This has been a very busy day in National Hockey League history. The greatest offensive defenseman ever took his place at the top of the goals list, a new franchise debuted, multiple captains were named and a season began in Europe.
Bourque Sets the High Mark
Ray Bourque had pretty much done everything a defenseman could by the time Oct. 2, 1999, rolled around. On this night, he scored the only goal in the Boston Bruins’ 3-1 season-opening loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.
Bourque’s goal came at the 1:42 mark of the second period and was the 386th of his career, passing Hockey Hall of Famer Paul Coffey for the most in NHL history by a defenseman.
He scored nine more goals for the Bruins before he was traded to the Colorado Avalanche on March 6, 2000. He finally won the Stanley Cup that had eluded him for 22 seasons in 2001 and quickly retired after the big moment. His 410 goals, 1,169 assists and 1,579 points are still the most ever by a blueliner in the league.
Thrashers Make Their Debut
On the same night Bourque broke Coffey’s record, the Atlanta Thrashers played their first regular-season game in franchise history. Over 18,000 fans packed the Phillips Arena for the historic night but the New Jersey Devils spoiled the party with a 4-1 win.
Kelly Buchberger, who was named team captain just a couple of days earlier, scored the first goal in Thrashers history and the lone tally of the game.
Buchberger did not finish the 1999-00 season in Atlanta as he was dealt to the Los Angeles Kings at the trade deadline. The Thrashers went 14-57-11 in their inaugural season.
Messier & Mario Get the “C”
The Vancouver Canucks named Mark Messier their captain, on Oct. 2, 1997, replacing Trevor Linden. Messier, who signed with the Canucks in the offseason, was 10th captain in team history. He would serve in that role for the next three seasons until he returned to the New York Rangers in 2000. The announcement was made in Tokyo, Japan, the night before the opened the season against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
Four years later, on Oct. 2, 2001, Mario Lemieux was named captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the fourth time in his career. He took over for Jaromir Jagr, who had been captain for the previous three seasons. He wore the “C” until he retired for the second time in 2006. After a season without a captain, the honor was given to Sidney Crosby in 2007.
A Busy Day for Steve Smith
Three-time Stanley Cup-winning defenseman Steve Smith had a pair of memorable events happen on this date. On Oct. 2, 1991, he was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks, by the Edmonton Oilers, for fellow blueliner Dave Manson and a third-round draft pick that was used to select Kirk Maltby.
Smith spent the next six seasons with the Blackhawks. After playing in 154 games during his first two seasons, injuries limited him to 163 games over the next four. He eventually ended up with the Calgary Flames in 1998.
On Oct. 2, 1999, he was named the captain of the Flames but only played in 20 games due to a serious neck injury. He returned for the 2000-01 season and played in 13 games before retiring in December. Dave Lowery took over the captaincy when Smith hung up his skates.
Odds & Ends
The Philadelphia Flyers named Rick Tocchet their new captain, on Oct. 2, 1991, replacing Ron Sutter. His captaincy didn’t last too long as he was traded to the rival Penguins midseason. The team went without a captain until the start of the 1993-94 season when Kevin Dineen filled the vacancy.
Back to Oct. 2, 1999, the Canucks picked up a season-opening 2-1 win over the Rangers. Goaltender Kevin Weekes made 32 saves to pick up the first win of his NHL career. This ended a 15-game winless streak as he started his career with a 0-13-2 record.
The Blackhawks and Toronto Maple Leafs swapped defenseman, on Oct. 2, 2000, as Alexander Karpovtsev went to Chicago in exchange for Bryan McCabe. The Maple Leafs got the better of this deal as McCabe played in 523 games over the next seven seasons, scoring 83 goals and 297 points.
Karpovtsev struggled in three-plus seasons, playing in 182 games, before he was traded to the New York Islanders. However, the fourth-round pick acquired from the Islanders was used to selected defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, who played a big role in three Stanley Cup championships for the Blackhawks.
On Oct. 2, 2009, the NHL began the season in Europe. The Florida Panthers beat the Blackhawks 4-3, in a shootout, in Helsinki, Finland. Ville Koistinen had a big day in his home country with a goal in regulation before scoring again in the shootout. Goaltender Tomas Vokoun made 52 saves in the win.
On that same night, the Blues beat the Detroit Red Wings, 4-3, in Stockholm, Sweden. Paul Kariya was the hero for St. Louis by scoring a pair of goals.
Happy Birthday to You
A big group of 33 current and former NHL players have been born on Oct. 2. The first was Alvin Fisher, who was born on this date in 1894. He had one goal in nine games for the Toronto St. Patricks in 1925. The most recent debut was made this past season by Colorado Avalanche forward Martin Kaut, who is celebrating his 21st birthday today.
Glenn Anderson, born on Oct. 2, 1960, is the lone Hall of Famer of the group. He’s scored the most goals (498), assists (601) and points (1,099) of all the birthday boys. He won six Stanley Cup during his career, five with the Oilers and one with the Rangers.
Defenseman Glen Wesley, who turns 52 today, played in the most games. He was originally drafted by the Bruins with the third overall pick of the 1987 NHL Entry Draft. He dressed in 1,457 contests, over 20 seasons, for the Bruins, Hartford Whalers, Hurricanes and Maple Leafs.
Other notable players born on this date include Don Luce (72), Gordie Roberts (63), Phil Kessel (33), Josh Bailey (31), Frederik Andersen (31) and the late Jimmy Peters.
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.