanders.

Ed Giacomin became the Rangers’ all-time leader in career shutouts on Jan. 3, 1973, when he beat the Los Angeles Kings 3-0. His 41st career shutout moved him ahead of Dave Kerr. His 49 shutouts are the second-most behind Henrik Lundqvist, who had 64 with New York.

Don Maloney had a huge night on Jan. 3, 1987, as he picked up five assists in a 5-2 road victory at the Quebec Nordiques.

Mark Messier scored two goals and added an assist on Jan. 3, 1996, to move past Bryan Trottier into sixth place on the NHL’s all-time scoring list with 1,427 points. Ray Ferraro had a four-point night with a hat trick and an assist in the Rangers’ 7-4 win over the visiting Montreal Canadiens.

Hall of Fame Moments

The Canadiens scored three goals in a span of 2:22 of the third period on Jan. 3, 1977, to beat the Flyers 6-4 and snap their 20-game unbeaten streak. Jacques Lemaire was the offensive hero with a goal and three assists.

A decade later, on Jan. 3, 1987, Paul Coffey scored twice to become the first defenseman in Edmonton Oilers’ history to score 200 goals with the team. He also added an assist, and Jarri Kuri had a goal and three helpers as the Oilers won 8-1 at the Kings.

Defenseman Paul Coffey of the Edmonton Oilers
Coffey was one of the greatest defensemen in league history. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

On that same night, Mike Bossy became just the second player in NHL history to score 25 goals in each of his first 10 seasons, when he scored twice for the Islanders in a 5-4 loss against the visiting Bruins.

Guy Lafleur scored his 545th career goal on Jan. 3, 1990, in the Nordiques’ 5-4 loss to the Maple Leafs. This moved him ahead of Canadiens legend Maurice Richard into eighth place on the NHL’s all-time goal-scoring list.

One year later, on Jan. 3, 1991, Wayne Gretzky became the fourth player in league history to score 700 career goals. His milestone goal was the first of three on his way to the 47th hat trick of his career as the Kings beat the Islanders 6-3.

Odds & Ends

The Penguins defeated the Islanders 4-3 on Jan. 3, 1980, to move into first place in the Norris Division for the first time in franchise history. Goaltender Greg Millen extended his unbeaten streak to 12 straight games (7-0-5) with the win.

Defenseman Reed Larson scored his first career hat trick on Jan. 3, 1981, and added an assist as the Red Wings lost to the Penguins 6-4. He became the first Detroit defenseman since Flash Hollett in 1944 to score three goals in a game.

On Jan. 3, 1982, Rick Kehoe scored early in the first period of the Penguins’ 6-4 win over the Hartford Whalers to become just the second player in franchise history to score 250 goals.

Rick Kehoe
Kehoe was an early star in Pittsburgh. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Daniel Bouchard became the 15th goaltender in NHL history to record 250 career victories on Jan. 3, 1984, as he led the Nordiques to a 9-5 win against the visiting Canadiens.

Theo Fleury made his NHL debut on Jan. 3, 1989, and had three shots on goal in the Calgary Flames’ 5-1 defeat of the Nordiques.

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Rob Ray became the seventh player in NHL history to get 3,000 career penalty minutes and the first to do it all with one team on Jan. 3, 2002, in the Buffalo Sabres’ 3-1 loss to the Flames. He racked up a minor, major, and two misconduct penalties to give him 3,019 career penalty minutes.

Calle Johansson became the Washington Capitals’ all-time leader in games played on Jan. 3, 2003, when he skated in his 941st contest with the club, a 2-2 tie against Columbus. He broke the previous record set by Kelly Miller. He retired with 983 games played and has been since passed by Alex Ovechkin.

Exactly one year, on Jan. 3, 2004, Tomas Vokoun became the winningest goaltender in Nashville Predators history with a 3-2 victory over the visiting Devils. He broke the franchise record of 81 wins set by Mike Dunham.

Later that night, Markus Naslund became the fifth player to score 250 goals as a member of the Canucks in a 3-1 road win at the Flames.

Andreas Athanasiou scored just six seconds into overtime on Jan. 3, 2018, to give the Red Wings a 2-1 win against the Ottawa Senators. This tied the NHL’s regular-season record for the fastest overtime goal ever scored, shared with Mats Sundin, David Legwand, and Ovechkin.

Happy Birthday to You

A large and talented group of 39 current and former NHL players has been born on this date. Hall of Famer Bobby Hull headlines the lot, born on Jan. 3, 1939, in Point Anne, Ontario. He played 1,036 games over 15 seasons with the Blackhawks, scoring 604 goals and 1,153 points. His career highlights include being the first player with more than one 50-goal season, winning three scoring titles, two Hart Trophies, and one Stanley Cup.

Happy Birthday, Golden Jet! (THW Archives)

Other notable birthday boys include Mike Walton (77), Rick MacLeish (72), Jacques Cloutier (62), Cory Cross (51), Drake Berehowsky (50), Mike York (44), Ryan Ellis (31), and Ryan Poehling (23).


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