There have been some unique moments in National Hockey League history that have occurred on this date. Two heated rivals in California closed out an old barn with a crazy preseason game while another franchise made their league debut. Plus, an all-time great was born in Quebec.
Feisty Finale at the Forum
Due to the Staples Center not being ready until mid-October, the Los Angles Kings had to play their 1999 preseason schedule at the Great Western Forum. On September 20, 1999, the Kings played their final game ever at the old building, hosting the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in a memorable preseason tilt.
The Kings beat up their local rivals 8-1 in a game that may have reminded those in attendance of the 1970s hockey comedy “Slap Shot.” Both head coaches dressed more of their enforcer-type players than they likely would have for a regular-season game. This led to a feisty affair between two teams that did not care for each other.
The first two periods were dominated by the Kings as they built a 7-0 lead heading into the final frame. The fuse that blew up the powder keg was lit when defenseman Jaroslav Modry took a run at Ducks’ superstar Teemu Selanne and left him bleeding on the ice. Stu Grimson retaliated by taking some liberties with Kings’ forward Ziggy Palffy. Emotions started to boil over after this not just on the ice.
Anaheim head coach Craig Hartsburg started yelling and his counterpart, Andy Murray of the Kings, as they met between the benches and got in each other’s faces. The very next shift, the Kings went after Selanne again, leading to pure chaos.
Before the end of the period, there were six different fights. Selanne was booted from the game after swinging his stick at members of the Kings. Los Angeles defenseman Rob Blake was one of multiple players ejected from the contest. In the end, 149 total penalty minutes were assessed in just the third period alone!
Canadiens & Devils Make Even Swap
On September 20, 1991, the Montreal Canadiens and New Jersey Devils made a four-player traded that eventually paid dividends for both sides. The Canadiens sent forwards Stephane Richer and Tom Chorske to the Devils for left wing Kirk Muller and goaltender Roland Melanson.
Muller began his long relationship with the Canadiens and they won the Stanley Cup together in 1993. He played in 267 games for Montreal and even spent some time as captain. He is currently an associate coach for them, his second stint on their bench. Richer and Chorske played a combined 604 games for the Devils and both played a role in their 1995 Stanley Cup championship.
Hockey Returns to Ohio
The Columbus Blue Jackets played their first game in franchise history, on Sept. 20, 2000, at the brand-new Nationwide Arena. This marked the first NHL hockey game in the state of Ohio since the Cleveland Barons ceased operations in 1978.
Over 18,000 fans packed the arena to watch the Blue Jackets beat the Detroit Red Wings, 5-2, in a preseason contest. Head coach Dave King led them to a 28-39-9-6 record during their inaugural season. Geoff Sanderson was the leading scorer with 30 goals and 56 points. Espen Knutsen led the team with 42 assists.
Odds & Ends
On Sept. 20, 1991, the San Jose Sharks acquired forward Wayne Presley from the Chicago Blackhawks for a third-round pick in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft. Presley scored eight goals and 22 points, in 47 games, before he was traded to the Buffalo Sabers for forward Dave Snuggerud. The Blackhawks used the draft pick to select Bogdan Savenko, who never made it to the NHL.
The Toronto Maple Leafs signed a Gretzky on Sept. 20, 1995. No, it wasn’t Wayne, but rather his younger brother Brent. The youngest Gretzky sibling never played for the Maple Leafs. In fact, he played in just 13 career NHL games, all for the Tampa Bay Lightning. He holds the record with Wayne for the most points by two brothers – 2,857 for Wayne and four by Brent. He is currently an officer for the Ontario Provincial Police.
The Washington Capitals signed goaltender Ron Tugnutt on Sept. 20, 1995. He never played a single game for the Capitals. He spent the entire 1995-96 season playing for the Portland Pirates in the American Hockey League (AHL). He played very well, helping the Pirates reach the Calder Cup Final. Tugnutt signed with the Ottawa Senators the following offseason.
Mark Giordano was named captain of the Calgary Flames, on Sept. 20, 2013, replacing Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla. He became the 20th different captain in franchise history and the 16th since the franchise relocated from Atlanta in 1980.
Happy Birthday to You
A total of 19 current and former NHL players have been born on this date. The first to play in the league was Sam Godin, who was born on Sept. 20, 1909. He played 79 games for the original Senators and Canadiens between 1928 and 1934. The most recent was goaltender Dylan Ferguson, turning 22 today, who played in one game for the Vegas Golden Knights in 2018.
There is an impressive group of players celebrating birthdays today, but the best of them all is Hall of Fame forward Guy Lafleur, who was born in Thurso, Quebec, on Sept. 20, 1951. He was one of the Canadiens’ biggest stars during their dominant decade of the 1970s.
Lafleur was taken with the first overall pick of the 1971 NHL Amateur Draft. He had his major breakout during the 1974-75 season with 53 goals and 119 points. He won Art Ross Trophy, for leading the league in scoring, in each of the next three seasons with outputs of 125, 136 and 132 points.
When he retired in 1985, he scored 518 goals and 1,246 points in 961 games for the Habs, while winning five Stanley Cups. Three years later, he returned to the league and played with the New York Rangers during the 1988-89 season. He joined Gordie Howe and Mario Lemieux as the only players to skate in an NHL game after being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. He played two more seasons with the Quebec Nordiques before retiring for good in 1991.
Other notable players celebrating birthdays today include Ray Cullen (79), Jan Hlavac (44), Sergei Bobrovsky (32), John Tavares (30), Ryan Hartman (26) and Kevin Stenlund (24).