Today in Hockey History: July 17

July 17 turned out to be a very active day in the history of the National Hockey League. In New York, a general manager, who ended a historic drought, was hired, and a key member of a legendary dynasty was born. Also, one of the best defensive forwards in the game hung up his skates.

Gainey Calls It a Career

Bob Gainey announced his retirement on July 16, 1989, after 16 NHL seasons, all with the Montreal Canadiens. He was taken by the Canadiens with the eighth overall pick in the 1973 NHL Amateur Draft. Gainey scored 239 goals and 501 points in 1160 career games, but he is still recognized as one of the best defensive forwards ever to play the game.

Gainey had plenty of these celebrations in Montreal. (THW Archive)

Gainey won the Frank J. Selke Trophy, given to the best defensive forward in the league, four straight times between 1978-81. He was a member of five Stanley Cup Championship teams in Montreal, including four consecutive titles between 1976 and 1979. He won the 1979 Conn Smythe Trophy, for being the most valuable player of the playoffs, by scoring six goals and 16 points in 16 games. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, as a player, in 1992.

His hockey career was far from over on this date. Gainey was named the head coach of the Minnesota North Stars in 1990 and took them to the Stanley Cup Final in 1991. In 1992, he added general manager to his title. He remained with the organization when they relocated to Dallas in 1993. He coached through the end of the 1995-96 season. He served as general manager until 2002 and built the team that won the Stanley Cup in 1999.

Gainey returned to Montreal on June 2, 2003, when he was hired as general manager. He held that position for nearly seven years and even coached the team for two short stints. Some of his draft picks included Jaroslav Halak, Alexei Emelin, Carey Price, Ryan McDonagh, Max Pacioretty, and P.K Subban. Gainey is currently a team consultant for the St. Louis Blues.

Rangers Make Moves

On July 17, 1981, the New York Rangers signed Mark Pavelich, an undrafted center out of the University of Minnesota-Duluth, who was part of the 1980 United States Olympic team. The signing worked out well for the Rangers. Pavelich scored 33 goals and 76 points in his rookie season of 1981-82. He played five seasons in New York, scoring 133 goals and 318 points in 341 total games. He was traded to the North Stars in 1986 for a second-round draft pick used on forward Troy Mallette.

Eight years later, on July 17, 1989, the Rangers hired Neil Smith to be their next general manager. He replaced Phil Esposito, who was fired two months earlier. Smith held the position through the end of the 1999-2000 season.

Early in his tenure, Smith drafted players like Sergei Nemchinov, Alexei Kovalev, Doug Weight, and Sergei Zubov before pulling off a huge trade in 1991 to acquire Mark Messier from the Edmonton Oilers. He continued to add the pieces that led to the 1994 Stanley Cup championship.

Mark Messier of the New York Rangers
Smith brought Messier and the Cup to Broadway. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

However, trading away many top prospects during that Stanley Cup run led to the team having to rely on pricy, veteran free agents. Smith signed Wayne Gretzky in 1996, and he played his final three NHL seasons on Broadway. The Rangers missed the playoffs between 1998 and 2000, which led to his dismissal.

Odds & Ends

The Toronto Maple Leafs signed center Joe Primeau on July 17, 1928. He eventually became a full-time player during the 1929-30 season. He scored 13 goals and a career-high 50 points during the 1931-32 season, which ended with a Stanley Cup victory. He also won the Lady Bing Trophy for being the game’s “most gentlemanly” player that season.

He finished his playing career with 66 goals and 243 points during his nine seasons with the Maple Leafs. He was the head coach in Toronto for three seasons, leading them to the 1951 Stanley Cup championship. Primeau was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, as a player, in 1963.

On July 17, 1994, the Blues announced the hiring of Mike Keenan as their new general manager and head coach. This move came just two days after he stepped down as head coach of the Rangers. His tenure in St. Louis lasted about two and a half seasons before he was let go 33 games into the 1996-97 season, eventually being replaced by Joel Quenneville.

The Detroit Red Wings named Dave Lewis as their new head coach on July 17, 2002. He replaced Scotty Bowman, who had retired after winning the 2002 Stanley Cup. Lewis became the 25th head coach in team history. He coached two seasons, both ending with Central Division titles, but he was replaced by Mike Babcock when the league returned from the lockout that cost it the 2004-05 season.

Happy Birthday to You

Bryan Trottier was born on July 17, 1956, in Val Marie, Saskatchewan. The New York Islanders drafted Trottier, who played junior hockey with the Swift Current Broncos in the Western Hockey League (WHL), in the second round of the 1974 NHL Amateur Draft. This pick came after they selected Clark Gillies in the first round. The duo would be a big part of four straight Stanley Cup Championships.

Trottier made his NHL debut at the start of the 1975-76 season. He scored 32 goals and 95 points, a record, at the time, for rookies, and won the Calder Trophy for being the top first-year player that season. He scored 47 goals and a career-high 134 points during the 1978-79 season. This earned him the Art Ross Trophy for leading the league in scoring. He also won the Hart Trophy, given to the most valuable player as voted by the writers.

Islanders Dynasty
One of the seven times Trottier got to hoist the Cup in his career. (THW Archives)

The Islanders won the first of four straight championships in 1980. Trottier won the Conn Smythe Trophy by scoring 12 goals and 29 points during the Stanley Cup run. He scored 37 goals and 107 points in 75 postseason games during the Islanders’ dynasty between 1980 and 1983.

When his time in New York ended, with exactly 500 goals, Trottier signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1990. He won two more Stanley Cups with them in 1991 and 1992. He retired following the 1993-94 season with 524 goals and 1,425 points in 1,279 games over 18 seasons. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, as a player, in 1997.

Trottier got into coaching after his retirement. He spent time as an assistant with the Penguins, Buffalo Sabres, and Colorado Avalanche, where he won a seventh Stanley Cup in 2001. In 2002, he was hired by the Rangers to be their new head coach, which did not sit well with Islanders fans. His one and only head coaching stint lasted only lasted 54 games as his style of play did not gel with the team’s offensive stars.

Some of the other members of an impressive group of players born on this date include Tommy Soderstrom (52), Jason Strudwick (46), Marc Savard (44), Ryan Miller (41), Loui Eriksson (36), Oliver Ekman-Larsson (30), Nick Bjugstad (29), Alexander True (24) and late Hall of Famers Jack Laviolette and Shorty Green.


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