August 30, 2014

1972-73: A Whole New Hockey World

The 1972-73 season may have had more long-term impact than any other season in hockey history.

The Three Stars:

The Summit Series: Experts predicted an easy 8-0 victory for Canada in their first ever best-on-best showdown with the "amateur" Soviets. But goalie Vladislav Tretiak, 20, is brilliant in stunning Canada 7-3 in game 1 in Montreal and takes a 3-1-1 series lead after 5 games. All looks lost for Canada as the nation is absolute turmoil. Then Paul Henderson, a lesser known player on a team of All Stars, scores three consecutive game winning goals, most famously becoming a national hero by scoring with 34 seconds left in game 8. Canada wins that game 6-5, and wins the series 4-3-1. But the Soviets and European hockey have earned Canada's respect, forever changing the game.

Startup WHA Steals NHL Stars: Not a lot of people are quite sure what to think of the promises of a startup called the World Hockey Association when they promise to be a major league rival. Everyone quickly realizes the WHA means it when they shock the sports world by signing Chicago Blackhawks superstar Bobby Hull to a million dollar deal. Gerry Cheevers, Derek Sanderson, Bernie Parent and J.C. Tremblay soon follow. The floodgates really open when the WHA gets the courts to defeat the NHL reserve clause, introducing true free agency to the hockey world.

Montreal Wins Another Stanley Cup: With the spectacular goaltending of Ken Dryden and  physical presence of Larry Robinson on defense, the Montreal Canadiens defeat the Chicago Blackhawks for the Stanley Cup. Yvan Cournoyer wins the Conn Smythe with an amazing 15 goals and 25 points in 17 games. Chicago may have been without 604 goal scorer Bobby Hull, but his brother Dennis Hull picked up the slack with 39 goals and another 9 in the playoffs.

Season Highlights:
  • The NHL expands by two, making for a 16 team league. The Atlanta Flames, coached by Montreal legend Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion win 25 of 78 games, but the lowly New York Islanders set a NHL record with 60 losses.
  • Phil Esposito leads the league in goals with 55, in assists with 75 and of course in scoring with 130 points. It was his 4th scoring title in 5 years.
  • Espo did not win the Hart trophy, however. That went to the league's second highest scoring player, Philadelphia's Bobby Clarke.
  • Another Flyer with a fantastic season - Rick MacLeish with 50 goals. Mickey Redmond also scored 50, the first Detroit Red Wings player to do so. 
  • Johnny Bucyk and Frank Mahovlich both scored their 1000th career points this season.

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