July 20 has been an eventful date in National Hockey League history despite no games being played. A Hall of Fame goaltender finally lands in a spot where he can get a crack at the NHL. A two-time Stanley Cup winner retires. There was a historic hire among the scouting ranks and a very talented group of players were born.
Bower Heads East
On July 20, 1953, the New York Rangers acquired Hall of Fame goaltender Johnny Bower from the Cleveland Barons for goaltender Emile Francis, forward Neil Strain and cash. Bower starred with the Barons between 1945 and 1953. He won three Calder Cup championships and his 359 wins are still the most in American Hockey League (AHL) history.
Bower finally made his NHL debut in 1953. He played in every minute of all 70 games for the Rangers during the 1953-54 season, going 29-31-10. He lost his starting job to Gump Worsley the following season and spent much of the next two seasons back in the AHL.
His career took a major turn when he was claimed by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1958 Inter-League Draft. Bower spent the next 12 seasons with the Maple Leafs and won four Stanley Cup championships and two Vezina Trophies. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1976.
Richards Hangs Them Up
Brad Richards announced his retirement, on July 20, 2016, after 15 seasons in the league. He was originally drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the third round (64th overall) of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. He made his NHL debut on the opening night of the 2000-01 season and scored 21 goals and 62 points in his rookie campaign.
Richards scored 12 goals and 26 points in 23 playoff games in 2004, leading the Lightning to their first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history. He was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy for being the most valuable player of the postseason.
His time in Tampa Bay ended on Feb. 26, 2008, when he was traded to the Dallas Stars, along with Johan Holmqvist, for Jussi Jokinen, Jeff Halpern, Mike Smith and a fourth-round draft pick. After three more seasons with the Stars, Richards signed a huge nine-year, $60 million contract with the Rangers in 2011. He did not live out the deal as the Rangers bought out the remainder of the contract following the 2013-14 season.
This allowed Richards to sign with the Chicago Blackhawks on a one-year contract, where he spent the majority of the season centering Patrick Kane. He scored three goals and 14 points in a postseason run that ended with a victory over the Lightning in the Stanley Cup Final.
Richards spent his final season in the NHL with the Detroit Red Wings, scoring 10 goals and 28 assists. He retired with 298 goals and 932 points in 1126 games. He had 489 of those points with Tampa Bay, which rank as the fifth-most in franchise history.
A Busy Day in 1972
On July 20, 1972, the expansion New York Islanders named Phil Goyette as their first head coach in franchise history. Goyette didn’t make it through the team’s inaugural season. He is fired after going 6-38-4 just 48 games into the season and replaced by Earl Ingarfield. Goyette never coached in the NHL again.
On that same date, the Quebec Nordiques made a big splash, ahead of the debut of the World Hockey Association (WHA), by bringing in two well-known names from the area. First, they signed Montreal Canadiens star J.C. Tremblay to a five-year contract. He had won five Stanley Cups in his 13 seasons with the Canadiens.
Tremblay played for the Nordiques during the entire seven-season run of the WHA. He had 75 assists during the 1972-73 season and then 77 in 1976-77. He amassed 358 assists in his seven seasons with Quebec after earning 306 helpers during his 13 seasons in the NHL.
The Nordiques also hired the legendary Maurice Ricard as their first head coach. His stint lasted just two games, a win and a loss, before he stepped down. Maurice Filion took over the for rest of the team and league’s inaugural season.
Trottier Moves On
On July 20, 1990, free Bryan Trottier signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins. This ended a remarkably successful fun with the Islanders. He made his debut on Long Island to start the 1975-75 season after he was drafted in the second round of the 1974 NHL Amateur Draft. He won the Calder Trophy for being the league’s top rooking that season with 32 goals and 95 points
In 15 seasons with the Islanders, Trottier scored 500 goals and 1353 points in 1123 games. He was one of the most important members of a team that won for straight Stanley Cup championships between 1980 and 1983.
While his offensive numbers were down, he still provided veteran leadership on a loaded Penguins roster. Trottier won two more Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992 to bring his career total up to six, as a player.
Odds & Ends
The Maple Leafs hired Floyd Smith as their new head coach on July 20, 1979, replacing Roger Neilson. Smith had previous coaching success with the Buffalo Sabres, taking them to the Stanley Cup playoffs in each of his three seasons between 1975 and 1977. His time in Toronto did not go well as he was fired 68 games into the 1979-80 season. He remained with the organization as a scout and eventually spent two seasons as general manager from 1989 to 1991.
The Penguins hired Lou Angotti as their new head coach, on July 29, 1983, replacing Eddie Johnston. He was let go after winning just 16 games during the 1983-84 season. Johnston returned for a second coaching stint with the Penguins in 1993.
The San Jose Sharks made history on July 20, 1992, by hiring 26-year-old Deborah Wright as a part-time scout. She became the first female to work as a scout for an NHL team. Wright played college hockey in Ottawa before becoming a scout in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).
On July 20, 1999, the Rangers signed free-agent goaltender Kirk McLean. He had spent most of the previous 11 seasons with the Vancouver Canucks. McLean was in goal for the Canucks when the lost the 1994 Stanley Cup Final to the Rangers. He spent two seasons serving as Mike Richter’s backup. He won 15 games during his time in New York before retiring in 2001.
Happy Birthday to You
There were 23 current and former NHL players born on July 20. Peter Forsberg, born in Ornskoldsvik, Sweden in 1973, is the only Hall of Famer of the bunch. He was originally drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers with the sixth pick of the 1991 NHL Entry Draft. The following year, he was traded to the Nordiques as part of the package that sent Eric Lindros to Philadelphia.
In the Nordiques’ final season in Quebec, in 1994-95, Forsberg won the Calder Trophy by scoring 15 goals and 50 points in 47 in games. He relocated with the team and he scores 30 goals and 116 points during their Stanley Cup championship season 1995-96. He won another Stanley Cup with Colorado in 2002 and was the 2003 Art Ross Trophy winner for leading the NHL with 106. He also won the Hart Trophy that season for being voted the most valuable player in the league.
In 2005, Forsberg returned to Philadelphia as a free agent. He was traded to the Nashville Predators at the 2007 trade deadline. Injuries caused him to miss a lot of time during the second half of his career, but when was healthy, he produced. He retired in 2010, after one final season with the Avalanche, with 249 goals and 885 points in 708 games. He was part of the Hockey Hall of Fame’s 2014 induction class.
Forsberg might be the only Hall of Famer born on this date, but he is likely to be joined by Pavel Datsyuk in the near future. Datsyuk, born in Sverdlovsk, Russia in 1978, is the highest-scoring player of those with July 20 birthdays. He scored 314 goals and 918 points in 953 NHL games, all with the Red Wings.
Datsyuk was drafted by the Red Wings in the sixth round (171st overall) of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. He was part of two Stanley Cup championships, in 2002 and 2008. He was a four-time winner of the Lady Bing Trophy for being the “most gentlemanly” player. He also won the Frank J. Selke Trophy three times, which is given to the best defensive forward each season.
Murry Craven, born on July 20, 1964, played the most games of the group. He dressed for 1,071 games, over 18 seasons, for the Red Wings, Flyers, Hartford Whalers, Canucks, Blackhawks and Sharks.
On the flipside, Nick Vachon, born on July 20, 1972, played in just one career NHL game for the Islanders in 1997.
Other notable players born on this date include Terry Murray (70), Jimmy Carson (52), Jozef Stumpel (48), Antoine Vermette (38), Andrew Shaw (29), Oscar Klefbom (27), Morgan Geekie (22) and Dillon Dube (22).