Oct. 10 has provided an incredible number of firsts in National Hockey League history. There have been first games played by new franchises, NHL debuts by some of the all-time greats, first goals and first points. There was also a memorable ending, as the longest consecutive games-played streak saw its final game.
A Huge Date for Oilers, Gretzky
The Edmonton Oilers were one of four teams, along with the Hartford Whalers, Quebec Nordiques and Winnipeg Jets, from the defunct World Hockey Association (WHA) to join the NHL in 1979. They made their league debut, on Oct. 10, 1979, at the Chicago Blackhawks and they brought an exciting young player named Wayne Gretzky with them.
Defenseman Kevin Lowe scored the first Oilers goal in their NHL history, midway through the first period. Gretzky picked up an assist on the play for the first of his 2,857 points of his legendary career. The Oilers ended up losing to the Blackhawks 4-2, thanks, in part, to a power-play goal by current Anaheim Ducks general manager Bob Murray.
Six years later, on Oct. 10, 1985, Craig MacTavish made his debut with the Oilers after spending the first five seasons of his career with the Boston Bruins. He scored a goal on his first shot with the team, helping the Oilers to a 4-3 victory over the Jets.
Sabres Make History
On Oct. 10, 1970, the Buffalo Sabres took to the ice for the first time at the old Civic Arena. They beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 in their NHL debut. Jim Watson scored the first goal in Sabres history, five minutes into the second period. Gilbert Perreault netted the game-winning goal with less than nine minutes to play. It was the first of 512 goals the future Hockey Hall of Famer scored in a Sabres sweater.
Four years later, on Oct. 10, 1974, rookie forward Danny Gare scored just 18 seconds into the Sabres’ game against the Bruins. The goal was the second-fastest ever scored by a player making his NHL debut. The record of 15 seconds was set, on Oct. 30, 1948, by Gus Bodnar of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Buffalo rolled to a 9-5 win over Boston that night and Gare finished his rookie campaign with 31 goals.
A Busy Night in 1973
The 1973-74 season opened on this date and the busy evening included multiple milestones and memorable moments.
Four future Hockey Hall of Famers made their league debut on this night. Starting in Toronto, where Lanny McDonald and Borje Salming played in their first games for the Maple Leafs. McDonald had two assists to help his team score a 7-4 win over the visiting Sabres.
Meanwhile, in the Twin Cities, rookie Bob Gainey played in his first NHL game as his Montreal Canadiens beat the Minnesota North Stars 5-2. The victory extended the Canadiens’ opening night undefeated streak to 11 straight games (8-0-3).
For the second straight season, the New York Islanders and Atlanta Flames played on opening night. Defenseman Denis Potvin played in his very first NHL game as the two teams drew to a 1-1 tie in Atlanta.
Long before his successful career as a broadcaster and front office executive, John Davidson played 301 NHL games as a goaltender. He played the first of those games, on this date, for the St. Louis Blues. Unfortunately, his debut was spoiled with a 2-1 loss to the Oakland Seals.
Finally, Phil Esposito scored his 21st hat trick in to reach 400 goals in his career. He also had two assists in the Bruins 6-4 season-opening win over the Vancouver Canucks. Esposito was the 10th player in league history to score 400 goals.
2002-03 Season Starts with a Bang
A new NHL season started on Oct. 10, 2002, with a full slate of game. In Toronto, goaltender Ed Belfour made his debut for the Maple Leafs. The first game with his new team was a huge success as the future Hall of Famer made 33 saves in a 6-0 of the Penguins.
Speaking of shutouts, Canucks’ netminder Dan Cloutier made 19 saves in a 3-0 victory over the Calgary Flames. This was the first time in franchise history where Vancouver opened the season with a shutout.
The Columbus Blue Jackets opened the season against the Blackhawks and they had a young rookie named Rick Nash in the lineup. Less than a minute after Chicago opened the scoring in the second period, Nash tied the game with his first career goal. Mike Sillinger, who had the lone assist on Nash’s goal, scored the deciding goal in a 2-1 victory.
Finally, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim beat the Blues 4-3 in St. Louis. Stanislav Chistov scored a goal and assisted on the three other Ducks’ tallies. At just 19, he became the youngest player in NHL history to rack up four points in his league debut.
A Fistful of Firsts
On Oct. 10. 1953, Maurice Richard became the first player in league history to score 350 goals as he helped the Canadiens beat the Detroit Red Wings 4-1. Since this date, 151 players have scored at least 350 goals, with Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron being the most recent to hit the milestone. A pair of current captains, John Tavares and Jonathan Toews, are both just five goals away from 350.
Al Arbour made his coaching debut, on Oct 10, 1970, for the Blues. He led St. Louis to a 3-1 victory over the Rangers for the first of 782 NHL wins.
Gary Smith became the first goaltender in league history to play for seven different NHL teams, on Oct. 10, 1979, when he suited up for the Jets. This was Winnipeg’s first game in the NHL after merging from the WHA.
Eight years to the day from his league debut, Salming became the first European trained player to score 500 career points on Oct. 10, 1981. He ended his 60-game goalless streak with his first career hat trick to help the Maple Leafs beat the Blackhawks 9-8.
The Red Wings lost 6-5 to the North Stars, on Oct. 10, 1985, as they got goals from two rookies. Both Adam Oates and Petr Klima scored their first NHL goals in the losing effort. Oates also had an assist in the game.
On Oct. 10, 1989, two players born in the Soviet Union faced each other for the first time in an NHL regular-season game. The New Jersey Devils, with Slava Fetisov and Sergei Starikov, hosted the Flames, who dressed Sergei Priakin and Sergei Makarov. Priakin had the game-winning goal in Calgary’s 4-2 win.
Ducks’ forward Espen Knutsen became the first Norwegian-born player to score an NHL goal, on Oct. 10, 1997, in a 1-1 tie with the Ottawa Senators.
The Nashville Predators played their first-ever home game on Oct. 10, 1998. The Florida Panthers ruined the party as goaltender Kirk McLean made 26 saves and Ray Whitney scored the only goal in a 1-0 win.
The Vegas Golden Knights played their first-ever home game on Oct. 10, 2017. After a very emotional pregame ceremony to honor the victims of a terrible mass shooting that took place just nine days earlier, the Golden Knights scored four first-period goals. The fast start sparked a 5-2 victory over the Arizona Coyotes, becoming the first expansion team to ever win its first three games. James Neal became the only the second player in league history to score the game-winning goal in his team’s first three games to start a season.
Odds & Ends
On Oct. 10, 1987, Whalers’ forward Doug Jarvis played his 964th consecutive game, which is still an NHL record to this day. The 6-2 loss to the Rangers was the final game of his “iron man” streak as he missed Hartford’s next game due to injury. This was also the final game of his NHL career as he was sent down to the American Hockey League (AHL) to become a player/coach in Binghamton.
Greg Adams set an NHL record for most assists, with five, in an opening night game, on Oct. 10, 1985, as his Devils beat the Flyers 6-5. Exactly a decade later, he scored two goals to reach 250 goals in his career, to lead the Dallas Stars to a 7-3 win over the Flames.
Scotty Bowman set an NHL record for coaches, on Oct. 10, 1998, when he began his 27th season behind the bench. Bowman broke the longevity mark of 26 coaching season held by Dick Irvin. His Red Wings fell short in a 2-1 loss to the Maple Leafs.
On that same night, Theoren Fleury scored his 12th career hat trick and added two assists in the Flames’ 5-3 win over the San Jose Sharks, in Tokyo. The win was the 300th of head coach Brian Sutter’s career. He became the first coach in league history to amass 300 victories after scoring 300 goals as a player.
On Oct. 10, 2001, Mark Parrish scored two third-period goals and Claude Lapointe had a goal and three assists as the Islanders earned their 1,000th victory in team history, a 6-3 win in Pittsburgh. New York became the 14th NHL team to win 1,000 games.
Happy Birthday to You
A grand total of 24 current and former NHL players have been born on Oct. 10. The most notable of this group are Pete Mahovlich (74), Bobby Nystrom (68), Mike Donnelly (57), Alexei Zhitnik (48), Brian Holzinger (48), Jeff Shantz (47), Chris Pronger (46), Shane Doan (44), Ilya Mikheyev (46), Sami Niku (24) and the late Edgar Laprade and Dallas Smith.
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.