Today in Hockey History: Oct. 4

One of the biggest trades of the 1990s went down on this date, altering the path of two National Hockey League franchises. Also, a new team joined the ranks, one of the greatest defensemen in history got his number retired, and a trio of Hockey Hall of Famers all earned their first points on the same night. So, let’s take a trip back in time and relive all the best moments Oct. 4 has given us over the years.

Oilers Trade Messier to New York

On Oct. 4, 1991, the Edmonton Oilers traded their captain Mark Messier, who had been with the team for all five of their Stanley Cup championships, to the New York Rangers. In return, the Oilers received forwards Louie DeBrusk, Bernie Nichols, and Steven Rice.

Messier scored 35 goals and 107 points in his first season with the Rangers, leading them to the Presidents’ Trophy for the most points in the NHL. He won the Hart Trophy for being voted the most valuable player in the NHL for the second time in his career. The fantastic season came to a disappointing end with a six-game loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round of the playoffs.

Mark Messier New York Rangers
Messier moved to the Big Apple on this date in 1991. (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images/NHLI)

The Rangers won the Presidents’ Trophy again in 1993-94 and began a magical run through the postseason. Messier scored the game-winning goal in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Vancouver Canucks to end the Rangers’ 54-year championship drought. He stayed in New York until signing with the Canucks in 1997 before returning after three seasons in Vancouver.

An Important Date for Sharks

The San Jose Sharks played their first-ever regular-season game on Oct. 4, 1991, losing 4-3 to the Canucks at the Pacific Coliseum. Craig Coxe, a native of southern California, scored the first goal in Sharks history. It was one of just two goals he scored in 10 games that season.

Eight years later, on Oct. 4, 1999, the Sharks got hat tricks from two different players in the same game for the first time in team history. Both Owen Nolan and Jeff Friesen scored three goals in a 7-1 blowout of the Chicago Blackhawks. Nolan added three assists to finish the night with six points.

Speaking of hat tricks, Brendan Shanahan scored one against the Sharks on Oct. 4, 2001, in a 4-3 Detroit Red Wings victory. He became just the second player to ever score two hat tricks on opening night in his career.

A Trio of Firsts in 1990

On Oct. 4, 1990, three future members of the Hockey Hall of Fame found the scoresheet for the first time in the NHL.

Mats Sundin made his league debut on this night for the Quebec Nordiques. He scored the team’s third goal in a 3-3 tie at the Hartford Whalers. Joe Sakic had the primary assist on the play.

Mats Sundin Quebec Nordiques
Sundin scored in his NHL debut on this date in 1990. (Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)

Sergei Fedorov skated in his first NHL game at the New Jersey Devils. He gave the Red Wings a 3-1 lead early in the second period, with Steve Yzerman setting up the scoring play. However, they could not hold onto the lead as the game ended in a 3-3 tie.

In Los Angeles, defenseman Rob Blake picked up the first two assists of his career in the Los Angeles Kings’ 4-1 victory over the New York Islanders.

Odds & Ends

A couple of weeks before making their league debut on Oct. 4, 1926, the Detroit Cougars purchased the Victoria Cougars from the old Western Hockey League. They used the players to fill out the roster for their inaugural season. The Cougars became the Falcons in 1930 before changing their name to the Red Wings in 1932.

On Oct. 4, 1991, Jari Kurri scored a hat trick in his debut for the Kings, leading them to a 6-3 win over the Winnipeg Jets. Kurri scored 108 goals and 293 points in 331 games for Los Angeles before he was traded to the Rangers in 1996.

Jari Kurri Finnish HHoF
Kurri made a heck of a debut with the Kings. (photo courtesy Finnish Hockey Hall of Fame)

The Tampa Bay Lightning named Paul Ysebaert their first captain in franchise history on Oct. 4, 1995. They did not have a captain for their first three seasons in the NHL, just a set of alternate captains.

Mike Donnelly made NHL history on Oct. 4, 1996. When he took the ice for the Islanders at the Kings, he became the first player to ever play for all three New York teams, having already played for the Rangers and Buffalo Sabres.

The Boston Bruins retired Ray Bourque’s No. 77 on Oct. 4, 2001, in a pregame ceremony before their 4-2 season-opening victory over the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. He played 1,518 games for the Bruins from 1979 until he was traded to the Colorado Avalanche in 2000. He scored 395 goals and 1,506 points with the Bruins, and he is still the highest-scoring defenseman in NHL history.

Raymond Bourque Boston Bruins
Bourque is the highest-scoring defenseman of all time. (Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)

On Oct. 4, 2008, the NHL began the new season in Europe, with its first-ever regular-season games in Stockholm, Sweden, and Prague, Czech Republic. In Stockholm, the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Ottawa Senators 4-3 thanks to an overtime goal by Tyler Kennedy. Brandon Dubinsky had the game-winning goal in Prague as the Rangers beat the Lightning 2-1.

Patrick Marleau played his first game not wearing a Sharks uniform on Oct. 4, 2017, when he made his debut for the Toronto Maple Leafs. He scored a goal in a 7-2 win over the Jets in Winnipeg. He had played the previous 19 seasons in San Jose, scoring 508 goals and 1,082 points in 1,493 games.

Happy Birthday to You

A group of 15 current and former NHL players were born on Oct. 4. The first was Les Cunningham, who was born on this date in 1913. He played 60 games for the New York Americans and Blackhawks between 1937 and 1940, scoring seven goals and 26 points. The most recent is Sharks forward Lean Bergmann, turning 23 today, who has one assist in 16 NHL games.

Other notable players born on this date include Vic Hadfield (81), Justin Williams (40), Jesse Winchester (38), and Zach Boychuk (32).


Sign up for our regular 'Hockey History Newsletter' for all the best and most significant pieces from the THW Archives.