August 25, 2014

1967-68: NHL Expansion

The Three Stars:

Original Six Becomes Even Dozen - The largest single-season growth in National Hockey League history occurs when six expansion franchises take to the ice. The Los Angeles Kings, California Seals, Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, St. Louis Blues and Minnesota North Stars all begin by stocking their roster on June 6, with established teams allowed to protect only 1 goalie and 11 skaters. Los Angeles makes the great veteran goalie Terry Sawchuk the first expansion selection.

Bill Masterton Dies - Crunched by California defensemen Larry Cahan and Ron Harris in a game on January 13th, Minnesota forward Bill Masterton strikes his head on the ice and suffers massive brain injuries. The helmetless Masterton dies two days later. The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy is introduced and awarded for dedication and excellence achieved in the sport of hockey.

Blockbuster Trades - The Chicago Blackhawks trade Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge and Fred Stanfield to Boston in exchange for Pit Martin, Gilles Marotte and Jack Norris.The Leafs also trade Frank Mahovlich, Garry Unger, Pete Stemkowski and Carl Brewer in exchange for Paul Henderson, Floyd Smith and Norm Ullman.

Season Highlights:

  • The NHL is divided into two divisions - the "East" which features all of the Original Six teams, and the "West" which features all of the new franchises, even if they are in Eastern time zones. The playoff format ensured a showdown between the winner of each division, therefore guaranteeing the new franchises a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup.
  • The St. Louis Blues stumble to 4-10-2 start and replace Lynn Patrick as coach with a rookie bench boss named Scotty Bowman. Bowman would guide the Blues to the Stanley Cup final in each of their first three seasons.
  • Prior to the NHL expansion draft the Los Angeles Kings buy the entire AHL Springfield team from Eddie Shore, giving the Kings a fully stocked farm system.
  • NHL Amateur draft is set for players aged 20 and over.
  • The New York Rangers begin play in the newly constructed Madison Square Gardens. MSG debuts luxury boxes.
  • CBS begins airing the NHL game of the week, marking the first regular national broadcasting agreement with an American broadcaster.
  • Jean Beliveau scores his 400th goal and his 1000th point this season.
  • Bobby Hull leads the league in goals with 44, while teammate Stan Mikita again leads the league in points with 87. Mikita again wins the Hart and Lady Byng trophies - his second rare triple crown of hockey greatness.
  • Bobby Orr wins his first Norris trophy. He scored 11 goals and 42 points in 46 games - a season again cut short due to injuries. Phil Esposito leads the entire league in assists with 49 and finished 2nd in league scoring with 84 points.
  • Montreal defeats St. Louis in a 4 game sweep to win the Stanley Cup. They also swept Boston and lost only once to Chicago en route to their 14th Stanley Cup title.

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