It has been nearly 50 years since the National Hockey League has played on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. With that in mind, we have combined all the great events from Dec. 24 and 25 into one column for the next two days. All of us at The Hockey Writers wish you a safe and happy holiday season and thank you for all your loyal readership.
Christmas Eve Memories
Two of the earliest stars and pioneers in the NHL made history on Dec. 24, 1921. Future Hockey Hall of Famer scored his first career goal in the Ottawa Senators’ 10-0 rout of the visiting Montreal Canadiens. Punch Broadbent scored in the third period to start a streak of 16 games consecutive games with a goal, which is still the longest the league has ever seen.
If you were a big fan of goaltender duels back in 1949, then you got an early gift when the Canadiens hosted the New York Rangers. Hall of Famers Bill Durnan and Chuck Rayner battled to a 0-0. This was the only scoreless draw ever on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
A pair of legendary Toronto Maple Leafs netminders had shutouts on this date. In 1952, Harry Lumley earned the 33rd shutout of his career with a 2-0 win over the Canadiens. Johnny Bower picked up his 30th NHL shutout, on Dec. 24, 1966, by blanking the Boston Bruins 3-0.
The Canadiens beat the visiting Detroit Red Wings 4-2, on Dec. 24, 1955, to extend their steak of allowing three-or-fewer goals to 25 consecutive games.
Bernie Geoffrion and Donnie Marshall put coal in the stockings of their former team, on Dec. 24, 1966, by both scoring goals in the Rangers’ 4-3 win in Montreal.
The Maple Leafs played their final game on Christmas Eve, on Dec. 24, 1969, as they blew out the Los Angeles Kings 8-1. They went 5-2-2 all-time in their Christmas Eve games.
Three years later, on Dec. 24, 1972, the NHL scheduled games on this date for the last time. The night started with Ed Giacomin leading the way in the Rangers’ 5-0 win over the Red Wings. The shutout was the 40th of his career, tying Dave Kerr for the most in franchise history. Pete Stemkowski led the offense with four assists.
The Kings had a bit better luck on this night by beating the California Golden Seals 5-3. Juha Widling of the Kings scored an insurance late in the third period, which was the final NHL goal scored on Christmas Eve.
Red Wings Love Christmas Day
If there was one team that was bummed out about not playing on Christmas Day anymore, it had to be the Red Wings. On Dec. 25, 1930, the Detroit Falcons, who became the Red Wings two years later, beat the Maple Leafs 10-1. The 10 goals were the most scored by any team on Christmas Day.
Syd Howe was a one-man show, on Dec. 25, 1939, as he scored a hat trick in a 3-1 win over the Canadiens.
A decade later, on Dec. 25, 1949, Lumley became the first goaltender to record 150 wins as a member of the Red Wings. The milestone came in another win over Montreal, this time 4-2. Sid Abel assisted on three of the four Detroit goals.
Gordie Howe, no relation to Syd, had the best offensive game of his career on Christmas Day, 1956. He scored three goals and added three assists for his first career six-point game in an 8-1 win over the Rangers.
Eight years later, on Dec. 25, 1964, Howe provided all the offense in the Wings’ 2-2 tie with the Canadiens.
On Dec. 25, 1939, Alex Delvecchio picked up two assists in Detroit’s 6-3 loss at the Pittsburgh Penguins. The two helpers gave him 967 points, putting him ahead of Maurice Richard for third all-time in points. At this time, he trailed only Jean Beliveau and his teammate, Howe.
More Presents Under the Tree
The Chicago Blackhawks beat the Canadiens 3-1, on Dec. 25, 1963, in the first-ever game broadcast locally on the radio.
The Canadiens played their last Christmas Day game at the Forum, on this date in 1965, and Henri Richard was the hero. After assisting on the Habs’ first three goals of the night, the “Pocket Rocket” scored the game-winning goal late in the third period.
Stan Mikita scored a goal and extended his team-record assist streak to 14 straight games, on Dec. 25, 1967, in the Blackhawks’ 3-1 win over the visiting Canadiens. He recorded 18 assists during the 14-game streak.
On that same night, Seth Martin recorded a shutout in the St. Louis Blues’ 1-0 road win at the Minnesota North Stars. This was just the second shutout in Blues’ history and the only one for Martin in his NHL career.
Shutouts was a Christmas special for the Blues because one year later, on Dec. 25, 1968, Glenn Hall shutout the North Stars in Minnesota 2-0. This was the 76th shutout of the Hall of Famer’s career.
Dec. 25, 1971, was the final Christmas Day that included NHL games on the schedule. The Rangers beat the North Stars 2-1, improving their all-time record on this date to 25-11-2, the best in league history.
The Golden Seals and Kings met on this night, as well. The final NHL Christmas Day goal was scored by the Seals’ Stan Gilbertson in their 3-1 road victory.
Happy Birthday to You
A total of 13 current and former NHL players have been born on Dec. 24. The most successful players of the group are Matt Calvert (31) and the late Herb Cain and Red Sullivan. There are also 13 players who have skated at least one game in the NHL who was born on Christmas Day. The most notable names of this bunch are Dmitri Mironov (55), Jim Dowd (52), Stu Barnes (50), Mark Friedman (25) and the late Larry Cahan.