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Thursday, March 21, 2019

Today In NHL History - Shane O'Brien's Own Goal

On March 21st in 2009, Vancouver Canucks boozehound blueliner Shane O'Brien inadvertently scored an own goal into his empty net during a delayed penalty, putting the Phoenix Coyotes up 4-0 midway through the match.

Ironically, the goal was credited to Viktor Tikhonov the same Phoenix player who was penalized moments earlier for hooking Vancouver's Sami Salo. The Coyotes beat the Canucks that night by a score of 5-1.

That's today in NHL history.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Today In NHL History - Bobby Orr

On March 20th in 1948, Robert Gordon "Bobby" Orr was born in Parry Sound, Ontario. Widely considered the greatest defenceman to ever play the game, Number 4 revolutionized the blueline position with his fluid skating style and unprecedented offensive approach.

Orr entered the NHL at the age of 18 as the league's highest paid player (earning $25,000/year) and soon after became its best. During his abbreviated and injury-riddled career, Orr won the Calder (1967), Norris (1968-1975), Art Ross (1970, 1975), Hart (1970-1972), Conn Smythe (1970, 1972), and Stanley Cup (1970, 1972). He even scored the championship goal in both Cup wins. When it was all over, Orr had amassed 270 goals and 645 assists in 657 games, behind only Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Mike Bossy in points per game.

To this day, Orr remains the only player to win all four major awards (Hart, Conn Smythe, Art Ross, Norris) in the same year (1970) and the only defenseman to lead the league in scoring (1970, 1975). He also still holds single season NHL records for plus/minus rating (+124), points by a defenseman (139), and assists by a defenseman (102), as well as leading the league in plus/minus six times (1969-1972, 1974-1975) and being named the top defenseman eight years in a row (1968-1975).

On June 9, 1976, Orr signed with Chicago on the misrepresentations of his agent Alan Eagleson despite being offered an 18.6% ownership share in the Bruins to remain with Boston. Orr's injuries limited him to 26 games over the next three seasons, ultimately retiring in 1979 after over a dozen knee surgeries. Famously, he never cashed a Blackhawks pay check, stating that he wouldn't accept a salary if didn't play.

The NHL waived the mandatory three year waiting period for induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame, making him the youngest player (age 31) to be enshrined. On January 9, 1979, the Bruins retired his number 4 jersey. Much of the ceremony had to be scrapped due to the unstoppable applauding of the Boston Garden faithful.

In addition to his NHL awards and records, Orr was named Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year, the greatest athlete in Boston history by the Boston Globe (beating out Ted Williams, Bill Russell, Carl Yastrzemski, and Bob Cousy), and the second greatest hockey player of all time by The Hockey News (behind only Wayne Gretzky).

Bobby Orr, a legend ahead of his time.

That's today in NHL history.

Today In NHL History - Harry Neale Fights Fan

On March 20th in 1982, Vancouver Canucks head coach Harry Neale traded punches with Nordiques fan Pierre Fournel in response to an attack against Tiger Williams, resulting in several players entering the stands at Le Colisée before police restored order.

Punished with a 10 game suspension for the fisticuffs, assistant coach Roger Neilson guided the team to an undefeated record (9-0-1) during Neale's absence and remained behind the bench for the duration of the club's unprecedented playoff run, leading the Cinderella Canucks all the way to their franchise first Stanley Cup Final.

Vancouver was ultimately swept by the New York Islanders in the Final.

That's today in NHL history.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Today In NHL History - Rocket Richard Riot

On March 17th in 1955, Montreal fans rioted when NHL President Clarence Campbell visited the Forum after suspending Maurice Richard for the remainder of the regular season and playoffs for actions four days earlier.

Sparked by an eight stitch highstick from Hal Laycoe of the Boston Bruins, the league leading scorer shattered his stick on Laycoe's face then grabbed another from a teammate and continued to beat him. Making matters worse, Richard punched out linesman Cliff Thompson during the melee, the Rocket's second assault on an official in two months.

Fuming from the suspension, Canadiens fans threw eggs, bottles, and eventually a punch at the league boss before a tear gas bomb set off not far from his seat. The chaos inside spilled to the streets with 10,000 fans and 200 police engaged in a riot resulting in 100 arrests, scores of injuries, and $100,000 in damages.
Trailing Detroit 4-1 at the end of the first period, the game was declared a forfeit. Montreal would go on to lose to the same Red Wings club in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Richard returned the following season racking up a record five straight Stanley Cup wins for Montreal.

That's today in NHL history.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Today In NHL History - CBC Fires Dave Hodge

On March 14th in 1987, Hockey Night In Canada host Dave Hodge was fired for an irreverent pencil flip in response to the CBC's decision to exit an overtime period between the Canadiens and Flyers in favor of the news.

Disgusted with the move, impacting all Canadian viewers outside of Quebec, Hodge added "That's the way things go these days in sports and at this network. We'll leave you in suspense. Good night from Hockey Night in Canada."

Hodge was replaced the following week by Red Deer radio veteran and Hockey Night In Canada freshman Western correspondent Ron MacLean, and dismissed shortly thereafter. MacLean has remained a fixture ever since.

Montreal and Philadelphia played to a 3-3 overtime tie that night.

That's today in NHL history

Today In NHL History - Downie Slewfoots Crosby

On March 14th in 2010, Tampa Bay Lightning cheapshot Steve Downie slewfooted Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby in what appeared to be an attempt to blow out the captain's knee in the first minute of the game.

On-ice officials assessed Downie a two minute roughing penalty to which NHL chief disciplinarian Colin Campbell added a meager $1,000 fine, refraining from suspending the repeat offender on the "dangerous play". The fine amounted to less than 10% of Downie's game day pay.

Crosby returned to set up the game winner in a 2-1 Penguins victory.

That's today in NHL history.

* See also Today In NHL History - Downie Punches Blake.
* See also Today In NHL History - Downie Hits McAmmond.