One of the greatest defensemen of all-time changed addresses after 17 seasons in his original home. Plus, one of the best returns on a dollar called it a career and talent group of players are celebrating birthdays.
Big Bird Heads West
Larry Robinson and the Los Angeles Kings made headlines twice on this date. First, on July 26, 1989, the Hall of Fame defenseman signed with the Kings after a 17-season run with the Montreal Canadiens. He played 1,202 games, scoring 197 goals and 883 points and won the Norris Trophy twice, for being voted the best defenseman in the league. He never missed the playoffs in his 17 seasons and was part of six Stanley Cup champions.
Robinson played three more seasons with the Kings before retiring after the 1991-92 season. They made the postseason in all three of those seasons, keeping his streak alive.
Exactly six years after signing as a player with the Kings, on July 26, 1995, Robinson was named the team’s new head coach. He was the 18th head coach in franchise history, replacing Barry Melrose who took the Kings to the 1993 Stanley Cup Final. He spent four seasons behind the bench, going 122-161-45. Kings made it to the playoffs just once under Robinson, when they were swept out of the first round by the St. Louis Blues in 1998.
Draper Hangs Them Up
Kris Draper announced his retirement, on July 26, 2011, after 20 seasons in the NHL. He was originally drafted by the Winnipeg Jets in the third round (62nd overall) of the 1989 NHL Entry Draft.
After 20 games over three seasons with the Jets, Draper was traded to the Detroit Red Wings for one dollar. This would go down as one of the best value investments made in franchise history. He made his debut with the team in 1993 and became a fixture in the lineup for the next 17 seasons.
When he retired, Draper played in 1,137 games in Detroit, scoring 158 goals and 361 points. The Red Wings made the playoffs in every season of his tenure. He scored 24 goals and 46 points in 220 postseason games and was a member of championship teams in 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008.
Draper formed the “Grind Line” along with Kirk Maltby and Darren McCarty. His best season came in 2004-04 when he scored a career-high 24 goals and 40 points. He also won the Frank J. Selke Trophy for being voted the best defensive forward for the season. Only Gordie Howe, Nicklas Lidstrom, Alex Delvecchio and Steve Yzerman played more games in a Red Wings uniform than Draper.
Odds & Ends
On July 26, 1972, veteran goalie Gerry Cheevers left the Boston Bruins to sign with the Cleveland Crusaders in the upstart World Hockey Association (WHA). He played in Cleveland for three and a half seasons, going 99-78-9. He returned to the NHL, and the Bruins, in 1975, after a financial dispute with Crusaders management.
Before he began his coaching career and time as an executive in the NHL’s league office, Colin Campbell spent 11 seasons as a defenseman. On July 26, 1982, he signed with the Red Wings. This was the sixth and final team he would suit up for during his playing career. He dressed in 178 games over the next three seasons, scoring five goals and 21 points. Campbell joined the Red Wings’ coaching staff, under Jacques Demers, immediately following his retirement in 1985.
The Washington Capitals signed free-agent forward Keith Acton on July 26, 1993. He had plenty of success while playing for the Canadiens and Minnesota North Stars in the 1980s. Acton’s time in Washington did not last very long as he was put on waivers just six games in the 1993-94 season. He was claimed by the New York Islanders and finished out his final NHL season with them, scoring two goals and nine points in 71 games.
On July 26, 1994, the Buffalo Sabres traded defenseman Sean O’Donnell to the Kings for fellow blueliner, Doug Houda. O’Donnell made his NHL debut with the Kings the following season. He played in eight seasons with the Kings, over two stints, during his 17-season NHL career. The lost him to the Minnesota Wild in 2000 NHL Expansion Draft and reacquired him in a traded with the Anaheim Ducks in 2008.
Happy Birthday to You
Of the 23 NHL players born on July 26, Bobby Rousseau played in the most games. Rousseau, born on this date in 1940, played in 942 games for the Canadiens, North Stars and New York Rangers between 1961 and 1975. He won the Calder Trophy, for being the league’s top rookie, after scoring 21 goals and 45 points during the 1961-62 season. He won four Stanley Cups with the Canadiens and is also as the most assists (458) and points (703) of anyone born on this date.
The late Rick Martin, born on July 26, 1951, scored the most goals of the group, with 384 between the Sabres and Kings. He played in all but four of his 685 career games with the Sabers after they drafted him with the fifth overall pick of the 1971 NHL Amateur Draft. He made an immediate impact by scoring 44 goals in his rookie season of 1971-72.
Martin formed a deadly line, called the French Connection, with Gilbert Perreault and Rene Robert. It was on this line where he scored 52 goals in both the 1973-74 and 1974-75 seasons. Between 1971 and 1980, he scored 373 goals for the Sabres.
In November of 1980, he suffered a severe knee injury when he was tripped on a breakaway and his career was never the same. He was traded to the Kings, on March 10, 1981, for a first and third-round draft pick. The first-round pick, in 1983, was used on goaltender Tom Barrasso. Martin only played four games for the Kings before his knee injury forced him into retirement.
Lorne Anderson is the only goaltender born on this date. He appeared in three games for the Rangers in 1952. Three players have played in the fewest games, all with two; Bob Bergloff (North Stars, 1983), Eric Calder (Capitals, 1983) and Peter Nordstrom (Bruins, 1999).
Other notable players born on July 26 include Oleg Kvasha (42), Alec Martinez (33), Jordie Benn (33), Tyson Barrie (29) and Sebastian Abo (23).