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The Modern NHL

(1980-Present)

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As the NHL quicky approaches its 100th anniversary, its amazing to reflect on all the changes that have taken place through its history.

The league has truly become an international league, with the best players representing their countries from all over the world...the league has grown to 30 teams, from coast to coast across North America. The equipment has changed, as have the rules..but the passion for the game remains the same for both players and fans, as it was when that first puck dropped in 1917.

With that said, here are a few interesting facts that occuring during this "Modern Era" of the NHL.

  • The Calgary Flames played in the city of Atlanta from 1972-1980 before moving to play their first game in Calgary May 21 1980.
  • In 1980/81, rookie Peter Statsny wins the Calder Trophy scoring 109 points.
  • 1980: The Atlanta Flames move to Calgary.
  • After a few seasons of regular season dominance only to be followed by playoff disappointment, 1980 was to be the breakthrough season for the Isles, defeating the red hot Philadelphia Flyers on a Bob Nystrom overtime goal to bring home the stanley cup. Bryan Trottier won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs MVP.
  • In 1980, the Penguins changed team colors from blue & white to their present-day black & gold in the tradition of Pittsburghs other sports teams, the Pirates and the Steelers. The Boston Bruins tried to block the change claiming a monopoly on black and gold, but the league backed the Penguins and the new uniform was allowed.
  • Mike Bossy came out of the gate flying in the 1981 season scoring 50 goals in 50 games, becoming only the second player to accomplish this feat since Maurice Richard had done so in 1944/45.
  • In 1981-82 the Islanders set a record for most consecutive wins with 15, and posted a franchise-record 118 points. That season also had fans watching Mike Bossy set a scoring record for right wingers with 147 points in an 80 game schedule. They went on to defeat the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup finals to make it three in a row, with Mike Bossy being awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy.
  • During their run of four Stanley Cup championships and five finals appearances, the Islanders won 19 straight playoff series, the longest streak in the history of any professional sport.
  • In 1985/86 the Edmonton Oilers won the first ever Presidents Trophy awarded for the leagues best regular season record at 56-17-7.
  • A month into the 1985-86 season, 26 year old Flyers goaltender Pelle Lindbergh died in a fatal car crash as he slammed his porsche into the side of a wall.
  • 1985 - For the first time in the history of the NHL, Bob Froese goaltender for Philadephia Flyers placed a water bottle on the top of his net so he didnt have go to the bench on a stoppage of play to get a drink. The opposing New York Islanders argued that he shouldnt be allowed to do so because it would likely get knocked off the net disrupting play, but due to the fact Froese had used velcro to secure the bottle the referees allowed it.
  • 1988/89 was a miracle year for the Calgary Flames who were on fire in the regular season winning the Presidents Trophy with a 54-17-9 record and went on to become the first visiting team to win a cup at the Montreal Forum. Defenseman Al MacInnis won the Conn Smythe trophy and an emotional Lanny McDonald capped off his remarkable 16 year career embracing the Stanley Cup at last.
  • August 9 1988 the hockey world was rocked when Wayne Gretzky along with Marty McSorley and Mike Krushelnyski were traded to the Los Angeles Kings for Jimmy Carson Martin Gelinas three 1st round draft picks 89 91 93 and an estimated $15-20 million. Owner Peter Pocklington cited financial problems as the reason for the trade.
  • For the 1988/89 season Guy Lafleur who was already a hall-of-famer came out of retirement to join the Quebec Nordiques.
  • 1989: Sergei Priakin plays for the Calgary Flames, becoming the first Soviet player permitted to join an NHL club.
  • Even with the uber-talented Mario Lemieux, the eighties were a tough decade for the Pens but they gradually improved and by 1990-91 the team was on top of the standings. After having drafted Czech right-winger Jaromir Jagr in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft, and assembled an all-star cast including Paul Coffey, Joey Mullen, Larry Murphy, Mark Recchi, Kevin Stevens, Ulf Samuelsson, Bryan Trottier and netminder Tom Barrasso they went on to take home their franchises first stanley cup defeating the Minnesota North Stars in six games.
  • In 1991/92 first round draft pick Eric Lindros refuses to play for the Nordiques. With Lindros sitting out, the Nordiques went on to finish last for the 5th straight season. The following season, Quebec traded Lindros to the Philadelphia Flyers for Peter Forsberg, Steve Duchesne, Kerry Huffman, Mike Ricci, Chris Simon, Ron Hextall, Jocelyn Thibault, a first-round pick in 1994, and cash.
  • After a 58-year absence in 1992 the NHL returned to Ottawa as the Senators were resurrected as an expansion team.
  • In 1992 Pavel Bure won the Calder Trophy for best rookie.
  • In 1992/93 Teemu Selanne has a record breaking rookie season as he smashes the record for goals and points by a rookie scoring 76 goals and 132 points to break the old records held by Mike Bossy.
  • The 1992/93 season proved to be a good one for the Nordiques as Joe Sakic and Mats Sundin topped 100 points helping the Nordiques complete the best single season improvement in NHL history.
  • In 1992, Scotty Bowman took over behind the bench in Pittsburg after the team lost their coach Bob Johnson to cancer. Under Bowman, the Pens swept the Chicago Blackhawks to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions.
  • While still dealing with the loss of coach Johnson came another blow to the team with news that Mario Lemieux was diagnosed with Hodgkins disease. Miraculously, only two months after the diagnosis, Lemieux returned to the ice, having missed 24 out of 84 games, but still winning his fourth Art Ross Trophy with an incredible 160 points. Despite the off-ice difficulties, Pittsburgh finished with a 56-21-7 record (119 points), winning the franchises first and only Presidents Trophy.
  • In 1994/95, the Nordiques traded Mats Sundin to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Wendel Clark and Sylvain Lefebvre in an attempt to add veteran experience and toughness to the young team. That season which was shortened due to a 4 month lockout, the Nordiques posted a record of 30-13-5 record, the best in the Eastern Conference. Unfortunately, due to financial problems that season was to be their last, as the team moved to Denver the following season and became the Colorado Avalanche.
  • 1994: Wayne Gretzky scores his 802nd goal, surpassing Gordie Howes all-time record.
  • In 1995 the Canadiens missed the playoffs for the first time in 25 years. That same season Patrick Roy told the then team president Ronald Corey I just played my last game in this town. after head coach Mario Tremblay waited until Detroit Red Wings had potted 9 goals against the netminder before pulling him from the game.
  • On the night of the Panthers 1995-96 home opener, when a rat scurried across the teams locker room Scott Mellanby reacted by one-timing the rat against the wall, killing it. That night he scored two goals, which goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck quipped was a rat-trick. Two nights later, as the story found its way into the world, a few fans threw rubber rats on the ice in celebration of a goal. The rubber rat count went from 16 for the third home game to over 2,000 during the playoffs.
  • As the NHL expanded in the United States, operating costs and salaries grew rapidly, leaving the Jets unable to afford their key players. The team couldnt compete in such a market and they played their last game on April 28, 1996. The team moved to Phoenix to become the Phoenix Coyotes.
  • 1996: The Winnipeg Jets move to Phoenix, where they are re-named the Coyotes.
  • 1997: Craig Mactavish (born London, ON), the last remaining helmetless player in the NHL retired.
  • The Hartford Whalers relocated to North Carolina in 1997 becoming the Carolina Hurricanes.
  • In November 1998, after having over-extended themselves earlier in the decade by asking players to defer their salaries and other financial pressures, the Penguins again were forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Just when it appeared that the team were about to either move or fold, Lemieux put forth a proposal to save the team. As he had become one of the teams principal creditors due to years of deferred salary, he proposed to recover his deferred salary by converting it into equity and buying the team. The courts backed the proposal and allowed the team to stay in Pittsburgh.
  • 1999: The Great One - Wayne Gretzky retires from professional hockey.
  • 1999: The last player to have the mandatory 3 year waiting period waived before being inducted into the hall of fame was Wayne Gretzky in 1999. The waiting period could only be waived if the player was deemed significant enough. Wayne shares this honour along with 10 other inductees.
  • 2000: Forbes Magazine ranks the Toronto Maple Leafs as the most valuable hockey franchise in the world at $325 million U.S.
  • In December 2000, Lemieux shocked the hockey world again by announcing that he was returning to the ice to play for the Penguins becoming the first player-owner in NHL history. Lemieux led his team to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they ultimately lost to the New Jersey Devils in 5 games.
  • On the day of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, Alexei Yashin was traded to the New York Islanders in exchange for Zdeno Chara, Bill Muckalt, and the second overall selection in the draft, which Ottawa promptly used to select centre Jason Spezza.
  • In 2001, the Capitals signed five-time Art Ross Trophy winner Jaromir Jagr to the largest contract ever in NHL history - $77 million over 7 years (over $134,000 per game), with an option for an eighth year. However, the team struggled and failed to make the playoffs that season.
  • In 2002-03 the Ottawa Senators were forced to file for bankruptcy mid-season, but after getting emergency financing they still managed to place first overall in the NHL and win the Presidents Trophy. Prior to the following season, pharmaceutical billionaire Eugene Melnyk purchased the club bringing financial stability to Ottawa.
  • In the summer of 2002, Buffalo Sabres owner John Rigas and his sons were arrested for bank, wire, and securities fraud for embezzling more than $2 billion (Rigas eventually was convicted and presently is appealing a sentence of 15 years in prison). The league took control of the team, and maintained control until suitable new owners were found in 1993. The new ownership was a consortium led by Rochester, New York billionaire, former New York gubernatorial candidate Tom Golisano and former Sabres president Larry Quinn.
  • In the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, the Capitals won the Draft Lottery and selected Alexander Ovechkin first overall. After playing in Russia for the 2004-05 lockout season, Ovechkin had a stellar rookie season leading all rookies in goals, points, power-play goals and shots on goal. He also won the Calder Memorial Trophy, beating out Pittsburgh center Sidney Crosby and Calgary Flames defenseman Dion Phaneuf.
  • During the 2006/2007 campaign, goalie Martin Brodeur set an NHL record for most wins in a season with 48.
  • On January 24 2006, at the age of 40 Mario Lemieux retired with a total of 1494 total career points, including 613 goals. The NHL waived its mandatory 3 year waiting period and inducted Mario into the hockey hall-of-fame in Dec 2007.
  • On January 24, 2006, Lemieux was forced to announce his retirement for a second time after developing an irregular heart beat. He retired as the NHLs seventh all-time leading scorer with 1,723 points, including 690 career goals.
  • The 2005-2006 Stanley Cup playoffs marked the first time 2 former WHA teams met in a cup finals, when the Hurricanes faced off against the Edmonton Oilers. In an exciting 7 game series, the Canes came out on top winning their first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history. Rookie goalie Cam Ward was honored with the Conn Smythe Trophy for the playoffs MVP, and Glen Wesley — the last remaining Hartford Whaler on the Hurricanes roster — finally touched the cup after 18 seasons.
  • The New Jersey Devils moved in to their new home arena the Prudential Center (in Newark, NJ), at the beginning of the 2007-08 season.Previously, they played at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
  • As of the end of the 2007-08 season, The Flyers all-time winning percentage of .577 is the second best in the league to only the Montreal Canadiens with a .591 winning percentage.




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