Sept. 18 was a good day for National Hockey League debuts as a former number one overall pick and a new franchise took to the ice for the first time. Also, the largest crowd to ever gather for an NHL game showed up in Florida for a preseason tilt. Finally, a pair of future Hall of Famers moved on to Toronto.
Lindros Makes League Debut
Although it took a year longer than most had expected, Eric Lindros took the ice for his first NHL game on Sept. 19, 1992. Ironically, his first game was against the Quebec Nordiques, the team that drafted him in 1991 and he refused to play for.
Lindros gave the Flyers an immediate return on the big price they paid to acquire him the previous June. He scored a goal and had an assist in the Flyers’ 4-3 preseason win over the Nordiques.
He had a very successful rookie season with 41 goals, 75 points and 147 penalty minutes in 61 games. He finished fourth in voting for the Calder Trophy, given to the top rookie each season. Teemu Selanne won the award after scoring 76 goals for the Winnipeg Jets. Boston Bruins forward Joe Juneau and Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Flex Potvin also finished ahead of Lindros in the final voting.
A Pair of Big Preseason Games
The NHL tested out the Florida hockey market, on Sept. 19, 1990, by hosting a preseason game at the Suncoast Dome in St. Petersburg, FL. To draw as much fan interest as possible, they sent two of the greatest players ever to sell tickets as Mario Lemieux and the Pittsburgh Penguins took on the Los Angeles Kings and Wayne Gretzky.
Lemieux missed the game as he was still recovering from offseason back surgery, but the Penguins still earned a 5-3 win thanks to a goal and an assist from Barry Pederson. A total of 25,581 fans filled what is now known as Tropicana Field, which, at the time, was the largest crowd to ever attend an NHL game. Three years later, the Tampa Bay Lightning began play and the Florida Panthers joined the league the following season.
On Sept. 19, 1998, the Nashville Predators took to the ice for the very first time in franchise history. They defeated the Panthers, 4-2, in a preseason game played in Huntsville, AL. Marian Cisar scored the first goal for the Predators. Nashville went 28-47-7 in their first season under head coach Barry Trotz. Sergei Krivokrasov led the team with 25 goals and Cliff Ronning’s 53 points were the most on the first-year squad.
Maple Leafs Nab Goaltending Great
Grant Fuhr’s successful run with the Edmonton Oilers ended, on Sept. 19, 1991, when he was traded to the Maple Leafs. He, along with Glenn Anderson and Craig Berube, was sent to Toronto in exchange for Vincent Damphousse, Peter Ing, Scott Thornton and Luke Richardson.
Fuhr and Anderson combined for nine Stanley Cup wins in Edmonton, but they did not achieve quite the same success with the Maple Leafs. The future Hall of Fame goaltender went 38-42-9 with a .885 save percentage (SV%) and 3.50 goals-against average (GAA) before being traded to the Buffalo Sabres on Feb. 3, 1993.
Anderson, who had six seasons of at least 38 goals with the Oilers, had 63 goals and 157 points in his 221 games with the Maple Leafs. He was eventually traded to the New York Rangers, on March 21, 1994, for Mike Gartner. Berube had five goals and 12 points, in 40 games, before being part of the 1992 deal with the Calgary Flames that brought Doug Gilmour to Toronto.
Damphousse scored 38 goals and 89 points in his lone season with the Oilers. The following offseason, he was traded to the Montreal Canadiens for Shayne Corson and was part of the 1993 Stanley Cup championship.
Ing, a goaltender, appeared in just 12 games for the Oilers posting a .869 SV% and 4.27 GAA. Thornton played in 209 games for the Oilers, over the next five seasons, and scored 23 goals and 53 points. Richardson spent 436 games on the Edmonton blue line over the next six seasons.
Odds & Ends
On Sept. 19, 1985, the St. Louis Blues traded center, Mark Johnson, to the New Jersey Devils for defenseman Shawn Evans and a fifth-round pick in the 1985 NHL Entry Draft. This deal turned out to be a big winner for the Devils. Johnson spent the next five seasons in New Jersey and scored 89 goals and 229 points. Meanwhile, Evans only played in nine games for the Blues and Michael Wolak, the player selected with the fifth-round pick, never made it to the NHL.
The Dallas Stars named Jamie Benn their new team captain, on Sept. 19, 2013, replacing Brendan Morrow. He became the 22nd captain in franchise history and just the sixth since the team relocated to Texas in 1993. He still has the “C” on his sweater as the Stars prepare to take on the Lightning in the 2020 Stanley Cup Final.
Roman Josi was named the new captain of the Predators on Sept. 19, 2017, replacing Mike Fisher. Josi is the seventh captain in franchise history and he joined Kimmo Timonen as the only two European-born players to have the “C” added to their Predators sweaters.
Jake DeBrusk scored twice, on Sept. 19, 2018, to lead the Bruins to a 3-1 win over the Flames in a preseason contest played in Beijing, China. The Bruins swept the two-game exhibition series in China as the won 4-3, in a shootout, four days earlier in Shenzhen.
Happy Birthday to You
A total of 23 current and former NHL players have been born on this date. The first to make his league debut was Odie Cleghorn, born on Sept. 19, 1891. He scored 94 goals and 129 points, in 182 total games, for the Canadiens and Pittsburgh Pirates between 1919 and 1928. The recent addition to the league was goaltender Jonas Johansson, turning 25 today, who appeared in six games for the Sabres during the 2019-20 season.
Ed Westfall had the most successful career of the bunch, leading with 1,226 games played, 231 goals, 394 assists and 625 points.
He played 11 seasons with the Bruins before finishing his career with seven seasons in a New York Islanders uniform. He was part of the Bruins Stanley Cup championships in 1970 and 1972.
Other notable players born on this date include Craig Laughlin (63), Don Beaupre (59), Dan Bylsma (50), Rick DiPietro (39), Joni Pitkanen (37), Nick Spaling (32), Luke Johnson (26) and Nolan Patrick (22).