On this date, the National Hockey League did two things for the first time it would later do on a regular basis; play outdoors and in the city of Las Vegas. Also, a future dynasty made its league debut on Long Island to less than ideal results.
NHL Gets First Taste of Vegas & Outdoors
The NHL played its very first outdoor game, on Sept. 27, 1991, in a very unique place. The Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers met in Las Vegas game for a preseason tilt with a game played on a rink built in the parking lot of the Caesars Palace hotel.
Just over 13,000 fans showed up to watch the Kings hammer out a 5-2 victory after the Rangers built an early 2-0 lead.
“13,000 fans, and the fact that they wore hockey jerseys,” Legendary Kings’ broadcaster Bob Miller reminisced about the game. “Not only Kings and Rangers, but from all sorts of NHL teams, junior Canadian teams, European teams. They weren’t only in the stands, but they were staying in the hotels. We’d see it in the casinos, and then at the game. That was when I realized how many fans of other teams were there and wanted to see this outdoor game. I thought it was amazing to draw that many people for a preseason game.
This game laid the foundation not only for future outdoor games but also ones in warmer climates as we saw at Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium in 2014. The league returned to Sin City when the Vegas Golden Knights began play during the 2017-18 season, which ended with a historic run to the Stanley Cup Final.
Islanders Make Home Debut
The New York Islanders played on home ice for the very first time in franchise history on Sept. 27, 1972. Just over 11,000 fans walked through the turnstiles at Nassau Coliseum to watch the Islanders take on their natural rivals in the Rangers. Their cross-town enemies spoiled the party with a 6-4 win.
There were not too many highlights during the 1972-73 season for the Islanders. They won only 12 games and earned 30 points, both marks setting records for the least in an NHL season.
It wouldn’t take long for the Islanders to turn things around. Hall of Fame general manager Bill Torrey started to lay the cornerstones of success by hiring head coach Al Arbour the next season. He eventually drafted stars like Denis Potvin, Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier and Clark Gillies while trading for Butch Goring, Billy Smith and Bob Bourne, who were all key players in four straight Stanley Cup championships to start the 1980s.
Odds & Ends
Long before becoming a Stanley Cup-winning general manager, Jim Rutherford spent 13 seasons in the NHL as a goaltender. On Sept. 27, 1982, he signed with the Detroit Red Wings, the team who originally drafted him in with the 10th overall pick in the 1969 NHL Amateur Draft.
This was Rutherford’s third stint with the Red Wings but he only appeared in one game during the 1982-83 season, the final game of his career. He never lived up to the expectations of being a top-10 draft pick. He appeared in 457 games with the Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins, Kings and Toronto Maple Leafs. He finished his career with a 151-227-59 record, .879 save percentage (SV%), 3.66 goals-against average (GAA) and 14 shutouts.
The Montreal Canadiens signed undrafted free-agent forward Stephan Lebeau on Sept. 27, 1986. He went on to score 104 goals and 243 points in 313 games for the Canadiens and was part of their 1993 Stanley Cup victory. He was traded to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, on Feb. 20, 1994, for goaltender Ron Tugnutt.
On Sept. 27, 2001, the Edmonton Oilers named defenseman Jason Smith the 11th team captain in franchise history. He replaced Doug Weight, who served as captain for the previous two seasons. Smith wore the “C” on his sweater for the next five seasons, including in 2005-06 when the Oilers made it all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final as the eighth seed in the Western Conference.
The Maple Leafs signed veteran free-agent defenseman, Ken Klee, on Sept.27, 2003, after he spent the previous nine seasons with the Washington Capitals. Klee had four goals and a career-high 25 assists and 29 points during the 2003-04 season. He re-signed with Toronto following the owners’ lockout that cost the 2004-05 season. On March 8, 2006, he was traded to the New Jersey Devils for right winger Alexander Suglobov.
Happy Birthday to You
There has been a total of 18 players born on this date who have played in at least one NHL game.
The first was Tommy Smith, who is also the lone member of the Hockey Hall of Fame in this group. Smith, born on Sept. 27, 1886, only played in 10 NHL games for the Quebec Bulldogs in 1920, picking up one assist. His playing career spanned between 1905 and 1920. He won two Stanley Cups; first with the Ottawa “Silver Seven” in 1906 and again with the Bulldogs in 1913.
The most recent NHL debut was made by Columbus Blue Jackets’ defenseman Ryan Murray, who is turning 27 today, in 2014. He has since played in 347 games for the club, scoring 15 goals and 110 points.
St. Louis Blues’ defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, born on this date in 1983, has played in the most games with 1,240. It is uncertain if he has played in his final NHL game after a scary incident this past February.
Daymond Langkow, who is celebrating his 44th birthday today, had the best offensive career of anyone born on this date with 270 goals and 672 points.
Other notable players born on Sept. 27 include Al MacNeil (85), Wally Boyer (83), Dennis Kearns (75), Jeff Cowan (44) and Aaron Rome (37).