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September 06, 2014

1979-80: Miracle On Ice

The Three Stars:

Miracle On Ice - The 1980 Olympic Games deliver a "Miracle On Ice" as the American Olympic hockey team, led by captain and goal scoring hero Mike Eruzione, upset the mighty Soviets and then beat Finland to shock the world and win Olympic Gold at the Lake Placid Games. Eruzione turned down many offers to play in the NHL, opting to retire as he could "never achieve a higher high." But many of these college kids go on to star in the NHL including Neal Broten, Mark Johnson, Ken Morrow, Rob McClanahan, Mark Pavelich, Dave Christian, Mike Ramsey and Jim Craig.

WHA Left Overs Debut In NHL - The NHL starts 1979-80 season with four familiar teams joining the ranks, as the NHL absorbs WHA refugees Edmonton Oilers, Hartford Whalers, Quebec Nordiques and Winnipeg Jets. Hartford features the return of Gordie Howe to the NHL. The 51 year old scores 15 goals in his.

Wayne Gretzky Joins NHL - Though the NHL owners feasted upon WHA rosters upon the merger, they inexplicably let the Edmonton Oilers keep teenage phenom Wayne Gretzky. Maybe they really believe the spindly kid couldn't hack it in the NHL. If so, Gretzky quickly proved them wrong, winning the Hart Trophy as league MVP, sharing the scoring lead with 137 points (though technically LA's Marcel Dionne wins the Art Ross Trophy because he scored 2 more goals than 99) and winning the Lady Byng Trophy. Gretzky did not win the Calder trophy as top rookie because of a silly NHL decision to strip all players with WHA experience of rookie status. Ray Bourque of Boston wins the Calder.

Season Highlights:
  • The NHL grandfathers in a rule making protective helmets mandatory for all new players to the NHL. Players with NHL experience prior to this new rule's passing were allowed to play without helmets by choice.
  • Besides Wayne Gretzky and Ray Bourque other prominent first year players include Mark Messier, Mike Gartner, Michel Goulet, Mark Howe, and Joe Mullen.
  • Scotty Bowman walks away from the 4 time defending Stanley Cup champion and joins the Buffalo Sabres.
  • Despite losing goalie Bernie Parent to retirement due to his eye injury, the Philadelphia Flyers string together a record 35 game unbeaten streak. Goalie Pete Peeters posts 29-5-5 record and backup Phil Myre posts a 18-7-15 record. 
  • Phil Esposito records his 1500th career point
  • Guy Lafleur nets 50 goals for the sixth consecutive season. But it is Buffalo's Danny Gare, LA's Charlie Simmer and Hartford's Blaine Stoughton who lead all NHL shooters with 56.
  • New York Islanders goalie Billy Smith inadvertently becomes the first NHL goalie in league history to be credited with scoring a goal. He was the last Islanders player to touch the puck when Rob Ramage of Colorado accidentally put the puck into his own empty net.
  • Pierre Larouche becomes the first player in history to score 50 goals with 2 different teams.
  • Garry Unger's ironman streak comes to an end at 914 consecutive games played.
  • Perhaps hockey's most infamous brawl breaks out at Madison Square Gardens when Boston players scale the glass and fight some fans. Mike Milbury will be eternally remembered for prying off a man's shoe and beating him with it. 
  • The New York Islanders win their first of four consecutive Stanley Cup titles. Bryan Trottier, who set a playoff record with 29 points, wins the Conn Smythe trophy. Bobby Nystrom scored the dramatic Stanley Cup winning overtime goal.

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