Today in Hockey History: Sept. 23

Sept. 23 will be remembered for having the first woman to ever play in a National Hockey League game take to the ice. Also, a group with a lot of Stanley Cup rings took their place in the Hockey Hall of Fame. The greatest U.S.-born scorer in league history called it a career. Finally, the league’s first trip to China came to a successful end. So, let’s hop aboard the THW time machine to relive all the best moments from this date.

Rheaume Makes History

Manon Rheaume may not be the greatest player in women’s hockey history, but she sure is a significant one. On Sept. 23, 1992, she played one period in goal for the Tampa Bay Lightning during a preseason game versus the St. Louis Blues. She became the first woman to play in any of the major North American professional sports leagues.

Rheaume faced nine shots and allowed goals to Jeff Brown and future Hall of Famer Brendan Shanahan. More importantly, she brought a ton of media attention to the Lightning, who were entering their first season as a part of the NHL.

The Lightning used her one more time in a preseason game against the Boston Bruins in 1993, but she never appears on the roster during a regular-season game. Rheaume appeared in 24 minor league games in her career. She also played very well on the international stage, helping Canada win the IIHF Women’s World Championship in 1992 and 1994. She also won a silver medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.

Cup Winners Take Their Place in the Hall

On Sept. 23, 1991, the Hockey Hall of Fame inducted six new members who have combined for 27 Stanley Cup wins in their respective careers. Mike Bossy, Denis Potvin, Bob Pulford, and Clint Smith were inducted as players. The class was rounded out with head coach Scotty Bowman and official Neil Armstrong.

Bossy and Potvin spent nine seasons as teammates with the New York Islanders, winning four straight championships between 1980 and 1983. Potvin was taken with the first pick of the 1973 NHL Amateur Draft. He won the Calder Trophy for being the top rookie of the 1973-74 season. He won four Norris Trophies in his career for being voted the top defenseman in the game. Potvin spent his entire 15-season career with the Islanders, scoring 310 goals and 1,052 points in 1,060 games while finishing with a plus-456 rating.

Denis Potvin
Potvin was one of the best offensive-minded defensemen ever to play. (Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images)

The Islanders drafted Bossy in the first round (15th overall) of the 1977 NHL Amateur Draft. He won the Calder Trophy for scoring 53 goals and 91 points during the 1977-78 season. He scored at least 51 goals in all but one season of his career, including five with 60 or more. His lowest goal output came in 1986-87, his 10th and final season in the league when he scored 38 goals in 63 games.

Pulford played 1,079 games for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Los Angeles Kings. He scored a total of 281 goals and 643 points. The left winger won four Stanley Cups in Toronto, including three in a row between 1962 and 1964. He is seventh all-time in Maple Leafs’ franchise history with 947 games played and ninth with 251 goals.

Smith played 483 games over 11 seasons with the New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks between 1937 and 1947. He finished his career with 161 goals and 398 points. He was a two-time winner of the Lady Bing Trophy for being voted as the most gentlemanly player. Smith only served 24 penalty minutes in his entire career.

Bowman is the standard that all other hockey head coaches are measured against. At the time of his induction, he had won seven Stanley Cups, six as a head coach and one as a front office member of the 1991 Pittsburgh Penguins. He returned to the Penguins’ bench for the 1991-92 season, after the death of Bob Johnson, and led them to a second straight championship. He won three more Cups as coach of the Detroit Red Wings. Since retiring from coaching, he was part of four more championships as an executive, one with the Red Wings and three with the Blackhawks.

Scotty Bowman and Brett Hull of the Detroit Red Wings celebrate with the Stanley Cup
Bowman and Brett Hull celebrate a Stanley Cup win in 2002. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images/NHLI)

Armstrong officiated his first NHL game in 1957, at the age of 24, and worked a total of 1,744 games before his retirement in 1978. He became a scout for the Montreal Canadiens after he put down his whistle. His son Doug is the current general manager of the Blues. Neither are related to Bill Armstrong, who is the general manager of the Arizona Coyotes.

Modano Steps Away

After one season with the Red Wings, Mike Modano signed a one-day contract with the Dallas Stars on Sept. 23, 2011, to announce his retirement. He was initially drafted by the Minnesota North Stars with the first overall pick of the 1988 NHL Entry Draft.

NHL Hall of Fame class of 2014 inductee Mike Modano
Modano spent 20 seasons with the Stars. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade, File)

He spent 20 of his 21 seasons with the Stars organization between Minnesota and Dallas. He helped Minnesota to the 1991 Stanley Cup Final and finally won it all in Dallas eight years later. Modano is the all-time leader among American-born players with 561 goals and 1,374 points. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2014.

Odds & Ends

The Montreal Maroons named Dunc Munro as their new head coach on Sept. 23, 1929. He was the second head coach in franchise history, replacing Eddie Gerard. He went 37-29-10 before being let go with 12 games left in the 1930-31 season.

On Sept. 23, 1937, the New York Americans purchased the contract of defenseman Hap Day. The future Hall of Famer had three assists in 43 games during the 1937-38 season, his final NHL season after spending the previous 13 in Toronto.

The Edmonton Oilers played their first NHL game on Sept. 23, 1979, in Brandon, Manitoba. They lost the preseason contest, 4-2, to the Winnipeg Jets. The Oilers and Jets were two of four former World Hockey Association teams to join the NHL. The Hartford Whalers and Quebec Nordiques were also part of the merger.

The San Jose Sharks signed forward Manny Malhotra on Sept. 23, 2009. He scored a career-high 14 goals in his lone season with the Sharks before signing with the Vancouver Canucks the following offseason.

Free-agent left wing Mason Raymond signed a one-year deal with the Maple Leafs on Sept. 23, 2013, after spending the previous six seasons with the Canucks. He played in all 82 games during the 2013-14 season and scored 19 goals and 45 points. The Calgary Flames signed Raymond the following summer.

On Sept. 23, 2017, the Kings beat the Canucks 4-3 in a shootout to complete their two-game sweep of the NHL China Games. Nearly 13,000 fans filled the Wukesong Arena in Beijing for the second of two preseason games in China. Jonny Brodzinski had the game-winning goal in the shootout.

Happy Birthday to You

There have been 20 players born on Sept. 23 who have skated in at least one NHL game. The first to do so was Bill Phillips, who was born on this date in 1902. He had a goal and assist and 27 games with the Maroons during the 1929-30 season. The most recent was goaltender Kaden Fulcher, turning 23 today, who played in one game with the Red Wings in 2019.

Donald Audette, born on Sept. 23, 1969, had the best career in the group. He played the most games, 735, with the Buffalo Sabres, Kings, Atlanta Thrashers, Stars, Canadiens, and Florida Panthers. He is the leading scorer of all players born on Sept. 23 with 260 goals, 249 assists, and 509 points.

Other notable players born on this date include Dixon Ward (53), Joffery Lupul (38), Yannick Weber (33), Gabriel Bourque (31), and Pontus Aberg (28).


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