History of the National Hockey League (1967–1992)

History of the National Hockey League (1967–1992)

The expansion era of the National Hockey League (NHL) began when six new teams were added for the 1967–68 season, ending the Original Six era. The six existing teams were formed into the newly created East Division, while the expansion teams—the Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota North Stars, Oakland Seals, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and St. Louis Blues—were formed into the West Division.

The NHL continued to expand, adding another six teams, to total 18 by 1974. This continued expansion was partially the brought about by the NHL's attempts to compete with the World Hockey Association, which operated from 1972 until 1979 and sought to compete with the NHL for markets and players. Bobby Hull was the most famous player to defect to the rival league, signing a $2.75 million contract with the Winnipeg Jets. When the WHA ceased operations in 1979, the NHL absorbed four of the league's teams—the Edmonton Oilers, Hartford Whalers, Quebec Nordiques and Winnipeg Jets. This brought the NHL to 21 teams, a figure that remained constant until the San Jose Sharks were added as an expansion franchise in 1991.

The NHL became involved in international play, starting with the Summit Series in 1972 which pitted the top Canadian players of the NHL against the top players in the Soviet Union. Canada won the eight-game series four wins to three, with one tie, while the series evolved into the Canada Cup, held five times between 1975 and 1991. NHL teams also faced Soviet League teams which toured North America between 1976 and 1991 in what was known as the Super Series. Soviet-Bloc players streamed into the NHL with the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989.

This was one of the highest scoring periods in NHL history, led in the 1980s by the Edmonton Oilers and Wayne Gretzky, who scored 200-points or more four times, including a league record 215 in in 1985–86. Gretzky's 92 goals in 1981–82 also remains a record. No other player in NHL history has scored 200 points, with Mario Lemieux's 199 in 1988–89 the closest.


Expansion had been a major topic of discussion amongst NHL owners since William M. Jennings, of the New York Rangers, proposed in 1963 to add two new teams on the West Coast to counter fears that the Western Hockey League intended to compete as a major league.Harvnb|Diamond|1991|p=174] After several years of discussion, the NHL announced in February 1966 that expand by six teams, doubling the league's size. The Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota North Stars, California Seals, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and St. Louis Blues began play in the 1967–68 season. [Harvnb|Pincus|2006|p=113] They formed the newly created West Division, while the existing teams were formed into the East Division. The playoff format was constructed so that an established team would face an expansion team in the Stanley Cup Finals.Harvnb|Diamond|2003|p=xii] The Clarence S. Campbell Bowl was created in honour of league president Clarence S. Campbell to be awarded to the West Division champion. [citation |url=http://www.nhl.com/trophies/campbell.html |title=Clarence S. Campbell Bowl |accessdate=2008-08-08 |publisher=National Hockey League]

The new teams were stocked by the NHL's first expansion draft, as each team selected a total of 20 players from the existing franchises. There was much debate over how many players each existing team could protect as the strongest clubs wished to protect more players, while the weaker clubs hoped that protecting fewer players would help improve the balance of competition. Canadiens manager Sam Pollock's plan of allowing each team to protect eleven players to start, then add an additional player to their protected list for each player selected in the draft was ultimately agreed to as a compromise solution. In addition, an "intra-league draft" was held following the season in 1968 and 1969 to help accelerate the improvement of the expansion teams. Each team protected two goaltenders and fourteen skaters, leaving their remaining players open to be selected by any other team.Harvnb|Diamond|1991|p=183]

Some teams created instant farm systems by buying existing minor league franchises. The Kings bought the Springfield Indians of the American Hockey League the night before the expansion draft, leading the Flyers to purchase the Quebec Aces.Harvnb|Diamond|1991|p=184] Expansion also changed how the amateur draft was handled. The old system where franchises sponsored junior teams and players was abandoned by 1969 as all junior aged players were made eligible for the entry draft.

Expansion years

The Flyers finished atop the West Division, recording 73 points in 74 games as none of the expansion teams finished with a record above .500.Harvnb|Diamond|1991|p=185–186] The California Seals, a pre-season favourite to win the division, changed their name to the Oakland Seals a month into the season as the team disappointed both on the ice and at the gate, finishing last in the NHL with 14 wins.Harvnb|McFarlane|1990|p=94] The Blues defeated the Flyers and North Stars to become the first expansion team to play for the Stanley Cup, where they were defeated in four consecutive games by the Canadiens. The Blues reached the finals again in both 1969 and 1970 where they were again swept in both years, losing to Montreal and Boston, respectively.Harvnb|Pincus|2006|p=118–119]

On January 13, 1968, North Stars' rookie Bill Masterton became the first, and to date, only player to die as a result of injuries suffered during an NHL game.Harvnb|Pincus|2006|p=123] Early in a game against the Seals, Masterton was checked hard by two players, Ron Harris and Larry Cahan, causing him to flip over backwards, landing on his head.Harvnb|McFarlane|1990|p=96] Masterton was rushed to hospital with massive head injuries, where he died two days later. [citation |url=http://www.legendsofhockey.net:8080/LegendsOfHockey/jsp/SearchPlayer.jsp?player=13562 |title=Players – Bill Masterton |accessdate=2008-08-09 |publisher=Hockey Hall of Fame] Later in the season, the National Hockey League Writers Association presented the league with the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, which is awarded annually to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. Following Masterton's death, players slowly began wearing helmets, with the league eventually mandating their use by new players entering the league beginning with the 1979–80 NHL season.

Bobby Orr

In 1968–69, second-year defenceman Bobby Orr scored 21 goals, setting an NHL record for goals en route to winning his first of eight consecutive Norris Trophies as the league's top defenceman.Harvnb|Pincus|2006|p=120–121] That year, Orr's teammate, Phil Esposito, became the first player in league history to score 100 points in a season, finishing with 126 points. He was one of three players to break the century mark that year, including Bobby Hull and 41-year old Gordie Howe. [Harvnb|Pincus|2006|p=128]

A gifted scorer, Orr revolutionized how defencemen impacted the offensive side of the game, as blue liners began to be judged on how well they created goals in addition to how well they prevented them. [Harvnb|McCown|2007|p=195] Orr scored the Stanley Cup winning goal in overtime of the fourth game against the Blues in 1970, famously flying through the air after being tripped up following his shot, leading the Bruins to their first championship in 29 years.citation |url=http://www.legendsofhockey.net:8080/LegendsOfHockey/jsp/LegendsMember.jsp?mem=p197902&type=Player&page=bio&list=#photo |title=The Legends – Bobby Orr |accessdate=2008-08-09 |publisher=Hockey Hall of Fame] Orr twice won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's leading scorer, the only defenceman in NHL history to ever win it. Orr's plus/minus (net total of even-strength and short-handed goals for minus goals against) of +124 in 1970–71 also remains a league record. [Harvnb|McFarlane|2004|p=122]

Orr battled chronic knee problems throughout his career. In 1972, he tore ligaments in his left knee following a hard hit that led to the first of six knee operations. Orr signed a five-year contract that paid him $200,000 per season in 1971, the first $1-million contract in league history. Orr played only 12 seasons in the NHL before injuries forced his retirement in 1978. He finished with 270 goals and 915 points in 657 games while winning the Hart Memorial Trophy as league MVP three times.

Buffalo and Vancouver

In Canada, there was widespread outrage over the denial of an expansion team to Vancouver in 1967.Harvnb|McKinley|2006|p=194–195] Three years later, the NHL finally added a third Canadian team when the Vancouver Canucks, formerly of the Western Hockey League were granted as an expansion team along with the Buffalo Sabres for the 1970–71 season.Harvnb|McFarlane|1990|p=106–107] The Canucks were placed in the East Division, despite being on the west coast, while the Black Hawks were shifted to the West as the league attempted to equalize the strength of each division.Harvnb|Diamond|1991|p=199 ] The league also gave the Sabres and Canucks the first two picks in the 1970 NHL Amateur Draft, giving them a better opportunity to build their roster than the 1967 expansion teams had.

Prior to the 1971–72 season, both Gordie Howe and Jean Beliveau announced their retirements. Beliveau finished his 18-year career with ten Stanley Cups, two Hart Trophies and his 1,219 career points was second only to Howe. Howe retired after playing 25 seasons as the NHL's all-time leader in games played, goals, assists and points.Harvnb|McFarlane|1990|p=109] Howe was a six-time league scoring champion, and also won six Hart Trophies.citation |url=http://www.legendsofhockey.net:8080/LegendsOfHockey/jsp/LegendsMember.jsp?mem=p197204&page=bio&list=#photo |title=The Legends – Gordie Howe |accessdate=2008-08-09 |publisher=Hockey Hall of Fame] Both players had the customary three year waiting period waived for entry into the Hockey Hall of Fame in acknowledgement of their achievements. [Harvnb|Diamond|1991|p=204 ]

World Hockey Association

In 1972, the NHL faced competition from the newly formed World Hockey Association (WHA). The WHA lured many players away from the NHL, including Derek Sanderson, J.C. Tremblay and Ted Green.Harvnb|Pincus|2006|p=139] The WHA's biggest coup was to lure Bobby Hull from the Black Hawks to play for the Winnipeg Jets. Hull signed a ten year deal: five years as a player for $250,000 per season, and five more at $100,000 in a front-office position. It also included a $1 million signing bonus. The deal totaled $2.75 million, and lent instant credibility to the new league. [Harvnb|Willes|2004|p=33] After Hull signed, several other players quickly followed suit. Bernie Parent, Gerry Cheevers, Johnny McKenzie and Rick Ley jumped to the WHA as the NHL suddenly found itself in a war for talent.Harvnb|McFarlane|1990|p=112] By the time the 1972–73 WHA season began, 67 players had jumped from the NHL to the WHA. [Harvnb|McFarlane|1990|p=113] Defections continued following the season, as the WHA scored another major coup when it signed Gordie Howe's sons Mark and Marty. The league then convinced Gordie to come out of retirement to play with them as members of the Houston Aeros.

The NHL attempted to block several of the defections. The Bruins attempted to restrain Cheevers and Sanderson from joining the WHA, though a United States federal court refused to prohibit the signings. The Black Hawks were successful in having a restraining order filed against Hull and the Jets pending the outcome of legal action the Black Hawks were taking against the WHA. The WHA was eager for the court action, intending to challenge the legality of the reserve clause, which bound a player to their NHL team until that team released them. [Harvnb|McFarlane|1990|p=132] In November 1972, a Philadelphia district court placed an injunction against the NHL, preventing it from enforcing the reserve clause, and freeing all players who had restraining orders against them, including Hull, to play with their WHA clubs. The decision effectively ended the NHL's monopoly on professional hockey talent. [Harvnb|McFarlane|1990|p=133]

The NHL also found itself competing with the WHA for markets. Initially, there were no plans for further expansion, but the threat the WHA represented caused the league to change its plans. Hoping to keep the WHA out of the newly completed Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Long Island, New York and the Omni Coliseum in Atlanta, Georgia, the league hastilly announced the creation of the New York Islanders and Atlanta Flames as 1972 expansion teams. [Harvnb|Boer|2006|p=13] Following the 1972–73 season, the NHL announced it was further expanding to 18-teams for the 1974–75 season, adding the Kansas City Scouts and Washington Capitals. [Harvnb|McFarlane|1990|p=115] In just eight years, the NHL had tripled in size to 18 teams.

ummit Series

Internationally, Canada had long been protesting the Soviet Union's use of "professional amateurs" at the World Championships and the Olympic Games, which were amateur events. Canada withdrew from international competition in 1969,Harvnb|Diamond|1991|p=206] including a boycott of the 1972 Olympic hockey tournament. [citation |url=http://sports.espn.go.com/oly/winter02/hockey/story?id=1326249 |title=Russians regroup on other side of the red line |publisher=ESPN |author=Merron, Jeff |accessdate=2008-08-29] National Hockey League Players Association executive director Alan Eagleson negotiated a deal with Soviet authorities to play an eight-game series between the Soviet national team and Canada's top professionals.Harvnb|Pincus|2006|p=132–133]

The NHL used the tournament to respond to the defection of players to the WHA. Bobby Hull was barred from playing, along with any player who signed a contract with the rival league, a move that was heavily criticized. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau sent a telegram to NHL president Clarence Campbell, stating that "the intense interest which I share with millions of Canadians ... that Canada should be represented by its best hockey players, including Bobby Hull".Harvnb|McKinley|2006|p=207] Hull echoed the feelings of the public, calling the decision "crazy", and stating that "I'm a Canadian and I want to play for my country. I don't know why the NHL has to be so petty over this. I want to do this for Canada." The NHL did not relent, and Hull did not play for Canada.

The majority of hockey observers in North America expected that Canada would handily win the tournament, known as the Summit Series. Among them, Red Fisher of the "Montreal Star" predicted an 8–0 sweep.Harvnb|Diamond|1991|p=208–214] The concerns of the minority of observers who did not expect an easy Canadian victory were realized in the first game, as the Soviets shocked the Canadians 7–3 in Montreal. Canada responded with a 4–1 victory in Toronto, but managed only a 4–4 tie in the third game in Winnipeg. Canada lost the fourth game in Vancouver 5–3 as shocked fans booed the Canadians off the ice. Phil Esposito, in an emotional interview, scolded the fans: "To people across Canada, we are trying our best. I don't think it's fair that we should be booed. If the fans in Moscow boo their players, I'll come back here and personally apologize to everybody, but I don't think that's going to happen." Despite scoring the first three goals, Canada also lost the fifth game, the first held in Moscow, 5–4 to stand on the verge of losing the series.Harvnb|McKinley|2006|p=220]

Canada battled back, winning the sixth and seventh games 3–2 and 4–3 to tie the series. The Russian fans' chant of "Da, Da, Canada! Nyet, Nyet Soviet!" (Yes, yes, Canada! No, no, Soviets!) grew in intensity as they attempted to urge the Soviets to victory.Harvnb|McKinley|2006|p=221] The eighth, and deciding, game was held September 28, 1972. Millions of Canadians watched "the game of the century": students watched the game on televisions placed in school gymnasiums, while offices were shut down for the day.Harvnb|McKinley|2006|p=222]

The Soviet team had stated they would declare themselves the winners of the series on total goals if Canada tied the game. Trailing 5–3 entering the third period, the Canadians knew they had to win the game outright.Harvnb|McKinley|2006|p=223] Esposito scored to bring Canada within one before Yvan Cournoyer tied the game with seven minutes remaining. Eagleson did not see the referee signal a goal, nor the red goal light flash on Cournoyer's goal, and believing the Soviets were playing dirty, he lept over a wall to try and get at the referee in protest. Eagleson landed in the midst of several military policemen, who attempted to haul him away. The Canadian players rushed to Eagleson's defence, charging the startled police officers with their sticks allowing them to free Eagleson.

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quote = Here's a shot. Henderson makes a wild stab for it and falls. Here's another shot. Right in front. They score! Henderson scores for Canada!
source = —Foster Hewitt's "goal heard around the world" as Paul Henderson scored the decisive marker in game eight. [citation |url=http://www.hhof.com/html/t7gm02.shtml |title=The Goal Heard Around the World |accessdate=2008-08-29 |publisher=Hockey Hall of Fame]
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The Soviets were met with a relentless Canadian attack in the final seven minutes, outshot 14–5 during that stretch. With 34 seconds remaining in the game, Esposito took a shot at Tretiak from 12 feet out. Paul Henderson scooped up the rebound and put it past the fallen Soviet goalie to score the goal that won the game, 6–5, and the series.Harvnb|McKinley|2006|p=224] The victory was viewed as redemption for the Canadian team, while the Soviets looked at the result with pride. Later, former Soviet ambassador to Canada, Alexander Yakolev, argued that the Summit Series planted the seeds of glastnost and perestroika in the Soviet Union as one of the first times that the Soviet people had seen so many foreigners who had not come to do harm, but to share in the game.


The series forced the NHL, along with the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association, to reassess all aspects of how the game was played in North America. Herb Pinder described the NHL to that point in this way: "The Europeans took our game and evolved it, while we stood still or even went backwards. The Russians had a style, and the Czechs' style was different from that ... There was this hockey world evolving through international competition, and we're back here, "stuck", just playing ourselves. It was a business monopoly. And like any monopoly, the NHL got stagnant." [Harvnb|MacSkimming|1996|p=247] Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Canadian hockey increased its emphasis on adopting new coaching and training methods used in Europe, and placed more emphasis on conditioning and skills development. [Harvnb|MacSkimming|1996|p=245]

The NHL took a greater interest in international play. The Canada Cup, a tournament featuring the top professional players in the world, was first held in 1976, and then four more times until 1991. It was succeeded by the World Cup of Hockey in 1996. Beginning in 1975, Soviet club teams began touring North America, playing NHL clubs in exhibition games that were known as the Super Series. The Calgary Flames and Washington Capitals would similarly tour the Soviet Union in 1989 in the first "Friendship Series".citation |url=http://www.nhl.com/worldcup/history/timeline.html |title=NHL – International timeline |accessdate=2008-08-08 |publisher=National Hockey League] The Soviet national team defeated an NHL all-star team in a 1979 challenge series, two games to one, and split Rendez-vous '87 a two-game series held in Quebec City. [Harvnb|MacSkimming|1996|p=248]


The Broad Street Bullies

The 1970s was a period famous for aggressive, and often violent, play. Known as the "Broad Street Bullies", the Philadelphia Flyers remain the most famous example of this mindset.Harvnb|Pincus|2006|p=134] The Flyers established league records for penalty minutes—Dave "the Hammer" Schultz total of 472 penalty minutes in 1974–75 remains a league recordHarvnb|Pincus|2006|p=135] —and ended up in courtrooms multiple times when players went into the stands to challenge fans who got involved. One such incident occurred in Vancouver in December 1972, when a fan reached over the glass to pull the hair of Don Saleski as he had a chokehold on Vancouver's Barry Wilkins. Bobby Taylor went into the stands after the fan, and was followed by his Flyers teammates. The next time Philadelphia went to Vancouver, several players were hauled before the courts on charges ranging from use of obscene language to common assault. Six players were fined, and Taylor received a 30-day suspended sentence.Harvnb|Diamond|1991|p=221] The Flyers also won. They captured the 1974 Stanley Cup, becoming the first expansion team to win the league championship. They repeated as champions in 1975.

In 1975, Soviet club teams began touring North America, facing off against NHL teams in exhibition matches in what became known as the Super Series. The Canadiens played Central Red Army to a 3–3 draw on New Years Eve, 1975, in a game that is considered one of the finest ever played.Harvnb|Diamond|1991|p=231] Red Army lost only one of four games against the NHL in the first tour, a 4–1 defeat to Philadelphia, who intimidated them as the Flyers did to their NHL opponents. At one point, Red Army threatened to forfeit the game after Ed Van Impe decked Valery Kharlamov. Red Army was persuaded to complete the game after Alan Eagleson threatened to withhold their appearance fee if the team did not return to the ice. Super Series games continued until 1991, when Soviet players began freely entering the NHL after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

End of the two league era

On February 7, 1976, Maple Leafs star Darryl Sittler set an NHL record, scoring ten points in one game in an 11–4 victory over the Bruins. His six-goal, four-assist effort broke Maurice Richard's record of eight points in a game. [citation |url=http://www.legendsofhockey.net:8080/LegendsOfHockey/jsp/LegendsMember.jsp?mem=p198902&type=Player&page=bio&list=#photo |title=The Legends – Darryl Sittler |accessdate=2008-08-29 |publisher=Hockey Hall of Fame] The game came shortly after the Bruins lured Gerry Cheevers back from the WHA, though Cheevers was given an extra night to rest, and rookie Dave Reece was the victim of all eleven Toronto goals. It was his fourteenth, and final, NHL game.Harvnb|Pincus|2006|p=142]

By 1976, both leagues were dealing with serious financial problems. Talks of a merger between the NHL and the WHA were growing. Bobby Hull declared that a merger was "inevitable", though WHA president Bill MacFarland stated that his league had no interest in a merger.Harvnb|McFarlane|1990|p=144] In 1976, the NHL approved the first franchise relocations in four decades, as the Scouts moved after just two years in Kansas City to Denver to become the Colorado Rockies, while the California Golden Seals became the Cleveland Barons. Two years later, after failed overtures about merging the Barons with Washington and Vancouver, the Barons merged with the Minnesota North Stars, reducing the NHL to 17 teams for 1978–79.Harvnb|McFarlane|1990|p=163]

The WHA's last hurrah was to lure junior prodigy Wayne Gretzky to their league in 1978–79. Nelson Skalbania, owner of the Indianapolis Racers and part owner of the Edmonton Oilers, was convinced to sign Gretzky to play for the Racers. [Harvnb|Willes|2004|p=219] The 17-year old Gretzky scored 110 points in his first professional season, split between the Racers and the Oilers.citation |url=http://www.legendsofhockey.net:8080/LegendsOfHockey/jsp/LegendsMember.jsp?mem=p199901&type=Player&page=statsawards&list=#photo |title=The Legends – Wayne Gretzky |accessdate=2008-08-29 |publisher=Hockey Hall of Fame]

The move towards a merger picked up in 1977 when John Ziegler succeeded Campbell as NHL president.Harvnb|Willes|2004|p=214] After several years of negotiations, WHA owners thought they had an agreement in March 1979. The motion to merge failed when supporters in the NHL lost by one vote.Harvnb|Willes|2004|p=250] Word got out that the Canadiens, owned by Molson Brewery, and the Canucks, where Molson was served, had voted against the merger. Fans across Canada quickly organized a boycott of Molson products, while the House of Commons unanimously passed a motion urging the NHL to agree to a merger. Another vote was held, and both Montreal and Vancouver switched their votes, allowing the motion to pass.Harvnb|Willes|2004|p=251] The WHA folded following the 1978–79 season, while the Edmonton Oilers, New England Whalers, Quebec Nordiques and Winnipeg Jets joined the NHL as expansion teams.

Twenty-one teams

The merger brought Gordie Howe back to the NHL for one final season in 1979–80. At the age of 51, Howe played all 80 games for the Whalers, scoring 15 goals to bring his NHL career total to 801. Howe entered his second retirement as the league's all-time scoring leader with 1,850 points. It was also the last season for the Atlanta Flames. The team averaged only 9,800 fans and lost over $2 million. [Harvnb|McFarlane|1990|p=183] The team was sold for a record $16-million, and relocated north to become the Calgary Flames in 1980–81. [Harvnb|Boer|2006|p=37] Two years later, the Rockies were sold for $30 million, and left Denver to become the New Jersey Devils for the 1982–83 season. [Harvnb|McFarlane|1990|p=206]

In 1980, the New York Islanders won their first of four consecutive Stanley Cups, becoming the second franchise to do so after the Canadiens. With the likes of Billy Smith, Mike Bossy, Denis Potvin, and Bryan Trottier, the Islanders dominated both the regular season and the playoffs.Harvnb|Diamond|1991|p=246] In 1981, Bossy became the first player to score 50 goals in 50 games since Maurice Richard accomplished that feat in 1945.Harvnb|Diamond|1991|p=245] In 1982–83, the Edmonton Oilers won the regular season championship. The Islanders and Oilers met in the playoffs, with the Islanders sweeping the Oilers, for their last Stanley Cup.Harvnb|Diamond|1991|p=267]

The following season, the Oilers and Islanders met again in the playoffs. The Oilers won the rematch in five games, marking the start of another dynasty.Harvnb|Diamond|1991|p=271] Led by Wayne Gretzky, who went on to claim 62 league records, the Oilers won five Stanley Cup championships between 1984 and 1990. The Oilers won two consecutive Cups in the 1983–84 and 1984–85 seasons, and in the 1986–87 and 1987–88 seasons. They also won a Cup in the 1989–90 season.Harvnb|Diamond|1991|p=314] The Oilers' Cup streaks were interrupted in the 1985-86 and 1988–89 seasons by two other Canadian teams. In the 1985–86 season, with rookie Patrick Roy in goal, the Montreal Canadiens won their 23rd Stanley Cup, defeating the Calgary Flames.Harvnb|Diamond|1991|p=289] The 1988–89 final was a rematch between the Flames and the Canadiens; however, the Flames emerged victorious, winning their only Stanley Cup in franchise history.Harvnb|Diamond|1991|p=308]

The 21 team era ended in 1990, when the league revealed ambitious plans to double league revenues from $400 million within a decade, and included the desire to bring the NHL to 28 franchises during that time. [citation |last=Finn |first=Robin |url=http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C0CE5DE1231F935A35751C1A966958260&scp=7 |title=Awarding of new franchises is near |date=1990-12-06 |accessdate=2008-08-31 |publisher="The New York Times"] The NHL quickly announced three new teams: The San Jose Sharks, who began play in the 1991–92 season, and the Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning, who followed a year later. [citation |last=Finn |first=Robin |url=http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C0CE5DE1231F935A35751C1A966958260&scp=7 |title=Tampa and Ottawa gain N.H.L. franchises |date=1990-12-07 |accessdate=2008-08-31 |publisher="The New York Times"]

Wayne Gretzky

The Oilers dominated the league in the latter part of the 1980s en route to five Stanley Cup titles in seven years, becoming the only team to score 400 or more goals in season, doing so four times. With future Hall of Famers Grant Fuhr, Paul Coffey, Jari Kurri, Mark Messier, and Glenn Anderson, they established numerous new scoring records.

The Oilers were led by Wayne Gretzky, who remained with the Oilers when they joined the NHL in 1979. At 5 ft 11 in and 170 lbs, some observers doubted that Gretzky could match his offensive performance in his lone WHA season. "I heard a lot of talk then that I'd never get 110 points like I did in the WHA," said Gretzky.Harvnb|Pincus|2006|p=151] Gretzky proved his critics wrong, scoring 137 points in 1979–80, winning the first of nine Hart Trophies as the NHL's most valuable player. Over the next several seasons, Gretzky established new highs in goals scored in a season, with 92 in the 1981–82 season; and in assists, with 163, as well as total points, with 215, in the 1985–86 season.citation |last=Knowles |first=Steve |title=Edmonton Oilers 2007–08 Media Guide |page=249 |date=2007 |publisher=Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club] Gretzky's 92 goal campaign saw him record the fastest 50 goals in NHL history, achieving the mark in just 39 games. Gretzky scored his 1,000th NHL point in just his 424th game, shattering Guy Lafleur's record of 720 games.

Alongsiside Gretzky, Fuhr set a record for most points in a season for a goaltender, with 14 assists in the 1983–84 season. In 1985–86, Coffey set a record for the most goals in a season by a defenceman, with 48. Adding 90 assists, Coffey wound up a point short of tying Bobby Orr's recording for most points in a season by a blue liner.

On August 9, 1988, Oilers owner Peter Pocklington, already in financial trouble, traded Wayne Gretzky, Marty McSorley, and Mike Krushelnyski to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for $15 million, three first-round draft picks, and players Jimmy Carson and Martin Gelinas.Harvnb|Diamond|1991|p=278] Gretzky left Edmonton with a tear filled news conference, and later said that Edmonton was the only place he ever dreaded playing.citation |url=http://www.oilersheritage.com/history/dynasty_highlights_gretzkytrade.html |title=Edmonton's Saddest Hockey Day—The Gretzky Trade |accessdate=2008-08-08 |publisher=Edmonton Oilers Heritage Foundation] Gretzky's trade to the Kings popularized ice hockey in the US, instantly making hockey cool in Hollywood even as it shocked fans across Canada.Harvnb|Pincus|2006|p=168] The Kings were the hottest ticket in town, while Gretzky's fame rivalled his peers of baseball's Los Angeles Dodgers and basketball's Los Angeles Lakers.

It was with the Kings that Gretzky broke Gordie Howe's record for career points. On October 15, 1989, against his former Oilers temamates, and with his idol in attendance, Gretzky tied Howe's record with a first period assist before notching his 1,851st career point with a third period goal. "An award such as this takes a lot of teamwork and help and both teams here today definitely have a part of the 1,851," said Gretzky.Harvnb|Pincus|2006|p=164–165]

Fall of the Iron Curtain

While European born players were a part of the NHL since its founding, it was still rare to see them in the NHL until 1980.Harvnb|Pincus|2006|p=148] The WHA turned to the previously overlooked European market in their search for talent, signing players from Finland and Sweden. Anders Hedberg, Lars-Erik Sjoberg and Ulf Nilsson signed with the Jets in 1974, and thrived in North America, both in the WHA and later the NHL. [Harvnb|McKinley|2006|p=230] While the WHA opened the door, and players slowly joined the NHL, those behind the Iron Curtain were restricted from following suit.

Borje Salming was the first European star in the NHL. He signed with the Maple Leafs in 1973, and played 16 seasons in the NHL, retiring in 1990. Salming was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1996. His fellow Swede, Pelle Lindbergh, was one of the top goaltenders in the world in the early 1980s. He led the Flyers to the 1985 Stanley Cup Finals before dying in a car accident in the 1985–86 season.Harvnb|Pincus|2006|p=150] Finns Jari Kurri and Esa Tikkanen helped lead the Oilers dynasty of the 1980s.Harvnb|Pincus|2006|p=154]

In 1980, Peter Stastny, his wife, and his brother Anton secretly fled Czechoslovakia with the aid of Nordiques owner Marcel Aubut. The Stastny's defection made international headlines, and contributed to the first wave of Europeans entering the NHL. In the hopes that they would one day be permitted to play in the NHL, teams drafted Soviet players in the 1980s, 27 in all by the 1988 draft.citation |last=Duhatschek |first=Eric |title=GMs figure Soviets one day will flood market |date=1989-06-18 |page=E4 |publisher="Calgary Herald"] However, defection was the only way such players could play in the NHL. Michal Pivonka defected from Czechoslovakia in 1986, while Russian Alexander Mogilny defected following the 1989 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships in Anchorage, Alaska. Czech Petr Nedved walked into a Calgary police station in January 1989 after playing in the Mac's AAA midget hockey tournament. [citation |last=Miller |first=Mark |title=Peter's principle |date=1999-02-22 |page=S4 |publisher="Calgary Sun"]

Everything changed in 1989, however. Shortly before the end of the 1988–89 regular season, Flames general manager Cliff Fletcher announced that he had reached an agreement with Soviet authorities that allowed Sergei Pryakhin to play in North America, the first time a member of the Soviet national team was permitted to leave the Soviet Union. [Harvnb|Boer|2006|p=104] Shortly after, Soviet players began to flood the NHL. NHL teams anticipated there would be an influx of Soviet players in the 1990s, as 18 Soviets were selected in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft. The entire "KLM" line joined the NHL in 1989, with Vladimir Krutov and Igor Larionov joining the Canucks, while Sergei Makarov went to Calgary. [citation |url=http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/hockey/news/2002/09/27/soviet_legacy/ |title=Sweeping Changes |accessdate=2008-08-08 |date=2002-09-27 |publisher=Sports Illustrated] Makarov won the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year in 1990, a controversial selection as he was 32 years old and had played 11 pro seasons in the Soviet League. In the wake of the controversy, the NHL amended the rules barring any player over the age of 26 from consideration for the award. [citation |url=http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C0CE4DA103EF933A15755C0A966958260 |title=New rules for rookies |accessdate=2008-08-08 |date=1990-06-20 |publisher="The New York Times"]

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and the demise of the Iron Curtain paved the way for more Eastern European players to play in North America. European players made up 12% of the NHL in 1989–90, the first time the figure topped 10%. By 2000, that figure reached 31.8% while a record 123 European players were selected in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft.

Rules and innovations

The early 1980s saw many tie games. The 1982–83 North Stars and Capitals both finished with 16 ties in 80 games while 17 of 21 teams tied ten or more games. The season before, the North Stars recorded 20 ties. As a result, the NHL reintroduced overtime for the 1983–84 season. The effect was immediate, as only seven teams reached double digits for ties. Before it was discontinued as a result of World War II, the NHL played a full ten-minute overtime period. The modern overtime format was set as a five-minute, sudden death period, with the game ending when either team scored.

The NHL changed its divisional alignment and playoff formats numerous times as it grew. The doubling of the league in 1967 also led to the expansion of the playoffs to eight teams from four the previous year. [Harvnb|McFarlane|1990|p=98] Expansion to 18 teams in 1974 led the league to realign into two conferences and four divisions, from two, each named after important figures in league history. The teams were split into the Campbell Conference, consisting of the Patrick and Smythe divisions, and the Prince of Wales Conference, consisting of the Adams and Norris divisions. The playoffs were expanded to 12 teams as each division winner was granted a bye in the first round of the playoffs. [Harvnb|McFarlane|1990|p=120] The addition of the four WHA teams in 1979 saw the playoffs expanded to 16 teams. [Harvnb|McFarlane|1990|p=186] Finally, in 1981, the league realigned all teams by geography. Eastern teams played in the Adams and Patrick divisions of the Wales Conference, and Western teams played in the Norris and Smythe divisions of the Campbell Conference. In addition, the playoff format was changed such that the top four teams in each division qualified rather than the top 16 teams overall. The first two playoff rounds were played entirely within each division. This format lasted until 1993. [Harvnb|Pincus|2006|p=162]

Entry Draft

During the late 1960s, the concept of sponsoring junior players and teams had been dismantled, meaning that for the 1969 NHL Amateur Draft, every player aged 20 or above was eligible to be selected. The Montreal Canadiens, however, exercised a special "cultural option" that allowed them to annually select two players of French-Canadian heritage. After the Canadiens took Rejean Houle and Marc Tardif, the rest of the league voted to end the rule.Harvnb|Pincus|2006|p=110–111]

In 1974, Punch Imlach chose to play a joke on the league during the draft. The general manager of the Sabres selected Taro Tsujimoto of the "Tokyo Katanas" with his 11th round pick. Other teams were shocked that the Sabres had scouted for players in Japan, while the league made the pick official. Weeks later, Imlach admitted the made the player up, choosing the name out of a phone book. [citation |url=http://www.nhl.com/features/pond/asia061506.html |title=Asia Hockey League: Pioneering hockey's great frontier |accessdate=2008-08-08 |date=2006-06-15 |last=Meltzer |first=Bill |publisher=National Hockey League]

The league reformated the Amateur Draft into the NHL Entry Draft in 1979, simultaneously lowering the draft age to 19. [Harvnb|McFarlane|1990|p=177] It was first opened to the public in 1980, where 2,500 fans attended the draft in the Montreal Forum. The public draft has grown, such that it is now held annually in NHL arenas, and televised internationally.


rect 0 34 710 50 Montreal Canadiensrect 0 49 710 68 Toronto Maple Leafsrect 0 67 710 84 Boston Bruinsrect 0 83 710 102 Chicago Blackhawksrect 0 100 710 118 Detroit Red Wingsrect 0 116 710 135 New York Rangersrect 0 134 710 153 California Golden Sealsrect 0 152 710 169 Cleveland Baronsrect 0 167 710 186 Los Angeles Kingsrect 0 185 710 203 Minnesota North Starsrect 0 202 710 220 Philadelphia Flyersrect 0 219 710 237 Pittsburgh Penguinsrect 0 236 710 254 St. Louis Bluesrect 0 253 710 271 Buffalo Sabresrect 0 270 710 288 Vancouver Canucksrect 0 286 710 305 Atlanta Flamesrect 0 303 710 323 Calgary Flamesrect 0 322 710 340 New York Islandersrect 0 339 710 357 Kansas City Scoutsrect 0 355 710 373 Colorado Rockiesrect 0 372 710 390 New Jersey Devilsrect 0 389 710 407 Washington Capitalsrect 0 406 710 424 Edmonton Oilersrect 0 422 710 441 Hartford Whalersrect 0 440 710 458 Quebec Nordiquesrect 0 457 710 475 Winnipeg Jetsrect 0 473 710 491 San Jose Sharks

desc none


* California Golden Seals known as the "California Seals" 1967 and "Oakland Seals" 1967–1970
* Cleveland Barons merged with the Minnesota North Stars in 1978
* "SC" denotes won Stanley Cup

ee also

*History of the Detroit Red Wings
*History of the Montreal Canadiens
*History of the New York Rangers
*History of the Toronto Maple Leafs


*Citation|last=Boer |first=Peter |title=The Calgary Flames |year=2006 |publisher=Overtime Books |isbn=1-897277-07-5
*Citation|last=Diamond|first=Dan|year=1991|title=The Official National Hockey League 75th Anniversary Commemorative Book|publisher=McClelland & Stewart|id=ISBN 0-7710-6727-5
*Citation|last=Diamond|first=Dan|last2=Zweig|first2=Eric|year=2003|title=Hockey's Glory Days: The 1950s and '60s|publisher=Andrews McMeel Publishing|id=ISBN 0740738291
*Citation |last=MacSkimming |first=Roy |year=1996|title=Cold War|publisher=Greystone Books|id=ISBN 978-0-385-66465-3
*Citation |last=McCown |first=Bob |year=2007|title=McCown's Law: The 100 Greatest Hockey Arguments|publisher=Doubleday Canada|id=ISBN 1-55054-473-X
*Citation |last=McFarlane |first=Brian |year=1990|title=100 Years of Hockey|publisher=Summerhill Press|id=ISBN 0-929091-26-4
*Citation |last=McFarlane |first=Brian |year=2004|title=Best of the Original Six|publisher=Fenn Publishing Company|id=ISBN 1-55168-263-X
*Citation |last=McKinley |first=Michael |year=2006|title=Hockey: A People's History|publisher=McClelland & Stewart|id=ISBN 0-7710-5769-5|url=http://www.cbc.ca/hockeyhistory/
*Citation|last=Pincus|first=Arthur|year=2006|title=The Official Illustrated NHL History|publisher=Readers Digest|id=ISBN 0-88850-800-X
*Citation|last=Willes|first=Ed|year=2004|title=The Rebel League: The Short and Unruly Life of the World Hockey Association|publisher=McClelland & Stewart|id=ISBN 0-7710-8947-3


External links

* [http://www.nhl.com/history/index.html NHL.com – History]
* [http://www.cbc.ca/hockeyhistory/ Hockey: A People's History] by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

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