August 15, 2014

1957-58: Willie O'Ree Breaks The Unofficial Colour Barrier

The Three Stars

Willie O'Ree NHL's First Black Player - Boston's Willie O'Ree becomes the first black player in NHL history when he debuts on January 18th, 1958 in a 3-0 win over Montreal. O'Ree plays the next night in Boston and then is returned to the minor leagues. He would get a better shot in 1960-61 when he plays 43 games with the Bruins.

NHLPA Setback - Ted Lindsay's dream of forming a player's union falls apart when his former Detroit teammates back out of a certification bid. Lindsay, who had already been traded to Chicago, had spearheaded an anti-trust lawsuit against the league in a bid to secure better pensions. The union bid failed but the NHL did increase the minimum salary to $7,000 per season with improvements to pensions and injury coverage.

Rocket Hits 500 Goal Mark - Maurice "Rocket" Richard becomes the first player in NHL history to reach 500 career goals. The historic marker comes at 13:52 of the first period in a 3-1 win over Chicago on October 19th, 1957. Interestingly, Chicago also surrendered Richard's career goals number 100, 200, 400 and 325, the goal that moved him past Nels Stewart as the all time goal scoring leader.

Season Highlights:
  • The 36 year old Richard had 34 points in just 28 games in 1957-58 before an Achilles injury costs him most of the season. He does come back to lead all playoff shooters with 11 goals.
  • Montreal's Dickie Moore was the biggest benefactor to Richard's absence. He got more ice time and led the entire league in scoring with 84 points, despite playing with a broken hand.
  • Another benefactor to Rocket's absence: His kid brother, Henri Richard. "The Pocket Rocket" finishes 2nd in league scoring with 80 points. 
  • Boom Boom Geoffrion accidentally collides with a teammate in a practice session and ruptures a bowel. A Roman Catholic priest actually administers last rites but he survives thanks to extensive stomach surgery.
  • Boston trades Terry Sawchuk back to Detroit for a young forward named Johnny Bucyk.
  • With Ted Lindsay traded to Chicago, Johnny Wilson is the new left winger for Detroit's Production Line with Gordie Howe and Alex Delvecchio. Both Howe and Delvecchio finish in the top 10 in scoring.
  • Chicago's roster is finally re-vitalized with the influx of talent like Glenn Hall and Ted Lindsay, but it is a rookie who will truly revive the franchise: Bobby Hull.
  • Though Bill Gadsby of the New York Rangers leads all defensemen in scoring with 46 points, it is Montreal's Doug Harvey who wins the Norris Trophy as top defenseman. It is his 4th consecutive title.
  • Another Ranger, Andy Bathgate, narrowly misses out on a major trophy. Bathgate came in 2nd in Hart Trophy balloting behind Gordie Howe. Howe's 4th Hart Trophy win. 
  • Montreal defeats Boston in the Stanley Cup final, capturing their 3rd of 5 consecutive Stanley Cup championships.  This despite an impressive campaign from the Bruins' Fleming Mackell, who led all post season scorers with 19 points. 

No comments: