blank'/> THE PUCK REPORT: March 2019

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.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Today In NHL History - Pronger Stomps Kesler

On March 12th in 2008, blueliner Chris Pronger of the Anaheim Ducks stomped his skate blade on the calf of Vancouver Canucks forward Ryan Kesler in an awesome display of unsportsmanlike behavior, further cementing his reputation as one of the elite cheapshots in the NHL.

Upon initial review of the unpenalized play, NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell failed to see what Canucks color commentator Tom Larsheid described, and chose not to suspend the Hart and Norris winner.

A better angle surfaced the next day and Pronger was suspended for the 8th time, this time for 8 games. Interestingly, the sentence was far less than the 30 games Chris Simon received for a similar act against Jarkko Ruutu a year earlier, a discrepancy bemoaned by Simon.

The Ducks beat the Canucks that night by a score of 4-1.

That's today in NHL history.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Today In NHL History - Jason Spezza's Illegal Stick

On March 9th in 2009, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson called for a measurement of Jason Spezza's stick, down one goal with two minutes to play. Suspecting something was afoot, the Senator snapped his stick and headed for the bench. Referee Stephane Auger followed the forward and confiscated the contraband.

Making no secret of shaving his blades, as described in this interview one year earlier, Spezza was assessed a two minute penalty for the infraction.

Aware of the illegal blade all season, Wilson described the stick as dangerous and explained that he wanted to reward his players for their efforts in a hard fought edition of the Battle of Ontario. Ottawa held off Toronto on the ensuing powerplay to win by a score of 2-1.

That's today in NHL history.

* See also Today In NHL History - McSorley's Illegal Stick.
* See also Today In NHL History - Willie Mitchell's Long Stick.

Today In NHL History - Backstrom's Own Goal

On March 9th in 2008, Washington Capitals rookie center Nicklas Backstrom had the misfortune of scoring an extremely untimely own goal against goaltender Cristobal Huet, breaking a deadlocked game to give their archrival Pittsburgh Penguins a 3-2 lead with 28 seconds to play.

Adding insult to injury, the blunder was credited to Ovechkin's nemesis-in-chief, notorious Washington Capitals killer Sidney Crosby.

Pittsburgh added an empty net goal 15 seconds later to clinch the victory by a score of 4-2, continuing their dominance of the Southeast studs.

That's today in NHL history.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Today In NHL History - Simon Sticks Hollweg

On March 8th in 2007, Chris Simon of the New York Islanders viciously struck New York Rangers forward Ryan Hollweg in the face with his stick midway through the third period in retaliation to a concussion-inducing check.

Hollweg escaped with only two stitches from the blow. An apologetic Simon was assessed a NHL record 25 game suspension for the egregious act, a marker he would surpass nine months later when he stomped his skate on Jarkko Ruutu's leg earning a 30 game suspension.

The Rangers scored on the ensuing powerplay to beat the Islanders 2-1.

That's today in NHL history.

Today In NHL History - Bertuzzi Punches Moore

On March 8th in 2004, the lives of Todd Bertuzzi of the Vancouver Canucks and Colorado Avalanche forward Steve Moore became inextricably linked in a now famous gruesome act of retribution gone wrong.

The seeds of the incident were sewn three weeks earlier, when Moore swept the puck away from Markus Naslund and proceeded to deliver an open ice headshot to the then league leading scorer. The Canucks captain would miss the next three games and never regain his Art Ross form.
With the score 8-2 midway through the final frame of Colorado's next visit to Vancouver, sophomore coach Tony Granato made the rookie mistake of parading Moore in front of the blood thirsty Canucks. Bertuzzi shadowed Moore for the entire shift attempting to engage him, but Moore refused. Bertuzzi then dropped his stick, sucker punched Moore from behind, slipped on his own stick, and drove Moore's head into the ice.

Moore's NHL career ended that moment and Bertuzzi's would never be the same. Bertuzzi was suspended from hockey for 17 months though only missed 20 NHL games owing to the NHL lockout. Despite Bertuzzi's repeated apologies, Moore has never forgiven him.

The incident remained news 10 years after the incident owing to a $60 million lawsuit Moore filed against Bertuzzi and Orca Bay Sports & Entertainment in an Ontario Court. The suit was settled on September 4, 2014, four days before the trial was scheduled to begin.

That's today in NHL history.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Today In NHL History - Mario Lemieux Hat Trick

On March 2nd in 1993, Mario Lemieux coined a hat trick when he started his day in Pittsburgh receiving radiation treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma and finished it with a goal and assist in Phildelphia, earning a rare ovation for an opponent in the rival rink during his first game back after a two month absence owing to the deadly disease.

Despite losing 5-4 that night to the Flyers, Mario led his Penguins to a NHL record 17 straight wins en route to their first Presidents’ Trophy with a franchise record 119 points, amassing 51 points (27G, 24A) in 16 games and finishing with 160 points (69G, 91A) in 60 games, taking home the Hart, Art Ross, Pearson, Plus/Minus, and Masterton.

Unlike the Gordie Howe hat trick (fight, goal, assist), of which Howe has two and Brendan Shanahan has 17, nobody has ever duplicated the Mario Lemieux hat trick. And nobody likely ever will.

That's today in NHL history.

Today In NHL History - Selanne's Goal Celebration

On March 2nd of 1993, Winnipeg Jets forward Teemu Selanne shattered Mike Bossy's rookie record of 53 goals collecting the 54th score of his freshman campaign against goaltender Stephane Fiset of the Quebec Nordiques in just the 64th game of the season, giving the Jets a 4-3 lead.

Selanne's glove toss machine gun goal celebration remains a fan favorite and highlight fixture, despite Teemu feelinga little embarrassed that I did that, but I was so pumped, and it was so special for me."

Interestingly, the play was almost whistled before the milestone was met as Tie Domi was challenged to a fight by Tony Twist after he chipped the puck ahead to Teemu. Tie did not oblige and history was made.

The Finnish Flash completed his rookie campaign with 76 goals and 132 points, winning the Calder Trophy and setting NHL rookie records that remain to this day. Quebec came back to beat Winnipeg that night 7-4.

That's today in NHL history.