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NHL - The Expansion Years


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After 25 seasons of the league consisting of only the "original six" teams, it was time for change...and growth! 1968 saw the league double in size as 6 new teams joined the NHL. Over the next 11 years it would continue to grow, and by 1979 it had reached 21 teams..when the WHA folded and its remaining teams merged with the NHL.

Here are a few interesting facts that occured during the "Expansion Years".

  • 1968: Montreals Toe Blake retires after winning his 8th Stanley Cup, a record for NHL coaches.
  • March 2, 1969 : Phil Esposito, who centered a line with Ken Hodge and Wayne Cashman, became the first NHL player to break the 100+ point mark in a single season.
  • The Vancouver Canucks joined the NHL at the beginning of the 1970-71 season.
  • 1970: By time of death, goalie Terry Sawchuck sets the unfortunate record of the most injuries, including: pierced eye, severed hand tendons, fractured foot, nine fractured ribs, dislocated arm, ruptured appendix, ruptured disc, punctured lung and over 400 facial stitches!
  • In 1970, the Bruins ended a 29 year Stanley Cup drought as they defeated the St. Louis Blues in four games. Orr scored the game-winner in overtime to clinch the stanley Cup victory.
  • In 1970 Orr won the third of eight straight James Norris Memorial Trophies as the top defenseman in the NHL. He also took home the Art Ross Trophy, Conn Smythe Trophy, and the Hart Memorial Trophy, becoming the only player to win all four awards all in the same season.
  • The 1970-71 season was a banner year for the Boston Bruins, setting dozens of offensive scoring records. They had seven of the leagues top ten scorers - a feat not achieved before or since - setting the record for wins in a season, and in a league that had never seen a 100+ point scorer before 1969, they had four that year (Orr, Esposito, Bucyk and Hodge)
  • The Buffalo Sabres, along with the Vancouver Canucks, joined the NHL in the 1970-71 season.
  • While the Winnipeg Jets were still a member of the WHA, the Jets lured Bobby Hull away from the Chicago Blackhawks offering him a quarter million dollars per season plus a record breaking million dollar signing bonus.
  • The name Nordiques stands for people of the north, representing the fact that the Nordiques (then part of the WHA) were one of the northernmost team in the league.
  • The Nordiques were brought in as one of the original WHA franchises in 1972, luring J.C. Tremblay away from the Montreal Canadiens and signing Maurice "The Rocket" Richard to coach the team.
  • 1972: The first Summit series is played (Team Canada vs Soviet Union).
  • The New York Islanders franchise was awarded to clothing manufacturer Roy Boe, owner of the NBAs New York Nets in 1972. In order to bring a team to Long Island, a $4 million territorial fee had to be paid to the nearby New York Rangers.
  • By the 1972/73 season the Flyers had evolved from a mediocre expansion team to a team that was to be feared, they had earned a reputation for themselves as the Broad Street Bullies.
  • 1973: The year that the last NHL netminder (Andy Brown- Pittsburg Penguins) appeared in a game without a mask.
  • The Washington Capitals joined the National Hockey League as an expansion team for the 1974-75 season. The team was owned by Abe Pollin, who was also owner of the NBAs Washington Bullets.
  • In 1974, the Flyers became the first non-Original Six team after expansion to win the Stanley Cup. They defended their championship in 1975 but despite five return trips to the Stanley Cup Finals since then, they have not been able to win another.
  • In the 1974/75 campaign, the Flyers Dave Schultz managed to better his previous season total of 348 minutes to set an NHL record for penalty minutes with 472.
  • Game 3 of the 1974/75 Stanley Cup finals would go down in hockey lore as The Fog Game due to an unusual May heat wave in Buffalo which forced parts of the match between Buffalo and Philadelphia to be played in heavy fog, as the arena lacked air conditioning.
  • The 1975/76 season debuted rookie center Bryan Trottier, who scored an impressive 95 points earning him the Calder trophy as rookie of the year.
  • In 1974/75, The Flyers bettered their previous seasons best all-time points total with a record of 51-13-16. The LCB line, featuring Reggie Leach at right-wing, Clarke at center, and Bill Barber at left-wing, set an NHL record for goals by a single line with 141 (Leach 61, Clarke 30, Barber 50). Clarke also won his third Hart Trophy, setting a club record for points in one season with 119.
  • In 1976 under head coach Scotty Bowman the Habs set an NHL record by losing only eight games in an eighty game schedule. They went on to win the Cup once again. In 1995 the Canadiens missed the playoffs for the first time in 25 years.
  • 1976: Darryl Sittler sets an NHL record with 10 points in one game.
  • In 1977/78: Harold Ballard the Maple Leafs eccentric owner attempted to defy the NHL rule that players names must be displayed on the back of their jersey by putting the names in the same color as the jersey making it invisible. Ballard would be fined $10000 / game before he relented and put the names on the back. In another incident Ballard caused uproar among Feminist when he said Women are only good on their back.
  • In the 1977 NHL Amateur Draft, the Isles selected Mike Bossy with their 15th pick overall. The following season, Bossy became the third Isle to win the Calder Trophy, scoring 53 goals and setting a new mark for most goals scored by a rookie.
  • In the 1978/79 season The Oilers still part of the WHA have their fortunes changed forever when 17-year old super rookie Wayne Gretzky joins the club after the Indianapolis Racers fold in the middle of the season. The Oilers would go on to finish with a league best 48-30-2 record.
  • When the WHA folded in 1978/79 the Edmonton Oilers Hartford Whalers Winnipeg Jets and Quebec Nordiques to be adopted into the NHL.
  • The Flyers set a new record for North American professional sports teams going undefeated for a record 35 straight games (25-0-10) during the 1979-80 season. The team had a strong preformance in the playoffs but ultimately lost to the New York Islanders in the Stanley Cup finals.
  • On November 28, 1979, New York Islanders netminder Billy Smith became the first goaltender in NHL history to be credited with a goal.

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