Another class of National Hockey League greats took their rightful places in the Hockey Hall of Fame on this date. Also, one of the biggest tragedies to devastate the hockey world took place in Russia.
A New Class Gets the Call
The Hockey Hall of Fame opened its doors to an impressive group of six inductees on Sept. 7, 1988. Goaltender Tony Esposito, forwards Guy Lafleur and Buddy O’Connor and defenseman Brad Park were enshrined as players. Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider was inducted as a builder. George Hayes, a long-time linesman who was the first official to ever work 1,000 games, rounded out the class.
After playing 13 games for the Montreal Canadiens during the 1968-69 season, Esposito’s first full season with the Chicago Blackhawks was one for the record books with 38 wins a modern-era record 15 shutouts, which still stands today. In 16 NHL seasons, Esposito appeared in 873 and posted a 418-302-148 record with a .906 save percentage (SV%), 2.93 goals-against advantage (GAA) and 74 shutouts.
Lafleur was inducted after playing 961 games for the Canadiens, scoring 518 goals and 1,246 points. He won five Stanley Cups in Montreal as well two Hart Trophies (league MVP), three Art Ross Trophies (leading scorer) and the 1977 Conn Smythe Trophy (playoff MVP).
Shortly after this ceremony, he became one of just three players, along with Gordie Howe and Mario Lemieux, to play in an NHL game after being inducted into the Hall of Fame. He came out of retirement and joined the New York Rangers for the 1988-89 season before playing two more seasons with the Quebec Nordiques.
Park played in 1,113 games during his 17-season NHL career with the Rangers, Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings. He scored a career-high 25 goals and 82 points during the 1973-74 season. The seven-time All-Star finished his career with 213 goals, 896 points and a plus-363 rating.
O’Connor split his career with the Canadiens and Rangers, playing in a total of 507 games and scoring 140 goals and 397 points. He won the Lady Bing Trophy, for being voted the league’s most gentlemanly player, in 1948 with the Rangers. He won two Stanley Cups during his time in Montreal, in 1944 and 1946.
Tragedy in Russia
One of the worst tragedies in hockey history occurred on Sept. 7, 2011. Lokomotiv Yaroslavl boarded a plane headed towards Minsk for their opening game of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHK) 2011-12 season. A botched take-off caused the plane to almost immediately crash near Tunoshna Airport.
Of the 45 crew and passengers on the flight, 43 are killed in the crash. Lokomotiv forward Alexander Galimov was pulled from the alive, but he died five days later in a Moscow hospital. Flight engineer Alexander Sizov was the only person to survive the crash.
There were seven former NHL players who were killed in the crash. Head coach Brad McCrimmon and his assistants Alexander Karpovtsev and Igor Korolev as well as players Pavol Demitra, Ruslan Salei, Karlis Skrastins and Josef Vasicek.
Odds & Ends
On Sept. 7, 1946, league president Red Dutton announced that, for the first time in the history of the sport, the rules as adopted by the NHL would now be standard in all of organized hockey, both in the professional and amateur ranks.
The Blackhawks purchased the contract of veteran goaltender Frank Brimsek on Sept. 7, 1949. He had earned the nickname of “Mr. Zero” and won two Stanley Cups in his previous eight seasons with the Bruins. He missed two seasons in the midst of his career to serve in the United States Coast Guard during World War II. In his lone season with the Blackhawks, he played 70 games, going 22-38-19 with a 3.49 GAA and five shutouts.
The Rangers named Muzz Patrick as their new head coach, Sept. 7, 1962, replacing Doug Harvey. This was Patrick’s third stint behind the bench in New York. He coached 100 games for them between 1953 and 1955 and two more during the 1959-60 season. Patrick only lasted 34 games of the 1962-63 season as he was let go after a poor 11-19-4 start.
The New York Islanders signed veteran free agent defenseman Bob McGill, on Sept. 7, 1993, after he spent the previous season with the Maple Leafs. He only played in three games for the Islanders before claimed off of waivers by the Hartford Whalers. He appeared in 30 games for the Whalers and retired at the conclusion of the 1992-93 season. McGill spent 13 seasons in the NHL and played in 706 games for six different teams.
Happy Birthday to You
A group of 26 current and former NHL players have been born on this date. Born on Sept. 7, 1908, Brady Northcott was the first to play in the league. He scored 133 goals and 245 points in 448 career games with the Montreal Maroons and Blackhawks during the 1930s. The most recent to make his NHL debut was Nicholas Caamano, who turns 22 today. He had a goal and an assist in 12 games for the Dallas Stars this past season.
Jacques Lemaire is the lone Hall of Famer of this group. He was born on Sept. 7, 1945, in LaSalle Quebec. Lemaire debuted for the Canadiens in the 1967-68 season and won the first of his eight Stanley Cups championships during his playing career. The final goal of his career clinched the 1979 Stanley Cup for the Canadiens. During his 12 seasons in Montreal, he scored 366 goals and 835 points in 853 games.
Lemaire won two more Stanley Cups in the front office of the Canadiens before leading the New Jersey Devils to the 1995 title as head coach. He coached a total of 1,262 games in the NHL with the Canadiens, Devils and Minnesota Wild.
Other notable players born on this date include Orland Kurtenbach (84), Chris Oddleifson (70), Tony Tanti (57), Gino Odjick (50), Matt Cooke (42), Paul Mara (41), Eric Fehr (35) and Andrew MacDonald (34).
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