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November 18, 2009

Dave Ritchie

Ever wonder who scored the first goal in National Hockey League history? The answer is Montreal Wanderers defenseman Dave Ritchie.

On December 19, 1917, Dave Ritchie scored exactly one minute into the NHL's first game. He added another goal in the third period as the Wanderers defeated the Toronto Arenas 10-9.

Ritchie was a high scoring backliner who had spent the three previous seasons with the Quebec Bulldogs of the National Hockey Association, the predecessor of the NHL. In the final year of the NHA, Ritchie scored 17 goals in 19 games. Not bad for a blueliner!

Ritchie was heading off to another spectacular season with the Wanderers when tragedy struck. Scoring 5 goals and 2 assists in his first 4 games, the financially troubled Wanderers folded after just 6 NHL contests. A mysterious fire started in the Wanderers dressing room and resulted in their arena burning down. The owner took the insurance money and ran, leaving the league to fold the Wanderers.

The Wanderers players were dispersed amongst the rest of the league. Ritchie finished the year with the Ottawa Senators. He finished strongly, scoring 4 goals and 10 points to bring his totals to 9 goals and 17 points.

Following Ritchie's transaction sheet from this point on gets confusing. He signed with the Toronto Arenas in 1918-19 but only played 5 games that year. The following year he was traded back to the Quebec Bulldogs team. Dave played in 23 games and scored 6 goals and 3 assists. However the Quebec franchise transferred to Hamilton Ontario the following year, something Ritchie didn't want to go along with. He eventually was traded to the Montreal Canadiens for the 1920-21 season, but played in just 5 games.

Ritchie then opted to retire from the game to devote himself to a full time referee. However just three years later Dave found himself holding a stick again. The Habs had some injury problems and signed him to fill in late in the season. He played 5 games and 1 more in the playoffs. A similar situation happened the next year too, as Dave filled in for 2 games, his final 2 games in the National Hockey League as a player.

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