1971-72: Goodbye Howe, Beliveau
The Three Stars
Howe, Beliveau Retire: The season begins with two of the all time greats retiring. Jean Beliveau, the long time Montreal captain and 10 time Stanley Cup champion hangs up his skates. As does 25 year veteran Gordie Howe, the NHL's all time scorer in goals (786), assists (1023) and points (1809). Gordie, of course, would come out of retirement to play in the WHA and one more season in the NHL.
Another Fantastic Year For Orr: Bobby Orr becomes hockey's first million dollar player when he signs a 5 year deal worth $200,00 a season. He celebrates by going out and winning the Hart Trophy the third straight time, the Norris trophy for the 5th straight time, and the Conn Smythe Trophy for the second time. He led the Bruins to their second Stanley Cup in three seasons.
Habs Add Lafleur, Bowman: The Bruins may be the team to beat this season but Montreal reloads by adding two key pieces to their team that will quickly become the dynasty of the 1970s. The Habs use the first pick overall in the draft (which they acquired in the previous season from the California Golden Seals) to land Guy Lafleur. The Habs, who don't forget are the defending Stanley Cup champions, replace coach Al MacNeil with Scotty Bowman.
- The NHL introduces rules to curb brawling. Any player who joins a fight in progress is immediately ejected.
- The Bruins regular season record was 54-13-11. Goalie Gerry Cheevers went 32 games without a loss - 24-0-9 - a NHL record.
- Phil Esposito again leads the league in goals (66) and points (133). Bobby Orr is second with 117 points, including a league best 80 assists.
- The New York Rangers are the second best team in the league, thanks to the strong goaltending tandem of Eddie Giacomin and Gilles Villemure. Both win 24 games each.
- The Ranger's GAG Line finishes third, fourth and fifth in the league in scoring - Jean Ratelle had 109 points, Vic Hadfield 106 including 50 goals and Rod Gilbert 97. A broken ankle knocked Ratelle out of the playoffs and really hobbled the Rangers in the Finals vs. Boston
- Ken Dryden, a seasoned playoff performer and Stanley Cup champion, officially begins his rookie season and wins the Calder Trophy. He had 39 wins and 8 shutouts.
- Tony Esposito posted an amazing 46 wins and 9 shutouts. His 1.77 GAA is the best post World War II mark up until the late 1990s.
- Mickey Redmond, acquired in exchange for Frank Mahovlich, picks up Gordie Howe's slack and scores 42 goals for Detroit.
- Bobby Hull scores his 5th 50 goal season for Chicago. He also notches his 1000th point.
- For the first time since 1963 the Soviets do not win the World Championships. The Czechoslovakian national team won, though the Soviets did take the Sapporo Olympics gold medal.
- 10 year old Wayne Gretzky makes national headlines as he scores 378 goals for his Brantford, Ontario novice team.