Oct. 7 has been an extremely busy date in National Hockey League history, starting in 1954 all the way until 2017. Three teams made their NHL debuts, a whole variety of personal milestones were hit, captains were named and there was even a number retired.
A Trio of League Debuts
The brand-new Nassau Coliseum hosted a pair of debuting teams, on Oct. 7, 1972, as the New York Islanders hosted the Atlanta Flames in the first NHL game for both franchises. Morris Stefaniw scored the first goal in Flames history, which also happened to be the only goal of his NHL career. Ed Westfall was the first-ever Islander to find the back of the net. However, the Flames spoiled the big night on Long Island with a 3-2 win thanks to third-period goals by Bobby Leiter and Rey Comeau.
Exactly 20 years later, the Tampa Bay Lightning made their NHL debut on Oct. 7, 1992. The Lightning hosted the Chicago Blackhawks at the old Expo Hall in Tampa, FL and treated the crowd to an exciting 7-3 victory. Chris Kontos scored the first two goals in franchise history and ended the night with four in total. Defenseman Joe Reekie added four assists in the big win, one of just 23 during their inaugural season.
A Plethora of Personal Milestones
Jaromir Jagr scored the first goal of his NHL career, on Oct. 7, 1990, in just his second game. The tally came in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 7-4 victory over the New Jersey Devils.
Pat Lafontaine led the Buffalo Sabres to a 5-3 win at the Boston Bruins, on Oct. 7, 1993, with a pair of goals. They were the 99th and 100th goals since coming over from the Islanders in 1991.
On Oct. 7, 1995, Ron Francis scored two goals to give him 350 in his career. He also had two assists in the Penguins’ 8-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. On that same night, Mario Lemieux played in the 600th game of his career after a 17-month absence. He had four assists in the blowout victory.
Also, on this date in 1995, Cam Neely scored a hat trick on the opening night for the second straight season. He scored once in each period during a 4-4 tie with the Islanders. He became the first player to ever have hat tricks in more than one season-opening game.
A busy night in 1995 was capped off when Brett Hull picked up an assist for the 700th point of his career. The helper came on the St. Louis Blues’ lone goal in a 4-1 loss at the Washington Capitals.
On Oct. 7, 1999, a pair of personal milestones were met in the Detroit Red Wings’ 7-1 win over the expansion Atlanta Thrashers. Chris Chelios picked up his 800th career point with an assist. At the time, he was just 11th defenseman to ever score 800 points and 99th player overall. Also, Sergei Fedorov tallied the 400th and 401st assists of his career in the victory.
The Blackhawks beat the Columbus Blue Jackets, 5-3, on Oct. 7, 2000. In the game, Chicago center Alexei Zhamnov scored a power-play goal for the 500th point of his career.
Alex Ovechkin made history, on Oct. 7, 2017, in the Capitals’ 6-1 win versus the Montreal Canadiens. He scored four goals, including four in the first period, to become the first in 100 years to have a hat trick in each of his first two games to start a season. In this same game, Washington forward Nathan Walker scored the first goal of his NHL on the night he became the first Australian-born player to ever skate in a regular-season game.
An Historic Night in 1976
The 1976-77 second started, on Oct. 7, 1976, with a whole slew of memorable moments.
First, the Canadiens beat the Penguins 10-1, at the old Forum, to extend their opening night unbeaten streak to 14, going 10-0-4 during this span. Steve Shutt scored twice to give him 100 career NHL goals and he also had an assist. Speaking of assists, Pete Mahovich had four of them.
Blackhawks legend Stan Mikita scored a goal in a 6-4 win at the St. Louis Blues to become just the third player in NHL history to score 1,300 points. This milestone came exactly 17 years after he scored the first goal of his career against the New York Rangers, on Oct. 7. 1959. This was also Bobby Orr’s first game with the Blackhawks. He scored a goal and added an assist in his debut.
Finally, on this night, Rick Middleton made his debut with Orr’s old team, the Bruins, after being acquired from the Rangers. He scored his second career hat trick as Boston rolled past the Minnesota North Stars, 6-2.
New Captains Named
The Red Wings named Steve Yzerman their team captain on Oct. 7, 1986. At just 21-years-old, he is their youngest captain in franchise history. He went on to become their longest-serving captain as he wore the “C” on his sweater until his retirement following the 2005-06 season.
On Oct. 7, 1991, Mark Messier was named the 22nd team captain in Rangers’ franchise history, replacing Kelly Kisio. He served the role until he signed with the Vancouver Canucks in 1997. When Messier returned to New York in 2000, he was reinstated as captain until he retired in 2004.
Olli Jokinen was named captain of the Florida Panthers, on Oct. 7, 2003, replacing Pavel Bure. He was the fourth player to wear the “C” in franchise history. He remained as captain until 2008 when he was traded to the Phoenix Coyotes.
A Big Date for Goaltenders
Martin Brodeur earned the seventh shutout of his career, on Oct. 7, 1995, in a 4-0 blanking of the Panthers. This set the record for the most shutouts in New Jersey Devils’ history. Brodeur went on to record 124 shutouts in a Devils uniform. His franchise and league records are pretty safe as Cory Schneider is second all-time in New Jersey history with 17 shutouts.
On that same night, the Canadiens retired the No. 1 worn by goaltending legend Jacques Plante. He won 314 games and had 58 shutouts during his 11 seasons in Montreal. He was a part of six Stanley Cup championships, including five in a row between 1956 and 1960.
When Ron Tugnutt took the ice for the Columbus Blue Jackets, on Oct. 7, 2000, he became just the third goaltender to play for seven different NHL teams. He played for an eighth team before he retired in 2004. In addition to the Blue Jackets, Tugnutt played for the Quebec Nordiques, Edmonton Oilers, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Penguins and Dallas Stars during his 16-season career.
On that same evening, Ron Low became the first former goaltender in league history to coach two different NHL teams, when he made his head coaching debut for the Rangers. New York beat the Thrashers, 2-1, to open the 2000-01 season. Low had previously been the head coach of the Oilers, one of the six teams he suited up for during his playing career.
On Oct. 7, 2001, Arturs Irbe recorded his 100th victory with the Carolina Hurricanes and his 31st career shutout in a 3-0 win over the visiting Stars.
Odds & Ends
The Red Wings defeated the Maple Leafs, 2-1, on Oct. 7, 1954, to extend their unbeaten streak on opening night to 15 games. They had 14 wins and one tie during this streak. Meanwhile, in Montreal, Maurice Richard scored two goals and had two assists in the Canadiens’ 4-2 win over the Blackhawks.
Oct. 7, 1983, was a crazy night in the NHL. First, Jari Kurri earned four assists in the second period of the Oilers’ 8-6 win at the Winnipeg Jets. In Vancouver, the Canucks and North Stars played a wild game. The two teams combined for 10 power-play goals before the Canucks won 10-9 on a shorthanded goal by Patrik Sundstrom.
On Oct. 7, 1996, the Flyers beat the Devils 3-1 in Philadelphia, for their 700th home win in franchise history. They became the first post-1967 NHL team to record 700 home victories.
On that same night, Mike Gartner scored his 18th career hat trick in the Coyotes’ 5-2 win at the Bruins. This was the second game and first win for the Coyotes after they relocated from Winnipeg. After losing their opening night game, 1-0, to the Hartford Whalers, Gartner’s first goal was the first-ever scored by a Coyote.
Luc Robitaille scored his 14th career hat trick and added an assist, on Oct. 7, 1999, as the Kings beat the Lightning, 5-2, in Tampa Bay.
Shane Willis became the first rookie in Hurricanes team history to record three points in a season opener on Oct. 7, 2000. He had a goal and two assists in a 3-3 tie against the visiting Capitals.
The Oilers traded former number one overall pick, Nail Yakupov, on Oct. 7, 2016, to the Blues for prospect Zach Pochiro, who has never played in the NHL. Yakupov was a bust in Edmonton with just 50 goals and 111 points in 252 games. He had just three goals and nine points in St. Louis. He signed with the Colorado Avalanche the following offseason, where he played for one season before heading back to his native Russia.
The Vegas Golden Knights became the first expansion team in 50 years to win their first two games, on Oct. 7, 2017, by beating the Coyotes 2-1. James Neal scored the game-winning goal for the second straight night. They joined the 1967-68 Oakland Seals and Kings as the only expansion teams to start with two victories.
Happy Birthday to You
A total of 19 current and former NHL players were born on Oct. 7. The first was also the lone Hockey Hall of Famer of the group. Frank Boucher, born on this date in 1901, played 557 games for the original Senators and Rangers, scoring 160 goals and 424 points.
The most recent birthday boy to appear in the league was Nikolay Goldobin, turning 25 today, when he made his debut for the San Jose Sharks in 2016.
Other notable players born on this date include Brian Sutter (64), Scottie Upshall (37), Josh Manson (29), Oscar Fantenberg (29), Kerby Rychel (26) and the late Gary Bergman and Jacques Richard.
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.