(By: Stephanie Liu and Sarah Do Couto)
The National Hockey League (NHL) is celebrating their 100-year anniversary in 2017. The league has reflected on its history through a series of centennial-themed events happening since January, with Wayne Gretzky serving as their official ambassador. The NHL will conclude its centennial celebration on Dec. 19 in Ottawa, where the first ever NHL game was played in 1917. As the league and its supporters anticipate the next 100 years of hockey, here are five defining moments in NHL history from the last century.
Willie O’Ree becomes the first black hockey player
In the 1958-59 season, O’Ree was a winger for the Boston Bruins. He was the first person of colour to join the NHL and played 45 career games in the league. O’Ree changed the NHL, as his career encouraged a rise in multiculturalism in hockey, and inspired many. Today, O’Ree is active in the hockey community through his promotion of diversity in the sport and his outreach programs that aim to encourage minority communities to play hockey.
Wayne Gretzky’s 50 goals
In 1981, Gretzky became the first player to score 50 career goals. It only took him 39 games to achieve this record. Lucky number 50 came when Gretzky captained the Edmonton Oilers to a 7-5 win against the Philadelphia Flyers. The goal was scored on an empty net in the final seconds of the game. Gretzky holds the all-time record in goals in the NHL, and still remains the fastest player to score 50.
Canada wins the Summit Series
On Sept. 28, 1972, Canada won the Summit Series against the USSR. The series lasted eight-games, and was the first of its kind in professional international hockey. Paul Henderson scored the winning goal for Canada with 34 seconds left to decide the series. It remains one of the most famous moments in Canadian hockey history. The Summit Series was so important because it was Canada’s first international hockey tournament win after separating from the International Ice Hockey Federation, where the USSR dominated a majority of international play. The Summit Series put Canada back on top, and they were considered to be the best international hockey team in the world after beating the USSR in one of the most thrilling series of all time.
Women on ice
In 1992, Manon Rheaume became the first woman to ever play an NHL game. Prior to her debut, Rheaume played in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). She was later scouted by the Tampa Bay Lightning and was given the chance to challenge the stereotype that women can’t play with the men. Rheaume stopped seven of the nine shots she faced against the St. Louis Blues. She played in one exhibition game the following year. Rheaume remains the only woman to ever play a game in the NHL.
The Easter Epic
On April 18, 1987, the longest ever playoff game was played between the Washington Capitals and New York Islanders. The game was tied 2-2 at the end of regulation, and the winning goal was scored at the 8:47 mark of the fourth overtime period. The game went down in history as one of the best goaltending battles of all time. Capitals’ Bob Mason recorded 54 saves, and the Rangers’ Kelly Hrudey made 73 saves.