50 Random NHL Facts You Never Knew
The National Hockey League has a long and storied history. From it's humble beginnings, to the 30 team league that we are familiar with today, the sport is full of records and players that even the most casual fans are familiar with. However, lurking beneath that level of familiarity are the obscure, the interesting and the downright bizarre.
Whether you are a new hockey fan or have been following the sport for years, we hope that the following will expose you to some interesting pieces of NHL history that you may not be familiar with.
So, without further ado, we present 50 random facts about the NHL that (we hope) you never knew...enjoy!
The Stanley Cup Cost Less Than $50
When Frederick Arthur Stanley, better known as Lord Stanley of Preston purchased the first Stanley Cup, then known as the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup, the purchase price was ten guineas. At the time that equated to $48.67.
Billy Coutu Was Suspended from the NHL for Life
During the 1927 Stanley Cup final, a brawl broke out that involved Hooley Smith, Harry Olivier, Lionel Hitchman, Eddie Shore, Buck Boucher, as well as Coutu. What earned Coutu his lifetime ban? He punched referee Jerry LaFlamme and then went after another referee, Billy Bell. In addition to the lifetime ban, he was fined $100.
Bonus Fact: Coutu is the Great, Great, Grand Uncle of the Nashville Predators Blake Geoffrion.
The Original Six?
When the NHL was formed on November 26, 1917 there were four founding teams, the Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Ottawa Senators and Quebec Bulldogs. The Toronto Arenas were admitted to the league shortly thereafter.
No 1919 Stanley Cup Winner
An influenza outbreak saw several players from the Montreal Canadiens and Seattle Metropolitans fall ill during the 1919 Stanley Cup finals. The Canadiens were the harder hit of the two teams and were unable to ice a complete team.
With the teams going 2-2-1 during the series, they were set to play the deciding game on April 1, but the game was called off just hours before the puck was scheduled to be dropped, as the Canadiens, the harder hit of the two teams, were unable to ice a complete team.
One player, Joe Hall, died from the illness, succumbing on April 5.
Don Cherry Played in Only One NHL Game
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Don Cherry, has been a mainstay of the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast for many years. Every Saturday night you can hear him offer his opinion on the state of the game during his Coach's Corner segment, which is presented during the first intermission of the game that is being broadcast.
Cherry had a long minor league career, but he would only skate on NHL ice once, lacing up his skates for the Boston Bruins during the 1954-55 playoffs. Cherry had no points or penalty minutes during the game.
The Last Helmetless Player
Craig MacTavish played in the NHL from 1979-80 through 1996-97. When he retired from the game, he became the last player to take to the ice without wearing a helmet.
The helmet rule, adopted in 1979, allowed players who had signed contracts prior to June 1, 1979 to play without the protection of a helmet, providing the signed a waiver with the NHL.
First Million Dollar Contract in the NHL
In 1971, the Boston Bruins signed Bobby Orr to a five-year deal worth $200,000 per season. The contract was the first million dollar contract in NHL history.
First NHL Goal Ever Scored
Dave Ritchie, played only four games with the Montreal Wanderers during the 1917-18 NHL season, scoring a total of five goals. His first goal that season was scored against the Toronto Arenas, was the first goal in NHL history.
Last Seven on Seven NHL Game
In the early days of the NHL, teams played with seven players per side, with each team employing a player known as a rover.
The last game that was played with seven players per side took place on March 2, 1922 when the Toronto St. Patricks defeated the Vancouver Millionaires, by a score of 6-0.
First Father and Son MVP Team
At the end of the 1965 season Bobby Hull won the Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player. In 1966, Hull added a second Hart to his trophy case.
In 1991, after a 131 point season, Bobby's son, Brett, captured the NHL MVP award, making the Hull's the first, and only, father and son duo to capture the Hart trophy.
First Goalie to Wear a Mask
Many people mistakenly believe that the first NHL goaltender to wear a mask was Jacques Plante. While Plante was the first player to wear a full facemask, Clint Benedict of the Montreal Maroons wore a mask long before Plante.
In 1930, Benedict wore his mask for five games.
First Goalie to Be Credited for Scoring a Goal
While Ron Hextall of the Philadelphia Flyers was the first NHL goalie to actually shoot a puck on net and score a goal, he was not the first goaltender to be credited with scoring a goal. That milestone belongs to former new York Islanders goaltender Billy Smith.
The goal was actually "scored" by Colorado Rockies player Rob Ramage when his pass traveled into his team's open net while their goaltender was pulled in favor of an extra attacker on a delayed penalty. Smith was the last Islander to touch the puck and was credited with the goal.
Bill Barilko, a 24-year-old defenseman for the Toronto Maple Leafs, scored the 1951 Stanley Cup winning goal. It was the fifth Stanley Cup championship for the team in seven years.
That summer Barilko would die in a plane crash while on a fishing trip. His body remained missing until 1962, the next year the Leafs would win the Cup.
Ken Dryden Wins Rookie of the Year the Year After Winning the Conn Smythe Trophy
Ken Dryden was a late season call up for the Montreal Canadiens in 1971. Dryden would play only six regular season games with the team before leading them to a Stanley Cup victory.
Dryden's playoff performance was strong enough to earn him the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs.
Dryden would then come back in the 1972 season and put together a record of 39-8-15, earning him Rookie of the Year honors.
The six games that he played in 1971 allowed him to keep his rookie eligibility for the 1972 season.
Sudden Death Overtime
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During World War II restrictions on train travel caused the NHL to discontinue the use of the sudden death overtime period in regular season games. The overtime period was not used again, during the regular season, until the 1983-84 season.
Zamboni Is Just a Brand Name
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Frank Zamboni invented the self propelled ice resurfacing machine in 1949. The name Zamboni name is become synonymous with the ice resurfacing machine, which is great free marketing, but not every ice resurfacing machine is a Zamboni as Zamboni is just a brand name.
That name recognition is not always good as the Zamboni company found out at the 2010 Winter Olympics when the ice resurfacing machines delayed the games. When the media reports came out about the delay the machines were referred to as Zambonis, but they were not, they were Olympia resurfacing machines.
First US TV Broadcast Only Had a Maximum Viewership of 300 Televisions
When the New York Rangers faced the Montreal Canadiens on February 25, 1940 it marked the first time that a game was broadcast on US television. However, only 300 receivers in the New York area were able to receive the broadcast.
The Rangers won the game by a score of 6-2.
During the 1974 NHL entry draft, the legendary Punch Imlach, then the GM of the Buffalo Sabres, decided he was going to have a little fun. So, with the 183rd pick of the draft he selected Taro Tsujimoto of the Japanese Hockey League's Tokyo Katanas.
The problem was that the team nor the player were real. Nonetheless the draft pick was recorded and was believed to be legitimate for some time. Imlach eventually revealed his practical joke and the pick was struck from the books.
Game Called Due to Injury
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As far as "injuries" are concerned, there are few more serious than cardiac arrest, but that was the reason the Detroit Red Wings vs. Nashville Predators game of November 21, 2005 was postponed.
Jiri Fischer, a defenseman for the Red Wings at the time, went into cardiac arrest while sitting on the bench. Fischer was unresponsive when the medical team reached him. The medical team were able to restore the 25-year-old Fischer's pulse and transport him to a local hospital.
After the incident, the game was postponed, making it the first NHL game in history that was postponed due to "injury."
1988 Stanly Cup Finals: Edmonton Oilers Sweep the Boston Bruins in Five Games?
The Edmonton Oilers had won the first three games of the 1988 Stanley Cup Finals and were playing the Boston Bruins in game four when the power went out at Boston Garden.
The power outage occurred during the second period with the score knotted at three. The game was called and the teams moved onto Edmonton to replay the game, starting from a 0-0 score.
The Oilers would win that game to complete the sweep of the Bruins, but in reality five games had been played during the series.
There Is Only One True Stanley Cup
There is a version of the Stanley Cup that resides at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, but that is not the true Stanley Cup, it is basically for display purposes only, residing in the Hall while the real Cup makes its rounds.
The true Cup is the one that is brought out to center ice at the conclusion of the Stanley Cup finals to be given to the captain of the winning team.
To know if you are seeing the true Cup, check the bottom, if it has the seal of the Hockey Hall of Fame on it, that's the one true Cup.
Women with Their Name Engraved on the Stanley Cup
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There are eight women with their names engraved on the Stanley Cup:
Marguerite Norris: President of the Detroit Red Wings (1955)
Sonia Scurfield: Co-owner of the Calgary Flames (1989)
Marie-Denise DeBartolo York: President of the Pittsburgh Penguins (1991)
Marian Ilitch: Co-owner of the Detroit Red Wings (1997, 1998)
Denise Ilitch: Detroit Red Wings (1997, 1998)
Lisa Ilitch: Detroit Red Wings (1997, 1998)
Carole Ilitch Trepeck: Detroit Red Wings (1997, 1998)
Charlotte Grahame: Colorado Avalanche (2001)
First Overall Picks in the NHL Entry Draft That Never Played an NHL Game
Number one draft pick that worked out pretty well
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The first NHL Entry Draft was held in 1963, since that time only three players selected first overall have never played an NHL game. They are:
Claude Gauthier: Selected in 1964 by the Detroit Red Wings
Andre Veilleux: Selected in 1965 by the New York Rangers
Rick Pagnutti: Selected in 1967 by the Los Angeles Kings
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Few NHL coaches studied the NHL rulebook deeper than the late Roger Neilson. He used the limitations of the rulebook as a tool to help his teams. Two examples of his genius:
Knowing that a team could never play more than two men short, when playing with a lead at the end of the game, Nielson would send too many men onto the ice every ten seconds, disrupting the flow of the game and never allowing the opposition to get any flow to their offense. The rule was later changed to read that intentionally putting two many men on the ice would result in a penalty shot.
When puling his goaltender in favor of an extra attacker, he would instruct the goaltender to leave his stick across the goalmouth, hindering the attempts of the opposition to score into the empty net.
The Last Goaltender to Go Without a Mask in the NHL
When Andy Brown, of the Pittsburgh Penguins played his final NHL game on April 7, 1974, he became the last goaltender in the NHL to play without a mask.
Brown would move to the WHA for his final three NHL seasons and continue to play their sans facial protection.
Did an Injury Give the NHL Its Greatest Coach Ever?
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When Scotty Bowman was a junior hockey player he sustained a head injury that ended his days as a player. After that injury Bowman focused on the coaching side of the game, retiring with nine Stanley Cups and a record of 1244-573-314-10(OT losses.)
Had Bowman not been injured would the NHL have been deprived of its greatest coach ever?
Non-Game Day Suspensions
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This one's a gem. Gil Stein became the NHL president on June 22, 1992, one of his initiatives was that players would serve out their suspensions on non-game days. That's right, the players was not able to practice with the team, but they were able to play in the scheduled games.
Stein's run as president lasted until July 1, 1993 when his responsibilities went to the NHL commissioner.
Sweatsuits Behind the Bench?
Jean-Guy Talbot in his playing days
The de rigueur attire for an NHL coach is and has been for some time, a suit. However one brave soul attempted to change that. In 1977-78, New York Rangers head coach Jean-Guy Talbot loosened his collar a bit when he appeared behind the bench in a sweatsuit.
Sadly for Talbot, no other coaches followed in his footsteps and when he was shown the door after 80 games with the team his sweatsuit experiment went with him.
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The forward pass in hockey has a long story. Before 1927-28, no forward passing was allowed in the NHL. For the 1927-28 season the league opened things up a bit, allowing the forward pass in the defensive and neutral zone. In 1928-29 things opened up a bit more as a pass was allowed to be made into the attacking zone, but no passes could be made while in the attacking zone. In 1929-30 passes were allowed within the attacking zone.
All of these rule changes were made to increase scoring.
Two Goalies for One Team on the Ice at the Same Time?
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Oddly, in the early years of the NHL there was no rule in place to prohibit a team from having two goaltenders on the ice at the same time.That rule did not come into play until the 1931-32 season.
There is no record of any team attempting to have two goaltenders on the ice at the same time.
Penalty Shots Were Very Different When First Introduced
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When the penalty shot was introduced during the 1934-35 season it did not resemble today's penalty shot where the shooting players skates in unimpeded from the red line. Instead, players would shoot from a 10-foot circle located 38-feet from the goalie.
The goaltenders had an obvious advantage in the above scenario and stopped 25 of the first 29 penalty shots taken.
The Number 00 Is Not Allowed on NHL Jerseys
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The last player to wear 00 in an NHL game was Martin Biron, who did so in 1996. Biron had to make the switch to 43 during the 1998-99 season after the NHL outlawed 00 as an NHL jersey number.
Don Cherry Signs Autographs During Timeout
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Don Cherry had been fired by the Boston Bruins following the 1978-79 season. Cherry was then hired by the Colorado Rockies for the 1979-80 season. When Cherry returned to Boston to play his first game as an opposition coach he found his team in the lead as time ticked off the clock. As the game neared its end, Cherry called a timeout and proceeded to sign autographs for the fans around the Rockies bench.
The First Misspelling Corrected on the Stanley Cup
There are several errors on the Stanley Cup, some of them unfortunate, some amusing and several corrected. The first correction ever made to a misspelling on the Cup was Adam Deadmarsh of the Colorado Avalanche. Deadmarsh's name was spelled as Deadmarch following the Avalanche's 1996 Stanley Cup victory.
Since the Deadmarsh correction, several other names have been spelled incorrectly and later corrected.
Kris Draper Was Traded for $1
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Kris Draper spent parts of three seasons with the Winnipeg Jets before they decided to ship him off to the Detroit Red Wings for a single dollar.
Draper would go on to be one of the hardest working and beloved players in Detroit Red Wings history, playing 17 years with the team and getting his name etched on the Stanley Cup four times. He also earned a permanent place in Red Wings history as a member of the Grind Line.
The one dollar spent on Draper may very well be the best investment in NHL history.
Closing Two Historic and One Not so Historic Arenas with a Win
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Retired goaltender Jocelyn Thibault has quite the tale to tell his grandchildren. As a member of the Montreal Canadiens he won the lost game ever played in three NHL arenas. He would start his impressive run at the Montreal Forum. Thibault was in the net when the Canadiens defeated the Dallas Stars by a score to 4-1 on March 11, 1996.
One year later, with Thibault in net, the Canadiens would close out Washington's Capital Centre with a 6-5 win.
In 1999 he would be in net for the Chicago Blackhawks when they defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs by a score of 6-2.
Who is Vic Lynn? Vic Lynn is the only player to have ever played for all six of the original six teams. I 1942-43 he played a single game for the New York Rangers. Lynn was then picked up by the Detroit Red Wings for three games during the 1943-44 season. In 1945-46 he picked up two games with the Montreal Canadiens before moving to the Toronto Maple Leafs for four seasons.
After Lynn's stint with the Leafs ended he moved to the AHL for one season before moving on to play for the Bruins for parts of two seasons. Lynn's final stop in his original six journey came in the 1952-53 when he joined the Chicago Blackhawks.
Bobby Baun Plays with a Broken Ankle
During the 1964 Stanley Cup finals the Toronto Maple Leafs Bobby Baun hit the ice to block a Gordie Howe Shot. He succeeded in blocking the shot but the puck hit him in the foot and Baun was carried off the ice on a stretcher.
Baun would reenter the game during overtime, eventually scoring the game winning goal and forcing a Game 7.
Baun suited up for Game 7, which the Leafs won by a score of 4-0. Only after the Leafs had secured the Stanley Cup would he allow his foot to be examined in full. Upon x-rays being taken of the injured foot it was discovered that he had played on a broken ankle.
Several NHL Players Have Played in the Little League Baseball World Series
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It's not surprising that young NHL players to be have suited up to play little league baseball over the summer. What is a but surprising is that several have made it to the Little League World Series. Those players are:
Ray Ferraro - 1976
Stephane Matteau - 1982
Pierre Turgeon - 1982
Chris Drury - 1989
Wayne Gretzky's Records
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When Wayne Gretzky retired from the NHL at the end of the 1999 NHL season he held 61 NHL records. However since his retirement he lost two of those records.
The first record was broken by friend and former teammate, Mark Messier. When Gretzky retired he had 15 regular season overtime assists, when Messier retired in 2004 he had accumulated 18.
The other record that Gretzky lost was All-Star game assists. When "The Great One" retired he had assisted on 12 All-Star game goals, again Messier has this record, but he shares it at 13 with Ray Bourque.
Shortest NHL Goaltending Career
Jordan Sigalet played one game for the Boston Bruins. He came in as an emergency replacement for Andrew Raycroft with 43 seconds left in the game. It would be the only time he would set foot on an NHL ice surface.
While his NHL career was brief, Sigalet's story is an inspirational one, you see, while playing college hockey for Bowling Green, Sigalet was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, never letting the disease slow him from realizing his dream of playing professional hockey.
Most Games Played Without Reaching the Playoffs
The list of players that have played in the NHL, but never raised the Stanley Cup is a fairly lengthy list and also fairly easy to find, but are you aware of the players that have played the game and never even made to the playoffs?
The dubious record of career games played without ever reaching the playoffs belongs to Guy Charron who played 734 NHL games over the course of his career without ever playing in the postseason.
Oldest NHL Rookie
Bob Barlow made his AHL debut during the 1954-55 season, playing three games with the Cleveland Barons. He would toil on the fringes of the professional hockey world for many years, playing in the AHL, NOHA and WHA.
When he finally got his break to play in the NHL it was with the Minnesota North Stars during the 1969-70 season. Barlow was 34 years of age when he played his first NHL game, making him the oldest rookie in the history of the NHL.
Longest Nonhyphenated Name
Names didn't appear on the back of NHL jerseys until the 1970's, but if they had been stitched on earlier the equipment manager may have struggled to fit John Brackenborough onto the back of his Boston Bruins jersey during the 1925-26 season.
Brackenborough's NHL career lasted a brief seven games, as he was forced to retire after suffering an eye injury.
Longest Name in NHL History
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Since we're on the subject of names, we'll throw this one out there. The player in the photograph should be recognizable as the current captain of the Calgary Flames, Jarome Iginla.
If you are questioning how he makes the list for longest name in NHL history, well, that's because his full given name is Jarome Arthur Leigh Adekunle Tig Junior Elvis Iginla.
Fastest Goal to Start an NHL Career
Many people can tell you that Mario Lemieux scored on the first shot he ever took in an NHL game, but how many people can name the player that holds the record for fastest goal to start an NHL career?
Well, that record belongs to Dave Christian. Christian, playing for the Winnipeg Jets, scored just seven seconds into his first NHL shift.
It should also be noted that he had played for the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" United States Olympic team.
Gordie Howe Hat Tricks
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The Gordie Howe Hat Trick is attained when a player has a goal, an assist and a fight in the same game. Oddly, the player that the feat is named after only managed to pull of two of his namesake hat tricks during his career.
The all-time leader in Gordie Howe hat tricks is a player that won the Lady Byng Trophy on two occasions, Stan Mikita. Mikita managed 22 Gordie Howe Hat Tricks over the course of his 1394 game NHL career.
Name Etched on the Stanley Cup the Most
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If one were to peruse the names on the Stanley Cup and search for the person whose name appears on it the most, they would find that Montreal Canadiens legend Jean Beliveau's name is etched on the Cup 17 times, 10 as a player and seven as a member of management.
Fewest Fans to Attend an NHL Game
photo not taken on game night
On January 22, 1987 a snowstorm hit the East Coast, but that did not stop the New Jersey Devils and Calgary Flames from playing their scheduled game.
Sure, the game started almost two hours late as officials waited for the Devils players to make it to the rink, but the game was played.
The number of fans in attendance that night? 334.
Two Records That Will Never Be Broken
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There are two records, that under the current NHL rules, will never be broken.
1. Terry Sawchuk's record of 172 career ties for a goaltender. This one can't be broken since ties are no longer recorded.
2. Mario Lemieux scoring goals in five different ways during a single game. On December 31, 1988, while playing the New Jersey Devils, Lemieux scored at even strength, shorthanded, on the powerplay, on a penalty shot and into an empty net. This feat can only be tied.